National Security and the Press (Update)
Created on May 12, 2020
The Government’s prime responsibility is to keep its citizens safe, and that sometimes might entail keeping military and diplomatic secrets from the people. On the other hand, the press’s prime constitutionally-based duty is to inform the citizenry about what its Government is up to, particularly where life, limb, and huge outlays of expenditures are at risk. It is the tension between the Government’s interest in National Security and the First Amendment values in the free flow of information which this program is about. And the same balances have been at play in recent access to information and reporting on the Coronavirus.
This tension and conflict undergird the anyhow tortuous day-to-day relationship between Government and the media, one exacerbated by the current President’s hostile relationship with the media, and one which has come to full bloom at various times in our history. The most significant such battle came in 1971 in the context of the Vietnam War when The New York Times started publishing the Pentagon Papers, and the Nixon Administration went to court a few days later to seek a prior restraint and stop publication. More recently, this issue has come to the fore with Julian Assange’s Wikileaks document dump of materials about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and US diplomatic files, and the Edward Snowden disclosures.
This program will review the law that has developed in this area and the more practical way this tension has played out in the ongoing Assange case. Mr. Freeman, the newsroom counsel for The New York Times for over 30 years, will also give the historic backstory of U.S. v. New York Times, The Pentagon Papers case which was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court and set the standard for obtaining a prior restraint which lives to this day.
Presented by George Freeman, Executive Director of the Media Law Resource Center, this program will benefit lawyers who are involved with media law and all citizens who are interested in government and press disclosures of critical national information and the tension between the press and this Administration in this area.
- Review the law as applies to prior restraints on publication
- Consider whether the law or the realities are or should be different in the Internet Age
- Discuss the practicalities in these situations, and how the law merges and differs from journalistic ethics and responsibility
- Analyze how this relates to current reporting and disclosures about the global pandemic
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