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Pentagon Papers a footnote in history
June 14, 2011 - Jim Smith
What turned into a national scandal, a criminal investigation, a Supreme Court freedom of the press decision and federal charges being filed against what we now call a "whistleblower," became just another footnote in history Monday when the previously top-secret Pentagon Papers were declassified and released to the public.
What was feared by the Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations as being too explosive of U.S. conduct in the controversial war in Vietnam to ever be told to the public was leaked by Daniel Ellsberg in an act of personal defiance that began a federal investigation that eventually saw him criminally charged and the issue of the New York Times publishing in 1971 the documents go before the U.S. Supreme Court where the right to publish was upheld and press freedoms were strengthened.
Charges against Ellsberg eventually were dropped, but the explosive nature of the Pentagon Papers and the subsequent break-ins by Nixon thugs into Ellsberg's patient records and later into the Watergate headquarters of the National Democratic Party headquarters led to the resignation of Nixon and charges against several of his aides.
The Pentagon Papers was an intense study of U.S. involvement in Vietnam from World War II through 1967 and revealed an ongoing pattern of deception by presidential administrations, showing how Johnson secretly was escalating the war as he was telling the public he did not seek to widen the conflict.
As the AP reported, "The report concludes the U.S. had not learned lessons of the past, namely that peasants would resist attempts to change the pattern of their lives. The hamlet program "was fatally flawed in its conception by the unintended consequence of alienating many of those whose loyalty it aimed to win."
What Ellsberg, who served in the Marines in Vietnam and was an analyst with the Rand Corp., leaked to the media and the media revealed to the public now is available online at http://www.archives.gov/research/pentagon-papers/ -- all 7,000 pages of it, which historians undoubtedly will pour over for years.
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