L.A. Theatre Works returns to China in 2013 with “Top Secret: The Battle for The Pentagon Papers”

Los Angeles, Calif. –  At the invitation of Beijng’s National Centre for the Performing Arts and sponsored in part by the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the U.S. Department of StateL.A. Theatre Works (LATW) will return to China in June, 2013 with Geoffrey Cowan and Leroy Aarons‘ riveting historical drama, Top Secret: The Battle for The Pentagon PapersLATW toured China with Top Secret in 2011, playing to sold out houses of Chinese professionals and students.

L.A. Theatre Works will be the first American theater company to perform at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China’s leading performing arts center (“The Egg”). Additional tour venues include the Tianjin Grand Theater as well as major venues in Hangzhou, Suzhou, Chongqing and Fuling.

Top Secret: The Battle for The Pentagon Papers is an inside look atThe Washington Post’s decision to publish a study labeled “top secret” that documented the history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The subsequent trial pitted the public’s right to know against the government’s need for secrecy. The epic legal battle went to the nation’s highest court – arguably one of the most important Supreme Court cases.

Traveling to China with L.A. Theatre Works will be their producing director Susan Loewenberg; multiple award-winning director Brian Kite; and cast members Margaret Colin (Eleanor Waldorf-Rose on Gossip Girl), John Getz (The Social Network) and Gregory Harrison (Trapper John M.D., One Tree Hill, Ringer). Also in the cast are Hugo ArmstrongJosh ClarkHenry ClarkeNicholas HormannEmilie Ohana,Darren RichardsonPeter Van Norden and Tom Virtue, who are known to Chinese audiences from popular TV shows such as CSI, Drop Dead Diva, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Six Feet UnderWeeds, Studio 60 on The Sunset Strip, The Office, The West Wing, Frasier, Seinfeld and Ally McBeal.

As part of the tour, L.A. Theatre Works is coordinating discussions with Chinese journalists and lawyers at leading law schools, journalism schools and history and political science departments in each city on the tour.

Covering the 2011 Chinese tour for The New York Times, Andrew Jacobs wrote, “During its 10-day run ‘Top Secret’ has played sold-out audiences…with many performances erupting in shouts of approval from the audience and standing ovations. Perhaps most gratifying…was that those audiences were almost entirely Chinese and young.” Agreed Evan Osnos, in The New Yorker, “The shows had no trouble finding an audience… ticket-holders showed up in droves, representing a range of China’s scrappiest news organizations. The audience was overwhelmingly Chinese—and overwhelmingly full…It was thrilling.” Additonal coverage of the tour appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Le Monde, CCTV, China Radio International, Shanghai Daily, Global Times, Time Out Beijing, Time Out Shanghai, and Caixin Media, among others.

L.A. Theatre Works is the leading radio theater company in the United States, committed to using innovative technologies to preserve and promote significant works of dramatic literature and bringing live theater into the homes of millions. The company’s public radio series, featuring stage plays performed by America’s top actors augmented by interviews with the artists and others, can be heard in over 100 markets in the U.S.; on Radio Beijing in China; on SiriusXM Book Radio Channel 80; and can be streamed on demand atwww.latw.org. The recordings are available worldwide through Amazon, audible.com, iTunes and in bookstores. L.A. Theatre Works audio plays are also available at over 11,000 libraries, and recordings and teaching materials are used by over 3,000 middle and high schools across the U.S.

Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers in China is produced by L.A. Theatre Works and Ping Pong Productions (www.pingpongarts.org), whose mission is to promote cultural diplomacy through the performing arts.

Sponsors include the United States Embassy BeijingBureau of Educational and Cultural AffairsUS Department of State including the Arts Envoy ProgramFord Foundation, China Southern AirlinesLos Angeles Office and Marriott Hotels and Resorts, including the Imperial MansionBeijing-Marriott Executive ApartmentsRenaissance Tianjin Lakeview Hotel; and JW Marriott Hotel Chongqing.

Top Secret: The Battle for The Pentagon Papers

May 25, 2013

May 29, 2013

May 31 & June 1, 2013

June 4-6, 2013

June 8, 2013

June 10, 2013

Wolf, Neuborne, Marshall Reflect on Implications of Pentagon Papers Story for Journalists and Law Today

On March 27, the final Spring 2010 Top Secret Talks discussion brought audiences a nuanced reflection on many of the legal and journalistic forces at play behind the Pentagon Papers story.

Joining for this panel discussion were: the Honorable Mark L. Wolf, Chief Judge, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts and former First Deputy U.S. Attorney and Special Assistant to the United States Atorney General; Burt Neuborne, Inez Milholland Professor of Civil Liberties at New York University and Legal Director of the Brennan Center for Justice who also represented Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg in his trial on federal espionage charges; and Joshua Marshall, leading online journalist and founder of Talking Points Memo and TPMCafe.com.

