In This Review

National Security, Leaks, and Freedom of the Press: The Pentagon Papers Fifty Years On
National Security, Leaks, and Freedom of the Press: The Pentagon Papers Fifty Years On
Edited by Geoffrey R. Stone and Lee C. Bollinger
380 pp, Oxford University Press, 2021

In the Pentagon Papers case of 1971, the Supreme Court ruled that news outlets had the right to publish classified information they received even while individuals who leaked the information could be prosecuted. The editors of this volume, two noted First Amendment scholars, use the occasion of that ruling’s 50th anniversary to review the manifold consequences of how this historic decision balanced the government’s need for secrecy in protecting national security with the public’s right to know what its government is doing. The collection includes chapters from a star-studded roster of national security practitioners, legal scholars, practicing journalists, and media experts. Together, the editors and five of the contributors also consider the effects of the revolution in information and communications technology that has transformed the world since 1971 and that has led to the huge increase in the number of government contractors with access to classified information. They recommend policy changes that could reduce the overclassification of information, encourage declassification, deter harmful leaks, encourage helpful ones, and create alternatives to leaking. But they also conclude that, notwithstanding the massive changes that have taken place in the digital realm, it would be premature to abandon the regime the Pentagon Papers case created or to do more than undertake cautious reforms to improve its functioning.