DisInfoWars with Tom Secker: The Pentagon Papers

In 1971 DOD analyst and RAND Corporation employee Daniel Ellsberg leaked The Pentagon Papers - the DOD's Top Secret history of the Vietnam War. This is one of the biggest and most famous leaks in history, but there remain huge questions about why this happened. Was Ellsberg a genuine whistleblower? Or were the Pentagon Papers leaked as part of a distraction and disinformation campaign?

In this episode I present an alternative history of the Pentagon Papers, arguing that if this was an officially-sanctioned leak then the purpose was to distract people not only from the CIA's crimes in Vietnam but also from the idea that there was anything wrong with the Gulf of Tonkins incidents, the very basis for the full scale war. Using a recently declassified NSA history as a guiding post, I consider whether there was more to these events than one ex-CIA, DOD and RAND guy suddenly growing a conscience.


The Pentagon Papers

The Freedom of the Press Foundation

Spartans in Darkness - Robert J Hanyok (NSA report into Gulf of Tonkin incidents)

American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond - E Howard Hunt

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  1. Gary Binmore says:

    Bingo, Tom
    I agree completely.
    The NSA intercept on Aug 4 was based on an after battle report issued by the North Viets in regard to the Aug 2 battle – the resultant concoction was an artful conflation which could not possibly have been the work of NSA sigint men on the Maddox because they did not reference it elsewhere – it was concocted up the food chain.

    Johnson’s National Security Adviser, McGeorge Bundy, said it all when he said the alleged attack and the response of the U.S. “should not be thought through too far” and that “he welcomed the recent events as justification for a resolution the Administration had wanted for some time”.

    Also, Ray Cline, a CIA man I have some time for, said he knew it was “bum dope” we were getting.

    So the security state had the following to keep hidden around the time of the PP release:
    1. Phoenix
    2. Massive U.S. collusion in heroin running.
    3. That the war was started on a lie.
    The U.S. would have been thrown into a state of near civil war had the truth got out and the security state besieged – hence the necessity for a limited hangout.

    Do you think EHH felt jealous when the enormous native American approached Liddy? EHH seemed pretty pleased with appearance when he donned his red wig and voice modulator.

    As for P D Scott, no doubt he knows the truth about Ellsberg and just plays along to avoid friction – he is an old-fashioned gentleman and ex-diplomat. That doesn’t make him a limited hangout guy – nobody has written more about the deep state – drugs connection.

    • Gary,

      ‘The U.S. would have been thrown into a state of near civil war had the truth got out and the security state besieged – hence the necessity for a limited hangout.’

      This interests me greatly – are you suggesting that limited hangouts are ‘stability operations’ in the Gladio sense, where something that might appear to exacerbate tensions can actually have a solidifying, pacifying effect?

      I am quite certain that Hunt was jealous as hell that Liddy was getting all the attention. Hunt strikes me as a textbook narcissist.

      I do not for one moment think PD Scott is dodgy, his work is great and maybe you’re right about him and Ellsberg.

      • Gary Binmore says:


        The notion that anything could besiege the U.S. security state sounds hyperbolic upon second reading, but protestors were getting shot by then and they weren’t going away so who knows? It’s hard to imagine anything provoking such opposition today.

        As for limited hangouts being used to placate populations – I suppose it happens when people clamor for the truth and the powers that be throw out some information and say this is what we’re doing, right? and the people, even if they don’t like what they’re shown, see that it was performed for some greater good (eg defeating communism/terrorism) then they accept it and maintain whatever faith they had in the powers.

        That probably happened in the Pentagon Papers and in the Family Jewels releases a few years after that. The information disclosed was awful, but not awful enough for the majority to lose faith in the war on communism. Had all relevant information been disclosed, people would have lost all faith in the system.

        So in that sense a limited hangout can be good damage control – preventing disobedience and revolt – without whipping up the jingoistic herdishness of a well executed false flag.

        Few people realize that these kinds of disclosures not only leave most relevant information concealed, but also drive the offending assets of the deep state further underground, thus catalysing worse criminal behaviour. More scrutiny just generates more opacity and crime. At this point the question is begged whether secret state sanctioned violence can have any place in a democracy, but that’s another story.

  2. Sorry Tom, cool podcast and all, but we’re all way too busy at the moment doing W O R L D Z I O N I S M to death. OMG the Jeeeeeeeeeeeews! SHEMITAAAAAAH

  3. I know you’re not a big fan of L Fletcher Prouty but he has gone into the Pentagon Papers in some detail, comparing the original source documents to the Pentagon Papers version and showing how key bits were omitted and/or disconnected in ways that suggest a pattern of taking focus away from CIA and shining it on the Pentagon. He argues they should really be called the CIA Papers. I don’t have time right now to dig back into the Prouty stuff to give you examples, but suffice to say for the moment the two of you are in agreement, and his research provides some good, tangible details in support of your thesis.

