A whistle-blower releases details of top secret government operations to the press and unleashes a national debate on whether he is a hero or guilty of treason.

It's happening now with the NSA disclosures and it happened 42 years ago when military analyst Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers, detailing the bleak military outlook in Vietnam, to The New York Times. Beyond national security issues, the disclosures in the papers undermined public support for the Southeast Asia policies of President Richard Nixon, whose administration tried unsuccessfully in court to halt their publication.

FILE - In a Saturday, June 1, 2013 file photo, Daniel Ellsberg speaks during a rally in support of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning outside the gates of Fort
FILE - In a Saturday, June 1, 2013 file photo, Daniel Ellsberg speaks during a rally in support of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning outside the gates of Fort Meade, Md. OnMonday, June 10, 2013 Ellsberg, the whistleblower responsible for releasing the Pentagon Papers, called the revelations by government contractor Edward Snowden on U.S. secret surveillance programs the most "significant disclosure" in the nation's history- more important than the Pentagon Papers as well as information given to the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks by U.S. Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning. ((AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File))

Ellsberg, now a Kensington resident, was honored last month with a Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award "for his indefatigable defense of a free and uncensored press, and creating an organization to promote and fund aggressive public-interest journalism."

Ellsberg is a co-founder of the Freedom of the Press Foundation and frequent guest speaker to local high school classes, as well as on panels examining government transparency, the public's right to know.

"When he chose to leak the Pentagon Papers, many people both within and outside the government derided him as a traitor and suspected him of espionage," the Hefner Foundation stated. "Since that time, many have come to regard him as a hero of uncommon bravery, a man who risked his career and even his personal freedom to help expose the deception of his own government in carrying out the Vietnam War."

Ellsberg -- the author of three books -- has continued to write and be an advocate for the public's right to now. On June 11 he was a scheduled to be a featured member of a panel discussion at St John's Church in Berkeley on civil liberties in the wake of the NSA disclosures.

WEST COUNTY NOTES: Zaki Kabob House at 1101 San Pablo Ave. in Albany is hosting a community event to benefit Albany Schoolcare from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 15. The restaurant, which regularly holds fundraisers for local schools and libraries, will have a magician, balloon twister, a petting zoo and a bounce house in the parking lot. Ten percent of restaurant sales will go to Albany Schoolcare. Details: 510-527-5452.

  • Father's Day and pancakes are a natural pairing, especially when consumed on the deck of a historic ship from World War II. Head to the SS Red Oak Victory at 1337 Canal Blvd. in the Port of Richmond for a full pancake breakfast for $7 (children under 5 are free). You can also tour the ship for $5 and stay around for the ROV classic film series at 3 p.m. (there is a $5 theater fee for the screening).

    Proceeds benefit the ongoing restoration of the ship.

  • Berkeley's Mystical Egrets, an exhibit by fine arts photographer Gerry Traucht, is at Au Coquelet Cafe Gallery and Main Restaurant Gallery, 2000 University Ave. in Berkeley, through July 15. The space is open daily from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.

  • A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held from 10 to 11:30 a.m. June 19 to dedicate the new parking structure at the Richmond BART station, 1700 Nevin Ave. The project includes about 9,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.

    "The parking structure replaces all of the surface parking at the station and adds approximately 120 spaces to existing parking capacity, for a total of 760 spaces," according to the Richmond city manager's office. "The existing surface lots east of the station are proposed to be developed with 99 residential units as part of the second phase of the Transit Village development."

  • From our blog: A Chamber of Commerce promotional brochure offers a look at Albany in 1940. Visit IBABuzz.com/westcounty.

  • "The Art of Pt. Molate" will have works by 13 artists on display from 6 to 8 p.m. June 20 at Bridge Art Space, 23 Maine Ave. in Richmond.

  • A community workshop to discuss the Long Range Development Plan for the Richmond Bay Campus of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. June 20 in the Richmond Auditorium, 403 Civic Center Plaza. To RSVP visit http://lrdp.eventbrite.com/.

  • Steve Geller will explain the ins and outs of AC Transit, City Car Share, Paratransport, BART, taxi vouchers and the like at a free talk on "Yes, Seniors Can Get Around Without Driving" at 1:30 p.m. June 26 at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst Ave. The program is presented by the Berkeley-East Bay Gray Panthers.

    Contact Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/christreadway. Stay up-to-date on West Contra Costa news at IBABuzz.com/westcounty.