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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Progressive, Inc. - 467 F. Supp. 990 (W.D. Wis. 1979)


Juxtaposed against the right to freedom of expression is the government's contention that the national security of the country could be jeopardized by publication of an article. The government has a right to classify certain sensitive documents to protect its national security.


Defendants wrote an article entitled “The H-Bomb Secret: How We Got It, Why We’re Telling It.” At the request of the government, but after hearing from both parties, the Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining defendants, their employees, and agents from publishing or otherwise communicating or disclosing in any manner any restricted data contained in the aforementioned article. Subsequently, the federal government, moved the district court (Wisconsin), pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2280 and 28 U.S.C.S. § 1345, for a preliminary injunction restraining defendants' publication of the article. In its argument and briefs, the government relied on national security as the basis for classification of the document. On the other hands, defendants argued that freedom of expression as embodied in the First Amendment was so central to the heart of liberty that prior restraint in any form becomes anathema.


On the basis of national security, should the government’s motion for preliminary injunction be granted?




The court entered a preliminary injunction pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 52(a), finding that plaintiff, the federal government, had proven all necessary prerequisites for issuance of a preliminary injunction because of the existence of the likelihood of direct, immediate, and irreparable injury to the nation. Since the facts and circumstances presented fell within the extremely narrow recognized area of national security in which a prior restraint on publication was appropriate, the issuance of a preliminary injunction did not violate defendants' U.S. Const. amend. I rights. Furthermore, the pertinent provisions of the Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 2274(b) and 2280, were not unconstitutionally vague or overbroad.

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