The New York Times publishes the “Pentagon Papers”

The New York Times publishes the “Pentagon Papers”

The New York Times begins publishing portions of the 47-volume Pentagon analysis of how the U.S. commitment in Southeast Asia grew over a period of three decades. Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst who had become an antiwar activist, had stolen the documents. After unsuccessfully offering the documents to prominent opponents of the war in the U.S. Senate, Ellsberg gave them to the Times.

Officially called The History of the U.S. Decision Making Process on Vietnam, the “Pentagon Papers” disclosed closely guarded communiques, recommendations, and decisions concerning the U.S. military role in Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, along with the diplomatic phase in the Eisenhower years. The publication of the papers created a nationwide furor, with congressional and diplomatic reverberations as all branches of the government debated over what constituted “classified” material and how much should be made public.

READ MORE: What Were the Pentagon Papers?

The publication of the documents precipitated a crucial legal battle over “the people’s right to know,” and led to an extraordinary session of the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue. Although the documents were from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, President Richard Nixon opposed their publication, both to protect the sources in highly classified appendices, and to prevent further erosion of public support for the war. On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that the Times had the right to publish the material.

The publication of the “Pentagon Papers,” along with previous suspected disclosures of classified information to the press, led to the creation of a White House unit to plug information leaks to journalists. The illegal activities of the unit, known as the “Plumbers,” and their subsequent cover-up, became known collectively as the Watergate scandal, which resulted in President Nixon’s resignation in August 1974.

How the New York Times published the Pentagon Papers

By James L. Greenfield
Published December 17, 2017 8:00AM (EST)

Richard Nixon Robert McNamara (AP/Harvey Georges/Salon)


Excerpted with permission from "The Pentagon Papers: The Secret History of the Vietnam War" by Neil Sheehan, E.W. Kenworthy, Fox Butterfield, and Hedrick Smith, with a new foreword by James L. Greenfield. Copyright The New York Times Company. Copyright 2017, Racehorse Publishing. Available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and IndieBound.

In 1967, Robert McNamara, then President Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defense, created a secret unit in the Pentagon to collect as many internal government documents as possible relating to the Vietnam War. McNamara hoped that the collection would give officials a clearer view of the decisions that put the United States on an increasingly crisis-ridden path. It is not clear what, if anything, McNamara learned from the project. But it is clear that he could not, and did not, anticipate the journalistic bombshell he ultimately got.

In 1971, by which time President Richard Nixon had managed to involve the United States even more deeply in the war, The New York Times published a blockbuster series of articles based on McNamara’s study. They came to be known as the Pentagon Papers, and now hold an essential place in the legacy of twentieth-century American journalism. The articles revealed, in detail and in the government’s own words, how officials had stumbled, often haphazardly, into a disastrous war that had already taken thousands of American lives.

The documents included every cable, bureaucratic memo, and note of conversation from within the government that mentioned Vietnam. They were culled not only from the White House, Pentagon, and State Department, but also from such peripheral bureaucracies as the Agriculture Department. In all, they totaled more than seven thousand documents. Their classification ranged from top secret to just plain secret.

Somewhat overwhelmed by the sheer number of classified documents, Arthur (Punch) Sulzberger, the Times publisher, asked A.M. Rosenthal, the paper’s executive editor, and me, as the appointed project editor, to brief the Times’ outside law firm, Lord Day & Lord.

“How many of the documents were classified,” the attorneys asked.

“All seven thousand,” we responded.

Shocked, the firm counseled against publishing them. When that recommendation was brushed off, Lord Day declined to represent the paper in the matter—after reportedly debating but rejecting a proposal within the firm to report the project to the Justice Department. (Years later, when asked his reaction to first hearing about the papers, Punch Sulzberger replied wryly, “Ten years to life.”)

The documents did not, as some later claimed, simply fall into the hands of The New York Times. Neil Sheehan, a Washington-based correspondent and celebrated Vietnam reporter, got a whiff of their existence, and then pursued a set of them from a senior member of the government-funded Rand Corporation, Daniel Ellsberg.

In multiple meetings between the two, Sheehan argued that Americans had a right to know how the government, especially the president, had made crucial decisions involving the war. Persuaded, Ellsberg began passing copies of the papers to Sheehan.

The copies arrived in New York in several mailbags and were eventually stashed in my Manhattan apartment, under the bed, for safe-keeping. They were then moved, suitcase by suitcase, to a makeshift editorial office set up in a suite in the Hilton Hotel. This was an essential first step. A crowded newsroom was no place for thousands of secret documents, and a leak was inevitable. Besides, our hotel hideaway allowed the editing staff to work all day and sleep in adjoining rooms at night.

From the start, our team agreed it was up to us to prove the papers’ legitimacy beyond doubt. It took weeks to spot-check hundreds of the documents against hundreds of stories already published. More than twenty books written by former government officials and laden with Vietnam references were checked against the documents to see if they matched. In every case they did.

It quickly became apparent that no one writer—even one as skilled as Neil Sheehan—could write the series alone. So Hedrick Smith, E. W. (Ned) Kenworthy, and Fox Butterfield—all veteran Vietnam reporters—were brought in. Two of the paper’s best editors—Gerald Gold and Allan Siegel, plus the Times chief librarian, Linda Amster, were recruited. Together they made sure that every sentence written corresponded to a reference in one of the documents. Adding one’s own reporting was unacceptable.

The first installment of the Pentagon Papers was published in the Times on June 13, 1971, a Sunday. The article was displayed in the center of the front page. Inside were several pages of the actual documents reproduced verbatim.

The next day, after the second installment was published, an angry Attorney General John Mitchell sent a telegram to the paper, demanding that publication be stopped. It was, Mitchell contended, a threat to national security. The next day the Times ran an article under the headline: “Mitchell Seeks to Halt Series on Vietnam But Times Refuses.” On Tuesday, after the paper had published three articles, Federal Judge Murray Gurfein slapped a restraining order on further publication.

It was immediately clear that this issue would end up in the country’s highest court. And so it did, swiftly. Left without an outside law firm, James Goodale, the head of the Times legal department, recruited Alexander Bickel, a Yale professor and one of the country’s top constitutional experts, to represent the paper. Floyd Abrams, an up-and-coming First Amendment lawyer, was added to the team.

On June 25 and 26, 1971, the Supreme Court heard the government’s argument that further publication of the papers “would cause an irreparable harm to United States national interests.”

On June 30, by a vote of six to three, the Court disagreed and upheld the Times’s right to publish. And so the paper did, until the final installment on July 5, 1971.

The articles revealed a mounting list of problems that the government faced—and often fumbled—as the Vietnam War nearly careened out of control. Decisions were clouded by Washington politics,

President Johnson’s own confused strategy, mixed signals from the battlefield, bad advice, and overconfidence, especially in evaluating an enemy’s ability to absorb punishment and continue to fight with great ferocity.

The war in Vietnam continued until April 30, 1975. By then, fifty-eight thousand Americans had been killed, more than 60 percent of them under the age of twenty-one, and three hundred thousand wounded, fighting in the jungles and hamlets and paddy fields of that Southeast Asian country.

The New York Times

Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

The New York Times, morning daily newspaper published in New York City, long the newspaper of record in the United States and one of the world’s great newspapers. Its strength is in its editorial excellence it has never been the largest newspaper in terms of circulation.

The Times was established in 1851 as a penny paper that would avoid sensationalism and report the news in a restrained and objective fashion. It enjoyed early success as its editors set a pattern for the future by appealing to a cultured, intellectual readership instead of a mass audience. But its high moral tone was no asset in the heated competition of other papers for readers in New York City. Despite price increases, the Times was losing $1,000 a week when Adolph Simon Ochs bought it in 1896.

Ochs built the Times into an internationally respected daily. Aided by an editor he hired away from the New York Sun, Carr Van Anda, Ochs placed greater stress than ever on full reporting of the news of the day, maintained and emphasized existing good coverage of international news, eliminated fiction from the paper, added a Sunday magazine section, and reduced the paper’s newsstand price back to a penny. The paper’s imaginative and risky exploitation of all available resources to report every aspect of the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912 greatly enhanced its prestige. In its coverage of two world wars the Times continued to enhance its reputation for excellence in world news.

In 1971 the Times became the centre of controversy when it published a series of reports based on the “ Pentagon Papers,” a secret government study of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War that had been covertly given to the Times by government officials. The U.S. Supreme Court found that the publication was protected by the freedom-of-the-press clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The publication of the “Pentagon Papers” brought the Times a Pulitzer Prize in 1972, and by the early 21st century the paper had won more than 120 Pulitzers (including citations), considerably more than any other news organization. Later in the 1970s the paper, under Adolph Ochs’s grandson, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, introduced sweeping changes in the organization of the newspaper and its staff and brought out a national edition transmitted by satellite to regional printing plants.

The Times continued to utilize technology to expand its circulation, launching an online edition in 1995 and employing colour photography in its print edition in 1997. The publication introduced a subscription service called TimesSelect in 2005 and charged subscribers for access to portions of its online edition, but the program was discontinued two years later, and all news, editorial columns, and much of its archival content was opened to the public. In 2006 the Times launched an electronic version, the Times Reader, which allowed subscribers to download the current print edition. The following year the publication relocated to the newly constructed New York Times Building in Manhattan. Soon thereafter it began—like many industry publications—to struggle to redefine its role in the face of free Internet content. In 2011 the Times instituted a subscription plan for its digital edition that limited free access to content.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.

Published June 14. 2021 12:01AM

Joseph R. Fornieri

Fifty years ago, on June 13, 1971, The New York Times began publishing the Pentagon Papers, a Department of Defense classified report on the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. After the federal government obtained a court order barring the Times from continuing to publish excerpts, The Washington Post began publishing them on June 18.

The 7,000-page “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” as the Pentagon Papers were officially known, had wide-ranging constitutional and political impact.

The quiz below, from the Ashbrook Center at Ashland University in Ohio, provides an opportunity for you to test your knowledge of the Pentagon Papers.

1. Which U.S. secretary of defense commissioned the report that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers?

2. Research included in the Pentagon Papers revealed which of the following?

A. The government’s claims about the Gulf of Tonkin incident were not completely accurate

B. President Lyndon B. Johnson was planning war with North Vietnam as early as 1964

C. The U.S. intelligence community was against the bombing of North Vietnam

3. Who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press, without authorization, and with what university was he affiliated?

A. Henry Kissinger, Harvard University

B. Leslie Gelb, Columbia University

C. Daniel Ellsberg, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

D. Paul Warnke, Princeton University

4. Who was president at the time the Pentagon Papers became public?

5. The federal government took its effort to stop publication of the Pentagon Papers all the way to the Supreme Court. The case, New York Times v. United States, focused on which important issue?

6. In New York Times v. United States, the federal government argued the Pentagon Papers should not be published because of:

A. National security issues

B. Risk to U.S. soldiers abroad

D. Lack of constitutionality

7. The New York Times prevailed in New York Times v. United States. Which well-known Supreme Court Justice was among the three dissenters in the case?

A. Justice William Brennan Jr.

B. Chief Justice Warren Burger

D. Justice Thurgood Marshall

8. The president during the release of the Pentagon Papers created a special unit charged with stopping the leaking of confidential information. What was the group’s nickname?

9. The same special unit also broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters, which was the beginning of what major political scandal?

10. The entirety of the Pentagon Papers was not made available to the general public until the National Archives did so in what year?

June 13, 1971: ‘The New York Times’ Publishes the Pentagon Papers

President Eisenhower (far left) greets South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem. According to the Pentagon Papers, the US installed Diem as president to protect the former's interests. (National Archives and Records Administration)

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The Nation, which had covered American involvement in Vietnam critically since the early 1950s, may have been a touch peeved at the credit The New York Times and The Washington Post, late-comers to dissidence, were receiving for the publication of the Pentagon Papers, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. The following article, “Vietnam: How the Press Went Along” (October 11, 1971), was written by Susan Welch, a member of the political science faculty of the University of Nebraska.

The conflict between the government and the press over the publication of the Pentagon Papers has provided a convenient occasion to examine the role of the journalists during earlier stages of the American involvement in Indochina. Over the last six years the press has reported many anti-governmental viewpoints on the war, and in so doing has suffered a good deal of criticism, particularly from the Johnson and Nixon administrations. But, looking back at coverage of two decades ago, one finds that the press played a key part in promulgating the view that Indochina was an area of vital interest to the United States. This was of course the view of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations, and the press, with some exceptions, relayed it to the public with a good deal of faithfulness. A review of four major metropolitan papers—The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle—from 1950-56 recalls a treatment of the Indochinese issue that is in significant contrast to reporting on the war today.

To mark The Nation’s 150th anniversary, every morning this year The Almanac will highlight something that happened that day in history and how The Nation covered it. Get The Almanac every day (or every week) by signing up to the e-mail newsletter.

