On Monday the National Archives released all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers, the explosive documents that detailed four administrations’ worth of deception on Vietnam. Some of the content has been public since 1971, and the release is not likely to reveal many new secrets. But this is the first time that Americans can read the papers in full without a security clearance.
Officially known as the “Report of the OSD Vietnam Task Force,” the Pentagon Papers were a secret analysis of America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The papers showed that while U.S. leaders said one thing about the conflict publicly, they were thinking something entirely different behind closed doors.
Forty years ago today, the New York Times first published excerpts of the papers. Daniel Ellsberg, the task force participant who leaked the documents, believes they still have something to teach. He recently told the Times that the papers show that Congress, not presidents, should have the power to make war.
“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,” Ellsberg was quoted as saying.
(See the original front page story on the Pentagon Papers of the Washington Post from the Pentagon Papers here and here.)
Both the House and the Senate passed resolutions this month rebuking the White House for moving forward in Libya without seeking congressional approval.
You can read the Pentagon Papers online here. The full 7,000 pages will be up today.
YOUR TAKE: Let us know what you find in the #PentagonPapers.
Tweet Forty years after excerpts were first published, all 7,000 pages of the Pentagon Papers have been declassified. Let us know what the Pentagon Papers still have to tell us four decades later. Use #PentagonPapers on Twitter and we’ll post some responses right here.
If you search through the Pentagon Papers, let us know anything that stands out to you — new information, old insights, and what we still have to learn from them today.
In honor of the release, PBS is streaming a documentary about Ellsberg and the papers June 13-14. Watch “The Most Dangerous Man in America” here:
Watch the full episode. See more POV.