The Pentagon Papers were a top-secret history of U.S. involvement in the brutal conflicts of Southeast Asia. Commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1967 and completed in 1969, they were leaked to the press in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg, a government employee.
The publication of portions of the Pentagon Papers by the New York Times and other news organizations not only set off a fierce legal battle, it changed history. While the government obtained a court order blocking further release of the documents, the Supreme Court backed the newspapers, and they were able to resume publication. All charges were dropped against Ellsberg, the Times went on to win a Pulitzer Prize for its reporting, and the First Amendment rights of news organizations were immeasurably strengthened.
On the 40th anniversary of the case, the U.S. National Archives has publicly released the complete “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” as Pentagon Papers were officially called. More than a third of the text is available for the first time ever, and the entire report is entirely declassified, with no redactions and all supporting documentation. Also included are an account of the Vietnam peace negotiations.
Tags: Asia, law, war