New York Times Co. versus United States: The Security of Secrets

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In the Supreme Court case of the New York Times Co. vs. United States there is a power struggle. This struggle includes the entities of the individual freedoms against the interests of federal government. It is well known that the first amendment protects the freedom of speech, but to what extent does this freedom exist. There have been instances in which speech has been limited; Schenck vs. United States(1919) was the landmark case which instituted such limitations due to circumstances of “clear and present danger”. Many have noted that the press serves as an overseer which both apprehends and guides national agenda. However, if the federal government possessed the ability to censor the press would the government restrain itself? In the case of the Pentagon Papers the necessities of individual freedoms supersedes the scope of the national government.

The “pentagon papers”, officially titled: Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, was a U.S. government study commissioned, by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, in 1967. [Robert McNamara served under both John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.] The study traced the United States involvement in Vietnam from World War II to the present. The papers were highly confidential and compiled by many sources. Groups, such as the military, universities, and private organizations, worked on portions of the study. The joint efforts created a 47-volume study; only 38 of the 47 volumes were physically produced. One of the groups which had worked on the study was RAND Corporation. An employee of Rand Corporation, Daniel Ellsberg, used his clearance to gain access to a printed copy of the Pentagon Papers. Ellsberg then began secretly removing and copying volumes o...

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