On Demand Audio

National Security & the Press

(539 reviews)

Produced on January 24, 2017

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Course Information

Time 62 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

Course Description

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’ prime constitutionally-based duty is to inform the citizenry about what its Government is doing, particularly where life, limb and huge outlays of expenditures are at risk. This program explores the tension between the Government’s interest in National Security and the First Amendment values in the free flow of information.

This tension and conflict undergirds the tortuous day-to-day relationship between Government and the media, 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 the Wikileaks document dump of materials about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and US diplomatic files, and the Edward Snowden disclosures.

This program focuses on the law that has developed in this area, and the more practical way this tension has played out in more recent iterations. Mr. Freeman, the newsroom counsel for The New York Times for over 30 years, also gives 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. In addition, he discusses the possibility of prosecuting the media for publishing illegally leaked material, a strategy, using the Espionage Act, which was suggested by a number of justices in the Pentagon Papers case  -  and an issue which has come up often recently, from the internal Sony documents to the recent Wikileaks disclosures of Hillary Clinton campaign staff emails.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn the law as applied to prior restraints on publication, and criminal prosecution for publishing illegally leaked documents, including the possible media defenses
  2. Consider whether the law or the realities are or should be different in the Internet Age
  3. Discuss and ponder the practicalities in these situations, and how the law merges and differs from journalistic ethics and responsibility

Credit Information

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George Freeman

Media Law Resource Center

George Freeman is Executive Director of the Media Law Resource Center. He was most recently Of Counsel to the law firm of Jenner & Block. He is a former Assistant General Counsel of the New York Times Company, where he was at the forefront of numerous high-profile cases for the company and its affiliated businesses. George is a well-known speaker on media and First Amendment issues.

He is the William J. Brennan Visiting Professor at the Columbia Journalism School and also teaches at New York University and CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism. He has led or participated in many media groups and is the founder and Co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Forum on Communications Law annual conference. He is a graduate of Amherst and the Harvard Law School.  


Eric M.

Fantastic expertise!

Ron V.

Excellent course.

Richard A.

Fascinating topic presented by one with great background and knowledge.

James A.

Good course.

Jamey B.

Great view of a well-known historical event and the importance of the 1st Amendment.

Melissa E.

Super interesting and relevant!

Geoffrey K.

Great program. Very interesting presentation.

Lee J.

One of the most interesting CLEs I’ve listened to. I hope there is a sequel.

Elizabeth D.

Great interesting hour!

Robert S.

Extremely interesting. Excellent speaker.

Dean K.

This is an excellent presentation.

Jann B.

Very interesting and timely topic!

Geoffrey K.


Mark W.

Very good presentation, but very skimpy written materials.

Patrick K.

great review

Robert D.


John N.

course was very informative

Richard C.

Excellent and very timely program.

Kathy D.

Fascinating well explained tension between the press and the government

kelly w.

Perhaps the most interesting, timely course I've ever taken through Lawline. A sincere pleasure!

Denine C.


Lisa O.

Speaker was outstanding and very knowledgeable. I would highly recommend this presentation.

Andrea M.

A fascinating history.

Robin E.

excellent program, very timely. presenter was extremely knowledgable and easy to understand.

Moshe S.

Engaging & non biased.

Anthony M.

This course was amazing! Wow!

Brian N.

Very timely

Victoria I.

Very timely topic!

Judith S.

Well presented and exceedingly informative, especially in light of Trumps' opposition to the press.

Ruth G.

Excellent .

Cheryl C.


Jeanne S.

excellent - clearly presented and very timely

Retha M.

Interesting and timely. Thanks for good program.

Maria B.

Remarkable presentation.

Alexis R.

Thank you!

Jonathan R.

Very thorough and well thought out presentation.

Julie A. B.

Razor-sharp lecturer, newsroom counsel for The New York Times for 30 plus years, perceptively plumbs the depth of this weighty matter vis-à-vis the media and national security. The program gives one pause to reflect on how the law merges and differs from journalistic ethics and responsibility.

Michael C.

Fantastic! Really good content and presentation.

Leslie L.

Well done, and timely, as he made clear in closing remarks. We'll see what happens in next 4 years.

Panky J.

Living historian. Most interesting.

Kerry L.

Speaker's conversational demeanor was good.

Ryan M.

Very interesting topic--thank you!

John H.


Danielle W.

Very interesting presentation.

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