Commander Jonathan Odom has a new case study published by the Harvard Negotiation Law Review.  The article is entitled “A Modern-Day Pentagon Paper in a Post-Pentagon Papers World:  A Case Study of Negotiations between the Washington Post and the U.S. Government Regarding Publication of the 2009 Afghanistan Assessment”

The case study is, as its title implies, a negotiation between The Washington Post and the Obama Administration over the publication of a 2009 classified report on Afghanistan operations, which had been leaked to reporter Bob Woodward.

The following is the abstract from their website:

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the Pentagon Papers case, the U.S. Government has been disempowered from restraining private news organizations in advance of their publication of classified information. Following that judicial ruling, news organizations that have come into the possession of information that the Government has classified for national security reasons contact the appropriate Government officials and discuss their intent to publish the information. At that point, the parties begin a process of negotiation.

This Article spotlights and analyzes a noteworthy example of such a negotiation from 2009, when The Washington Post came into possession of a classified U.S. Government assessment regarding ongoing military operations in Afghanistan, which the Post intended to publish, either in whole or in part. First, this Article reviews the facts and adjudication of the original Pentagon Papers case, as it set the stage for similar negotiations in the future. Second, this Article summarizes the details of the Afghanistan Assessment Negotiation. Third, it discusses why this particular case is worth studying through the lens of negotiation methodology. Fourth, this Article analyzes the case based on principles of negotiation developed in negotiation literature. Fifth, it assesses the overall success of the negotiation and its significance as an example of adherence to interest-based principles

in negotiations between the Government and news media in a post-Pentagon Papers context. This analysis aims to provide a valuable example of negotiations between the news media and the Government for further consideration and discussion by lawyers, news editors and reporters, and negotiators alike.

This Article is based partially upon general research on the subject, but is derived primarily from resources specific to this particular negotiation. Much of the analysis in this Article was drawn directly from the author’s personal interviews with the two key participants involved in this negotiation: Washington Post Investigative Journalist Bob Woodward and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Geoff Morrell.

You can find the Harvard Negotiation Law Review, Vol. 23, pp. 215-264 (2018) online at:  or directly at:


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.