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The Pentagon Papers
The massive military study titled United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, later known as the Pentagon Papers, was supposed to be classified. But when excerpts of the document were leaked to the New York Times in 1971, which published them, all hell broke loose–with President Richard Nixon threatening to have journalists indicted for treason, and federal prosecutors attempting to block further publication. (They had reason to do so; the documents revealed that U.S. leaders had–among other things–specifically taken measures to prolong and escalate the unpopular war.)
In June 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that the Times could legally publish the Papers.
Photo: Daniel Ellsberg, outside a federal courthouse in 1971, faced 12 felony counts as a result of his leak of the Pentagon Papers; the charges were dismissed in 1973.