Richard Kreitner Twitter Richard Kreitner is a contributing writer and the author of Break It Up: Secession, Division, and the Secret History of America's Imperfect Union. His writings are at

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The New York Times was founded as the New-York Daily Times on September 18, 1851. [a] Founded by journalist and politician Henry Jarvis Raymond and former banker George Jones, the Times was initially published by Raymond, Jones & Company. [23] Early investors in the company included Edwin B. Morgan, [24] Christopher Morgan, [25] and Edward B. Wesley. [26] Sold for a penny (equivalent to 31¢ today) [ when? ] , the inaugural edition attempted to address various speculations on its purpose and positions that preceded its release: [27]

We shall be Conservative, in all cases where we think Conservatism essential to the public good—and we shall be Radical in everything which may seem to us to require radical treatment and radical reform. We do not believe that everything in Society is either exactly right or exactly wrong—what is good we desire to preserve and improve—what is evil, to exterminate, or reform.

In 1852, the newspaper started a western division, The Times of California, which arrived whenever a mail boat from New York docked in California. However, the effort failed once local California newspapers came into prominence. [28]

On September 14, 1857, the newspaper officially shortened its name to The New-York Times. The hyphen in the city name was dropped on December 1, 1896. [29] On April 21, 1861, The New York Times began publishing a Sunday edition to offer daily coverage of the Civil War. One of the earliest public controversies it was involved with was the Mortara Affair, the subject of twenty editorials in the Times alone. [30]

The main office of The New York Times was attacked during the New York City draft riots. The riots, sparked by the institution of a draft for the Union Army, began on July 13, 1863. On "Newspaper Row", across from City Hall, co-founder Henry Raymond stopped the rioters with Gatling guns, early machine guns, one of which he manned himself. The mob diverted, instead attacking the headquarters of abolitionist publisher Horace Greeley's New York Tribune until being forced to flee by the Brooklyn City Police, who had crossed the East River to help the Manhattan authorities. [31]

In 1869, Henry Raymond died, and George Jones took over as publisher. [32]

The newspaper's influence grew in 1870 and 1871, when it published a series of exposés on William Tweed, leader of the city's Democratic Party — popularly known as "Tammany Hall" (from its early-19th-century meeting headquarters) — that led to the end of the Tweed Ring's domination of New York's City Hall. [33] Tweed had offered The New York Times five million dollars (equivalent to 108 million dollars in 2020) to not publish the story. [24]

In the 1880s, The New York Times gradually transitioned from supporting Republican Party candidates in its editorials to becoming more politically independent and analytical. [34] In 1884, the paper supported Democrat Grover Cleveland (former mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York) in his first presidential campaign. [35] While this move cost The New York Times a portion of its readership among its more progressive and Republican readers (revenue declined from $188,000 to $56,000 from 1883 to 1884), the paper eventually regained most of its lost ground within a few years. [36]

Ochs era

After George Jones died in 1891, Charles Ransom Miller and other New York Times editors raised $1 million (equivalent to $29 million in 2020) to buy the Times, printing it under the New York Times Publishing Company. [37] [38] However, the newspaper found itself in a financial crisis by the Panic of 1893, [36] and by 1896, the newspaper had a circulation of less than 9,000 and was losing $1,000 a day. That year, Adolph Ochs, the publisher of the Chattanooga Times, gained a controlling interest in the company for $75,000. [39]

Shortly after assuming control of the paper, Ochs coined the paper's slogan, "All The News That's Fit To Print". The slogan has appeared in the paper since September 1896, [40] and has been printed in a box in the upper left hand corner of the front page since early 1897. [35] The slogan was a jab at competing papers, such as Joseph Pulitzer's New York World and William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal, which were known for a lurid, sensationalist and often inaccurate reporting of facts and opinions, described by the end of the century as "yellow journalism". [41] Under Ochs' guidance, aided by Carr Van Anda, The New York Times achieved international scope, circulation, and reputation Sunday circulation went from under 9,000 in 1896 to 780,000 in 1934. [39] Van Anda also created the newspaper's photo library, now colloquially referred to as "the morgue." [42] In 1904, during the Russo-Japanese War, The New York Times, along with The Times, received the first on-the-spot wireless telegraph transmission from a naval battle: a report of the destruction of the Russian Navy's Baltic Fleet, at the Battle of Port Arthur, from the press-boat Haimun. [43] In 1910, the first air delivery of The New York Times to Philadelphia began. [35] In 1919, The New York Times ' first trans-Atlantic delivery to London occurred by dirigible balloon. In 1920, during the 1920 Republican National Convention, a "4 A.M. Airplane Edition" was sent to Chicago by plane, so it could be in the hands of convention delegates by evening. [44]

Post-war expansion

Ochs died in 1935 [45] and was succeeded as publisher by his son-in-law, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. [46] Under his leadership, and that of his son-in-law (and successor), [47] Orvil Dryfoos, [48] the paper extended its breadth and reach, beginning in the 1940s. The crossword began appearing regularly in 1942, and the fashion section first appeared in 1946. The New York Times began an international edition in 1946. (The international edition stopped publishing in 1967, when The New York Times joined the owners of the New York Herald Tribune and The Washington Post to publish the International Herald Tribune in Paris.)

Dryfoos died in 1963 [49] and was succeeded as publisher [50] by his brother-in-law, Arthur Ochs "Punch" Sulzberger, who led the Times until 1992 and continued the expansion of the paper. [51]

New York Times v. Sullivan (1964)

The paper's involvement in a 1964 libel case helped bring one of the key United States Supreme Court decisions supporting freedom of the press, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. In it, the United States Supreme Court established the "actual malice" standard for press reports about public officials or public figures to be considered defamatory or libelous. The malice standard requires the plaintiff in a defamation or libel case to prove the publisher of the statement knew the statement was false or acted in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity. Because of the high burden of proof on the plaintiff, and difficulty proving malicious intent, such cases by public figures rarely succeed. [52]

The Pentagon Papers (1971)

In 1971, the Pentagon Papers, a secret United States Department of Defense history of the United States' political and military involvement in the Vietnam War from 1945 to 1967, were given ("leaked") to Neil Sheehan of The New York Times by former State Department official Daniel Ellsberg, with his friend Anthony Russo assisting in copying them. The New York Times began publishing excerpts as a series of articles on June 13. Controversy and lawsuits followed. The papers revealed, among other things, that the government had deliberately expanded its role in the war by conducting airstrikes over Laos, raids along the coast of North Vietnam, and offensive actions were taken by the U.S. Marines well before the public was told about the actions, all while President Lyndon B. Johnson had been promising not to expand the war. The document increased the credibility gap for the U.S. government, and hurt efforts by the Nixon administration to fight the ongoing war. [53]

When The New York Times began publishing its series, President Richard Nixon became incensed. His words to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger included "People have gotta be put to the torch for this sort of thing" and "Let's get the son-of-a-bitch in jail." [54] After failing to get The New York Times to stop publishing, Attorney General John Mitchell and President Nixon obtained a federal court injunction that The New York Times cease publication of excerpts. The newspaper appealed and the case began working through the court system.

On June 18, 1971, The Washington Post began publishing its own series. Ben Bagdikian, a Post editor, had obtained portions of the papers from Ellsberg. That day the Post received a call from William Rehnquist, an assistant U.S. Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, asking them to stop publishing. When the Post refused, the U.S. Justice Department sought another injunction. The U.S. District court judge refused, and the government appealed.

On June 26, 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take both cases, merging them into New York Times Co. v. United States. [55] On June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court held in a 6–3 decision that the injunctions were unconstitutional prior restraints and that the government had not met the burden of proof required. The justices wrote nine separate opinions, disagreeing on significant substantive issues. While it was generally seen as a victory for those who claim the First Amendment enshrines an absolute right to free speech, many felt it a lukewarm victory, offering little protection for future publishers when claims of national security were at stake. [53]

Late 1970s–1990s

In the 1970s, the paper introduced a number of new lifestyle sections, including Weekend and Home, with the aim of attracting more advertisers and readers. Many criticized the move for betraying the paper's mission. [56] On September 7, 1976, the paper switched from an eight-column format to a six-column format. The overall page width stayed the same, with each column becoming wider. [20] On September 14, 1987, the Times printed the heaviest-ever newspaper, at over 12 pounds (5.4 kg) and 1,612 pages. [57]

In 1992, "Punch" Sulzberger stepped down as publisher his son, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., succeeded him, first as publisher [58] and then as chairman of the board in 1997. [59] The Times was one of the last newspapers to adopt color photography, with the first color photograph on the front page appearing on October 16, 1997. [21]

Digital era

Early digital content

The New York Times switched to a digital production process sometime before 1980, but only began preserving the resulting digital text that year. [60] In 1983, the Times sold the electronic rights to its articles to LexisNexis. As the online distribution of news increased in the 1990s, the Times decided not to renew the deal and in 1994 the newspaper regained electronic rights to its articles. [61] On January 22, 1996, began publishing. [62]


In September 2008, The New York Times announced that it would be combining certain sections effective October 6, 2008, in editions printed in the New York metropolitan area. The changes folded the Metro Section into the main International / National news section and combined Sports and Business (except Saturday through Monday, while Sports continues to be printed as a standalone section). This change also included having the Metro section called New York outside of the Tri-State Area. The presses used by The New York Times can allow four sections to be printed simultaneously as the paper includes more than four sections on all days except for Saturday, the sections were required to be printed separately in an early press run and collated together. The changes allowed The New York Times to print in four sections Monday through Wednesday, in addition to Saturday. The New York Times ' announcement stated that the number of news pages and employee positions would remain unchanged, with the paper realizing cost savings by cutting overtime expenses. [14]

In 2009, the newspaper began production of local inserts in regions outside of the New York area. Beginning October 16, 2009, a two-page "Bay Area" insert was added to copies of the Northern California edition on Fridays and Sundays. The newspaper commenced production of a similar Friday and Sunday insert to the Chicago edition on November 20, 2009. The inserts consist of local news, policy, sports, and culture pieces, usually supported by local advertisements.

Following industry trends, its weekday circulation had fallen in 2009 to fewer than one million. [63]

In August 2007, the paper reduced the physical size of its print edition, cutting the page width from 13.5 inches (34 cm) to a 12 inches (30 cm). This followed similar moves by a roster of other newspapers in the previous ten years, including USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. The move resulted in a 5% reduction in news space, but (in an era of dwindling circulation and significant advertising revenue losses) also saved about $12 million a year. [64] [65] [66] [67]

Because of its declining sales largely attributed to the rise of news sources online, used especially by younger readers, and the decline of advertising revenue, the newspaper has been going through a downsizing for several years, offering buyouts to workers and cutting expenses, [68] in common with a general trend among print news media. [69]


In December 2012, the Times published "Snow Fall", a six-part article about the 2012 Tunnel Creek avalanche which integrated videos, photos, and interactive graphics and was hailed as a watershed moment for online journalism. [70] [71]

In 2016, reporters for the newspaper were reportedly the target of cybersecurity breaches. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was reportedly investigating the attacks. The cybersecurity breaches have been described as possibly being related to cyberattacks that targeted other institutions, such as the Democratic National Committee. [72]

During the 2016 presidential election, the Times played an important role in elevating the Hillary Clinton emails controversy into the most important subject of media coverage in the election which Clinton would lose narrowly to Donald Trump. The controversy received more media coverage than any other topic during the presidential campaign. [73] [74] [75] Clinton and other observers argue that coverage of the emails controversy contributed to her loss in the election. [76] According to a Columbia Journalism Review analysis, "in just six days, The New York Times ran as many cover stories about Hillary Clinton's emails as they did about all policy issues combined in the 69 days leading up to the election (and that does not include the three additional articles on October 18, and November 6 and 7, or the two articles on the emails taken from John Podesta)." [73]

In October 2018, the Times published a 14,218-word investigation into Donald Trump's "self-made" fortune and tax avoidance, an 18-month project based on examination of 100,000 pages of documents. The extensive article ran as an eight-page feature in the print edition and also was adapted into a shortened 2,500 word listicle featuring its key takeaways. [77] After the midweek front-page story, the Times also republished the piece as a 12-page "special report" section in the Sunday paper. [78] During the lengthy investigation, Showtime cameras followed the Times ' three investigative reporters for a half-hour documentary called The Family Business: Trump and Taxes, which aired the following Sunday. [79] [80] [81] The report won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting. [82]

In May 2019, The New York Times announced that it would present a television news program based on news from its individual reporters stationed around the world and that it would premiere on FX and Hulu. [83]

Headquarters building

The newspaper's first building was located at 113 Nassau Street in New York City. In 1854, it moved to 138 Nassau Street, and in 1858 to 41 Park Row, making it the first newspaper in New York City housed in a building built specifically for its use. [84]

The newspaper moved its headquarters to the Times Tower, located at 1475 Broadway in 1904, [85] in an area then called Longacre Square, that was later renamed Times Square in the newspaper's honor. [86] The top of the building – now known as One Times Square – is the site of the New Year's Eve tradition of lowering a lighted ball, which was begun by the paper. [87] The building is also known for its electronic news ticker – popularly known as "The Zipper" – where headlines crawl around the outside of the building. [88] It is still in use, but has been operated by Dow Jones & Company since 1995. [89] After nine years in its Times Square tower, the newspaper had an annex built at 229 West 43rd Street. [90] After several expansions, the 43rd Street building became the newspaper's main headquarters in 1960 and the Times Tower on Broadway was sold the following year. [91] It served as the newspaper's main printing plant until 1997, when the newspaper opened a state-of-the-art printing plant in the College Point section of the borough of Queens. [92]

