Pentagon Papers -- all of them -- to be released Monday

By David Jackson, USA TODAY
Updated 16h 34m ago

On Monday, the National Archives commemorates the 40th anniversary of one of the most pivotal events in presidential history: Publication of the secret Vietnam study known as the Pentagon Papers.

The Archives will formally release the entire 7,000-page set of documents.

Four decades ago, whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and others leaked incomplete copies of the report on U.S. involvement in Vietnam to The New York Times and other media outlets. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara had commissioned the report in 1967, at the height of American protest over Vietnam.

The previously leaked copies of the Pentagon Papers have been standard reading for Vietnam historians, but their release has also had a profound impact on the presidency, and on all of government.

The Richard Nixon administration's adverse reaction to the news leaks led to more aggressive effort to find officials who dealt with reporters, including phone taps and black bag jobs. It can be argued that the Pentagon Papers' release set Nixon's team on the road to the Watergate scandal (which included a break-in at the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist).

The Nixonian reaction remains puzzling given the fact that the documents were more embarrassing to the John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations, one reason Nixon himself was at first indifferent to the leak.
USA Today