Pentagon analyst leaks the Pentagon Papers, a secret report revealing that the US Government had no intentions of pulling out of Vietnam despite public statements. It also documented secret wars in neighboring countries Laos and Cambodia.
In June of 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara commissioned a secret report giving a true picture of the war in Vietnam compiled from classified material. The report, officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense was not completed until McNamara had left his post. One of the recipients of the secret report was the RAND Corporation where military analyst Daniel Ellsberg was given clearance to read the report.
Outraged that Nixon continued the lies of the previous administrations of intending to pull out of Vietnam, Ellsberg leaks part of the papers to the New York Times. After 3 months of meetings the Times decides to publish parts of the documents in June of 1971.Nixon calls foul and invokes National Security. The Attorney General orders the paper to stop printing material related to the Pentagon Paper and eventually wins a restraining order against the New York Times. For the first time since the US civil war, a newspaper is prevented by law from printing a story.
Ellsberg then releases the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post where Katherine Graham also decides to print them. The Washington Post is also blocked. Ellsberg then gives the papers to the Boston Globe. Newspaper after newspaper defied the order and printed sections and revelations from the Pentagon Papers.
The case quickly makes its way to the Supreme Court where 6 of the 9 judges rule in favor of the press. It determines that the ban has less to do with National Security than protecting the reputation of politicians involved. (Nixon wasn’t happy)
Ellsberg is charged under the Espionage Act and faces up to 115 years in jail. However, revelations that Nixon’s team of White House Plumbers had illegally installed wiretaps on Ellsberg caused the judge to call a mistrial.
Ellsberg has since supported a number of whistleblowers, including Manning and Snowden.
Nixon Tapes: Nixon first learning about the Pentagon Papers from Haig. He is at first unconcerned since the documents concern mostly Kennedy but he is convinced by Kissinger that failure to act could set a dangerous precedent for future presidencies.
Pentagon Papers (declassified in 2011)