Efforts to clamp down on White House leaks to the press follow a pattern that was set during the Nixon era after the publication of the Pentagon Papers.

Are you a teacher? Check out our teaching resources for this video.
Get our weekly newsletter
In partnership with The New York Times

Presidents v. Press: How the Pentagon Papers Leak Set Up First Amendment Showdowns

Producer: Kit R. Roane
Associate Producer: Lisa Hale
Additional Editor: Gonda-Bastian Sinagowitz
Additional Producer: Peter Klein
Update Producer: Sianne Garlick and Sandra McDaniel
Update Editor: Cullen Golden

In 1971, President Richard M. Nixon went to war with the press over a classified leak published in The New York Times. It was called the Pentagon Papers and it became one of the most storied leaks in American history.

Weighing in at 7000 pages, the report revealed how president after president had misled the public about their country’s role in escalating the Vietnam War. But the leak’s true importance came in the Supreme Court, which, in ruling against Nixon’s attempt to bar publication of the report, set strict limits for future presidents who might wish to do the same.

The Pentagon Papers case was a watershed moment for press freedom and for the public’s right to know many government secrets. But the ruling left open a potent weapon to go after leakers — the Espionage Act.

Amid Leaks, Recalling an Epic Battle Over Press Freedom in Nixon Era by Clyde Haberman

TranscriptLesson PlanArchiveArchive Credits

More on the Story

What we know about Reality Winner, the contractor accused of leaking an NSA documentThe Chicago Tribune
Producer Kit Roane discusses the bane of many presidents -- leaks -- withThe Takeaway
Related Coverage
Amid Leaks, Recalling an Epic Battle Over Press Freedom in Nixon EraThe New York Times