The Pentagon Papers

On June 13 1971, governmental accountability and the American people's faith in their government was lost as the New York Times published the "top secret – sensitive" Pentagon Papers. Commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and written by Daniel Ellsberg, this 7 000-page document outlines the American Involvement in Vietnam from the 1940's to the late 1960's. It included specific details on everything from the CIA's involvement in the early 1950's up to Nixon and Kissinger's discussions on using nuclear weapons during the later stages of the war. This paper will outline expert opinion on this document, some will be for the value of the papers and others will discount their true value. However the main purpose is to give a well rounded view of whether national security or public awareness takes precedence in an extremely volatile situation, such as the Vietnam War.
The key to understanding the Pentagon Papers, is understanding two key men Robert McNamara and Daniel Ellsberg. It was McNamara's mind which envisioned them and Ellsberg's hand which opened them to the public; however these two aren't as different from each other as they may seem. Robert McNamara was secretary of defense for both the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies; he was also keen to understand how the entire Vietnamese situation came about from 1945 onwards. This is considered by many to be the primary reason for the compilation of the Pentagon Papers, McNamara has stated he wanted to preserve the information for scholars to study in future years . McNamara could see the war was going badly and he may have also wanted background into a conflict that had been boiling over since well before the Kennedy Administration. He commissioned the document in June 1967 citing that he wanted an "encyclopedic history of the Vietnam war" written within the department of defenseand put Leslie Gelb in charge of…


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