The New York
Times printed allegedly classified documents that leaked from the Pentagon
about the war in Vietnam. A 47 volume classified history of the American involvement
in Vietnam was distributed to the Times and, later, the Post by Daniel Ellsberg,
a minor writer in the Pentagon Papers. The Times published these papers bit
by bit until the Nixon administration sought an injunction on the Times to
stop publication. The Supreme Court found that the First Amendment did not
permit an injunction against the Times.
The issue here is weather or not
the First Amendment applies to federal papers, and weather prior restraint
is unconstitutional. Also, can the government seek an injunction on a press
to halt publication of such documents, even in cases of national security.
The Supreme Court Ruled 6-3 in favor of the New York Times, saying that
the First Amendment did not permit an injunction against the press. The Court
found that the Government did not relieve their “Heavy Burden” of proof to
justify the injunction based on prior restraint. This verdict was reached
June 25, 1971. A heavy burden of proof is placed on the government whenever
there is grounds for prior restraint. Is this burden is not sufficiently substantiated,
then and injunction cannot be issued.
The First Amendment protects the
rights of individuals and the press to communicate freely. The U.S. has the
right to halt any publication that they deem harmful, if and only if, they
show enough evidence to support their injunction, and meet their “Heavy Burden”
of proof imposed upon them by the courts.