One Last Leak: Pentagon Papers to Go Public Monday

Wednesday, 08 Jun 2011 01:47 PM

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The federal government will release an uncut and fully declassified version of the Pentagon Papers on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of their epic leak to the press, The New York Times reports.

Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers, New York Times
Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers four decades ago, remains an activist today. (Getty Images Photo)
The Pentagon’s internal study of the Vietnam War, which defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg handed to reporters for The Times in 1971, led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling on disclosure of government secrets, and made an unpopular war an even tougher sell to the American public.

Ellsberg says it’s “absurd” that a clean copy has taken 40 years to surface.

The papers he leaked to The Times were incomplete, as were later versions published in book form. The 7,000 pages to be released next week will constitute the original study in its complete and unredacted form.

The mythology surrounding the Pentagon Papers may be greater than their actual value as a stash of secrets or as an unflinching analysis of the war's difficulties.

“They are almost catch-as-catch-can studies based on available documents,” says Leslie Gelb, who directed the internal Defense Department task force that wrote the study. “This thing was not meant to be in any sense a definitive history, or even a definitive bureaucratic history. It was just a history put together by very smart guys on the run.”

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