Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. Image: / ProtestPhotos1/Flickr/CC BY-SA

The National Archives on Monday has released the Pentagon Papers in their entirety online. The one-time explosive document revealed a deception maintained by four U.S, administrations about our involvement in Vietnam. Though experts say nothing new is revealed, it is the first time it can be read in full without a national security clearance. The release comes 40 years to the day since the New York Times published the first installment of the leaked report.

Vietnam Task Force

The report from 1969, originally called “Report of the OSD Vietnam Task Force,” was a super-secret analysis of America’s involvement in the Vietnam war. It became known popularly as “The Pentagon Papers” when it was leaked in part in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg, one of the task force members who compiled the report. That leak is a watershed of whistle-blowing, and, being closely followed by the Watergate scandal, was instrumental in affecting popular opinion about the trustworthiness of the U.S. government.

‘Put to the torch’

At the time, President Nixon condemned the leak and said those responsible for it “have to be put to the torch.” However, the legal case against Ellsberg was thrown out after agents of the White House, dubbed “the plumbers,” broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in the hopes of finding information to discredit him. “The plumbers” were also implicated in the break-in of Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate building a year later.

Too much power, says Ellsberg

Ellsberg says the message of the papers was that Congress should be involved in decisions about going to 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 (creating more) Vietnams, Iraqs and Libyas,” Ellsberg said.

Resolutions were passed earlier this month by the House and the Senate admonishing the White House for military action in Libya without first seeking congressional approval.

Sources

MSNBC: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43382356/ns/us_news-security/

Huffington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/the-pentagon-papers-are-released-in-full-to-the-public/2011/06/13/AGoRrGTH_blog.html

Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/blogpost/post/the-pentagon-papers-are-released-in-full-to-the-public/2011/06/13/AGoRrGTH_blog.html

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