The Pentagon Papers Case

The landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court on the First Amendment

In what became the Pentagon Papers case the Nixon Administration attempted to prevent the New York Times from publishing materials belonging to a classified Defense Department study regarding the history of the United States activities in Vietnam. The President argued that prior restraint was necessary to protect national security



Prior Restraint- is government action that prohibits speech or other expression before it can take place.

Ruling & Significance

The court ruled that it was okay for the NY Times to publish the papers because not publishing them would have violated the first amendment rights.

There was "heavy presumption against" prior restraint of the press in this case. Justices Black & Douglas argued that the vague word "Security" should not be used "To abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment". Justice Brennan reasoned that since the publication would not cause any direct and immediate event imperiling the safety of the American forces, prior restraint was unjustified.

Future Significance

This case shows how seriously we take our national security, it also shows us that the first amendment may have ruled in favor of the NY times but it does not always guarantee an absolute freedom of the press especially when the nations security is involved. The court must strike a balance between the fundamentally important right to free press and the equally important duty of the government to protect the nation.

In this case with the Vietnam war being over it did not pose and imminent threat to our nation