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Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers set for Feb. 13

Cast from Top Secret
2/5/2008 —

Should a government be allowed to protect secrets in the name of national security if those secrets are used to cover up that government’s politically damaging actions?  Top Secret:  The Battle for the Pentagon Papers will explore answers to this question on Wednesday, Feb. 13 at 7:30 p.m., at Penn State York’s Pullo Family Performing Arts Center (Pullo Center).  This program is sponsored by Penn State York’s Grumbacher Program in Ethics and Humanistic Studies.

The play focuses on the ethical issues arising from the publication of the Pentagon papers, which detailed the history of the United States’ involvement in Vietnam from the end of World War II until 1968.  In 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a high level researcher and former State Department official, obtained a copy of the secret papers and leaked them to the New York Times which began publishing excerpts from them.  After the Nixon administration obtained an injunction against the New York Times, the Washington Post began its own publication of the papers.  Among the ethical raised by the episode in our recent past ate whistle-blowing, journalistic responsibility, and governmental responsibility and deception in justifying its actions in war.  The issues raised by the play are especially timely since many of these same issues have arisen with regard to the war in Iraq.

L.A. Theatre Works brings this important period in history to life with a star studded cast including John Heard, Gregory Harrison, Susan Sullivan, and John Vickery.  Based on interviews and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, the play follows the debate played out as Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee’s staff sorts through the classified documents and tries to decide if publishing them violates national security.  The play includes their momentous decision and the legal wrangling that followed, leading up to the historic decision that reaffirmed the First Amendment.  The United States government’s relationship with the media, the citizenry’s right to information, and the First Amendment are all critically explored against the canvas of the Vietnam War and the secretive Nixon White House.

Tickets for Top Secret:  The Battle for the Pentagon Papers are $29 for the general public and $19 for all students.   Penn State York students can purchase a ticket for $9 at the Box Office with their student I.D.   For tickets and information on the variety of programs available at the Pullo Center, visit www.pullocenter.psu.edu or call 717-505-8900.  With seating for just over 1,000, the Pullo Center offers an intimate venue with full theatre capabilities.  The theatre opened at the campus in August 2005.

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