    • John,

      Sure, I’m not a big fan but Prouty is sometimes right about stuff and it’s usually stuff like this. I did not know he had done such an analysis – I have had never had the time (or inclination) to do that so I’m glad someone has.

      • Here’s one example, involving NSAM 263 (in which JFK ordered the removal of 1000 US military personnel from Vietnam by the end of 1963 and foresaw all out by 1965):

        “Any researcher who looks for NSAM #263 in the Pentagon Papers will find that it was craftily entered as its cover sheet of only three sentences on one page, and about thirty or forty pages earlier the McNamara—Taylor Trip Report of October 2, 1963, is quite craftily entered without reference to the fact that it is the true body of NSAM #263.”

        Excerpt From: L. Fletcher Prouty. “JFK.” iBooks.

      • Same example really, but more forcefully stated as more than mere omission and rearrangement:

        “The President approved “presently prepared plans to withdraw 1,000 military personnel by the end of 1963” and to “train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time.” These quotations, which prove that President Kennedy positively planned to get all Americans out of Vietnam, are from the official White House document, National Security Action Memorandum #263, October 11, 1963.

        “The New York Times and Bantam Book version of the Pentagon Papers totally reverses this to read, “President Kennedy, who inherited a policy of ‘limited-risk gamble,’ bequeathed to Johnson a broad commitment to war.” There is no reliable basis for that revision of Kennedy’s policy.”

        Excerpt From: L. Fletcher Prouty. “JFK.” iBooks.

      • A more general view:

        “In this book, I have used various editions of the Pentagon Papers as reference material. They are useful and they are quite accurate as far as individual documents go, but they are dangerous in the hands of those who do not have the experience or the other sources required to validate and balance their content. This is because their true source was only marginally the Pentagon and because the clever selection of those documents by the compilers removed many important papers. This neglect of key documents served to reduce the value of those that remained to tell the story of the Vietnam War. From the beginning, the Pentagon Papers were a compilation of documents designed to paint President John F. Kennedy as the villain of the story, and to shield the role of the CIA.

        “This vast stack of papers has been labeled the Pentagon Papers, but that is a misnomer. It is quite true that most of them were found in certain highly classified files in the Pentagon, but they were functionally limited files. For example, despite their volume—nearly four thousand documents—there are remarkably few that actually bear the signature of military officers. In fact, many of those that carry the signature of a military officer, or that refer to military officers, make reference to such men as Edward G. Lansdale, who actually worked for the CIA while serving in a cover assignment with the military. When such papers are removed from the “military” or “Pentagon” categorization, what remains is a nonmilitary and non-Pentagon collection. For the serious and honest historian, this becomes an important distinction. To be truly “Pentagon” Papers, the majority of them, at least, ought to have been written there.”

        Excerpt From: L. Fletcher Prouty. “JFK.” iBooks.

  4. Great episode Tom! I think you’ve more than convincingly made the case. It walks and talks remarkably similar to a Snowden. Hard to imagine how one could stomach living a double life as a hero when they can never take off the costume. Then again, if you don’t have reservations about playing the role to begin with I guess it doesn’t really matter does it?

  5. CuChulainn says:

    Snowden and Ellsberg hail leak of drone documents from new whistleblower
    then again Ellsberg also endorsed BFP

  6. Great work Tom. Efforts like this improve upon the effort to decipher MSN falsehood and move closer to “truth”.

    This expose builds upon the idea that disinformation comes in all forms and that controlled opposition is both real and multi-purposed. However, I have an axe to grind in geopolitical terms.

    I can’t rectify the modern version of this story of controlled opposition (ala Manning, Assange, and Snowd-en (snowd-in)) and the role of counter parties. Specifically, we know Snowden’s background and media associations imply deception and control. But where exactly does Russia fit into this? This is the real key to all these archetypical whistle blower events.

    Russia has always been the counterparty to these events (in terms of competing social structures). Why is Russia continuing to patrol nice Snowden? Clearly by now the possibility of his duplicity is known. Moreover, the media response has been so uniform and predictive to imply a predetermined response.

    IF Russia is harboring him for value, then they’re clearly wrong or trying to save face. However, the most rationale choice is they knew all along and are suing along. It is this question and its implications that require further inspection. Because if so, the world as we understand is incorrect (with massive collusion implied).

  7. Interesting parallels thanks Tom.

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