As publisher of the Washington Post when the Pentagon Papers were delivered, it was Graham’s final call to publish them. A risky choice, given the power dynamics at the time. She came under great criticism by the Nixon Administration for her stance in this case and in the subsequent Watergate reporting.
The Washington Post Company Chairman was initially skeptical of publication; after all, the Company’s FCC licenses were under consideration by the government, and the Post had issued its first public stock just days earlier.
Executive Editors carry the full responsibility of news operations, and Ben Bradlee’s instincts to both fight for publication of the Pentagon Papers and to use care and genuine sensitivity to national security when the publication right was reaffirm, showed his mettle as an editor.
Serving as managing editor under Bradlee after having won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing during his time at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Patterson was responsible for the operations of the Post. He went on to become editor of the St. Petersburg Times.
Bagdikian, who was Assistant Managing Editor (AME) of the Post at the time, retrieved the Papers from Ellsberg, who had been a colleague during a brief time at RAND. This allowed the Post to begin to catch up after the Times had been enjoined from publishing. He later re-leaked the Papers to Senator Mike Gravel for entry into the public record.
With more than 38 years of reporting experience, Roberts was the chief diplomatic correspondent at the Post when the Papers arrived, and his extensive knowledge of (and personal attendance at) the Geneva Conference of 1954 made the Post’s first day coverage particularly perceptive.
It was Wilson’s encyclopedic knowledge of Vietnam era defense and military intelligence reporting and commentary that ultimately proved fatal to the government in a closed-door hearing. He continues to cover Congress for National Journal.
Having opened the Post’s first Foreign Service Bureau in London in 1954, Marder went on to be the reporter who invented the term “Credibility Gap” in reference to the Johnson Administration’s Vietnam pronouncements.
A pioneer for women in opinion journalism, Meg Greenfield was deputy editor of the Post’s editorial page. Her op-ed “The Conflict of Two Great Estates: Some Reflections on the Pentagon Papers” in the July 31 edition became a classic observation of the Supreme Court’s arguments.
The 37th President of the United States, elected in 1968 after President Johnson left without seeking a second term, had a notoriously adversarial relationship with the press, and it was Washington Post reporting in the Watergate scandal that eventually forced his resignation.
Mitchell was Nixon’s attorney general during the Pentagon Papers episode, and advised him of the desirability of seeking an injunction against the newspapers, claiming, erroneously, that it had been done before the past. He later resigned to head “CREEP” (the Committee to Re-elect the President), of “Watergate Plumbers” fame.
Assistant Attorney General for the Internal Security Division of the Justice Department, it was Mardian, in consultation with then Office of Legal Counsel Chief and later Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist, who wrote the telegram ordering the New York Times to stop publishing or face Espionage prosecution.
Secretary of State and Vietnam War planner Henry Kissinger was a close Nixon ally and sometimes rival in power throughout the administration. He was later, controversially, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Ziegler, who had been with President Nixon since his time in California, was, when appointed, the youngest press secretary in American history at age 29. He later apologized for his comments about the Washington Post.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, Doolin was a leading East Asia expert who, despite ineffective testimony in the case, had received a Ph.D. from Stanford and returned to research and teach on Asia policy issues after his time in defense policy-making.
A composite character loosely based on Roger Clark and William Glendon, who had represented the Postin the initial appearance and appeals courts respectively. In Top Secret, Kelly counsels his client to delay publication, but, when they refused, he defends them at the initial hearing on grounds other than First Amendment.
Judge Martin Peel
A fictional character. The real judge in the Post case’s initial hearing, Hon. Gerhard A. Gessell, had himself been a correspondent for the New York Times and had once even represented the Washington Post years earlier while in private practice.