Tuesday, June 13, 2017 – The Pentagon Papers – Leaking and Lying in Modern Times
Time for your daily history lesson, Boys and Girls.
On this day in history the New York Times began publishing The Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg. The Pentagon Papers were officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense. The year? 1971.
“Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara created the Vietnam Study Task Force on June 17, 1967, for the purpose of writing an “encyclopedic history of the Vietnam War“. McNamara claimed that he wanted to leave a written record for historians, to prevent policy errors in future administrations. McNamara neglected to inform either President Lyndon Johnson or Secretary of State Dean Rusk about the study.”
The huge volumes of sensitive, secret, sort of secret, and real secret information about the US government was revealed to the public. Notice the appropriate word is “revealed” and not “leaked.”
For example, it revealed that presidential administrations had been and were systematically lying and/or secretly keeping activities from the media. Even more damaging, the papers revealed that the US military had secretly engaged in expanding the scope of the Vietnam Conflict.
Ellsberg was charged with conspiracy, espionage and theft of government documents. (Aka leak of such documents) Then came newly elected in 1968 Richard Nixon. The charges against Ellsberg were later dropped when Tricky Dick tried to restrain the press. Tricky Dick then ordered White House officials to dress like plumbers and to use unlawful and unethical efforts to discredit Ellsberg.
Fast forward to the end – the publication of The Pentagon Papers kicked off a new phase in politics with secret, covert and illegal (aka leaking and lying) actions by the Executive Office and all for public consumption on the social media of the day – print, radio and TV.
There were break-ins and burglaries at The Watergate Hotel and the US became embroiled in the largest constitutional crisis to date. And there were tapes of meetings with The POTUS. It all came crashing down like a House of Cards. The POTUS resigned before impeachment charges could be brought. The plumbers and lots of others went to prison. “I am not a crook” turned out to be one.
And that brings us to the present and the irony of history repeating itself. Here’s what I’m thinking. When revealed to the public The Pentagon Papers were over 1000 printed pages. Trumpet’s Twitter rants are going to be much shorter in length, but perhaps the results will be the same.