#Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who last collaborated on the historical drama “Bridge of Spies,” teaming up for another movie set in American history “The Post.” The film, about the Washington Post’s involvement in #The Pentagon Papers affair, will also star Merryl Streep as Post publisher Katherine Graham. Hanks will star as the Post’s chief editor Ben Bradlee and Spielberg will direct.
The Pentagon Papers were a study of the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967 commissioned by the Pentagon that demonstrated that Lyndon Johnson was systematically lying to the American people and Congress about the true nature and goals of the war. Among other things, the documents showed that the United States was conducting secret bombing raids on nearby Cambodia and Laos where the North Vietnamese had troops and a military infrastructure. The most damning revelation was that the United States was involved in South East Asia not so much to come to the aid of South Vietnam but to contain China.
Excerpts of the papers were photocopied by Daniel Ellsberg who worked on the study for the Rand Corporation and turned against the war as a result. Ellsberg risked prosecution for espionage for leaking the papers, first to the New York Times, then to the Washington Post. The revelation touched off a nasty legal battle pitting the media with the Nixon Administration that tried to get the papers suppressed, citing national security concerns. The Supreme Court disagreed and voted 6 to 3 to allow the Pentagon Papers to be published.
If all of this sounds like a prequel to “All the President’s Men,” the reader would not be wrong in supposing so. Some of the same players who were involved in Watergate were also involved in the Pentagon Papers scandal. The affair is considered a victory for a free press, though it did presage later leaks such as the one committed by Edward Snowden, who no doubt found himself a latter-day Ellsberg. The scandal also cemented President Nixon’s intense distrust of the media, which he considered to be an enemy. The paranoia, not entirely unfounded, played a role in Nixon’s eventual downfall. #Tom Hanks