Gagged Lady Liberty NATIONAL SECURITY

National Security claims provide the government with the most convenient opportunity to sidestep the First Amendment. Sometimes the government's reasons for limiting information free flow is vital to national security. Often, however, the national security card is played only to protect the government from political embarrassment or hide illegal activities.



Before he left office in 1968, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara commissioned the writing of a 47-volume, classified history of American involvement in Vietnam. These records, which became known as the Pentagon Papers, documented how Democratic and Republican administrations had misled the American people about the nations objectives in Southeast Asia. One of the authors of the Pentagon Papers, acting without authorization provided the classified documents to the New York Times, and later the Washington Post. When the New York Times began publishing the classified documents in 1971, President Nixon asked the justice department to order the newspaper to halt publication. The New York Times took the issue to court. In New York Times v. United States 1 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the government could not censor the embarrassing information, as its distribution did not represent an immediate threat to the country.

1 New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U.S. 713
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