In 1971, federal investigators convened two grand juries to investigate, among other things, the publishing, by major newspapers, of thousands of pages of secret government documents reviewing the history from 1945 on, of the still ongoing war in Vietnam.
The Pentagon Papers' consequences were vast — including that historic effort by the federal government to investigate — under the Espionage Act — staffers at the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Boston Globe. As tends to be the case with sprawling grand jury cases, the investigators’ questions and methods remain a secret.
But Jill Lepore hopes to change that. On Monday of this week, Lepore — Harvard historian, New Yorker staff writer, and author of These Truths: A History of the United States — asked a federal court to order the release of documents related to those grand juries. “Why and when was the investigation opened?” Lepore demands in court documents. “Why was it closed? To what lengths did the government go in conducting the investigation?” A half-century after Pentagon analyst Daniel Ellsberg’s mammoth revelations, questions still linger.
Earlier this year, Brooke spoke with Les Gelb, one of the drafters of the original papers, about what journalists and historians previously failed to understand about the Pentagon Papers.