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Daniel Ellsberg Chair on Government Secrecy, Freedom of the Press Foundation

Position Description

Legendary Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who passed away in 2023, was a co-founder of Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting, defending and empowering public-interest journalism. In his honor, FPF is establishing the Daniel Ellsberg Chair on Government Secrecy. 

The purpose of this position is to lead the national fight against excessive government secrecy—the root cause of so many press freedom and democracy issues—while furthering the late whistleblower’s legacy. 

This full-time advocate will be one of the nation’s leading experts in all aspects of government secrecy — from the corrosive effect of overclassification to secretive government surveillance programs to abuses of the Espionage Act, including prosecutions of whistleblowers as well as prosecutions of, and threats to prosecute, publishers and news outlets. 

The Ellsberg Chair will have expertise in identifying abuses of power with the skills to communicate these issues in an understandable and engaging way, turning enigmatic secrecy abuses into public conversation starters. 

They will share their analyses on FPF’s platforms and in the nation’s leading news outlets, making the topic more accessible and interesting to the public. They will also work with journalists on overlooked stories they should be covering and on reshaping the media narrative around whistleblowers to focus less on “sky is falling” narratives and more on the information that was hidden from the public, and whether it should’ve been hidden. 

They will lobby members of Congress for substantial and permanent changes to classification law and the Espionage Act. They will be able to adjust to changing political realities and find ways to effect change no matter who is in office. 

There’s no position like this anywhere. We believe it can quickly have an outsized impact. 

This position reports to FPF’s director of advocacy, but will also work closely with FPF’s executive director and enjoy a high degree of autonomy. We have a strong preference for candidates in Washington D.C. or New York City (where our office is based), but we will consider strong remote candidates from anywhere in the U.S. 

Responsibilities

As the Daniel Ellsberg Chair on Government Secrecy, you will be one of the nation’s leading experts in all aspects of government secrecy. You’ll lead a project to promote reforms to the secrecy infrastructure of the United States, protect newsgathering rights and whistleblowers, and oppose overclassification by: 

  • Researching issues concerning government secrecy and writing for publication, including through op-eds, scholarly research, blog posts, newsletters and social media.
  • Engaging the public in the fight to limit government secrecy, by explaining abuses and potential reforms in an understandable and engaging way and in multiple formats, including writing, public speaking, traditional media interviews, and social media posts.
  • Building coalitions of press freedom and transparency advocates around issues central to FPF concerning government secrecy.
  • Working with journalists to shape stories on government secrecy and whistleblowers, by offering expert insights into the classification system, Espionage Act, and other topics. 
  • Lobbying members of Congress of both parties for substantial and permanent changes to the laws governing the classification system, the Espionage Act, and other laws, and vocally opposing legislation that would increase government secrecy.
  • Acting as a watchdog of all branches of government, identifying and opposing anti-transparency measures.
  • Coordinating with FPF’s Advocacy team to respond to government secrecy issues at the state and local levels, as appropriate. 
  • Working within the organization to champion and develop our positions.
  • Helping us respond to emergencies, including prosecutions of publishers, journalists or sources under the Espionage Act or other secrecy laws, wherever they may occur in the United States, through strategizing, writing and organizing.

Qualifications

Must have:

  • At least 15 years of relevant experience working on government secrecy issues.  
  • A passion for the First Amendment, transparency, and protecting the rights of journalists and whistleblowers.
  • Expertise in the U.S. classification system, the Espionage Act, secrecy around FISA courts and other surveillance programs, the state secrets privilege, FOIA abuses, and other aspects of government secrecy. 
  • Excellent writing skills, with the ability to write persuasively for different audiences with a range of knowledge, including the general public. 
  • Willingness to publicly advocate on controversial or unpopular issues that affect government secrecy, whistleblowers, and the First Amendment rights of journalists.
  • Ability to both persuasively argue for reforms and rebut anti-transparency arguments, including those made in bad faith. 
  • Willingness to work with people all across the political spectrum, and adapt to changing political realities, to achieve common legislative and policy goals. 
  • Ability to identify priorities and strategies and work autonomously to accomplish them. 
  • Experience leading or launching a campaign, significant project, or other initiative.

Preferred: 

  • Public facing advocacy experience. 
  • Op-ed or other persuasive writing experience.
  • Public speaking/media training and experience.
  • A J.D. or MPP and some legal experience.
  • Knowledge of or expertise in encryption and secure newsgathering tools. 
  • Experience working directly with the offices of elected officials at the federal, state and local levels.

For more information and to apply, click here.