In total secrecy, from inside of a specially-secured room, almost 100 proofreaders, typesetters, and printing operators prepared the 90,000 words that would make history: the June 13, 1971 issue of the New York Times that broke the story now known as the Pentagon Papers.

Sued by the Nixon administration, the Times halted publication to defend its First Amendment rights in a whirlwind two-week litigation, culminating in a Supreme Court victory for the Times and a landmark precedent for press freedom.

Each step of the way, the NY Times in-house counsel James C. Goodale advised on the legal and national security implications as he advocated for publishing a series of stories on the documents, which revealed that the Lyndon Johnson Administration had "systematically lied" to the public and Congress about the scope of the Vietnam War. This is his personal copy of the twelve-volume declassified Pentagon Papers, redacted and printed later in 1971, in which he annotated sections missing from the files provided to the Times by Daniel Ellsberg, the military analyst who had leaked the papers.

The New York Times in-house lawyer's copy of the Pentagon Papers

Ellsberg was outed as the whistleblower by Sid Zion, who left the NY Times in 1970, and later claimed he became "a pariah among colleagues" for publicly identifying Ellsberg. Hear Eleanor Fischer interview Zion at Sardi's in 1971 here.

As part of our month-long Dear NYC series, we're looking at New York City gems hidden away at the New York Public Library. The NYPL’s four research centers offer the public access to over 55 million items, including rare books, manuscripts, letters, diaries, photographs, prints, maps, ephemera, and more. Integral to these robust collections is the Library’s extensive material related to New York City, and as NY works to come together, cope, heal and recover from the 2020 pandemic, economic uncertainty, and the many issues that divide us, it is important to look at that history and remember: New York is resilient. New York is strong. New York has seen its share of hard times. And, as always, with Patience and Fortitude (the names given to the Library’s beloved lions in 1933 by Mayor LaGuardia for the virtues New Yorkers needed to get through the Great Depression) we will get through it, together.