The Pentagon Papers

The Pentagon Papers

Professor Phil Nash helps us explain the complicated and much-mythologized history of the Pentagon Papers, which is shorthand for the government-funded study of US involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. According to New York Times in 1996, the Pentagon Papers showed that the government had, “systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress.” That secrecy and lying included hiding the expansion of US-led military action in south-east Asia to include Cambodia and Laos. Once leaked by Daniel Ellsberg and others, American newspapers, led by the New York Times, printed significant extracts from the Papers. This led to a large freedom of the press controversy, ending in a Supreme Court ruling which allowed publication. 2017’s dramatic film, The Post, chronicles the Washington Post’s participation in the Pentagon Papers controversy. We explain it all, and critique the film!

Buzzkill Bookshelf

Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2003).

In this remarkable memoir, Ellsberg describes in dramatic detail the two years he spent in Vietnam as a U.S. State Department observer, and how he came to risk his career and freedom to expose the deceptions and delusions that shaped three decades of American foreign policy.

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