Monday, July 2, 2007
Thirty-five years ago this weekend, Beacon Press lost a Supreme Court case brought against it by the US government for publishing the first full edition of the Pentagon Papers. It is now well known how the New York Times first published excerpts of the top-secret documents in June 1971. But less well known is how the Beacon Press – a small, nonprofit publisher affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association – came to publish the complete 7,000 pages that exposed the true history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Their publication led the Press into a spiral of two and a half years of harassment, intimidation, near-bankruptcy, and the possibility of criminal prosecution.Today, we hear the story from three men at the center of the storm: Former Pentagon and RAND Corporation analyst, famed whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. Mike Gravel – the former Alaska Senator who is now a Democratic Presidential candidate – who tells the dramatic story of how he entered the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record and got them to the Beacon Press. And Robert West, the former president of the Unitarian Universalist Association which owned the Press and agreed to risk publication of the Pentagon Papers. [includes rush transcript]
This is a story that has rarely been told in its entirety. Last weekend I moderated an event at the Unitarian Universalist conference in Portland, Oregon commemorating the publication of the Pentagon Papers and its relevance today.
We begin with Daniel Ellsberg, who Henry Kissinger once described as “the world’s most dangerous man.”