"At the time of the Pentagon Papers, no federal court had ever enjoined a publication in this history of the country with prior restraint," Goodale writes, "although state courts had occasionally attempted to do so."
The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution -- passed 98-2 by Congress on August 7, 1964 -- gave Johnson the right to use military force in Southeast Asia without declaring war. (Senators Wayne Morse, D-Ore., and Ernest Gruening, D-Alaska, opposed the resolution.)
"What the Pentagon Papers showed was that the U.S. had waged a secret war against Vietnam to provoke them into attacking the U.S. forces," Goodale writes.
"Johnson ordered clandestine attacks against North Vietnam, to which the North Vietnamese had to respond as a matter of self-defense. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was therefore built upon a tissue of lies and did not give the U.S. legal justification to attack North Vietnam."
The resolution was passed in the immediate wake of false government accounts of what happened during supposed confrontations on Aug. 2 and Aug. 4, 1964.
The Pentagon Papers "showed the U.S. government had lied about the Vietnam War from the start," Goodale writes.
But "the Pentagon Papers themselves have to be distinguished from the Pentagon Papers case. The case was historic and held the nation's attention for several weeks. The public was more interested in the case than the papers. The case was about censorship, whereas the papers were about history."
Goodale's central thesis is that the Pentagon Papers never exposed any national security secrets, such as where U.S. Navy ships were headed or undisclosed plans for future military actions. They documented the history of why and how decisions were being made.
@brfs:Alleged espionage today
@bod:Similar to the Nixon administration's legal actions against Ellsberg, the Obama administration is pursuing Snowden for espionage today, during the continuing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"President Barack Obama," Goodale writes, "has seamlessly carried forward the main ingredients of Bush's war against the press."
On Jan. 1, 10 months after Goodale published his book, The New York Times published an editorial opposing the attempted prosecution of Snowden.
"Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed and the abuses he has exposed. Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight. He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service," the Times wrote.
Snowden revealed the "NSA broke federal privacy laws, or exceeded its authority thousands of times per year."
None of Snowden's critics "has presented the slightest proof that his disclosures really hurt the nation's security," the editorial adds.
"When someone reveals that government officials have routinely and deliberately broken the laws, that person should not face life in prison at the hands of the same government."
Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry both urged that Snowden be sent to prison. Today, Snowden is seeking temporary asylum in Russia.
The American Civil Liberties Union calls Snowden "a great American and a true patriot" who "should be allowed to resume his life in the United States as a proud American citizen."
The Obama administration should find a way to end the vilification of Edward Snowden, the "Times" editorial concludes.
Goodale presents himself as a political moderate. "I am not a radical liberal and never have been," he writes. But he continues to worry about freedom of the press.
"In many respects, President Obama is no better than Nixon. Obama has used the Espionage Act to indict more leaders than any other president in this history of this country. ... Obama is ignoring the Pentagon Papers at his peril -- and the nation's peril. It is a case for the ages and matters as much, or more, today."
In his book, Ellsberg quotes James Madison, who drafted the First Amendment years before he was elected president.
"A popular government, without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy; or perhaps, both," Madison wrote. "Knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.