A decade later, The New York Times moved its newsroom and businesses headquarters from West 43rd Street to a new tower at 620 Eighth Avenue between West 40th and 41st Streets, in Manhattan – directly across Eighth Avenue from the Port Authority Bus Terminal. The new headquarters for the newspaper, known officially as The New York Times Building but unofficially called the new "Times Tower" by many New Yorkers, is a skyscraper designed by Renzo Piano. [93] [94]

Gender discrimination in employment

Discriminatory practices used by the paper long restricted women in appointments to editorial positions. The newspaper's first general female reporter was Jane Grant, who described her experience afterward: "In the beginning I was charged not to reveal the fact that a female had been hired". Other reporters nicknamed her Fluff and she was subjected to considerable hazing. Because of her gender, any promotion was out of the question, according to the then-managing editor. She remained on the staff for fifteen years, interrupted by World War I. [95]

In 1935, Anne McCormick wrote to Arthur Hays Sulzberger: "I hope you won't expect me to revert to 'woman's-point-of-view' stuff." [96] Later, she interviewed major political leaders and appears to have had easier access than her colleagues. Even witnesses of her actions were unable to explain how she gained the interviews she did. [97] Clifton Daniel said, "[After World War II,] I'm sure Adenauer called her up and invited her to lunch. She never had to grovel for an appointment." [98]

Covering world leaders' speeches after World War II at the National Press Club was limited to men by a club rule. When women were eventually allowed to hear the speeches directly, they were still not allowed to ask the speakers questions. However, men were allowed and did ask, even though some of the women had won Pulitzer Prizes for prior work. [99] Times reporter Maggie Hunter refused to return to the club after covering one speech on assignment. [100] Nan Robertson's article on the Union Stock Yards, Chicago, was read aloud as anonymous by a professor, who then said: "'It will come as a surprise to you, perhaps, that the reporter is a girl, ' he began. [G]asps amazement in the ranks. 'She had used all her senses, not just her eyes, to convey the smell and feel of the stockyards. She chose a difficult subject, an offensive subject. Her imagery was strong enough to revolt you.'" [101] The New York Times hired Kathleen McLaughlin after ten years at the Chicago Tribune, where "[s]he did a series on maids, going out herself to apply for housekeeping jobs." [102]


The New York Times has had one slogan. Since 1896, the newspaper's slogan has been "All the News That's Fit to Print." In 1896, Adolph Ochs held a competition to attempt to find a replacement slogan, offering a $100 prize for the best one. Though he later announced that the original would not be changed, the prize would still be awarded. Entries included "News, Not Nausea" "In One Word: Adequate" "News Without Noise" "Out Heralds The Herald, Informs The World, and Extinguishes The Sun" "The Public Press is a Public Trust" and the winner of the competition, "All the world's news, but not a school for scandal." [103] [104] [105] [106] On May 10, 1960, Wright Patman asked the FTC to investigate whether The New York Times's slogan was misleading or false advertising. Within 10 days, the FTC responded that it was not. [107]

Again in 1996, a competition was held to find a new slogan, this time for Over 8,000 entries were submitted. Again however, "All the News That's Fit to Print," was found to be the best. [108]

News staff

In addition to its New York City headquarters, the paper has newsrooms in London and Hong Kong. [109] [110] Its Paris newsroom, which had been the headquarters of the paper's international edition, was closed in 2016, although the city remains home to a news bureau and an advertising office. [111] [112] The paper also has an editing and wire service center in Gainesville, Florida. [113]

As of 2013 [update] , the newspaper had six news bureaus in the New York region, 14 elsewhere in the United States, and 24 in other countries. [114]

In 2009, Russ Stanton, editor of the Los Angeles Times, a competitor, stated that the newsroom of The New York Times was twice the size of the Los Angeles Times, which had a newsroom of 600 at the time. [115]

To facilitate their reporting and to hasten an otherwise lengthy process of reviewing many documents during preparation for publication, their interactive news team has adapted optical character recognition technology into a proprietary tool known as Document Helper. [116] It enables the team to accelerate the processing of documents that need to be reviewed. During March 2019, they documented that this tool enabled them to process 900 documents in less than ten minutes in preparation for reporters to review the contents. [117]

The newspaper's editorial staff, including over 3,000 reporters and media staff, are unionized with NewsGuild. In 2021, the Times 's digital technology staff formed a union with NewsGuild, [118] which the company declined to voluntarily recognize. [119]

Ochs-Sulzberger family

In 1896, Adolph Ochs bought The New York Times, a money-losing newspaper, and formed the New York Times Company. The Ochs-Sulzberger family, one of the United States' newspaper dynasties, has owned The New York Times ever since. [35] The publisher went public on January 14, 1969, trading at $42 a share on the American Stock Exchange. [120] After this, the family continued to exert control through its ownership of the vast majority of Class B voting shares. Class A shareholders are permitted restrictive voting rights, while Class B shareholders are allowed open voting rights.

The Ochs-Sulzberger family trust controls roughly 88 percent of the company's class B shares. Any alteration to the dual-class structure must be ratified by six of eight directors who sit on the board of the Ochs-Sulzberger family trust. The trust board members are Daniel H. Cohen, James M. Cohen, Lynn G. Dolnick, Susan W. Dryfoos, Michael Golden, Eric M. A. Lax, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., and Cathy J. Sulzberger. [121]

Turner Catledge, the top editor at The New York Times from 1952 to 1968, wanted to hide the ownership influence. Arthur Sulzberger routinely wrote memos to his editor, each containing suggestions, instructions, complaints, and orders. When Catledge would receive these memos, he would erase the publisher's identity before passing them to his subordinates. Catledge thought that if he removed the publisher's name from the memos, it would protect reporters from feeling pressured by the owner. [122]

Public editors

The position of public editor was established in 2003 to "investigate matters of journalistic integrity" each public editor was to serve a two-year term. [123] The post "was established to receive reader complaints and question Times journalists on how they make decisions." [124] The impetus for the creation of the public editor position was the Jayson Blair affair. Public editors were: Daniel Okrent (2003–2005), Byron Calame (2005–2007), Clark Hoyt (2007–2010) (served an extra year), Arthur S. Brisbane (2010–2012), Margaret Sullivan (2012–2016) (served a four-year term), and Elizabeth Spayd (2016–2017). In 2017, the Times eliminated the position of public editor. [124] [125] Meredith Kopit Levien has been president and chief executive officer since September 2020.

Editorial stance

The New York Times editorial page is often regarded as liberal. [126] [127] [128] [129] In mid-2004, the newspaper's then public editor (ombudsman), Daniel Okrent, wrote that "the Op-Ed page editors do an evenhanded job of representing a range of views in the essays from outsiders they publish – but you need an awfully heavy counterweight to balance a page that also bears the work of seven opinionated columnists, only two of whom could be classified as conservative (and, even then, of the conservative subspecies that supports legalization of gay unions and, in the case of William Safire, opposes some central provisions of the Patriot Act)." [130]

The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican Party member for president since Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956 since 1960, it has endorsed the Democratic Party nominee in every presidential election (see New York Times presidential endorsements). [131] However, The New York Times did endorse incumbent moderate Republican mayors of New York City Rudy Giuliani in 1997, [132] and Michael Bloomberg in 2005 [133] and 2009. [134] The Times also endorsed Republican New York state governor George Pataki for re-election in 2002. [135]


Unlike most U.S. daily newspapers, the Times relies on its own in-house stylebook rather than The Associated Press Stylebook. When referring to people, The New York Times generally uses honorifics rather than unadorned last names (except in the sports pages, pop culture coverage, [136] Book Review and Magazine). [137]

The New York Times printed a display advertisement on its first page on January 6, 2009, breaking tradition at the paper. [138] The advertisement, for CBS, was in color and ran the entire width of the page. [139] The newspaper promised it would place first-page advertisements on only the lower half of the page. [138]

In August 2014, the Times decided to use the word "torture" to describe incidents in which interrogators "inflicted pain on a prisoner in an effort to get information." This was a shift from the paper's previous practice of describing such practices as "harsh" or "brutal" interrogations. [140]

The paper maintains a strict profanity policy. A 2007 review of a concert by the punk band Fucked Up, for example, completely avoided mention of the group's name. [141] However, the Times has on occasion published unfiltered video content that includes profanity and slurs where it has determined that such video has news value. [142] During the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign, the Times did print the words "fuck" and "pussy," among others, when reporting on the vulgar statements made by Donald Trump in a 2005 recording. Then-Times politics editor Carolyn Ryan said: "It's a rare thing for us to use this language in our stories, even in quotes, and we discussed it at length." Ryan said the paper ultimately decided to publish it because of its news value and because "[t]o leave it out or simply describe it seemed awkward and less than forthright to us, especially given that we would be running a video that showed our readers exactly what was said." [143]

Print newspaper

In the absence of a major headline, the day's most important story generally appears in the top-right column, on the main page. The typefaces used for the headlines are custom variations of Cheltenham. The running text is set at 8.7 point Imperial. [144] [145]

The newspaper is organized into three sections, including the magazine:

  1. News: Includes International, National, Washington, Business, Technology, Science, Health, Sports, The Metro Section, Education, Weather, and Obituaries.
  2. Opinion: Includes Editorials, Op-eds and Letters to the Editor.
  3. Features: Includes Arts, Movies, Theater, Travel, NYC Guide, Food, Home & Garden, Fashion & Style, Crossword, The New York Times Book Review, T: The New York Times Style Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and Sunday Review.

Some sections, such as Metro, are only found in the editions of the paper distributed in the New York–New Jersey–Connecticut Tri-state area and not in the national or Washington, D.C., editions. [146] Aside from a weekly roundup of reprints of editorial cartoons from other newspapers, The New York Times does not have its own staff editorial cartoonist, nor does it feature a comics page or Sunday comics section. [147]

From 1851 to 2017, The New York Times published around 60,000 print issues containing about 3.5 million pages and 15 million articles. [60]

Like most other American newspapers, [149] The New York Times has experienced a decline in circulation. Its printed weekday circulation dropped by 50 percent to 540,000 copies from 2005 to 2017. [148]

International Edition

The New York Times International Edition is a print version of the paper tailored for readers outside the United States. Formerly a joint venture with The Washington Post named The International Herald Tribune, The New York Times took full ownership of the paper in 2002 and has gradually integrated it more closely into its domestic operations.


The New York Times began publishing daily on the World Wide Web on January 22, 1996, "offering readers around the world immediate access to most of the daily newspaper's contents." [150] The website had 555 million pageviews in March 2005. [151] The domain attracted at least 146 million visitors annually by 2008 according to a study. [ citation needed ] In March 2009, The New York Times website ranked 59th by number of unique visitors, with over 20 million unique visitors, making it the most visited newspaper site with more than twice the number of unique visitors as the next most popular site. [152]

As of May 2009 [update] , produced 22 of the 50 most popular newspaper blogs. [153]

As of August 2020, the company had 6.5 million paid subscribers out of which 5.7 million were subscribed to its digital content. In the period April–June 2020, it added 669,000 new digital subscribers. [154]

Food section

The food section is supplemented on the web by properties for home cooks and for out-of-home dining. The New York Times Cooking ( also available via iOS app) provides access to more than 17,000 recipes on file as of November 2016 [update] , [155] and availability of saving recipes from other sites around the web. The newspaper's restaurant search ( allows online readers to search NYC area restaurants by cuisine, neighborhood, price, and reviewer rating. The New York Times has also published several cookbooks, including The Essential New York Times Cookbook: Classic Recipes for a New Century, published in late 2010.


In September 2005, the paper decided to begin subscription-based service for daily columns in a program known as TimesSelect, which encompassed many previously free columns. Until being discontinued two years later, TimesSelect cost $7.95 per month or $49.95 per year, [156] though it was free for print copy subscribers and university students and faculty. [157] [158] To avoid this charge, bloggers often reposted TimesSelect material, [159] and at least one site once compiled links of reprinted material. [160]

On September 17, 2007, The New York Times announced that it would stop charging for access to parts of its Web site, effective at midnight the following day, reflecting a growing view in the industry that subscription fees cannot outweigh the potential ad revenue from increased traffic on a free site. [161]

Times columnists including Nicholas Kristof and Thomas Friedman had criticized TimesSelect, [162] with Friedman going so far as to say "I hate it. It pains me enormously because it's cut me off from a lot, a lot of people, especially because I have a lot of people reading me overseas, like in India . I feel totally cut off from my audience." [163]

Paywall and digital subscriptions

In addition to opening almost the entire site to all readers, The New York Times news archives from 1987 to the present are available at no charge, as well as those from 1851 to 1922, which are in the public domain. [164] [165] Access to the Premium Crosswords section continues to require either home delivery or a subscription for $6.95 per month or $39.95 per year.

