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Eleven Words in Pentagon Papers to Remain Classified

Eleven Words in Pentagon Papers to Remain Classified, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (May 26th, 2011).

The Pentagon Papers that were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg four decades ago have been formally declassified and will be released in their entirety next month — except for eleven words that remain classified.

David S. Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States, announced the surprising exception to the upcoming release of the Papers at a meeting of the Public Interest Declassification Board on May 26.

The Real Pentagon Papers, by A. J. Daverede, National Declassification Center blog (May 26, 2011)

The conditions under which the copies of the Report [leaked by Daniel Ellsberg] were made and distributed, coupled with the speed with which the copies were distributed and the urgency to publish the material, meant that the newspaper and magazine releases of the Papers covered only a very small portion of the 7,000 page Report.

The copies of the Report that were leaked to Congress ultimately had better luck in publication. Ultimately, Senator Mike Gravel (D, Alaska) made available his copy of the Report to the publishing house of Beacon Press, located in Boston. The Beacon Press editions, published in 1971 in both hard and soft cover versions, were the definitive account of the Report until now. However, Beacon Press had its own copy problems that led to words, paragraphs, and even full pages of the Report being deleted, possibly due to the quality problems in the copy received from Senator Gravel.

…NARA’s June release of the Report of the OSD Vietnam Task Force will present the American public with the first real look at this historic document. It is true that 11 words are redacted from one page of a 7,000 page report. However, this is very much a complete release of the Report.

Pentagon Papers to be Officially Released

Pentagon Papers to be Officially Released, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (May 11, 2011).

The National Archives announced this week that it “has identified, inventoried, and prepared for public access the Vietnam Task Force study, United States-Vietnam Relations 1945-1967, informally known as ‘the Pentagon Papers’.” As a result, 3.7 cubic feet of previously restricted textual materials will be made officially available at the Nixon Library on June 13, the Archives said in a May 10 Federal Register notice.

Nixon Presidential Historical Materials: Opening of Materials Federal Register Volume 76, Issue 90 (76 FR 27092) (May 10, 2011).

Previously restricted textual materials. Volume: 3.7 cubic feet. A number of textual materials previously withheld from public access have been reviewed for release and/or declassified under the systematic declassification review provisions and under the mandatory review provisions of Executive Order 13526, or in accordance with 36 CFR 1275.56 (Public Access regulations). The materials are from National Security Council (NSC Files), Presidential Acquisition Files, Pentagon Papers.

The Pentagon Papers To Be Declassified

Steven Aftergood reports today that the Pentagon Paper are to be declassified:

The National Declassification Center (NDC) at the National Archives will declassify the full text of the Pentagon Papers as well as the underlying documentation on which they are based, along with investigative material concerning the 1971 leak of the Papers by Daniel Ellsberg, the NDC said yesterday.

As we noted here recently, Steven recently pointed out that “every public and private library in the country that has a copy of the Papers is technically in possession of currently classified material.”

One has to wonder if the Pentagon Papers had been released digitally and not on paper, if libraries had excluded then from their collections at the time of their release, if librarians had argued against their selection and acquisition and preservation, if they were not preserved in libraries 40 years ago, would we still have them? Would their declassification have happened today?

Live blogging Daniel Ellsberg talk at Stanford law School

I just found this morning that [w:Daniel Ellsberg], the former Marine and Department of Defense official who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, is speaking at the Stanford Law School, along with Charles Nesson, his defense counsel, and Laurence Lessig. The flyer also says that the “discussion will also cover the prior restraint recently leveled against Wikileaks.org in a federal court in San Francisco and the judge’s subsequent reversal of his own injunction.” I’ll try to live-blog what I can so keep checking back.

Here we go…


Lessig (LL), Ellsberg (DE) and Nesson (CN) on the dias. Ellsberg to tell the story of the PP and expound on free speech in the US.

CN: was a young law professor at Harvard in 1969. Vietnam was a widespread cause on campuses across the US as Iraq is not. Chicago 10 documentary was a great documentary about the 1968 Democratic convention that will give folks a feeling for the times that CN is speaking about. McNamara had generated a secret history/study (36 volume study starting in 1945) of Vietnam and SE Asia. This secret history showed all of the manipulation of the American public, the cynicism of the US govt. Ellsberg got a hold of this secret study, and tried to peddle it around. Finally, a DE was able to connect with a reporter at the NY Times. If Nixon administration had simply ignored it, it would’ve gone away. But Mitchell and other Nixon folks freaked out, tried to find the leaker and kept it in the news and in front of the public eyes. CN and DE would meet on bicycle in the Harvard tunnels so that the FBI couldn’t follow them. DE distributed volumes to a bunch of different newspapers across the US.

