Trevor Timm, Executive Director for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, explains how the First Amendment protects newspapers from publishing classified information in the public interest. The Supreme Court's decision in the Pentagon Papers case (U.S. v. NY Times - see reference below)
This is an advance clip from the film "From DeadDrop To SecureDrop," currently in production, about the future of journalism, and how secure upload tools like SecureDrop (created by Aaron Swartz and Kevin Poulsen) may be our last chance at a free democracy.
The Supreme Court case that came out of the Pentagon
Papers was one of the most important First Amendment cases of the twentieth
century. It essentially is affirmed that newspapers in the United
States have the constitutional right to publish information - even
that the government considers "Top Secret" - that's in the
public interest, and that they cannot be censored, or what courts
refer to as "the government can't issue a 'prior restraint.'
The opinion was written incredibly fast - from the start
of the case where it went from the District court to the Supreme
Court took only 13 days, which is incredibly fast. If you ever read
the history of Supreme Court opinions, it usually takes years to get
there. And so, all nine judges wrote separate opinions, but the core
of the case still stands, which is that unless there are extreme
extreme circumstances - which we have
never seen in this country - that newspapers and journalists have the
right to publish classified information. And because of this, we have
learned so much more about what our government does behind closed
Often, what they do,
that is immoral and wasteful and illegal, we never would have known
without this decision.
United States v. New York Times, 328 F. Supp. 324, 329
(S.D.N.Y. 1971) http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp/328/324/1428158/