"Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles" by James C. Goodale, The City University of New York Journalism Press, 2013, 260 + xii pages. Paperback, $20.CHARLESTON, W.Vas. -- When The New York Times began publishing "The Pentagon Papers" on June 13, 1971, the newspaper offered the American public new insights into previously-secret government discussions and decisions that escalated the increasingly-unpopular Vietnam War.
The Washington Post, Boston Globe and several other newspapers also received, and began printing, parts of the leaked Pentagon Papers -- then classified as "secret" government documents.
President Richard Nixon immediately went to the Supreme Court seeking to block the New York Times and Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers.
On June 30, 1971, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, in a 6-3 vote, protecting freedom of the press against White House efforts to prevent publication of those documents.
Freedom of the press, the Supreme Court ruled, is protected by the First Amendment.
Publishing the Pentagon Papers did not jeopardize national security. They revealed no secrets threatening American security. They revealed history.
These are central the points James C. Goodale makes in "Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles."
"Before the Pentagon Papers case, no prior restraint in the history of the United States had ever been issued against the press in federal courts," Goodale writes.
The public has a right to now how government makes decisions.
"I concluded the documents had to be published to inform the public how presidential decision-making took place," Goodale writes. "If no one read it, no one would realize the war was built on a tissue of lies -- the whole purpose of publication in the first place."
Goodale was the main lawyer representing The New York Times in that case 42 years ago.
In May 1972, The New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for publishing and reporting about the Pentagon Papers -- 7,000 pages of documents leaked to the press by Daniel Ellsberg.
"Fighting for the Press" is particularly relevant today, with the ongoing efforts to prosecute Edward Snowden, a man who leaked documents showing how the National Security Agency recently probed into the lives of hundreds of millions of people at home and abroad.
In his book, Goodale tells stories about public, and behind-the-scenes, debates and arguments about how to respond to government efforts to suppress publication under the Nixon administration. There were disagreements among leaders of The New York Times themselves.
A leading expert on First Amendment rights, Goodale has also taught at Yale, New York University and Fordham law schools.
@bod:Daniel Ellsberg, a company commander in the Marine Corps for two years, worked for the Defense and State departments during the 1960s, then for the Rand Corp., a private think tank with close ties to government intelligence operations.
After releasing the Pentagon Papers to the media, Ellsberg was indicted under the Espionage Act of 1917. Today, the same act is being used to prosecute whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning, formerly Bradley Manning.
In 2002, Ellsberg published a compelling book of his own, "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers."
"It became clear to me that journalists had no idea, no clue, even the best of them, just how often and how egregiously they were lied to," Ellsberg wrote.
"That permitted the president to arrive at and execute a secret foreign policy, to a degree that went far beyond what even relatively informed outsiders, including journalists and members of Congress, could imagine."
When President Lyndon B. Johnson ran for re-election in 1964 against Republican opponent Barry Goldwater, Ellsberg writes, Johnson suppressed his own views on Vietnam, which were very similar to Goldwater's desires to escalate the war.
Ellsberg saw the Vietnam War "first as a problem, next as a stalemate, then as a moral and political disaster, a crime."
The Nixon White House hoped to prevent the publication of documents that revealed the truth about so many events surrounding conflicts in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.