New York Times Co. v. United States (1971) – The Right Decision

In the turmoil of the Vietnam War, the country was divided.  The early 1970s was a torn time for the America public.  The war was going unfavorably at the time and the nation was in the midst of great social and racial change.
     
In 1971 The New York Times published “The Pentagon Papers,” which wrote R. W. Apple Jr. in the June 23, 1996 edition of the paper, “Demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance.”
           
“The Pentagon Papers” detailed the Johnson’s administration manipulation of not only the public, but Congress as well, regarding the Vietnam War.  After The New York Times published their story, the United States district court in New York, acting at the Government’s request, issued a temporary injunction directing The New York Times not to publish the documents.

           
The Government claimed that the publication of the papers would endanger the security of the United States.  The New York Times appealed the order to the United States Supreme Court, arguing that prior restraint violated the 1st Amendment.
         
The Government was not really afraid of security internationally, but instead exhibited a paranoia of how the public would react; their credibility would be washed away.
           
The case went to the Supreme Court, with the Court ruling 6-3 in favor of The New York Times.  The Court couldn’t have ruled in any better way.
         
 Though I agree that there are times where sensitive information may be damaging to the security of the Government and allies, if the information is leaked to the media, it is not the Governments responsibility to censor the leak; “The Pentagon Papers” are different.
           
The “Papers” do not hide stringent military documents, but a bold face lie to the American citizens.  If the Supreme Court had not ruled in favor of The New York Times, it would have set a precedent that the Government could and likely would get away with even more dubious lying about wars and other affairs.
           
This ruling helped in 2000 when the Associated Press wanted to publish a story about a state-guaranteed loan to a Texas shrimp farm. Lawyers for the AP cited the New York Times case in their argument. The judge lifted the order after two days of hearings.
         
The 1st Amendment is and should be an absolute.  The Founding Fathers wrote it as such.  Nowhere does it say the Government can censor to press for damage control.  Prior restraint is no constitutional and in1971 the Supreme Court realized that.

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