Pentagon Papers lawyer sees Obama as 'worse than Nixon'

Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg spoke to reporters outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles in 1973. He was at the center of the Pentagon Papers case, which stands as a landmark of press freedom.
AP File Photo

When the New York Times was debating whether to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971, one of the chief advocates for doing so was James Goodale, who served as the newspaper's general counsel. He argued that if the Times published the papers, which comprised a secret history of the Vietnam War, the First Amendment would protect the paper from prosecution under espionage laws.

Now regarded as one of the nation's top First Amendment lawyers, Goodale describes President Obama's record on press freedoms this way: "Antediluvian, conservative, backwards. Worse than Nixon."

Goodale was in the Twin Cities last week to deliver the Silha Lecture at the University of Minnesota. His lecture was titled, "The Lessons of the Pentagon Papers: Has Obama Learned Them?" Tom Weber spoke with Goodale during his visit.


James Goodale: It's a bad time for press freedoms
Investigative reporting, particularly on national security matters, cannot be effective unless the reporter's able to ask the source and talk the source into giving out the information. Journalism is hard. They're not just going to tell you everything. They'll tell you whether the sun is shining, but when there's something that involves malfeasance, they're going to play you for a sucker for 100 days before they give it out. (Columbia Journalism Review)

A Bad Precedent Already
There is still a way out of this for the government. The military judge, Col. Denise Lind, could hand down a light sentence. This would be appropriate. The government should be required to distinguish between trivial leaks and those that truly damage national security. So far, it has not, and that has already set a bad precedent. (James Goodale, in the New York Times)

Pentagon Papers Lawyer James Goodale: It's Time for Eric Holder to Resign
The government has now put itself in the position of setting standards for what reporters can and cannot do when they talk to those who have access to classified information. If a reporter steps over the line drawn by the Justice Department, he or she may become a criminal. In short, the government has criminalized the news-gathering process. (James Goodale, on the Daily Beast)

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