Notes, 1:00 p.m., Spring 2001, February 12, 2001




United States v. Washington Post Co. and New York Times Co. v. The United States

Together known as the Pentagon Papers Case was a civil case in which the United States government under President Richard Nixon (R) wanted censorship of the press on the basis on national security.  Both newspapers, the Washington Post and the New York Times obtained copies of the Pentagon Papers, which were documents of information of how the United States made decisions about its involvement in Vietnam.  President Nixon felt that publishing these documents would endanger national security.  The United States government went to court to stop having these documents published.  The U.S. government was the plaintiff, and the Washington Post and New York Times were the defendants.


The Supreme Court decided that the government can enforce censorship of the press only in circumstances where national security would be at risk.


1973 is the year of the controversial decision by the Supreme Court that define legal abortions, known as the Roe vs. Wade

Decision.  The decision legalizes abortion within the first three months of pregnancy. State law banning abortion violates the right to privacy in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.


1974 is the year that President Nixon was brought to court so he would turn over tapes of telephone conversations he made in the Oval Office during his administration. During the Watergate investigation, Nixon claimed “executive privilege”, which excused him from handing over the documents.  The court disagreed, and finally obtained the tapes.  Nixon decided to resign before he could be impeached. President Nixon was not above the law.  Executive privilege does not apply to cases where a crime may have been committed.