Falling print advertising revenue and projections of continued decline resulted in a "metered paywall" being instituted in 2011, regarded as modestly successful after garnering several hundred thousand subscriptions and about $100 million in revenue as of March 2012 [update] . [166] [167] As announced in March 2011, the paywall would charge frequent readers for access to its online content. [168] Readers would be able to access up to 20 articles each month without charge. (Although beginning in April 2012, the number of free-access articles was halved to just ten articles per month.) Any reader who wanted to access more would have to pay for a digital subscription. This plan would allow free access for occasional readers but produce revenue from "heavy" readers. Digital subscription rates for four weeks range from $15 to $35 depending on the package selected, with periodic new subscriber promotions offering four-week all-digital access for as low as 99¢. Subscribers to the paper's print edition get full access without any additional fee. Some content, such as the front page and section fronts remained free, as well as the Top News page on mobile apps. [169]

In January 2013, The New York Times ' Public Editor Margaret M. Sullivan announced that for the first time in many decades, the paper generated more revenue through subscriptions than through advertising. [170] In December 2017, the number of free articles per month was reduced from ten to five, as the first change to the metered paywall since 2012. [167] An executive of The New York Times Company stated that the decision was motivated by "an all-time high" in the demand for journalism. [167]

The newspaper's website was hacked on August 29, 2013, by the Syrian Electronic Army, a hacking group that supports the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The SEA managed to penetrate the paper's domain name registrar, Melbourne IT, and alter DNS records for The New York Times, putting some of its websites out of service for hours. [171]

As of December 2017 [update] , The New York Times has a total of 3.5 million paid subscriptions in both print and digital versions, and more than 130 million monthly readers, more than double its audience two years previously. [172]

In February 2018, The New York Times Company reported increased revenue from the digital-only subscriptions, adding 157,000 new subscribers to a total of 2.6 million digital-only subscribers. Digital advertising also saw growth during this period. At the same time, advertising for the print version of the journal fell. [173] [174]

Mobile presence

In 2008, The New York Times was made available as an app for the iPhone and iPod Touch [175] as well as publishing an iPad app in 2010. [176] [177] The app allowed users to download articles to their mobile device enabling them to read the paper even when they were unable to receive a signal. [178] As of October 2010 [update] , The New York Times iPad app is ad-supported and available for free without a paid subscription, but translated into a subscription-based model in 2011. [176]

In 2010, The New York Times editors collaborated with students and faculty from New York University's Studio 20 Journalism Masters program to launch and produce "The Local East Village", a hyperlocal blog designed to offer news "by, for and about the residents of the East Village". [179] That same year, reCAPTCHA helped to digitize old editions of The New York Times. [180]

In 2010, the newspaper also launched an app for Android smartphones, followed later by an app for Windows Phones. [181]

Moreover, the Times was the first newspaper to offer a video game as part of its editorial content, Food Import Folly by Persuasive Games. [182]

The Times Reader

The Times Reader is a digital version of The New York Times, created via a collaboration between the newspaper and Microsoft. Times Reader takes the principles of print journalism and applies them to the technique of online reporting, using a series of technologies developed by Microsoft and their Windows Presentation Foundation team. It was announced in Seattle in April 2006, by Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., Bill Gates, and Tom Bodkin. [183]

In 2009, the Times Reader 2.0 was rewritten in Adobe AIR. [184] In December 2013, the newspaper announced that the Times Reader app would be discontinued as of January 6, 2014, urging readers of the app to instead begin using the subscription-only Today's Paper app. [185]


The New York Times began producing podcasts in 2006. Among the early podcasts were Inside The Times and Inside The New York Times Book Review. However, several of the Times' podcasts were cancelled in 2012. [186] [187]

The Times returned to launching new podcasts in 2016, including Modern Love with WBUR. [188] On January 30, 2017, The New York Times launched a news podcast, The Daily. [189] [190] In October 2018, NYT debuted The Argument with opinion columnists Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt. It is a weekly discussion about a single issue explained from the left, center, and right of the political spectrum. [191]

Non-English versions

The New York Times en Español (Spanish-language)

Between February 2016 and September 2019, The New York Times launched a standalone Spanish language edition, The New York Times en Español. The Spanish-language version featured increased coverage of news and events in Latin America and Spain. The expansion into Spanish language news content allowed the newspaper to expand its audience into the Spanish speaking world and increase its revenue. The Spanish-language version was seen as a way to compete with the established El País newspaper of Spain, which bills itself the "global newspaper in Spanish." [192] Its Spanish version has a team of journalists in Mexico City as well as correspondents in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Miami, and Madrid, Spain. [193] [194] It was discontinued in September 2019, citing lack of financial success as the reason. [195]


In June 2012, The New York Times introduced its first official foreign-language variant,, a Chinese-language news site viewable in both traditional and simplified Chinese characters. The project was led by Craig S. Smith on the business side and Philip P. Pan on the editorial side, [196] with content created by staff based in Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong, though the server was placed outside of China to avoid censorship issues. [197]

The site's initial success was interrupted in October that year following the publication of an investigative article [b] by David Barboza about the finances of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's family. [198] In retaliation for the article, the Chinese government blocked access to both and inside the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Despite Chinese government interference, the Chinese-language operations have continued to develop, adding a second site,, iOS and Android apps, and newsletters, all of which are accessible inside the PRC. The China operations also produce three print publications in Chinese. Traffic to, meanwhile, has risen due to the widespread use of VPN technology in the PRC and to a growing Chinese audience outside mainland China. [199] The New York Times articles are also available to users in China via the use of mirror websites, apps, domestic newspapers, and social media. [199] [200] The Chinese platforms now represent one of The New York Times ' top five digital markets globally. The editor-in-chief of the Chinese platforms is Ching-Ching Ni. [201]

In March 2013, The New York Times and National Film Board of Canada announced a partnership titled A Short History of the Highrise, which will create four short documentaries for the Internet about life in high rise buildings as part of the NFB's Highrise project, utilizing images from the newspaper's photo archives for the first three films, and user-submitted images for the final film. [202] The third project in the Short History of the Highrise series won a Peabody Award in 2013. [203]


The TimesMachine is a web-based archive of scanned issues of The New York Times from 1851 through 2002. [204]

Unlike The New York Times online archive, the TimesMachine presents scanned images of the actual newspaper. [205] All non-advertising content can be displayed on a per-story basis in a separate PDF display page and saved for future reference. [206] The archive is available to The New York Times subscribers, home delivery and/or digital. [204]

Because of holidays, no editions were printed on November 23, 1851 January 2, 1852 July 4, 1852 January 2, 1853 and January 1, 1854. [207]

Because of strikes, the regular edition of The New York Times was not printed during the following periods: [208]

  • September 19, 1923, to September 26, 1923. An unauthorized local union strike prevented the publication of several New York papers, among them The New York Times. During this period “The Combined New York Morning Newspapers,” were published with summary of the news. [209]
  • December 12, 1962, to March 31, 1963. Only a western edition was printed because of the 1962–63 New York City newspaper strike. [209]
  • September 17, 1965, to October 10, 1965. An international edition was printed, and a weekend edition replaced the Saturday and Sunday papers.
  • August 10, 1978, to November 5, 1978. A multi-union strike shut down the three major New York City newspapers. No editions of The New York Times were printed. [207] Two months into the strike, a parody of The New York Times called Not The New York Times was distributed in the city, with contributors such as Carl Bernstein, Christopher Cerf, Tony Hendra and George Plimpton. [210][211]

Failure to report Ukraine famine

The New York Times was criticized for the work of reporter Walter Duranty, who served as its Moscow bureau chief from 1922 through 1936. Duranty wrote a series of stories in 1931 on the Soviet Union and won a Pulitzer Prize for his work at that time however, he has been criticized for his denial of widespread famine, most particularly the Ukrainian famine in the 1930s. [212] [213] [214]

In 2003, after the Pulitzer Board began a renewed inquiry, the Times hired Mark von Hagen, professor of Russian history at Columbia University, to review Duranty's work. Von Hagen found Duranty's reports to be unbalanced and uncritical, and that they far too often gave voice to Stalinist propaganda. In comments to the press he stated, "For the sake of The New York Times' honor, they should take the prize away." [215]

World War II

On November 14, 2001, in The New York Times ' 150th-anniversary issue, in an article entitled "Turning Away From the Holocaust," former executive editor Max Frankel wrote:

And then there was failure: none greater than the staggering, staining failure of The New York Times to depict Hitler's methodical extermination of the Jews of Europe as a horror beyond all other horrors in World War II – a Nazi war within the war crying out for illumination. [216]

According to Frankel, harsh judges of The New York Times "have blamed 'self-hating Jews' and 'anti-Zionists' among the paper's owners and staff." Frankel responded to this criticism by describing the fragile sensibilities of the Jewish owners of The New York Times:

Then, too, papers owned by Jewish families, like The Times, were plainly afraid to have a society that was still widely anti-Semitic misread their passionate opposition to Hitler as a merely parochial cause. Even some leading Jewish groups hedged their appeals for rescue lest they be accused of wanting to divert wartime energies. At The Times, the reluctance to highlight the systematic slaughter of Jews was also undoubtedly influenced by the views of the publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger. He believed strongly and publicly that Judaism was a religion, not a race or nationality – that Jews should be separate only in the way they worshiped. He thought they needed no state or political and social institutions of their own. He went to great lengths to avoid having The Times branded a Jewish newspaper. He resented other publications for emphasizing the Jewishness of people in the news. [216]

In the same article, Frankel quotes Laurel Leff, associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University, who concluded that the newspaper had downplayed Nazi Germany's targeting of Jews for genocide. Her 2005 book Buried by the Times documents the paper's tendency before, during and after World War II to place deep inside its daily editions the news stories about the ongoing persecution and extermination of Jews, while obscuring in those stories the special impact of the Nazis' crimes on Jews in particular. Leff attributes this dearth in part to the complex personal and political views of the newspaper's Jewish publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, concerning Jewishness, antisemitism, and Zionism. [217]

Jerold Auerbach, a Guggenheim Fellow and Fulbright Lecturer, wrote in Print to Fit, The New York Times, Zionism and Israel, 1896-2016 [218] that it was of utmost importance to Adolph Ochs, the first Jewish owner of the paper, that in spite of the persecution of Jews in Germany, The Times, through its reporting, should never be classified as a "Jewish newspaper". [219]

After Ochs' death in 1935, his son-in-law Arthur Hays Sulzberger became the publisher of The New York Times and maintained the understanding that no reporting should reflect on The Times as a Jewish newspaper. Sulzburger shared Ochs' concerns about the way Jews were perceived in American society. His apprehensions about judgement were manifested positively by his strong fidelity to the United States. At the same time, within the pages of The New York Times, Sulzburger refused to bring attention to Jews, including the refusal to identify Jews as major victims of the Nazi genocide. To be sure, many reports of Nazi-authored slaughter identified Jewish victims as "persons." The Times even opposed the rescue of Jewish refugees and backed American constraint. [220]

During the war, The New York Times journalist William L. Laurence was "on the payroll of the War Department". [221] [222]

Accusations of liberal bias

In mid-2004, the newspaper's then-public editor Daniel Okrent, wrote an opinion piece in which he said that The New York Times did have a liberal bias in news coverage of certain social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage. [130] He stated that this bias reflected the paper's cosmopolitanism, which arose naturally from its roots as a hometown paper of New York City, writing that the coverage of the Times ' s Arts & Leisure Culture and the Sunday Times Magazine trend to the left. [130]

If you're examining the paper's coverage of these subjects from a perspective that is neither urban nor Northeastern nor culturally seen-it-all if you are among the groups The Times treats as strange objects to be examined on a laboratory slide (devout Catholics, gun owners, Orthodox Jews, Texans) if your value system wouldn't wear well on a composite New York Times journalist, then a walk through this paper can make you feel you're traveling in a strange and forbidding world.

Times public editor Arthur Brisbane wrote in 2012: [223]

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper's many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.

The New York Times public editor (ombudsman) Elizabeth Spayd wrote in 2016 that "Conservatives and even many moderates, see in The Times a blue-state worldview" and accuse it of harboring a liberal bias. Spayd did not analyze the substance of the claim but did opine that the Times is "part of a fracturing media environment that reflects a fractured country. That in turn leads liberals and conservatives toward separate news sources." [224] Times executive editor Dean Baquet stated that he does not believe coverage has a liberal bias, however: [224]

We have to be really careful that people feel like they can see themselves in The New York Times. I want us to be perceived as fair and honest to the world, not just a segment of it. It's a really difficult goal. Do we pull it off all the time? No.

