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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 9th February 2018 > Bright Shining Lies

Bright Shining Lies

IN OSCAR FAVORITE THE POST,DANIEL ELLSBERG’S FRUSTRATION WITH DEFENSE SECRETARY ROBERT MCNAMARA’S LIES LEADS HIM TO LEAK THE PENTAGON PAPERS.BUT THE REAL STORY INVOLVES A COVER-UP OF A GREEN BERET MURDER THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF THE VIETNAM WAR
DON CARLSTEFFEN/GAMMARAPHO/GETTY
THE THINGS THEY CARRIED South Vietnamese soldiers and U.S. troops participate in a raid near a Vietcong village close to the Cambodian border on April 15, 1966. Like his predecessors, Nixon came into office determined to project the view that the war was winnable without great domestic sacrifice.
BETTMANN ARCHIVE/GETTY
SUSAN WOOD/GETTY
ROBERT DAEMMRICH PHOTOGRAPHY INC./CORBIS/GETTY
MEDITATIONS IN GREEN Ellsberg, left, leaked the Pentagon Papers, after Green Berets led by Rheault, above, were arrested and charged with murder and a cover-up. At right, U.S. troops in Vietnam in 1969.
HENRY GROSKINSKY/THE LIFE PREMIUM COLLECTION/GETTY

WHAT MOTIVATED MILITARY ANALYST DANIEL Ellsberg to risk a lifetime in prison by leaking the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Defense Department history of U.S. deception in Vietnam? In the movie The Post, a contender for best picture at the Academy Awards, it was Ellsberg’s disenchantment with the war, which flared after a 1966 flight back from Vietnam with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. Talking to Ellsberg aboard the plane, McNamara had privately agreed that the war was a bloody stalemate, but he later told the press that the U.S. was making progress. However, another three years passed before Ellsberg made the momentous decision—and it was not McNamara’s lie that festered until it became intolerable. It was something else entirely. In 1969, a Green Beret unit suspected that one of its top Vietnamese agents, a man named Thai Khac Chuyen, was secretly working for the Communists. After failed efforts to extract a confession from him, despite days of interrogation with “truth serum” drugs, three of the soldiers took him out on a boat, weighed him down with chains and a tire rim, shot him in the head and dumped him overboard. The “termination with extreme prejudice” eventually leaked after Chuyen’s wife began making inquiries at the U.S. Embassy about his whereabouts. Seven of the Green Berets, including their dashing commander, Colonel Robert Rheault, were arrested and charged with murder and a cover-up. It soon emerged that the defendants were going to present evidence that the CIA had approved the killing, and as the case headed to trial, the affair exploded into a national controversy. Then, suddenly, the Army dropped all charges.

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