Pentagon Papers

From Academic Kids

Template:Watergate The Pentagon Papers are a 7,000-page, top-secret United States Department of Defense history of the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1971. The Pentagon Papers were leaked in 1971 by Department of Defense worker Daniel Ellsberg. Excerpts were published as a series of articles in The New York Times beginning June 13. [1] ( On June 29, U.S. Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska entered 4,100 pages of the Papers into the record of his subcommittee on Buildings and Grounds. These portions of the Papers were subsequently published by Beacon Press. [2] (

The document revealed, among other things, that the government had planned to go to Vietnam even when president Lyndon Johnson was promising not to, and that there was no plan to end the war. The document increased belief in the credibility gap, hurting the war effort.

Shortly after the Times began publishing the series, President Nixon became incensed. His words to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger that day included "people have gotta be put to the torch for this sort of thing..." and "let's get the son-of-a-bitch in jail." [3] ( The next day, Attorney General John Mitchell talked Nixon into getting a federal court injunction to cease publication of the documents. This was the first time in U.S. history that any executive successfully obtained a judicial prior restraint against publication for national security reasons.

On June 18th, the Washington Post began publishing the Papers. That day the Post received a call from the Assistant Attorney General, William Rehnquist, asking them to stop publishing the documents. When the Post refused, the Justice Department sought another injunction. That court refused, and the government appealed. The Times also appealed the injunction that was issued, and on June 26 the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to take both cases, merging them into the case New York Times Co. v. U.S. (403 US 713 ( The Supreme Court held in a 6-3 decision that the injunctions were unconstitutional prior restraints and that the government had not met its burden of proof. The justices wrote nine separate opinions, disagreeing on significant substantive issues. While it was a victory for the First Amendment, many felt it was a lukewarm victory at best, offering little protection for future publishers when claims of national security are at stake. Thomas Tedford and Dale Herbeck summed up the reaction of editors and publishers at the time:

"As the press rooms of the Times and the Post began to hum to the lifting of the censorship order, the journalists of America pondered with grave concern the fact that for fifteen days the 'free press' of the nation had been prevented from publishing an important document and for their troubles had been given an inconclusive and uninspiring 'burden-of-proof' decision by a sharply divided Supreme Court. There was relief, but no great rejoicing, in the editorial offices of America's publishers and broadcasters." (Tedford and Herbeck, pp. 225–6 [4] (


  • _____ (1971). The Pentagon Papers. New York: Bantam Books. As published in The New York Times. ISBN 0552649171.
  • _____ (19711972). The Pentagon Papers: The Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking on Vietnam. Boston: Beacon Press. 5 vols. "Senator Gravel Edition"; includes documents not included in government version. ISBN 0807005266 & ISBN 0807005223.
  • Daniel Ellsberg (2002). Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. New York: Viking. ISBN 0670030309
  • George C. Herring, ed. (1993). The Pentagon Papers: Abridged Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill. ISBN 007028380X.
  • George C. Herring, ed. (1983). Secret Diplomacy of the Vietnam War: The Negotiating Volumes of the Pentagon Papers. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292775733.
  • Thomas Tedford and Dale Herbeck (2001). Freedom of Speech in the United States, fourth edition'. State College, Pennsylvania: Strata Publishing, Inc. ISBN 1891136046.
  • U.S. Congress, House Committee on Armed Services (1971). United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: A Study Prepared by The Department of Defense. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. 12 vols.

External links

de:Pentagon-Papiere ja:ペンタゴン・ペーパーズ sv:The Pentagon Papers


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