Jayson Blair plagiarism (2003)

In May 2003, The New York Times reporter Jayson Blair was forced to resign from the newspaper after he was caught plagiarizing and fabricating elements of his stories. Some critics contended that African-American Blair's race was a major factor in his hiring and in The New York Times ' initial reluctance to fire him. [225]

Iraq War (2003–06)

The Times supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. [226] On May 26, 2004, more than a year after the war started, the newspaper asserted that some of its articles had not been as rigorous as they should have been, and were insufficiently qualified, frequently overly dependent upon information from Iraqi exiles desiring regime change. [227]

The New York Times was involved in a significant controversy regarding the allegations surrounding Iraq and weapons of mass destruction in September 2002. [228] A front-page story was authored by Judith Miller which claimed that the Iraqi government was in the process of developing nuclear weapons was published. [229] Miller's story was cited by officials such as Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, and Donald Rumsfeld as part of a campaign to commission the Iraq War. [230] One of Miller's prime sources was Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi expatriate who returned to Iraq after the U.S. invasion and held a number of governmental positions culminating in acting oil minister and deputy prime minister from May 2005 until May 2006. [231] [232] [233] [234] In 2005, negotiating a private severance package with Sulzberger, Miller retired after criticisms that her reporting of the lead-up to the Iraq War was factually inaccurate and overly favorable to the position of the Bush administration, for which The New York Times later apologized. [235] [236]

Israeli–Palestinian conflict

A 2003 study in the Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics concluded that The New York Times reporting was more favorable to Israelis than to Palestinians. [237] A 2002 study published in the journal Journalism examined Middle East coverage of the Second Intifada over a one-month period in the Times, Washington Post and Chicago Tribune. The study authors said that the Times was "the most slanted in a pro-Israeli direction" with a bias "reflected. in its use of headlines, photographs, graphics, sourcing practices, and lead paragraphs." [238]

For its coverage of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, some (such as Ed Koch) have claimed that the paper is pro-Palestinian, while others (such as As'ad AbuKhalil) have insisted that it is pro-Israel. [239] [240] The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, by political science professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, alleges that The New York Times sometimes criticizes Israeli policies but is not even-handed and is generally pro-Israel. [241] On the other hand, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has criticized The New York Times for printing cartoons regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that were claimed to be anti-Semitic. [242]

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal to write an article for the paper on grounds of lack of objectivity. A piece in which Thomas Friedman commented that praise awarded to Netanyahu during a speech at congress was "paid for by the Israel lobby" elicited an apology and clarification from its writer. [243]

The New York Times ' public editor Clark Hoyt concluded in his January 10, 2009, column: [244]

Though the most vociferous supporters of Israel and the Palestinians do not agree, I think The New York Times, largely barred from the battlefield and reporting amid the chaos of war, has tried its best to do a fair, balanced and complete job — and has largely succeeded.

The Times has developed a national and international "reputation for thoroughness" over time. [245] Among journalists, the paper is held in high regard a 1999 survey of newspaper editors conducted by the Columbia Journalism Review found that the Times was the "best" American paper, ahead of The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times. [246] [247] The Times also was ranked # 1 in a 2011 "quality" ranking of U.S. newspapers by Daniel de Vise of The Washington Post the objective ranking took into account the number of recent Pulitzer Prizes won, circulation, and perceived Web site quality. [247] A 2012 report in WNYC called the Times "the most respected newspaper in the world." [248] Noam Chomsky, co-author of Manufacturing Consent, said that The New York Times was the first thing he looked at in the morning: "Despite all its flaws—and they're real—it still has the broadest, the most comprehensive coverage of I think any newspaper in the world." [249]

Nevertheless, like many other U.S. media sources, the Times had suffered from a decline in public perceptions of credibility in the U.S. in the early 21st century. [250] A Pew Research Center survey in 2012 asked respondents about their views on credibility of various news organizations. Among respondents who gave a rating, 49% said that they believed "all or most" of the Times ' s reporting, while 50% disagreed. A large percentage (19%) of respondents were unable to rate believability. The Times ' s score was comparable to that of USA Today. [250] Media analyst Brooke Gladstone of WNYC's On the Media, writing for The New York Times, says that the decline in U.S. public trust of the mass media can be explained (1) by the rise of the polarized Internet-driven news (2) by a decline in trust in U.S. institutions more generally and (3) by the fact that "Americans say they want accuracy and impartiality, but the polls suggest that, actually, most of us are seeking affirmation." [251]


The New York Times has won 130 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The prize is awarded for excellence in journalism in a range of categories. [252]

It has also, as of 2014 [update] , won three Peabody Awards and jointly received two. [253] Peabody Awards are given for accomplishments in television, radio, and online media.

The Pentagon Papers rewrote history. Linda Amster waited decades to receive acclaim for her role.

Amster was the only researcher on The New York Times Pentagon Papers project. But when the report ran, the editors left her name off.

Jim Greenfield, then the foreign news editor of The New York Times, said those words to a young researcher, Linda Amster, in March 1971, escorting her through what she described as a “huge, smoke-filled newsroom.” Outside, they met with an assistant managing editor and took a cab to the Hilton hotel in Manhattan, where Greenfield introduced Amster to a top-secret project: the Pentagon Papers.

“It was as cloak-and-dagger as you can imagine,” Amster said.

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Amster remembers that Greenfield explained the papers were “top secret,” that they “could be raided” and “could all be imprisoned,” but that the plan was to publish them. She remembered him saying that he understood if she preferred not to work on the project.

“Show me the papers,” Amster responded.

Amster said she brought up this conversation with Greenfield when the Times published the first excerpt of the Pentagon Papers in June 1971. She had worked seven days a week for months alongside the reporters, but didn’t receive credit when the report came out.

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“I asked him why my name wasn’t included, and he said, ‘Well, we knew that we all might have to go to prison, and you are a woman, and we don’t want you to have to go to prison,'” Amster recalled.

Amster retired from The Times as director of the newsroom research desk in 2005.” Fifty years later, The New York Times dedicated a special report to Amster as the only researcher on the Pentagon Papers, which, for the duration of the project, “took over her life.”

For months, Amster couldn’t tell anyone, including her husband and colleagues, about her work on the secret project. Her job included looking into whether anything in the 7,000 pages of classified documents had been published previously to determine whether they had exclusive information. To evaluate whether the Times had previously published anything, she went into “the morgue,” where newspaper clips lived, and secretly checked things out without leaving a trail, supplementing that with periodicals she accessed at Columbia University’s library. She also verified the reporters’ narrative sections.

“No one ever found anything that needed to be corrected, no errors,” Amster said. “Everything that ran was accurate, and that was because the Times realized this was a dynamite investigation and it needed to be accurate, which is why they put a researcher on it.”

Barbara Gray — City University of New York (CUNY) journalism school’s chief librarian and former New York Times director of news research, who worked with Amster — explained that though reporters and editors have research skills, a researcher’s unique specialization allows for more intensive investigative work when “the stakes are really high.” Many newsroom researchers have library and database training, and fact-checkers are sometimes included in the research division. She also noted the value of having more eyes on a story to catch potential mistakes, emphasizing the significance of “support roles,” like research, fact-checking, and copyediting.

“You don’t always get a credit on a story even though sometimes your reporting or research has contributed integrally to the story,” Gray said. She went on to say as the years have passed, “I think that I’ve seen many more researchers being credited for sure, and I think that that’s an excellent thing.”

Amster explained that when she started at The New York Times in 1967, their then-new research division was entirely women, who were most likely to have library experience. Women who had attended college had one of four degrees at the time, she said: “teaching, librarianship, social work or nursing” — fields that have a history of being undervalued in both recognition and payment. (In fact, she said, there was no man in the research department at The Times until she hired Jack Begg almost 25 years ago.)

“It has been apparent for a long while, nearly the breadth of my own career, that researchers are critical partners in the newsroom, yet for years received no public recognition, a credit, for the effort,” said Lynn Dombeck, ProPublica’s research editor. “It seems to be a reflection of society at large and the general power structures in play.”

And that structural discrimination translates into fewer dollars for people in the field. A 2016 study in the peer-reviewed journal Work, Employment and Society found “that occupational sex segregation is important for understanding the gender wage gap, since occupations dominated by women pay less.” Studies have also shown that payment amount drops in male-dominated professions when women join.

“You know I was very much a product of my time,” Amster said about researchers asking for story credit. “I think I would express once in a while, ‘Oh, it’s too bad,’ because you know you work very hard on it, but I never made an issue of it.”

In spring 2019, The Intercept, an online news publication, cut 4 percent of its workforce, eliminating many research positions. Laura Poitras, who helped start The Intercept’s parent company First Look Media, said in an email to staff that she was “sickened” by the decision “to eliminate the research team, which has been the beating heart of the newsroom.”

Gray explained that when a newsroom downsizes, the research positions are often some of the first to go, a reality she hopes will change. At CUNY, she stresses to students that the ability to thoroughly research a story is crucial for everyone who gathers and publishes the news. She explains that research and fact-checking are their own careers — a specialized field and not just an entry into reporting — and essential to every area of journalism, a point that is becoming increasingly popular in journalism education.

This is not something that was acknowledged openly for a long time. Amster worked at The New York Times from 1967 until she retired in 2005. She said that she asked to be a reporter later on in her career but was kindly turned down, the explanation being that she was too valuable as a research supervisor. Reflecting on almost 40 years of experience in the news, Amster said that she realized she “was already reporting” as a researcher, noting her work on the Watergate chronology in 1973 and her investigative research on a story about President John F. Kennedy’s doctor, who prescribed amphetamines for other famous patients, in 1972.

Ultimately, Amster said, “my contribution was significant.” As The Times eventually recognized through the length of her career — and afterward — “I made my mark in the newsroom.”

The Secrets and Lies of the Vietnam War, Exposed in One Epic Document

With the Pentagon Papers revelations, the U.S. public’s trust in the government was forever diminished.

This article is part of a special report on the 50th anniversary of the Pentagon Papers.

Brandishing a captured Chinese machine gun, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara appeared at a televised news conference in the spring of 1965. The United States had just sent its first combat troops to South Vietnam, and the new push, he boasted, was further wearing down the beleaguered Vietcong.

“In the past four and one-half years, the Vietcong, the Communists, have lost 89,000 men,” he said. “You can see the heavy drain.”

That was a lie. From confidential reports, McNamara knew the situation was “bad and deteriorating” in the South. “The VC have the initiative,” the information said. “Defeatism is gaining among the rural population, somewhat in the cities, and even among the soldiers.”

Lies like McNamara’s were the rule, not the exception, throughout America’s involvement in Vietnam. The lies were repeated to the public, to Congress, in closed-door hearings, in speeches and to the press. The real story might have remained unknown if, in 1967, McNamara had not commissioned a secret history based on classified documents — which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers.

By then, he knew that even with nearly 500,000 U.S. troops in theater, the war was at a stalemate. He created a research team to assemble and analyze Defense Department decision-making dating back to 1945. This was either quixotic or arrogant. As secretary of defense under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, McNamara was an architect of the war and implicated in the lies that were the bedrock of U.S. policy.

Daniel Ellsberg, an analyst on the study, eventually leaked portions of the report to The New York Times, which published excerpts in 1971. The revelations in the Pentagon Papers infuriated a country sick of the war, the body bags of young Americans, the photographs of Vietnamese civilians fleeing U.S. air attacks and the endless protests and counterprotests that were dividing the country as nothing had since the Civil War.

The lies revealed in the papers were of a generational scale, and, for much of the American public, this grand deception seeded a suspicion of government that is even more widespread today.

Officially titled “Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force,” the papers filled 47 volumes, covering the administrations of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to President Lyndon B. Johnson. Their 7,000 pages chronicled, in cold, bureaucratic language, how the United States got itself mired in a long, costly war in a small Southeast Asian country of questionable strategic importance.

They are an essential record of the first war the United States lost. For modern historians, they foreshadow the mind-set and miscalculations that led the United States to fight the “forever wars” of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The original sin was the decision to support the French rulers in Vietnam. President Harry S. Truman subsidized their effort to take back their Indochina colonies. The Vietnamese nationalists were winning their fight for independence under the leadership of Ho Chi Minh, a Communist. Ho had worked with the United States against Japan in World War II, but, in the Cold War, Washington recast him as the stalking horse for Soviet expansionism.

American intelligence officers in the field said that was not the case, that they had found no evidence of a Soviet plot to take over Vietnam, much less Southeast Asia. As one State Department memo put it, “If there is a Moscow-directed conspiracy in Southeast Asia, Indochina is an anomaly.”

But with an eye on China, where the Communist Mao Zedong had won the civil war, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said defeating Vietnam’s Communists was essential “to block further Communist expansion in Asia.” If Vietnam became Communist, then the countries of Southeast Asia would fall like dominoes.

This belief in this domino theory was so strong that the United States broke with its European allies and refused to sign the 1954 Geneva Accords ending the French war. Instead, the United States continued the fight, giving full backing to Ngo Dinh Diem, the autocratic, anti-Communist leader of South Vietnam. Gen. J. Lawton Collins wrote from Vietnam, warning Eisenhower that Diem was an unpopular and incapable leader and should be replaced. If he was not, Gen. Collins wrote, “I recommend re-evaluation of our plans for assisting Southeast Asia.”

