The Cable

Holbrooke: I helped write the Pentagon Papers

Richard Holbrooke knows his stuff when it comes to national-security document leaks. As he told a House committee Wednesday, he helped write the once-secret history of the Vietnam War, the now-infamous Pentagon Papers. Holbrooke brought it up during his remarks on this war’s biggest leak, the disclosure of tens of thousands of secret Afghan war ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Richard Holbrooke knows his stuff when it comes to national-security document leaks. As he told a House committee Wednesday, he helped write the once-secret history of the Vietnam War, the now-infamous Pentagon Papers.

Holbrooke brought it up during his remarks on this war’s biggest leak, the disclosure of tens of thousands of secret Afghan war intelligence reports by the self-styled whistleblower website WikiLeaks.

"First of all, the leaks themselves are pretty appalling for someone like myself who has been in and out of the government for over 40 years. In fact, as an author of one of the volumes of the Pentagon Papers, I lived through something similar before. I just find it amazing that someone who had taken the oath of office of the United States could violate it in such an extraordinary way," Holbrooke said.

He went on to reiterate the administration’s line that the actual information in the leaked reports, including allegations that the Pakistani intelligence services have been aiding the enemy, wasn’t so new.

"Having said that… there is nothing in these documents, most of which date way back into the previous administration, that should change anyone’s judgments about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said. "We have confronted these issues for a long time and I do not think that they revealed anything which we had not discussed and in detail during our policy reviews last year."

(The Daily Show‘s John Stewart addressed that argument directly on Tuesday. "I’m not reacting to the newness of it. I’m reacting to the f@#&ed-up-edness of it," he said.)

As many commentators have pointed out, the Pentagon Papers included damning revelations of malfeasance at the highest levels of the U.S. government, such as evidence showing that President Lyndon Johnson had lied to the American public about the Gulf of Tonkin incident and that his successor, Richard Nixon, had expanded bombing campaigns to Cambodia and Laos.

Holbrooke had been called to testify before the House Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee by chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-NY, who has been holding up nearly $4 billion of funds for civilian activities in Afghanistan because she’s upset about rampant corruption in the Afghan government.

Lowey has said she wouldn’t release the money until she held hearings on the issue, one of which was yesterday. At the hearing, she was quick to assert that her budget maneuver won’t have any detrimental effect on the war effort on the ground.

"With sufficient unspent funds in the pipeline, this investigation has not delayed implementation of civilian programs in Afghanistan," she said. "There is funding — more than adequate funding — in the pipeline to continue development programs unabated through fiscal year 2011."

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