Authors

Maria E. Lombardi '15, Gettysburg College

Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Fall 2013

Department

Political Science

Abstract

In 1971, the New York Times released the first installment in a series later referred to as the Pentagon Papers that would eventually have significant political, social, and historical impacts that are felt even in the 21st Century. Following the first release, President Nixon’s administration sought an injunction against the publication of the remaining contents of the classified study, ultimately becoming an extensive legal process that culminated in the Supreme Court. In a per curiam opinion, the Court ruled that in accordance with Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe and Near v. Minnesota that the federal government did not meet the burden of proof required for prior restraint. The individual Justices’ opinions were divergent on several fronts and provide unique insight into the complexity of the issue. This decision was the driving force behind the formation of the White House Plumbers, the group that orchestrated one of the most infamous political scandals and the eventual implosion of Nixon’s career. It also effectively changed the tide of the Vietnam War, contributed to the credibility gap, and forever modified the relationship between the press and the federal government. The Pentagon Papers case has also served as one of the most famous freedom of the press cases and established a de facto precedent. The aftermath of its outcome is still felt today with the increasing prevalence of government whistle-blowers, such as WikiLeaks, PFC. Manning, and Edward Snowden.

Comments

Recipient of the 2014 Samuel P. Weaver Prize