The Pentagon Papers: 40th Anniversary

Today, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) published online a complete and unredacted digital copy of the once classified report known as the “Pentagon Papers.”  Portions of the report, showing how government officials deceived the public about the Viet Nam War, were published exactly 40 years today in the New York Times.

The report, officially titled, “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” is available here, as a collection of PDF files.

The Nixon White House was livid to learn that Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, a RAND Corporation analyst, had orchestrated the “leak,” and sought information to discredit Ellsberg by illegally breaking into his psychiatrists’s office.  Ellsberg and a colleague Anthony Russo, who assisted him, were charged with violating the Espionage Act of 1917.  On the 40th anniversary, Ellsberg told NPR he expected to receive a life-sentence for his role.  The the case was thrown out after the judge learned of the breaking and illegal wiretapping of Ellsberg’s phone.

However, all of the crimes Nixon committed against Nixon would now be legal, Ellsberg said this week on CNN.

That includes burglarizing my former psychoanalyst’s office (for material to blackmail me into silence), warrantless wiretapping, using the CIA against an American citizen in the US, and authorizing a White House hit squad to “incapacitate me totally” (on the steps of the Capitol on May 3, 1971). All the above were to prevent me from exposing guilty secrets of his own administration that went beyond the Pentagon Papers.    But under George W. Bush and Barack Obama,with the PATRIOT Act, the FISA Amendment Act, and (for the hit squad) President Obama’s executive orders. they have all become legal.

To learn more about the Pentagon Papers case, watch the documentary, “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.” The film is offered for free viewing online at PBS today and tomorrow (June 13 and 14). To buy a copy of the video, please visit the Whistleblower Archives Store.