New York Times v. United States

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New York Times v. United States
Court Supreme Court of the United States
Date decided June 30, 1971
Appealed from DC Circuit & 2nd Circuit (NY)


Daniel Ellsberg helped author a top-secret government study, also known as, the Pentagon Papers. "The Pentagon Papers" (formally, History of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-1968) were completed in 1969.

In 1971, Ellsberg leaked portions of the report to The New York Times & The Washington Post.

Procedural History

DOJ filed suits in New York & Washington DC seeking an injunction against further publications of leaked sections of the Pentagon Papers. The government didn't offer proof that the publications would compromise intelligence operations.

The Justice Department loses in the 2 district courts in N.Y. & D.C.


Are prior restraints ever permissible?


William O. Douglas argued that the government simply wanted to suppress the publication of embarrassing material, & there wasn't a national security risk.


An injunction of further articles would be impermissible under the First Amendment (per curium).

The Justice Department didn't carry its heavy burden of showing a need for a prior restraint in this case.


  • 1st Amendment:"Congress shall make no law...abridging the...freedom...of the press..."


  • "New York Times v. United States, better known as the “Pentagon Papers” case, was a decision expanding freedom of the press." (C-SPAN summary)