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A few years ago, it was quite fashionable to draw a parallel to the Vietnam war when discussing the United States involvement in Iraq. Superficially, there are similarities - a military campaign across a small Asian country hostile to the West, undefined objectives, an astounding financial burden of no clear benefit, administration by civilian leaders and provocation by public deception. In general, they're both big, unpleasant messes, but while the latter is quite clearly about satisfying a personal vendetta while pillaging natural resources, the motivations behind the former are commonly understood to be about stopping the spread of communism. To speak intelligently on the resemblance between these two American adventures one needs to be informed on both, and what better place to learn about Vietnam than the official, uncensored record of the primary belligerent?

Most of the time, this reads like the government document it was based on, but the political intrigue and clandestine machinations are enough to sustain interest through the drier parts. The first third describing the early special forces black operations and successive coups in South Vietnam plays out like a spy novel, only more exciting for history nerds because it really happened. But this is a history lesson of much greater value than simply United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967.

It is quite unfortunate that a document of such considerable historical and legal significance has been forgotten or ignored - it's referenced constantly when the topic of Wikileaks comes up. Questionable indeed is recognition of what the Pentagon Papers actually represent. So I'll summarize:

1) The US government lies. It lies to its people and it lies to the world. Therefore, the validity of its word should be in question.

2) The US government has ulterior motives. If the public record states a benevolent motive, look extra close. It's more likely about money, or pride.

The United States government is run by people, and our leaders are not perfect. They suffer the same human flaws we all do, but with catastrophic potential if not checked. The public has an obligation to keep the government in line, and the press has an obligation to provide us the information we need to do so. At least that's what the Supreme Court, the NY Times, the Washington Post, and the public itself used to think.

When the Pentagon Papers was originally published in 1971, there was genuine public outrage, when that word meant something. People went out in the streets, organized mass protests America let the government know that this crap was unacceptable.

Today, the media use the word outrage to describe the inconvenience of not being able to play video games online for a couple days. Considering the ingrained public indifference, it's only predictable that the US went and got itself in another Asian conflict, using the exact same playbook.

A few years ago, it was quite fashionable to draw a parallel to the Vietnam war when discussing the United States involvement in Iraq. Superficially, there are similarities - a military campaign across a small Asian country hostile to the West, undefined objectives, an astounding financial burden of no clear benefit, administration by civilian leaders and provocation by public deception. In general, they're both big, unpleasant messes, but while the latter is quite clearly about satisfying a personal vendetta while pillaging natural resources, the motivations behind the former are commonly understood to be about stopping the spread of communism. To speak intelligently on the resemblance between these two American adventures one needs to be informed on both, and what better place to learn about Vietnam than the official, uncensored record of the primary belligerent?

Most of the time, this reads like the government document it was based on, but the political intrigue and clandestine machinations are enough to sustain interest through the drier parts. The first third describing the early special forces black operations and successive coups in South Vietnam plays out like a spy novel, only more exciting for history nerds because it really happened. But this is a history lesson of much greater value than simply United States-Vietnam Relations, 1945-1967.

It is quite unfortunate that a document of such considerable historical and legal significance has been forgotten or ignored - it's referenced constantly when the topic of Wikileaks comes up. Questionable indeed is recognition of what the Pentagon Papers actually represent. So I'll summarize:

1) The US government lies. It lies to its people and it lies to the world. Therefore, the validity of its word should be in question.

2) The US government has ulterior motives. If the public record states a benevolent motive, look extra close. It's more likely about money, or pride.

The United States government is run by people, and our leaders are not perfect. They suffer the same human flaws we all do, but with catastrophic potential if not checked. The public has an obligation to keep the government in line, and the press has an obligation to provide us the information we need to do so. At least that's what the Supreme Court, the NY Times, the Washington Post, and the public itself used to think.

When the Pentagon Papers was originally published in 1971, there was genuine public outrage, when that word meant something. People went out in the streets, organized mass protests America let the government know that this crap was unacceptable.

Today, the media use the word outrage to describe the inconvenience of not being able to play video games online for a couple days. Considering the ingrained public indifference, it's only predictable that the US went and got itself in another Asian conflict, using the exact same playbook.

Pentagon Papers

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Pentagon Papers, papers that contain a history of the U.S. role in Indochina from World War II until May 1968 and that were commissioned in 1967 by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. They were turned over (without authorization) to The New York Times by Daniel Ellsberg, a senior research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for International Studies.

The 47-volume history, consisting of approximately 3,000 pages of narrative and 4,000 pages of appended documents, took 18 months to complete. Ellsberg, who worked on the project, had been an ardent early supporter of the U.S. role in Indochina but, by the project’s end, had become seriously opposed to U.S. involvement. He felt compelled to reveal the nature of U.S. participation and leaked major portions of the papers to the press.

On June 13, 1971, The New York Times began publishing a series of articles based on the study, which was classified as “top secret” by the federal government. After the third daily installment appeared in the Times, the U.S. Department of Justice obtained in U.S. District Court a temporary restraining order against further publication of the classified material, contending that further public dissemination of the material would cause “immediate and irreparable harm” to U.S. national defense interests.

The Times—joined by The Washington Post, which also was in possession of the documents—fought the order through the courts for the next 15 days, during which time publication of the series was suspended. On June 30, 1971, in what is regarded as one of the most significant prior-restraint cases in history, the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6–3 decision freed the newspapers to resume publishing the material. The court held that the government had failed to justify restraint of publication.

The Pentagon Papers revealed that the Harry S. Truman administration gave military aid to France in its colonial war against the communist-led Viet Minh, thus directly involving the United States in Vietnam that in 1954 Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam and to undermine the new communist regime of North Vietnam that Pres. John F. Kennedy transformed the policy of “limited-risk gamble” that he had inherited into a policy of “broad commitment” that Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson intensified covert warfare against North Vietnam and began planning to wage overt war in 1964, a full year before the depth of U.S. involvement was publicly revealed and that Johnson ordered the bombing of North Vietnam in 1965 despite the judgment of the U.S. intelligence community that it would not cause the North Vietnamese to cease their support of the Viet Cong insurgency in South Vietnam.

The release of the Pentagon Papers stirred nationwide and, indeed, international controversy because it occurred after several years of growing dissent over the legal and moral justification of intensifying U.S. actions in Vietnam. The disclosures and their continued publication despite top-secret classification were embarrassing to the administration of Pres. Richard M. Nixon, who was preparing to seek reelection in 1972. So distressing were these revelations that Nixon authorized unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg, including burglarizing the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist in an attempt to unearth embarrassing information. Those efforts came to light during the investigation of the Watergate scandal.

The papers were subsequently published in book form as The Pentagon Papers (1971). However, the leaked documents were incomplete, and certain portions remained classified until 2011, when the full study was released to the public.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Jeff Wallenfeldt, Manager, Geography and History.

‘We’re going to publish’: an oral history of the Pentagon Papers

Linda Amster, centre, with, from left, E.W. Kenworthy, known as Ned Fox Butterfield and Hedrick Smith, known as Rick, in a conference room at the New York Times building in Manhattan in June 1971. She was one of very few women who worked in the Times newsroom in 1971. (Renato Perez/The New York Times)

An undated handout photo shows Daniel Ellsberg circa 1968. He spent considerable time in Vietnam and came to oppose the war deeply. (Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg via The New York Times

Daniel Ellsberg and Patricia Marx, his wife, centre, at the Watergate hearings in Washington in 1973. Nine months before the Watergate break-in, the so-called plumbers had ransacked the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, in search of incriminating files. (Mike Lien/The New York Times)

On Oct. 1, 1969, Daniel Ellsberg walked out of the RAND Corp. offices, where he worked as a Defense Department consultant, into the temperate evening air of Santa Monica, California. In his briefcase was part of a classified government study that chronicled 22 years of failed United States involvement in Vietnam. By then, the war had killed about 45,000 Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. Ellsberg had been posted in Vietnam, and even worked on the study he now carried. Having become convinced that the war was not only unwinnable but also a crime, he was now determined to stop it. Over the course of the next eight months, he spent many nights photocopying the rest of the study in secret.

He quit RAND, moved east for a fellowship at MIT and for the next year tried to persuade members of Congress to help him expose the study — later known as the Pentagon Papers — to the world. It was not working. On the night of March 2, 1971, he was in Washington, D.C., and looked up Neil Sheehan, a New York Times reporter he had first met in Vietnam. The two started discussing the vast dossier.

The Xerox Operation

Daniel Ellsberg: I had actually given a talk at the National War College of all places. I did call Sheehan and asked if he had a bed for the night. He said he did, in the basement. His wife was actually away for the weekend or something. And so I went over there.

Neil Sheehan: When he walks in the door, I gave him a cup of coffee, and we started talking.

Ellsberg: I always thought what you need are hearings. Get these people under oath. They have to answer in some way or other. A newspaper can’t subpoena people. Neil said, “No, no, the best way is a big spread in The New York Times.” And I thought, well, he could be right.

Sheehan: So Ellsberg and I made this agreement: If I could get the Times to agree to publish the whole thing, they’d do their best to protect him. He’d give us the whole thing. He wouldn’t be publicly announced as a source.

Max Frankel: I was the Washington bureau chief, and Neil was the Pentagon correspondent. He briefs me on it and I say, “Can you get a sample of the papers?” So he goes off and he brings back an envelope with a sample of the narrative, but attached to it were some obviously top-secret documents of exchanges between the Pentagon and Saigon headquarters — government decision-making types of documents. I had no doubt that they were legitimate I’d seen enough government documents in my life. So I said, “Go to it, and see what you can get.”

Sheehan: So I went up to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to get a copy of the papers Xeroxed. And ho-ly Jee-sus Christ, I realized there’s no way you could protect Dan Ellsberg. He was having multiple copies made, and he was paying for them with personal checks, and he had them in his apartment. He had a guy making microfilms.

He said I could read it, but he’d changed his mind: He wasn’t going to let me copy a set for the Times.

Ellsberg: I don’t think Neil realized — and I took it for granted — there was no question the FBI already knew who the source of this would be. There was no question of keeping that secret. I already expected to go to prison either way.

An undated handout photo shows Daniel Ellsberg circa 1968. He spent considerable time in Vietnam and came to oppose the war deeply. (Daniel and Patricia Ellsberg via The New York Times

Frankel: One night, I get this call from the national editor of the Times and he says, “What the hell is going on up in New England?” I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “I’ve got this request that Sheehan wants $600,” which in those days was a lot of money. I said: “Oh, I think I know what it is, but I can’t tell you, certainly not on an open phone. And in any case, don’t worry about it. It’s a foreign desk matter.” This is the Xerox operation. Neil had to seize this opportunity not just to read them — which is what Ellsberg thought he was giving him — but to copy the whole thing.

Sheehan: The first place, their machines broke down. So [my wife, Susan, and I] found another guy — an ex-Navy man who was running a Xerox shop. He knew enough these were really high classifications. So he got scared. So I said: “I understand you’re nervous about this. There’s nothing to be nervous about. This is a study that’s being done at Harvard, by a bunch of professors. And they’ve lent us these materials and they’ve put a time limit on how long we can have them out. I’ve got to get them back to them right away. As you can see the dates on this stuff, it’s pretty old. This is 1971 and that’s a ’66 document, or ’67 or ’68. There’s nothing to be afraid of. This stuff has all been declassified in bulk.” So he accepted that. He later on told the FBI about the whole thing.

Frankel: Abe Rosenthal, who was the managing editor, and Jim Greenfield, the foreign editor, they said, “Look, let’s move this to New York and we can get more people to work on it and get a better handle on it.”

Sheehan: I told Abe: “I will not tell you who the sources are. You will not get the names of the sources from me.” He said, “We don’t want ’em.” The only question Abe asked me was: “How do you know this stuff is authentic? How do you know it wasn’t put together by a bunch of hippie kids in a cellar somewhere, out in California?” I told him, “I know the sources and I know the material and it’s genuine.” He didn’t take my word entirely for it. He told Jimmy Greenfield to go through this stuff and see if it’s authentic.

James Greenfield: I was the foreign editor at the time, and Abe chose me to lead the project. His instructions were very simple: Get a grip on all this and see how much we can get in the paper. I began by getting the material delivered to my apartment in New York. I had called Mosler [Safe Company] for a big safe, but when it came it occupied the entire entryway, so that wasn’t going to work. The material had come in several mailbags, so my wife and I sat on them to crush them, and then we pushed them underneath our bed. It wasn’t very secure. Then, eventually, when we rented the space in the Hilton Hotel, we got two or three suitcases and had a kind of a shuttle from our apartment, and we got all 7,000 pieces of paper there.

Room Service

Allan Siegal: I do remember that I suggested the Hilton because we had worked on some things there previously and I had the distinct impression you could walk through the lobby leading a camel on a tether and nobody would take notice, it was so big and impersonal.

Sheehan: They brought safes in. Abe set up a rule that you could not leave a room without somebody staying in the room, 24 hours a day — either sleeping in the room or sitting in the room working.

