WaPo Reporter George Wilson, Part of Pentagon Papers Case, Dies at 86

Intrepid war reporter George C. Wilson, who reported on the ground in Vietnam and in Iraq, and immersed himself in workings of the military, has died from leukemia. He was at the Post from 1966 to 1990, during which he spent two tours in Vietnam, and played a pivotal role in the Pentagon Papers case. From the WaPo obituary:

After the papers were obtained by the New York Times and The Post, the Nixon administration tried to prevent the newspapers from publishing them, arguing that the revelations would damage national security. The government attempt to stop the publication of the secret papers was known as “prior restraint” and prompted questions about freedom of the press, guaranteed by the First Amendment.

In his memoir, Bradlee recounted a day in court in which the government extracted, from deep within the huge file of documents, a particular passage. If that passage were to be made public, the government told the judge, national security would be harmed.

Then, Bradlee wrote, “the remarkable George Wilson stunned everyone by pulling out of his back pocket a verbatim record” of the same information, which had already appeared in a public transcript of Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings.

It was a turning point in the case and demonstrated Mr. Wilson’s encyclopedic knowledge of the most minute details of the war. 

Wilson later wrote for National Journal as an embedded reporter during the Iraq War and was the author of several books.