In a discussion that brought together many of the themes explored in prior Top Secret Talks, the panelists reflected on how the legal questions raised by the Pentagon Papers provide guidance for both the conduct of journalists and resolution of legal policy questions today.

Audio: Top Secret 3.27.10 Wolf, Neuborne, Marshall

To Marshall, the recent federal prosecution of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Jr. and the related contempt proceeding against New York Times reporter Judith Miller provided new context for understanding the high stakes faced by the individuals who leaked and reported on the Pentagon Papers. Witnessing both the government’s decision to prosecute Libby for allegedly leaking confidential information to the press and the jailing of Miller for refusing to disclose her source, brought home to Marshall the full panoply of consequences that could attach to gathering and reporting on confidential government information.

Marshall’s comments revealed that concern about imprisonment could certainly lead some journalists today to think twice about publishing leaked confidential documents. Perhaps drawing on his experiences as both a judge and a prosecutor, Chief Judge Wolf noted that while some might call this a “chilling effect,” others might call it a “deterrent effect” — with deterrence being an oft-cited and generally proper goal of criminal law and prosecutions. Especially in matters of national security, might it be appropriate for journalists and government employees to think carefully about all possible consequences when handling government that has been identified as confidential?

To tie these policy questions to now-pending legislation, Chief Judge Wolf asked the other panelists for their thoughts on a proposed federal shield law, a law summarized on this blog here.

Although a journalist and a civil liberties lawyer might be expected to come out in favor of a law designed to shield journalists from disclosing confidential sources, both Marshall and Neuborne — perhaps to everyone’s surprise — came out against a federal shield law.

Marshall opposed the idea because it seemed to artificially distinguish between “journalists” and other members of the public at a time when the internet makes that distinction less clear. Neuborne, on the other hand, opposed the proposed shield because he felt it could operate to protect the government by allowing government officials to selectively disclose information to journalists knowing that those journalists would not have to disclose their sources. In fact, the source Judith Miller was refusing to identify was a government source: Mr. Libby.

Listen to the audio above for further comments and questions from these panelists and audience members on the duties of journalists to evaluate received leaks and information, and on policy questions about government regulation of the internet and on the differences between legal protection of government secrets and trade secrets.

NYTW’s Top Secret Performance In Previews!

February 24th brought audiences the first preview performances of New York Theatre Workshop’s Spring 2010 presentation of Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers.  Audiences young and old have been responding favorably to the opportunity to re-live or experience for the first time the human drama behind the publication of the Pentagon Papers.  The show features great performances from Larry Pine as Richard Nixon, Peter Strauss as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, Kathryn Meisle as Post publisher Katharine Graham, Jack Gilpin as the Post‘s lawyer, and Matt McGrath as the Post‘s legendary reporter George Wilson, among many more.  James Gleason brings compelling emotion to the character of Judge Martin Peel, a composite of several judges who heard argument in the Pentagon Papers case.

Previews continue through March 7 and the show opens March 9 with performances scheduled through March 28.

Check out New York Theatre Workshop’s promotional video “How to Expose a Government Conspiracy” below to get in the mood, get your tickets here, and don’t forget to join us for one of the scheduled post-performance panel discussions!

Deep Secrets: Law Review Article Provides New Theoretical Framework for Understanding the Pentagon Papers

The Stanford Law Review‘s January 2010 issue includes Deep Secrecy, 62 Stan. L. Rev. 257 (2010), an article by recent Yale Law School grad David Pozen that proposes a new theoretical framework for understanding government secrets (pdf of article; earlier article draft on SSRN).

According to the Review’s abstract:

This Article offers a new way of thinking and talking about government secrecy. In the vast literature on the topic, little attention has been paid to the structure of government secrets, as distinct from their substance or function. Yet these secrets differ systematically depending on how many people know of their existence, what sorts of people know, how much they know, and how soon they know. When a small group of similarly situated officials conceals from outsiders the fact that it is concealing something, the result is a deep secret. When members of the general public understand they are being denied particular items of information, the result is a shallow secret. Every act of state secrecy can be located on a continuum ranging between these two poles.

After tracing some of the existing constituional, structural, and theoretical analyses of government secrets, Pozen applies his new framework to point out that the deeper a secret, the smaller the group of people (and possibly dissenting views) available to deliberate about it.  Pozen notes that government can still keep the substance of some government actions as “shallow secrets” while allowing additional debate and deliberation, concluding that:

Even among the subset of government secrets about which the public knows nothing . . . the comparative insularity of the deeper secrets can pose a special threat to good governance, to liberal democratic values, even to the Constitution. We cannot and should not seek to prevent the executive branch from keeping secrets. We can and should seek to have them kept as shallow as possible.

Along the way, Pozen evaluates a number of the secrets kept by the Bush administration, including many that are discussed elsewhere on this website.  For Pozen’s take on the Pentagon Papers era, see p. 292 of the article where he describes the Vietnam and Watergate era as one of the first times in American history where scholars began to see the government’s asserted need for secrecy as implicating constitutional values.