Long before Wikileaks was even a glimmber in Julian Assange’s eyes, there were the Pentagon Papers. Leaked to the press in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg and published by the New York Times, the Pentagon Papers showed a side of the war unseen by the public and damning documentation that many government officials had lied about the goals and progress of the conflict. Now, decades after the end of the Vietnam war, the National Archives has announced that the full report titled The Vietnam Task Force Study will be available for public viewing in the Richard Nixon Library.
Though having the documents fully available is a boon to the general public and historians alike, not all are satisfied. Steven Aftergood with Secrecy News writes, “the fact that portions of the half-century old Papers remained classified until this year is a reminder that classification today is often completely untethered from genuine national security concerns.”
The documents will be available starting June 13, but reading them will be quite the undertaking. According to the National Archives, the documents occupy 3.7 cubic feet, which is the best method for measuring an amount of secret documents. Interestingly, some of the documents were publicly available because former U.S. Senator Mike Gravel entered a bulk of the documents into the congressional record, shielding protecting those who wanted to read the documents from being tried for treason.
However, the copy in the National Archives will likely be far more complete. They say, “a number of textual materials previously withheld from public access have been reviewed for release and/or declassified under the systematic declassification review provisions[.]” Once available, the National Declassification Center says that it will release a digital version, so those at home can browse the war’s secret history from their iPad.