DE’s trial happened in L.A. prosecuted for theft of govt property. But he *copied* the papers, didn’t steal them. Then the govt tried to get him on the espionage act. The govt had a bunch of expert witnesses, admirals, generals etc. DE’s first witness was [w:howard Zinn]! Zinn told about the first volume like it was a bedtime story about Ho Chi Minh up in the hills, dreaming of freedom and democracy… Next witness was [w:Naom Chomsky]!! Eventually, the trial was thrown out.

DE: All charges were dismissed, but there was another case pending on the east coast. That case was eventually dropped because of how the L.A. trial went.

About 10 years after the trial, DE asked CN if he was guilty of the charges and CN said, “I don’t know.” Espionage laws (18 U.S.C. § 793 paragraphs D and E ? someone please fact check this!) are extremely confusing and contradicting and not understood by lawyers or judges around the country. DE speaks to many legal groups. DE’s trial was the first trial for a leak of classified documents. So there was no law on the issue. There is no official secrets act that criminalizes the unauthorized exposure of classified information. So there’s no basis in criminal law. An official secrets act would violate the 1st amendment. Congress DID pass an official secrets act in 2000, but Clinton vetoed it. It hasn’t been reintroduced since. Very few people know these 4 points. DE assumed that there WAS an official secrets act and that he had violated it. Copying public domain govt information would not in 1971 have been against the law. DE thought he would go to jail for copying 7000 pages of secret information.

LL: what would you have said to your wife?! DE: never give a former wife information that could put you in prison!! LOL!

DE: at the time his wife didn’t know that he might have been put in prison for his entire life. Whistle-blowing breaks up most marriages. There was a study done about this.

DE: I’m not a fan of APAC, they’re leading the country toward the abiss. But the 2 AIPAC employees are facing the same charges that Tony Russo (DE’s colleague) faced in 1971. AIPAC is effectively an Israeli lobby, a foreign agent. DE thinks the APAC case will be dismissed.

Our ability to be a real republican govt depends on unauthorized leaks! Torture went on against domestic and international laws and NSA domestic spying also went on for years and known by thousands of people. Neither of these were leaked for years. Bush administration kept this information from leaking because they told newspaper publishers that the next 9/11 would be on their hands. NYT by their reticence to leak the NSA story (they sat on it for a year!) gave the 2004 election to Bush.

We’ll be able to find out about the NSA wiretapping by the civil suits against telecom companies. And that’s why there’s such a push by the administration for telecom immunity. NSA is our Stazi (east germany) now. The NSA has turned on the American public for the last 6 years; that’s East Germany! When the NSA and the White House can know every private act, every journalist source, every political association, you don’t have a democracy. The real question is if the NSA can be pulled back! We’re in a very serious situation.

What should the law be? Should there be an official secrets act? No!! How many people should do what DE did and shouldn’t go to prison for it? There should be a “Pentagon Papers” out every week or two. Don’t wait until the bombs are dropping. Go to the press AND to Congress. Put out the documents that reveal that we’re being lied into war, that the same thing is happening with Iran, that the administration knew at the time that Iraq didn’t have WMD. Consider going to prison in order to stop a war. Give up your access to a president even if your name is Powell. Do this because the alternative is hundreds of thousands of deaths. Do the right thing! Changing of an administration is not going to change, we must change the law, change the climate, advocate to Congress.


Questions and Answers:

How did you get 7000 pages out of your office? DE had a safe in his office and could easily take classified documents. Because of DE, Rand employees have to sign in and read classified documents in a clean room.

What do you see as the proper role for secrecy in the govt? What would be legitimate to protect secrets?
DE: Of course the govt has some legitimate secrets. Secrets that should be kept from an enemy (i.e., the place and time of the Normandy landing). A real expert on declassification, William Lawrence, estimated that the amount of material that deserved protection was in the area of 2% of the information that’s classified. And .5% would need to be protected beyond a few months. The cost of the overbearing, pathalogical secrecy is Vietnam, Iraq, nuclear weapons… Most, 98% of secrets do not meet the requirements of damaging national security. Most of what the public needs to know is kept secret.