This post was written by Megan Gustafson, journalist and former Thomson Reuters employee

The lessons of the Pentagon Papers – the landmark 1971 First Amendment case – are coming full circle in today’s environment, said attorney James C. Goodale last week at the 2013 Silha Lecture, at the University of Minnesota’s Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law.

Those lessons, says Goodale, who successfully argued on behalf of the New York Times before the Supreme Court in the Pentagon Papers case, are these:

  • Ignore the First Amendment at your peril;
  • Don’t buy “hook, line and sinker” the national security arguments that the government makes in seeking to curtail the freedom of press.

Yet, Goodale expressed concerns that the Obama administration is failing to heed these lessons in light of its pursuit of leakers of classified government information, and of the journalists and publishers who make the information available to the public. Notable cases include those involving WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, journalist James Risen and NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

Goodale wrote about the Pentagon Papers case and press freedom issues in his recently published book, “Fighting for the Press: The Inside Story of the Pentagon Papers and Other Battles.”

The lecture was recorded and can be viewed online at

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