With all the hullaballoo about the New York Times and other papers reporting Bush II's latest questionable tactics in the War on Terr', complete with harsh, vaguely threatening words from the gubment, I decided to give the The Pentagon Papers Case another perusal. The case dealt with the publication of top secret(!) government documents detailing the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court, via a 6-3 per curiam decision, lifted the injunctions that the government had obtained in the lower courts and allowed the documents to be published. The case is unique in that each of the nine justices wrote separate opinions.
The concurring opinion of Justice Black (pictured above) is a glorious love letter to the First Amendment, with bold proclamations like this:
"The Government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. [...] In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times and the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly." (p. 717)
And prescient gems like this:
"The word 'security' is a broad, vague generality whose contours should not be invoked to abrogate the fundamental law embodied in the First Amendment. (p. 719)
For more on the Pentagon Papers Case, check out this page, brought to you courtesy of The George Washington University. Enjoy this stuff while it lasts -- something tells me that if the government tries to wield the Espionage Act against newspapers these days they'll fare slightly better before the current Court.