National Security

Although the days depicted in Steven Spielberg’s film “The Post” — with a war in Vietnam, an embattled White House, and the classified Pentagon Papers — are long gone, the government continues to claim it has an interest in keeping certain secret material from the public eye. Massive online leaks, such as the one undertaken by Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and intelligence analyst, have led to the discovery of civilian surveillance programs orchestrated by the National Security Agency. Meanwhile, former President Barack Obama used the power of the executive to prosecute more leakers under the Espionage Act than all previous presidents taken together, highlighting the tension between the country’s interest in keeping the homeland secure and the public’s right to know how its business is being conducted.

Reflection Questions

  1. Are the lessons of the Pentagon Papers case still relevant today?
  2. Is it reasonable for the federal government to seek a prior restraint on the unauthorized publication of classified national security information?
  3. Or are attempts to control, or even influence, what the media do in this arena futile in the digital era?



The entries on the Free Speech Tracker can be classified into many themes, including the 12 listed below; most entries relate to several different themes. Click on a box to bring up a list of entries related to that theme, or select two or more to narrow the list down. You may also click or unclick the categories below this box to make the lists specific to Education, Civil Society, Government, or any combination of the three.



Tracker Entries