Upcoming Events

Sonoma Speaker Series - In Conversation with JAMES CLAPPER

The former Director of National Intelligence's candid and compelling account of the intelligence community's successes--and failures—
in facing some of the greatest threats to America
Thursday, May 24, 2018 - 7 – 8:30pm
Sebastiani Theatre (476 First Street East, Sonoma)


When he stepped down in January 2017 as the fourth United States director of national intelligence, James Clapper had been President Obama's senior intelligence adviser for six and a half years, longer than his three predecessors combined. He led the U.S. intelligence community through a period that included the raid on Osama bin Laden, the Benghazi attack, the leaks of Edward Snowden, and Russia's influence operation during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. In Facts and Fears, Clapper traces his career through the growing threat of cyberattacks, his relationships with presidents and Congress, and the truth about Russia's role in the presidential election. He describes, in the wake of Snowden and WikiLeaks, his efforts to make intelligence more transparent and to push back against the suspicion that Americans' private lives are subject to surveillance. Finally, it was living through Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and seeing how the foundations of American democracy were--and continue to be--undermined by a foreign power that led him to break with his instincts honed through more than five decades in the intelligence profession to share his inside experience.

Clapper considers such controversial questions as, Is intelligence ethical? Is it moral to intercept communications or to photograph closed societies from orbit? What are the limits of what we should be allowed to do? What protections should we give to the private citizens of the world, not to mention our fellow Americans? Are there times when intelligence officers can lose credibility as unbiased reporters of hard truths by inserting themselves into policy decisions?

Facts and Fears offers a privileged look inside the U.S. intelligence community and, with the frankness and professionalism for which James Clapper is known, addresses some of the most difficult challenges in our nation's history.


Sonoma Speaker Series - In Conversation with Daniel Ellsberg
From the Pentagon Papers to the Doomsday Machine

Monday, June 4th, 2018


Daniel Ellsberg

It’s arguable that no man had a greater influence on the American perception of the war in Vietnam than Daniel Ellsberg. He was a consummate insider, served as a Marine First Lieutenant after graduating from Harvard, later returned to Harvard and wrote what is widely regarded as a brilliant dissertation on decision theory. In 1964 he went to work for the Pentagon under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. He then went to Vietnam for 2 years working in the State Department for General Edward Lansdale. He had an eye level view of what was happening in that horrendous war. In 1967 he joined the Rand Corporation and contributed to a top secret history of the conduct of the war in Vietnam.

That history was commissioned by none other than Secretary McNamara, and became known as the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg had become increasingly disillusioned with the war and began attending peace rallies. At one, a draft resistor named Randy Kehler said he was going to prison rather than serve in Vietnam. To Ellsberg, Kehler’s willingness to sacrifice himself to prison to protest the war was an epiphany, and he began making several copies of the top-secret documents. First, he tried to get a number of senators, including William Fullbright and George McGovern, to release them. Didn’t happen.

Then Ellsberg shared the documents with the Institute for Policy Studies in D.C., and they got them to Neil Sheehan at the New York Times. On Sunday, June 13, 1971, the Times published the first of nine excerpts from the papers. Nixon got a court order to stop the Times from publishing. Ellsberg then leaked the documents to the Washington Post which began publishing them. (See the movie, The Post)

The Papers revealed that three presidents, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon had consistently lied to the American public about the war. In the end, the release of the Pentagon Papers played a central role in bringing an end to the Vietnam War and the Nixon presidency as well.

Now Ellsberg has written a new book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, based on his experiences at the Rand Corporation. The New York Times says this about the book: “By employing personal stories from his time in the 1950s and 1960s working alongside (Herman) Kahn and other “wizards of Armageddon” at the RAND Corporation and as a consultant at the Pentagon, he makes hard-to-believe truths more credible.”