Pentagon Papers Case

(1971)

In New York Times Co. v. United States, better known as the Pentagon Papers Case the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government's efforts to prevent the New York Times from publishing the so-called Pentagon Papers—more formally, History of U.S. Decision-Making Process on Viet Nam Policy, 1946–1967—violated the First Amendment right of freedom of the press. The case arose after Daniel Ellsberg, a military analyst who had served in the Pentagon and later worked at the RAND Corporation, became disillusioned with the war in Vietnam. While at RAND, a nonprofit think tank, he obtained copies of a large number of top-secret and classified documents that, taken together, traced the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The documents strongly suggested that the government under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson believed that the war was unwinnable but, for political reasons, would not admit this to the American public. The papers revealed a belief that...

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Justice Hugo Black (Library of Congress)

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