In This Review

Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers
By Daniel Ellsberg
498 pp, Viking, 2002

Ellsberg's memoir recounts the story of how he came to leak the Pentagon Papers (the history of the American intervention in Vietnam) to The New York Times in 1971 and how his subsequent trial unfolded. Ellsberg draws attention to the need for public servants to guard against government mendacity and speak out against reckless policies instead of confining their doubts to safe internal channels. The bulk of the book, however, is a candid and detailed account of Ellsberg's own involvement in the Pentagon's policymaking during the critical years of the Johnson administration and the early deliberations of the Nixon administration. He paints a striking picture of intelligent people persevering and tinkering with a war policy that could never be successful, given the inherent limitations of the U.S. military and its South Vietnamese ally. He also describes the complex interaction between the various forms of opposition to the war as it continued under Richard Nixon, and how the president's fury with Ellsberg's own act of dissent led to Watergate and to the added bonus -- in addition to Ellsberg's own acquittal -- of Nixon's resignation.