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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The (complete) Pentagon Papers Release Slated for Monday

An article in this morning’s New York Times details the government’s plans to declassify the entirety of the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. government’s secret study of the war in Vietnam. That release will come 40 years after the Times publication of much, but not all, of that study. Now, each page will be scanned and be made available electronically through the National Archives and Records Administration.

The article appearing in today’s paper puts the release in an interesting historical context, contrasting the Vietnam Era publication of the Pentagon Papers to today’s era of WikiLeaks. Daniel Ellsberg, the former Rand Corporation analyst who helped compile the report that would become known as the Pentagon papers, leaked it to the New York Times and subsequently faced 12 felony counts as a result of that release, it quoted at length.

The article reads, in part: “It seems to me that what the Pentagon Papers really demonstrated 40 years ago was the price of (the usurping of Congressional war-making powers by the executive branch),” Ellsberg said. “Which is that letting a small group of men in secret in the executive branch make these decisions — initiate them secretly, carry them out secretly and manipulate Congress, and lie to Congress and the public as to why they’re doing it and what they’re doing — is a recipe for, a guarantee of Vietnams and Iraqs and Libyas, and in general foolish, reckless, dangerous policies.”

As the release date nears, and policies are debated, those preparing for that discussion will have the full text of the Pentagon Papers available for their perusal.

The photo of Ellsberg, above, comes from the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum The museum’s collections also include an oral history interview with Ellsberg and a variety of other interview and digitized documents pertaining to the Pentagon Papers.

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