The Pentagon Papers

If you’ve got some free time (actually, a LOT of free time), you can read the 7,000 page Pentagon Papers via Fold3.com!

The Pentagon Papers, officially titled Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, is a U.S. Department of Defense history of our political and military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967. It consists of 3,000 pages of historical analysis and 4,000 pages of original government documents in 47 volumes, and was initially classified as "Top Secret – Sensitive". The papers were leaked to a New York Times reporter by Daniel Ellsberg, one of the analysts who had compiled the report. An excerpt from the papers was printed by The Times in 1971.

Soldiers crossing a field in Vietnam (Archives.gov photo)
Soldiers crossing a field in Vietnam (Archives.gov photo)

A 1996 article in The Times noted that the Pentagon Papers had demonstrated, among other things, that the Lyndon B. Johnson administration had "systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress". The papers revealed that the U.S. had secretly enlarged the scope of American involvement in the Vietnam War with the bombings of nearby Cambodia and Laos and air raids on North Vietnam, none of which were reported in the mainstream media.

For his disclosure of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg was initially charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property, but the charges were later dismissed after prosecutors investigating the Watergate scandal discovered that Nixon White House staff members had ordered the so-called Plumbers to engage in illegal efforts to discredit Ellsberg.

In June 2011, the Pentagon Papers were declassified in their entirety and released to the public.

If you have a valid SLPL library card and PIN, you can use Fold3.com from home: you may also use Fold3.com at Central Library or any of our branches.

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