What Did the Pentagon Papers Reveal?

The Pentagon Papers revealed that at least three sitting Presidents and their administrations purposefully deceived the people of the United States by escalating the Vietnam War while stating the opposite. The Presidents included in the report that became known as the Pentagon Papers include Harry S. Truman, Lyndon Johnson and John F. Kennedy, according to NBC News and the University of Virginia.

In 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara decided that a comprehensive analysis of the United States’ involvement in Vietnam after 1945 was needed to help relieve his frustration over the war, according to the University of Virginia. The resulting document was approximately 7,000 pages long and chronicled the involvement of the United States in Vietnam from the end of World War II until the end of the 1968 Tet Offensive, according to the University of Virginia. Parts of the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the press by Daniel Ellsberg, one of the analyst who had helped create the report. According to NBC, the Nixon administration retaliated by attempting to suppress publication of the papers. The Supreme Court ruled that the printing of the papers was covered under the First Amendment and was legal, according to NBC. NBC also notes that in 2011, the National Archives declassified the Pentagon Papers, making the entire document available to the public.