Rediscover: The Pentagon Papers

United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense was commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara as a top secret record of American involvement in the escalating Vietnam War. The study essentially proved that the U.S. government was lying to the public about the war's purpose, conduct and ability to be won. This classified report became known as the Pentagon Papers when RAND Corporation analyst turned anti-war activist Daniel Ellsberg leaked it in 1971, causing a flood of questionable responses from the Nixon White House. Attempts to silence reporting on the Pentagon Papers led to the Supreme Court decision New York Times Co. v. United States, which remains a valuable precedent for First Amendment rights.

The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg, stars Meryl Streep as Washington Post publisher Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as editor Ben Bradlee in a struggle among the Post, New York Times and the federal government over publication of the Pentagon Papers. The film has received rave reviews during its limited release and opens everywhere today. Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers by Daniel Ellsberg (Viking) came out in 2002. Ellsberg's latest book, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781608196708), was released in December 2017. --Tobias Mutter

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