Today, forty years after they were first leaked, all 7000 pages of the Pentagon Papers are finally declassified and publicly released.
They have been released in book form more than once. And, as it turns out, those texts were incomplete. Now that everything has been made public the papers can now be read in their original form.
“It’s absurd,” said Daniel Ellsberg, the former RAND Corporation analyst who worked on the report and later provided it to The Times. He said Tuesday that the report should not have been secret even in 1971, when newspapers first published it, adding: “The reasons are very clearly domestic political reasons, not national security at all. The reasons for the prolonged secrecy are to conceal the fact that so much of the policy making doesn’t bear public examination. It’s embarrassing, or even incriminating.”
Forty years ago when Ellsberg leaked the information he took it volume by volume from a safe in his office and had it copied in an all night session by a friend’s girlfriend who owned a Xerox copier. Now, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will scan it and quickly put it online.
It’s interesting that this comes at a time when there’s renewed attention on leaked classified documents (Wiki Leaks).
When Daniel Ellsberg first leaked the Pentagon Papers, he wanted to stop the Vietnam War and decided to omit the parts clearly illustrating that peace negotiations were taking place with North Vietnam. He said that he left this out because he thought President Nixon would use the release an excuse to break of negotiations. Ellsberg, perhaps hero to some, also manipulated the truth for his own purposes. He still considered the public information should be on a need to know basis.
Thankfully President Nixon President Nixon ended US offensive participation in the war. President Ford conducted US defensive operations for rescue and evacuation, until the end of the war on 30 April 1975.
There is still intrigue in today’s release. Archivists had planned not to publish 11 words that were never published before and then announced that they would after all be published. They did decline to reveal what the 11 words are, so everyone will have to read the document to potentially know what they are.
To all Vietnam veterans—Thank you for your service.
If you’d like to read more about the story click on Politico.com.