Until now, there has never been a complete, unredacted text of the Pentagon Papers, the massive report that showed the government lied about the state of the Vietnam War. The National Archives' release of the full report on Monday marks a historic moment, timed to coincide with the anniversary of the first leaks to The New York Times exactly 40 years ago-- but it doesn't appear there are many major secrets left to discover within the newly declassified 7,000 pages.
Daniel Ellsberg, who worked on the report during the Lyndon Johnson administration and later leaked it to the press, intended to expose the secret history of the Vietnam War. The explosive release illustrated how the Kennedy and Johnson administrations lied to Congress and the public about their intentions in the Vietnam War: They both escalated the war effort there while publicly pledging not to expand the war effort.
Then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara commissioned the Pentagon Papers, officially titled "Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” in 1967. While newspapers first published portions of the report in June 1971, "the publications of the report that resulted from these leaks were incomplete and suffered from many quality issues,” according to the National Archives.
At noon on Monday, the National Archives website, along with the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon Presidential Libraries, released the complete report.
“The declassified report includes 2,384 pages missing from what was regarded as the most complete version of the Pentagon Papers, published in 1971 by Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska,” the Associated Press reported. “But some of the material absent from that version appeared — with redactions — in a report of the House Armed Services Committee, also in 1971.”
When Ellsberg originally provided the report to The Times, he left out sections about Vietnam peace talks so as not to disrupt the negotiations. “Those sections about the negotiations had been declassified for years,” The Times reported. “But they will now appear in the context in which they were first written, along with several volumes that have not been published, including a section on the United States training the Vietnamese national army, a statistical survey of the war from 1965 to 1967, and some supporting documents.”
According to the Archives, the release includes all the supplemental back-documentation, and the complete account of peace negotiations.
This article appears in the June 13, 2011 edition of National Journal Daily PM Update.