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Daniel Ellsberg Chair on Government Secrecy



New York, NY, USA · Washington, DC, USA · Fairfax, VA, USA · Remote
Posted on Friday, February 16, 2024

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.

Note: for tenured professors interested in taking a sabbatical leave from their university, FPF is willing to treat this role as a limited term two-year, full-time position for our selected candidate.


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.


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.


  • 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.

Working with us

In addition to a competitive non-profit salary in the range of $150,000-$170,000 per year, FPF provides health, dental and vision insurance (via Aetna) at no cost to employees; 20 days of personal time off, in addition to all federal holidays and the week between Christmas and New Year’s; paid parental leave and a generous 401(k) program. Freedom of the Press Foundation matches your 401(k) contributions dollar-for-dollar, up to 4% of your gross salary.

This role does not require U.S. Citizenship, but you must be legally authorized to work in the U.S. to be considered. FPF does not sponsor employees for work authorization at this time, and the selected candidate will be required to submit proof of authorization.

FPF is strongly committed to creating a diverse and inclusive community. We warmly welcome members of traditionally underrepresented communities to apply, including people of color, LGBTQ+ folks and people with disabilities.

FPF does not discriminate on the basis of an individual’s sex, age, race, color, creed, national origin, alienage, religion, marital status, pregnancy, sexual or reproductive health decisions, sexual orientation or affectional preference, gender identity and expression, disability, genetic trait or predisposition, carrier status, citizenship, veteran or military status and other personal characteristics protected by law.

Many people, especially those identifying as part of structurally marginalized groups, tend to apply to jobs only if they meet all of the listed qualifications. No candidate ever meets all of the qualifications, and we encourage you to apply if you are excited about the role! Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until we find the right candidate for the position.

More about FPF

How to Apply

If you think you’d like to be a part of our team, please submit your résumé, a cover letter (both no longer than 1 ½ pages), and a writing sample. The sample can include a news article, blog post, scholarly article, or newsletter you wrote or edited or a piece of legal writing or analysis.

After an initial application review, FPF’s hiring process involves a phone screen, an interview with the hiring manager, and an at-home writing exercise. For candidates moving to the final stages, two organization-wide panels follow.