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As a general matter, 'state action to punish the publication of truthful information seldom can satisfy constitutional standards.' Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co., 443 U. S. 97, 102 (1979). More specifically, the Court has repeatedly held that 'if a newspaper lawfully obtains truthful information about a matter of public significance then state officials may not constitutionally punish publication of the information, absent a need ... of the highest order.' Id., at 103; see also Florida Star v. B. J. F., 491 U. S. 524 (1989); Landmark Communications, Inc. v. Virginia, 435 U. S. 829 (1978).


Accordingly, in New York Times Co. v. United States, 403 U. S. 713 (1971) (per curiam), the Court upheld the right of the press to publish information of great public concern obtained from documents stolen by a third party. In so doing, that decision resolved a conflict between the basic rule against prior restraints on publication and the interest in preserving the secrecy of information that, if disclosed, might seriously impair the security of the Nation. In resolving that conflict, the attention of every Member of the Court was focused on the character of the stolen documents' contents and ...

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