1971 March 9

Ex-National Security Expert: Want Government Secrets? Read the New York Times


McGeorge Bundy, former national security advisor to President John F. Kennedy, testifying for Daniel Ellsberg in his criminal trial for stealing the Pentagon Papers, gave this advise on how to learn government foreign policy secrets: “Read the New York Times.

Bundy’s point was that many secrets and classified information quickly find their way into the media, particularly the New York Times because of its extensive coverage of foreign affairs. His argument was relevant to Ellsberg’s defense because in prosecuting him (and also for seeking an injunction against the Times for publishing information from the Pentagon Papers) the federal government had argued that the Papers contained important secrets that would harm national security if made public. The Papers contained information from the 1950s through the late 1960s, none of which could damage national security in 1971.

The New York Times began publishing stories based on the Pentagon Papers on June 13, 1971. The Nixon administration obtained an injunction stopping further publication on June 15, 1971. In a landmark decision on freedom of the press, the Supreme Court on June 30, 1971 ruled the injunction an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment.

Learn more about the anti-Vietnam War movement: Thomas Powers, The War at Home: Vietnam and the American People, 1964–1968 (1973)

Watch a documentary on how the Vietnam War affected America: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGeFPzFNkQg

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