July 26th, 2010
04:58 PM ET
4 years ago

'Pentagon Papers' back in the Washington lexicon

Daniel Ellsberg, who played an instrumental role in the release of the Pentagon Papers, is pictured in this file photo.
Daniel Ellsberg, who played an instrumental role in the release of the Pentagon Papers, is pictured in this file photo.

Washington (CNN) – It's the phrase on the tip of every Washington journalist's tongue Monday – "The Pentagon Papers."

The whistleblower website WikiLeaks published Sunday night what it says are about 76,000 United States military and diplomatic reports about Afghanistan filed between 2004 and January of this year, a release that immediately drew comparisons to the Pentagon Papers.

It's a convenient analogy, but is it accurate?

In June 1971, the New York Times began publishing a series of articles that became known as the "Pentagon Papers," a set of raw documents that revealed the true depth of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, and the ways in which the public had been misled by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Asked by reporters during Monday's White House briefing about the analogy, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the two are not comparable.

"The Pentagon Papers are different in the sense that you are talking about policy documents, these are sort of on the ground reporting of different events. I don't see in any way how they are really comparable," Gibbs said.

Noting that the Pentagon Papers contained significant revelations in terms of policy, Gibbs said that Sunday's publication has not "markedly changed" what "is known, about our relationship and our efforts in both Afghanistan and Pakistan by what is in these documents."

"You don't have some revelation that there is a systematic change of the course of events, that we have stepped up operations in a certain part in the war in Southeast Asia, that we've escalated, that's just not, that's not what these documents are," Gibbs said.

The top secret documents published by the Times sparked a legal battle between the government and newspaper, which was eventually allowed to complete the publication of the documents.

So far, there has been no indication that Obama administration took a similar path of resistance.

"[H]ad only the New York Times had this story would we have made a case and an effort as we have with them and other news organizations not to compromise security? Yes. But understand that the Times was one – the New York Times was one of 3 news organizations that had access to these documents," Gibbs said.

Gibbs also noted that he, along with other members of the administration, met with the New York Times on Thursday, in advance of the paper's publication of the story.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Robert Gibbs
soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Fed Up

    The people that published the names should be tried for treason. Of course, they probably have never been in the Armed Forces. That would be too dangerous for them. Too bad! It's amazing to me that the cowards have to put our heroes in danger. I don't see Obama taking any big stand on this either. Oops. There's no photo op yet.

    July 26, 2010 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. bill

    let the papers fall where they may.only reason we got out of vietnam.was america woke up.so lets do it again.AMERICA.this thing in afganastan is un winnible.DECLARE VICTORY IN IRAQ AFGANASTAN PRESIDENT OBAMA. COME BE A MAN. GET OUR TROOPS HOME

    July 26, 2010 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  3. Ben in Texas

    Since before we invaded Iraq, I have been saying that there will never be any good outcome from either war. I was in the Army during Vietnam, and the same was true of that war.

    Any revelation that can shake up the American people enough that they realize the only sane course is to leave immediately is welcomed by me. Bush got us into these and he left the wars in a shambles. Unfortunately, Obama has done little that was expected of him in order to get us out. Maybe some whistle-blowers is what it takes to extricate ourselves from the money-pit in the middle east.

    July 26, 2010 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  4. Frenchbanger

    Obummer won't do a thank about it!

    July 26, 2010 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  5. Albo58

    Loose lips do ship sinks and anyone that knowingly releases classified information should be tried for treason!

    July 26, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  6. valwayne

    The Pentagon Papers consisted of a 7000 page report. This war logs leak is 90,000 pages? How is that possible? Who would have access to that much apparently raw data, be able to steal it, and dump it onto the internet for the terrorists, the Taliban, and the rest of our enemies to read? How could you steal that much data anonymously? What kind of security do we have in our Government? Osama bin-laden will spend the next year reading U.S. classified data and laughing his butt off?

    July 26, 2010 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  7. Would Tim Mcveigh be a Tea Party hero today?

    These wars do provide certain companies billions of dollars in blood money.But whats a little collateral damage when you can make a fortune for the rich and famous.

    July 26, 2010 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  8. Frenchbanger

    That's right, fan of Tim McVeigh...big companies that have their hands in Obummers back pocket, like Raytheon, GE, General Dynamics, Lockeed-Martin to name a few that are all big defense contractors. What a country, eh?

    July 26, 2010 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  9. WhatIsTheDifference

    *sigh* I hope when the U.S finally gets out of the quagmire that is known as "the war in Afghanistan" that we learn something this time. And I don't mean re-read the Art of War to see what we did "wrong".

    July 26, 2010 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  10. Allen in Hartwell GA

    Not knowing what is in the papers I can't say much, but I was in the military for 22 years. I know that many things the military treats as CONFIDENTIAL is not really classified,, but more like "FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY, or NOFORN, meaning not for release to foreigners. So with this in mind I would venture a guess that most of what is in the leaks isn't "secrets", but something the military didn't want made public knowledge.
    Having said all this I would support charges against the person or persons responsible, if, and this is a qualified "if", if the information actually hurts our efforts. If it just embarrasses the military and the former administration I say no harm, no foul. If it gets us out of this and the other hell-hole that Bush got us into – give the people a medal.

    July 26, 2010 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  11. guy from NM

    Well here is the transparency Obama was talking about, but did not have the courage to implement. The more we know about what is going on, the more power we have to fight back the propaganda from any goverment

    July 26, 2010 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  12. Paul Ernest Show

    This website owner should be made to stand trial on treason. The U S government or British should take steps to discourage this kind of sabotage. There's a place freedom stops, for those who would argue it's freedom of expression or press. And that's where lives or concern for lives begin.

    July 26, 2010 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  13. Greg

    Good for WikiLeaks. That's what this country needs. The truth about Afghanistan so we can get out. Leaks/real reporting helped us get out of Vietnam and the same thing will end our useless war in Afghanistan. There are no beachheads or trenches or no real offensives. It's us sitting around trying to protect little pockets of land and every now and then bomb something. We can do the same thing with drones and cruise missile.

    July 26, 2010 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  14. Gaylon Barrow NOT ASHAMED for the truth!!!

    This did not start with LBJ. I beg your pardon young ignorants with the news media. It started during the peace accords and the surrender of Germany at the end of WWII> France wanted their provinces back which Vietnam was apart off. Vietnam did not want TO GO back nor DEMOCRACY. US told France if they wanted them, to go get them and they would back them. Regardless of misinformation we had ground troops WERE on the ground in France in early 1946. And stayed there through the end of the War in the seventies. There are a lot of government officials to blame for this misadventure. Just like God said if your wrong he will not back you. AND SO HE DID NOT. U.S. LOST THE FIRST WAR EV ER.

    July 26, 2010 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |