National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1970-1987: We wrestle with our democratic freedoms, arguing issues old and new

June 30, 1971
The “Pentagon Papers” case affirms freedom of the press

Copy of the Washington Post after winning court case

“In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy.”
– Justice Hugo L. Black
New York Times v. United States

When the New York Times and Washington Post began publishing the secret Pentagon Papers this month, they provoked a front-page constitutional controversy.

The document reveals the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Saying that publication would damage “national security,” President Nixon went to court to stop the presses.

The Supreme Court disagrees: the government didn’t justify the need to restrain the newspapers. Justice Black went further, saying the First Amendment forbids putting any such “prior restraint” on the press.

The presses are rolling.

Read about it in the New York times

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