Thursday, January 26, 2006
Recalling Beacon Press's role with the Pentagon Papers.
A letter to the editor in the Boston Globe this week recalled the role of Beacon Press, the independent press owned by the Unitarian Universalist Association, in publishing the Pentagon Papers. The Rev. Edwin A. Lane writes:
H.D.S. Greenway raised the question of "a free press, and the government's right to keep its secrets" (op-ed, Jan. 17). A central issue is the government's abuse of the classification procedure for political protection when national security is not an issue.
When The New York Times and The Washington Post began publishing the Pentagon Papers in 1971, they were stopped by the government. Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska then read them into the Congressional Record, but the government refused to print them. Gravel then sought a private publisher and, after he was turned down by more than 30, Beacon Press, the publishing arm of the Unitarian Universalist Association, agreed to publish them.
This resulted in the following: a phone call from President Nixon urging Beacon director Gobin Stair not to publish them; the tapping of my phone when I was chairman of Beacon's board; and government agents secretly going through Beacon's and the UUA's bank records, gaining access to who made donations.
The Pentagon Papers were the political story of how we got involved in the Vietnam War. They did not contain material that threatened national security. Indeed, Beacon offered to delete selected material if the government asked us to do so on a national security basis. The government refused.
A court procedure for permission to engage in surveillance of citizens is essential both to protect citizens' rights and to make governmental decision-making transparent to public scrutiny.
EDWIN A. LANE, Wellesley
The writer was chairman of the board of Beacon Press when Beacon published the Pentagon Papers in 1971.
("The Pentagon Papers and government surveillance," Edwin A. Lane [letter], Boston Globe 1.24.06, reg req'd)
Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 26 January 2006 at 7:17 AM