Greenfield: Abe and I sat down and said, “How do we want to approach all this?” We decided the first thing to do was to make sure they were real. More than 20 books had been written by participants in the government over this period or about this period, so we took 3-by-5 cards and notated instances of internal discussions that were revealed in their books. We also took several small stories from within the documents and checked them out to see if they were true. We found no instances of contradictions. And also, I had been in government for part of that time, and many of the documents had my signature on them!

The stories were long, complicated and hard to write. Not easy. And I had to approach Neil — these were his papers, this was his story — and say, “Neil, we have to have several writers, not just you,” and that pretty well crushed him. But there was no way one man could write this series.

Sheehan: Initially, Abe wanted me to get full credit for the whole thing. He wanted me to write the whole thing. I couldn’t handle it. It was too much.

Greenfield: I wanted to work with people I knew and trusted. Jerry Gold and Al Siegal were deputies on the foreign desk, and they were both really superb editors, so they were my natural choices. Fox Butterfield had been a stringer whom we hired when he was living in Taipei. And then it was Rick Smith and Ned Kenworthy. They all had experience reporting on the war, on Vietnam.

Fox Butterfield: My phone rings and it’s Abe Rosenthal’s secretary, and she says, “Fox, Abe wants to see you in his office right away. Can you get here in an hour?” He called me into his office, closed the door, and he said, “Fox, do you have any objection to working with classified government documents?” Finally, I said, “Well, Mr. Rosenthal, I guess if you don’t have any objection to working with those classified government documents then I don’t.” He said: “That’s a good answer, Fox. I’d like you to go over to the New York Hilton Hotel right now. Neil Sheehan has gotten a hold of this big secret inside history of how we got into Vietnam.”

Hedrick Smith: We started working on it. And I mean, it was just mind-blowing. I mean, Neil is going crazy: “Look at this, here’s this message from Saigon military command to the White House. Was it true? Was the United States administration really involved, and behind the coup that overthrew [the South Vietnamese president] Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963?” Yeah, it was. There were one after another sort of startling disclosures. But in all honesty, initially it was just overwhelming: There was so much material. I mean this was, in journalistic terms, a nuclear weapon. It was way beyond a bombshell, because of the documents that backed up the narrative.

Robert Rosenthal: I was 22 years old and had started at the Times in September 1970, my first job out of college. In early ’71, around the beginning of March, people started disappearing from the newsroom, and no one knew what was happening. One night I was at a friend’s house on Long Island. We’d actually been in the attic doing our illicit smoking of pot. And my friend’s mother calls me and says, “Robert, there’s a phone call for you.” I go downstairs, and it was Jerry Gold. And I said, “How’d you find me?” He said, “I called your mother.” And then he says to me: “Come to Room 1111 tomorrow, at the Hilton Hotel. Bring enough clothes for a few weeks or a month. Don’t tell anybody where you’re going, not even your parents.”

Linda Amster: The Times had a news research staff — the first that any newspaper ever had. There were five of us initially — all young women in our 20s — and when we were hired we might have doubled the number of women in the newsroom. We were at the back of the newsroom, which was a huge space of about an acre. James Greenfield came over to me and said, “Follow me.” That’s all he said. So I followed him. He turned his back on me and walked to the front of the newsroom, which was a long walk — didn’t say a word. We got to the front, where all the newsroom executives were — including Peter Millones, who was an assistant to the managing editor in charge of news administration. Jim presented me at his desk. Peter got up. Without saying a word, Jim got on my right side Peter got on my left side. And they walked out of the newsroom, to the elevators, down to the lobby, through the lobby — not a word said — and got into a cab. Peter told the driver, “Hilton Hotel.” And the driver took us to the Hilton Hotel. Not a word was said. We got to the hotel, went through the lobby to the elevators, to the 11th floor. And Peter did a secret knock on the door, just the way they do it in all the spy movies. I was beyond flabbergasted. The door opened, and in the room I noticed a few people that I knew from the newsroom. Finally, I think it was Peter who said, “Well I guess you want to know why you’re here.” I said, “Yes.” And he said, “Well, we have obtained a secret history of the war in Vietnam commissioned by [former Secretary of Defense Robert] McNamara. It’s top secret. We can all be arrested and imprisoned because we have it, and we’re planning to publish it. And we need research, and we wonder if you will do it.” And I said, without blinking an eye, “Show me the papers.”

Greenfield: We began writing drafts, and the first drafts were the Pentagon Papers often mixed up with the writers’ own past reporting and commentary. I said, “We’re going to start over. If this is going to be called the Pentagon Papers, it can’t be the Pentagon Papers and The New York Times Papers.” So we came up with a system. Each writer got a packet of the papers, for which he was responsible. And Jerry Gold’s job was to check almost every line in every story and match it with a reference in the documents. He would go to a writer and say, “Well, show me where you got that line. Here’s your packet. Show me.” And if they couldn’t, he would edit it out.

Amster: What they needed was to ensure that everything that was published by The New York Times was accurate, because if there were even one slip-up, the whole project could be undermined. So my job became to verify or discredit information in the Pentagon Papers. If I couldn’t verify it, then it couldn’t be used. And actually, when we went and looked at the footnotes to see which sources the authors of the papers had used, those sources were often The New York Times, which made it easier to dismiss the question of, “Would our publishing this pose a danger to national security?” Not only was it public knowledge, but it was public knowledge from the Times’ own reporting. The other responsibility I had was to determine whether the documents themselves were actually being published for the first time or not. We wanted to make sure that, if we were saying these were secret papers, we weren’t misinforming the public.

Greenfield: I certainly got worried about how long it was taking. But we were going to do this thoroughly and professionally. We kept on expanding from room to room in the Hilton, so that we had a whole group of suites, finally, with people working, poring over the papers. Weeks passed, and the pressure was building up. Frankly, we thought at any moment the FBI would swoop in and arrest all of us.

Siegal: There was a suite of rooms for writers and a suite of rooms for editors, and we tried to stay out of one another’s way. It was generally collegial, but at times when we got close to deadline we got on one another’s nerves.

Butterfield: I think we were all concerned that one of the maids would notice something, because we brought over all these big steel file cabinets from The New York Times and the big typewriters. But after several weeks and then a month, almost two months, it just didn’t happen. The men who brought in the room service trays on their little folding tables with wheels, they didn’t ask either. After a while, we just said: “Well, apparently they’re not interested. Who knows what goes on in hotel rooms in Manhattan?” We were just doing another strange thing in a hotel room in Manhattan.

Smith: We got really sick of the hotel food. I mean, there’s just so many hamburgers and so many BLTs you can eat.

Greenfield: I had to talk to them about having too much orange juice delivered. We were running up tremendous bills.

Amster: I think it was Al who said the most impressive thing about the Pentagon Papers was that no one leaked anything. I didn’t tell a soul what I was working on, not even my husband.

Greenfield: Jerry Gold read so diligently and so long that he stopped going home. He stayed in the hotel, and he lived in Levittown, and his neighbors noticed he wasn’t coming home. So one of them reported this to the local rabbi, who called me and said, “Is there any counseling I can do for him?” And I said: “Rabbi, wait a few months. It’ll all be cleared up.”

Sheehan: By the end, I think there were about 50 people in the hotel, counting all the editors.

Smith: We were in the engine room, generating the power and the steam. But the drama was going on up on the admiral’s deck.

The 15th Floor

Greenfield: I discussed it with Abe and said, “To make this thing really work and make an impact, we have to print the actual secret documents, in the paper, so that the reader can check our story and our reporting. It’s only fair.” That did not go over well with some of the executives. Punch [Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the publisher] didn’t say no, but he was wary. He’d been a Marine. He was patriotic. And the idea of printing top-secret documents in his paper didn’t sit well with him. But we persisted. Every day, I was hearing rumors from the 15th floor [of the Times, home to its executive offices] of who was against running it. But my colleagues and I couldn’t imagine not printing this material.

James Goodale: I was a vice president and the general counsel, so my role at the Times was both the newsroom counsel and the general corporate counsel. I was ordered to get an opinion from the outside lawyers for The New York Times, Lord, Day and Lord. The meeting took place in the board of directors room of the old New York Times building on the top floor — probably one of the more powerful floors in the United States at that time. There was a long polished mahogany table, and Punch Sulzberger sat at one end. Next to him sat the former attorney general of the United States, Herbert Brownell Jr. Next to him, the former president of the New York City Bar Association, Louis Loeb. And then the ranking New York Times people, including James Greenfield and Abe Rosenthal.

Greenfield: Punch asked Abe and I to brief the outside lawyers. So we sat in the 15th floor conference room and said we would not reveal how we’d gotten the documents, but we were in possession of them, and they went from secret to top secret. One of the partners asked me, “How many?” And I said, “A little over 7,000 pieces of paper.”

Goodale: Louis Loeb got up and he said: “If you in fact publish the Pentagon Papers, you will all go to jail. We do not want to look at them because they are classified. And if we touch them, we feel that we will be implicated in your crime. Therefore, my advice is that you do not publish them.”

Sheehan: Louis Loeb, that bastard. He told Punch, “Not only will the government seek an injunction, they will succeed in getting the injunction, and I will not defend you.” Can you imagine that? And Jim [Goodale] said, “You’re wrong, Louis. We will prevail. If they come after us with an injunction, we’ll win. And what we’re doing is legal.”

Smith: Multiple times, during our three months of working together, Neil said, “I’ve got to go babysit my source. I want to make sure the source doesn’t go to somebody else with the Pentagon Papers.” I didn’t know it at the time, but obviously Ellsberg had gone to a couple of senators already before he ever came to The New York Times.

Sheehan: About two weeks before we went to press, I wanted to signal him that something was going on at the Times, that we were moving. And so I called him up, and I said, “Dan, I need to get a copy of the whole study, and I know you’ve got one in [your wife] Patricia’s apartment in New York. And I need to have it.” He called the doorman. They let me in, and they helped me carry this stuff out. I put it in the taxi, and I massively overtipped the doorman, hoping he would lie when the FBI came around.

Ellsberg: I gave it to him on the understanding, OK, it’s out of my control now, whatever you do with it.

Sheehan: Punch wanted to see samples of what we were writing. And they sent him samples of what we’d finished, and he said: “It’s too long. This is going to bore people out of their minds. Cut it in half!” Jesus Christ, Jerry Gold and Al Siegal were furious.

Frankel: Because we were afraid of the legal consequences, they also decided to package it very modestly as a piece of history and not have a dramatic headline. So that’s why it came to be called “Vietnam Archive.” It was given a fairly modest space at the top of the page. Nixon’s daughter’s wedding on the other side overshadowed our presentation of the Pentagon Papers.

Greenfield: We had the whole package, all 10 installments. We finished them, edited them, annotated them, sorted out the secret papers we wanted printed with it. The whole thing was done. We always knew we could be stopped at some point, but it also didn’t make sense to run the whole damn thing in one day. It would have been longer than “Gone With The Wind.” We couldn’t just go down to the composing room and say, “All right, fellas, here you go.” We were afraid they would report us. So we moved some Linotype machines up to a private section of the Times, and we actually set the stories there.

Rosenthal: The papers came off the press around 6:30 and I ran them back to the Hilton. Sheehan, Hedrick Smith, Fox Butterfield and Al Siegal were all in one room, and I remember throwing the papers to everybody so they could grab them and look.

Smith: After that long an effort, there’s just this enormous sense of relief when it’s actually out, and you can feel the papers in your hand. We couldn’t believe we were seeing it. There it was, finally happening.

Frankel: We were stunned the next day. Sunday was the first day out. Mel Laird, the defense secretary, was a guest on one of the morning talk shows. The subject never came up. It probably would have died a quick death if the government had not tried to censor it.

Butterfield: The AP didn’t do anything. UPI didn’t do anything. The radio stations didn’t do anything. Nobody seemed to have noticed. We were very let down. We were in one of the rooms at the Hilton at 6, and we turned on the television. There was David Brinkley, and he got on the camera and he held up a Sunday New York Times and he said, “Something extraordinary has happened today,” and he just started reading it.

Frankel: This turned into a battle between the Times and Nixon, even though Nixon’s first reaction was, “This is all about the terrible things that Democrats did. Why should I care?” It’s only [Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger who persuaded him that “Oh, Mr. President, one secret gets out there, all the secrets will be out, and the Chinese won’t trust you, et cetera. So we got to go to these guys.”

Rosenthal: I was back in the newsroom that Monday. I think the Times had been tipped that there might be a message coming in over one of the wire machines from the White House or the attorney general, John Mitchell. And I was standing there literally when the thing started clacking. And I see a Telex coming, “To the publisher of The New York Times, from Attorney General John Mitchell, blah, blah, national security.” And I ripped it off — which you don’t do normally because the guys who rip stuff off the machines are in a different union — and I ran down and I just handed it to Greenfield.

Goodale: I rushed into a cab and got over there as quickly as I could. As I got out of the elevator, I could hear screaming going on. I walked into the room, and there’s Sydney Gruson, the newly anointed assistant to the publisher, and Abe Rosenthal shouting at each other — Gruson saying Rosenthal is going to destroy the Times, Rosenthal saying we have to publish, [Times executive vice president Harding] Bancroft acting as the referee. And no Punch, because he had left to go to Great Britain on a business trip.

