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It may be a first in the annals of government secrecy: Declassifying documents to mark the anniversary of their leak to the press. But that is what will happen Monday, when the federal government plans to finally release the secret government study of the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers 40 years after it was first published by The New York Times.
When all 7,000 pages are released Monday, officials say, the study can finally be read in its original form.
That it took until the era of Wikileaks for the government to declassify the Pentagon Papers struck some participants as, to say the least, curious.
When Mr. Ellsberg originally leaked the Pentagon Papers, he did so because he wanted to stop the Vietnam War — so he left out sections about peace negotiations with North Vietnam. “I omitted them because I thought that Nixon would use the release as an excuse for breaking off negotiations with North Vietnam,” he said in an interview. “I frankly didn’t want to give him that excuse.”
“It seems to me that what the Pentagon Papers really demonstrated 40 years ago was the price of that practice,” he said. “Which is that letting a small group of men in secret in the executive branch make these decisions — initiate them secretly, carry them out secretly and manipulate Congress, and lie to Congress and the public as to why they’re doing it and what they’re doing — is a recipe for, a guarantee of Vietnams and Iraqs and Libyas, and in general foolish, reckless, dangerous policies.”