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Inside the Pentagon Papers

Overview

Inside the Pentagon Papers addresses legal and moral issues that resonate today as debates continue over government secrecy and democracy's requisite demand for truthfully informed citizens. In the process, it also shows how a closer study of this signal event can illuminate questions of government responsibility in any era.

When Daniel Ellsberg leaked a secret government study about the Vietnam War to the press in 1971, he set off a chain of events that culminated in one of the...

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Overview

Inside the Pentagon Papers addresses legal and moral issues that resonate today as debates continue over government secrecy and democracy's requisite demand for truthfully informed citizens. In the process, it also shows how a closer study of this signal event can illuminate questions of government responsibility in any era.

When Daniel Ellsberg leaked a secret government study about the Vietnam War to the press in 1971, he set off a chain of events that culminated in one of the most important First Amendment decisions in American legal history. That affair is now part of history, but the story behind the case has much to tell us about government secrecy and the public's right to know.

Commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, "the Pentagon Papers" were assembled by a team of analysts who investigated every aspect of the war. Ellsberg, a member of the team, was horrified by the government's public lies about the war-discrepancies with reality that were revealed by the report's secret findings. His leak of the report to the New York Times and Washington Post triggered the Nixon administration's heavy-handed attempt to halt publication of their stories, which in turn led to the Supreme Court's ruling that Nixon's actions violated the Constitution's free speech guarantees.

Inside the Pentagon Papers reexamines what happened, why it mattered, and why it still has relevance today. Focusing on the "back story" of the Pentagon Papers and the resulting court cases, it draws upon a wealth of oral history and previously classified documents to show the consequences of leak and litigation both for the Vietnam War and for American history.

Included here for the first time are transcripts of previously secret White House telephone tapes revealing the Nixon administration's repressive strategies, as well as the government's formal charges against the newspapers presented by Solicitor General Erwin Griswold to the Supreme Court. Coeditor John Prados's point-by-point analysis of these charges demonstrates just how weak the government's case was-and how they reflected Nixon's paranoia more than legitimate national security issues.

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Editorial Reviews

Anthony Lewis
A wonderful and significant story.
New York Review of Books
American Journalism
Highlights the burden of a free press that enriches a nation that cherishes freedom but yearns for national security.
Library Journal
On June 13, 1971, the New York Times printed its first installment of the Pentagon Papers, a massive narrative of this country's often misguided Vietnam policies from the Truman through the Johnson administrations. Prolific historian Prados (The Lost Crusader: The Secret Wars of CIA Director William Colby) and Porter, an official of Vietnam Veterans of America, combine informative summaries of the impact and legacy of the Pentagon Papers with interviews of important players, most notably Daniel Ellsberg, who released the papers to the Times and the Washington Post. Also included are the views of scholars, such as David Rudenstine, whose excellent The Day the Presses Stopped: A History of the Pentagon Papers is updated here through use of more recent declassified documents. In one of the many illuminating first-person accounts, Hedrick Smith of the Times recounts the struggle between those who considered release of the papers a breach of national security and the majority, who believed that their release was essential to protect the First Amendment. The Supreme Court ruled that the government's case against release was not compelling. Recommended for all public and academic libraries. Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Twp. Lib., King of Prussia, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700614233
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Series: Modern War Studies Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 260
  • Sales rank: 737,142
  • Product dimensions: 6.92 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction

1. Creating the Pentagon Papers

2. Publishing the Papers

3. Nixon Intervenes

4. First Amendment Rights: The Papers in Court

5. What Was So Secret?

6. The Impact of the Pentagon Papers

7. Legal and Constitutional Issues, by Michael J. Gaffney

Notes

Bibliography

About the Contributors

Index

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