Rosenthal: I was sitting on the phone line with the London bureau chief, who was waiting for Punch at Heathrow Airport on an open line.

Goodale: I came to the Pentagon Papers knowing that an order not to print, which is known as a prior restraint, was not protected under the First Amendment or under the law of the United States. There was one law that possibly applied other than the First Amendment, and that was the Espionage Act. But the Espionage Act was for espionage, and what was given to me as the facts with respect to the leak to Sheehan was not espionage, obviously. So I looked at the message. And I said: “You can’t obey a telegram. If you obey this, do you know what the fate of journalism will be in this country? You can’t do it.” We were all gathered around the speaker. And Punch said, “OK, send a telegram back and tell the government we’re not going to do it.”

Rosenthal: We went back into the newsroom, and the pressmen in their little newspaper hats were gathered around the foreign desk, a big crowd. Abe walked in and goes, “We’re going to publish.”

Goodale: We knew the government was going to sue us the next day. And we had no lawyers — other than me, and the only time I’d been in court was on two uncontested divorce cases. Alex Bickel and Floyd Abrams had been working with me on another case, so I thought if I could get Alex on the phone and get him on board, we could probably get Floyd’s firm to back him up.

Floyd Abrams: At something like 1 in the morning, James Goodale called. The Times’ law firm had refused to represent them, so he decided to call Alexander Bickel, who had been my professor at Yale Law School, and me to represent the Times on the case. Bickel was supposed to be on a sabbatical at Stanford, but he happened to be in New York visiting his mother. So we met and took a cab to my office at 1:30, 2 in the morning. And we spent the night there. There were none of the modern tools of legal research, so I had to find the place in our library where all the federal statutes could be found and then look for the Espionage Act. And that was the beginning.

Goodale: By morning, the news has broken. There are headlines all over the place that this case is going on. We go to Foley Square [where the courthouse is], and the place is filling up. People are protesting and yelling.

Abrams: Murray Gurfein was the judge, and it was his first day. He said: “We’re all patriotic Americans here, and we all want to do the right thing. I’m sure of that. So why don’t you agree to stop publishing now, just to give me a chance to get into the case, to learn enough about what’s in the papers so I can do the job that I have to do?” We had no idea what the Times had, other than the news articles that had run. But Goodale was with us, so he called the Times.

Daniel Ellsberg and Patricia Marx, his wife, centre, at the Watergate hearings in Washington in 1973. Nine months before the Watergate break-in, the so-called plumbers had ransacked the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, in search of incriminating files. (Mike Lien/The New York Times)

Abrams: A prior restraint is a sort of injunction — a ban on speech to prevent some sort of harm. Prior restraints on speech are common in other democratic countries like England or Canada in a case like this. But because of the First Amendment, since the beginning of this country they’ve been almost always verboten in the United States. The status quo is the right to publish.

Frankel: The publisher of the Times said, in the end, we will abide by whatever the courts decide.

Goodale: So at this point, we have a few days to prepare for our next hearing. We’ve put a team together, and Floyd Abrams and Alex Bickel start working on a brief.

Abrams: It took some time to get a handle on what the Times had. There was so much to do, and the risk was so high — for the paper and in a sense for the country.

Goodale: The government tried to persuade the judge that the world would come to an end if The New York Times continued to publish. But the best way we made our case was by cross-examining the government witness, and we were sort of surprised that they couldn’t justify why they’d classified things. On Saturday morning, Judge Gurfein issued his decision, and he decided in favor of us and dissolved the injunction, subject to it being reinstated by the next court above him. He even pointed out that he thought the legislative history was pretty clear that the Espionage Act did not apply to this sort of thing. I felt so giddy, I called up the newsroom and said: “We won! Roll the presses!” But a few minutes later, another judge reinstated the injunction. We were going up to the appellate court. And in the meantime, The Washington Post has published [their own portion of the Pentagon Papers], so now there are two cases going on.

Sanford Ungar: There was tremendous drama, and I think what stunned the Post is that this was a Washington story that the Times scooped. It was a very macho thing for [the Post’s executive editor, Ben] Bradlee. The young reporters like me certainly felt solidarity with the Times when it first published the papers and when they were in court. But I think we were happier when, the Times having been stopped, we were next.

Goodale: When we got to the court of appeals, we thought we were in good shape. But Judge Henry Friendly, who was the chief judge of the court in New York City, turned out to be very unfriendly. He excoriated Alex. And when the decision came out, he had decided that we should go back to Judge Gurfein and do the case all over again. It was an absolute disaster for us.

Abrams: In the meantime, The Washington Post case was going on, and so the Post and the Times both asked the Supreme Court to step in.

Goodale: I was very conscientious that we were not just representing the Times: We’re representing all journalism. And we must have a good First Amendment standard come out of this case. This was going to be a train the government couldn’t stop, because Ellsberg was handing out parts of the documents to The Washington Post, The Boston Globe. He had a similar packet he gave to Knight, which was a chain with another dozen or so newspapers. So the government was really looking pretty foolish. And now, we’re on our way to the Supreme Court.

Smith: Neil and I were just delighted. This thing is not going to stop. The Times has broken the dam. We’ve gone first, and others are going to follow. And then when we started to see it go to the Globe and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, there was a great sense of satisfaction and achievement, and a kind of common patriotism to the values of America. The national security state cannot shut down the American media.

Ellsberg: By the time the Supreme Court got to it, it had been in 15 papers. And while they were considering it, I gave it to two more — Newsday on Long Island and The Christian Science Monitor. It came to be 19 altogether. As one of the judges said, it’s like trying to herd bees.

The Highest Court

Goodale: The argument before the Supreme Court was handled by Alex Bickel. And on the government side, there was Erwin Griswold, former dean of Harvard Law School, who was the solicitor general of the United States.

Butterfield: Before the lawyers started their arguments, there was a meeting called in the publisher’s office. Everybody was there. Max Frankel had come up from Washington, and he led the discussion. The publisher was asking, “How will the different justices respond to this?” And Frankel went around as if he knew each of them, describing what arguments would appeal to them.

Frankel: One thing always fascinated me about the judges: They had this notion that secrets stolen from the government can be returned. The chief justice talked about it like the White House silver. You know, “If somebody brought you the White House silver, wouldn’t you feel obliged to return it?” What is a newspaper supposed to do with information once it has it, whether or not you return the piece of paper? You have to use that information, and it has to inform everything you do, whether you publish that particular sentence or not. How they dealt with information as a tangible piece of property, I found it mind-boggling.

Abrams: I think it helped the cause enormously that the Times could describe its editorial process. They could say, we went through every page, matched every event. And we didn’t publish a lot of stuff that we had.

Goodale: There was an absolute magic moment in the case when Justice Potter Stewart said to Alex, “Suppose I go back and open up these documents, and I find that 100 US servicemen will lose their lives as a consequence of what The New York Times will publish. Would you go ahead and publish anyway?” The moment he asked it, you could hear a pin drop. Everyone was on the edge of their chair, wondering what he was going to answer. I mean, the question is a terrible one. The right answer would be, under the First Amendment, “So what?” But you can’t say that out loud in a major case: That would be the only thing people would remember. But Bickel did such a great job. He said: “No. My devotion to humanity is greater than my devotion to the legal principle. But I will tell you, it will make very bad law if that is what sways your opinion.”

Abrams: I thought we had four very likely votes on the court — the four most liberal and free speech-oriented jurists. But as to whether we could get one or more of the others, I don’t think any of us were filled with confidence about it. The country was deeply divided then about the war, divided about Nixon, divided about policies. And so it was very hard to make an intelligent prediction of the takes of the other members of the court.

Goodale: When you argue a case in the Supreme Court in June, you think maybe you’ll find out about it in August. But just a few days later the word came. I rushed for that famous elevator up to the executive floor and everyone was there. Punch was back from England, Harding was there, Sydney, Abe Rosenthal, and we’re acting like 2-year-olds who just won the Kentucky Derby — jumping up and down, slapping thighs, throwing our arms around each other.

Amster: It was really elation. And the embargo was lifted — the restraining order — and we published the rest of it.

Siegal: We were jubilant, and it cannot have been more than a day or two before we started publishing. All of our coverage had been made up in metal type and put away under lock and key, so we knew what we would be printing, it was just a question of when.

Frankel: Griswold, the solicitor general, he had defended the administration’s policy right up to the Supreme Court. He finally admitted, years later, that he never understood what the government was trying to defend, that there were no secrets there that compromised national security.

Smith: I didn’t feel safe until the prosecution of Ellsberg was dropped. There was nothing in the Supreme Court decision that said the government couldn’t prosecute us what the court said was that the government couldn’t pre-censor. And I figured if the government was going to go after Ellsberg for stealing and revealing top-secret government documents, then the persons to whom he handed the secrets were inextricably involved in the case.

Goodale: I think Rick was right to worry about being indicted. We thought Sheehan for sure was going to be. In fact, we wrote out a press release that was ready to go.

Smith: So until the case against Ellsberg was quashed and thrown out, I don’t think I felt relaxed. At that point, the legal issue was over. And as to the political argument — which was about “was the media wrong” and so on — with the Pulitzer Prize and all the other accolades, it was perfectly clear where the media in America stood, and where the majority of Americans did, too.

Amster: On the first installment, they ran the names of everyone who worked on the Pentagon Papers. It went through all the significant editors, the reporters. And it didn’t have my name. I was very, very upset. I had worked as hard as anyone else! So I went to Jim Greenfield and said to him, “Why isn’t my name on here?” He said, “Well, you’re a woman, and we were afraid that we might have to go to prison, and so we didn’t include your name.” I was so furious, and I still am to this very day, about that. It said a lot about the Times, and the time. I knew we might go to jail. I was told that before I started. I deserved to be included. There were others as well: Betsy Wade was indispensable — she was in charge of copy editing on the project and did a magnificent job — and Linda Charlton wrote biographies for all the key figures in the papers. None of the women who worked on it were given credit.

Abrams: It is telling that presidents have come and gone, including some very hostile to the press, but the broad lesson that they have learned from the Pentagon Papers is that you can’t win. It has had an enormous impact in transforming what had been thought of as a very difficult remedy for the government to seek to one that has become viewed as near impossible.

Goodale: The case stands as an ironclad rule that you cannot censor the press from the judicial bench. That is a lasting legacy.

Amster: All along as we were working, I was thinking: “This is going to end the Vietnam War. We’re going to publish these papers. Nixon’s going to read them. He is going to be so thrilled to throw a lot of dirt at Johnson and seize this as an opportunity to scale down the war.” I would have bet anything on it. And then, of course, what happened was that Nixon was so neurotic that instead of seizing the occasion he went looking for who had leaked the papers. He had a team in the basement of the White House that became known as the Plumbers.

Butterfield: The Plumbers were formed to go after Ellsberg. And they were the same people who, a few years later, staged the Watergate break-in.

Greenfield: We really thought this would blow the top off of how an administration treats a war. I mean, Congress had been lied to. We thought, “Well they won’t let that happen again! And the American people will know a lot more about what actually happened.” We thought we were on a mission.

Butterfield: Early in September, I got a call saying Abe Rosenthal wanted to see me in his office. “Fox,” he said, “You did a good job on the Pentagon Papers, so we’re sending you to Saigon as a correspondent.” And from that time, I more or less didn’t leave until the last day of the war. It was pretty clear that the revelations in the Pentagon Papers were undermining the rationale for the war, which would inevitably lead to a big drawdown in American forces. It just took a lot longer than I thought.

Smith: The point wasn’t whether or not to end the war. The point was to share something that the secretary of defense himself thought was so important that he had some of his best talent inside the Pentagon pull this history together so that he could understand and report it to the president, and so the Pentagon would forever have that record. Well, if it was that important for those people, then it was certainly important to share with the American public. That was the point.

Sheehan: The war was killing a hell of a lot of people for nothing and maiming a lot of people for nothing. The Vietnamese were suffering. And we had no right to do this to another people. We were sucking people into the pit. This thing really rankled me, I mean it really bothered me. I was committed to try to do something about it, to write the truth.

Ellsberg: For the Times and for Neil, the point of the Pentagon Papers was that it’s history — “These guys lied to us, to me” — but I wasn’t going to prison in order to clarify the historical record in ’69 or ’70 or ’71. I copied the papers because I believed, correctly it turned out, that the course Nixon was on would prolong the war for years, at least through his second term. We were getting into a bigger war. It was happening again. History was being repeated. I never dreamed the Pentagon Papers had any chance of stopping the war, but that they might contribute to shortening the war and averting escalation.

Sheehan: Dan never called me again. I ran into him on the street in New York at Christmas that year. And I told him what had happened. And he said, “So you stole it, like I did.” And I said to him: “No, Dan, I didn’t steal it. And neither did you. Those papers are the property of the people of the United States. They paid for them with their national treasure and the blood of their sons, and they have a right to it. We didn’t steal anything.”