Top Secret Talks: The tension between national security and a free press is the focus of a groundbreaking CCLP series in New York

In conjunction with the Off-Broadway debut of Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, conversations spotlight journalists, scholars, jurists and public policy leaders

With the nation involved in two wars and facing continuing threats of terrorism, USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) presents TOP SECRET TALKS, a timely examination of the tension between the government’s need for secrecy and the public’s right to know, in conjunction with the New York production of Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers.

As issues of government classification–and declassification–confront the current administration and as the Internet opens new frontiers for the disclosure of confidential information, Top Secret Talks promises a month long series of conversations with leading journalists, scholars and policymakers about the modern lessons of the Pentagon Papers story.

Individual programs are presented by organizations such as the Columbia Journalism Review, Human Rights Watch, NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, the Asia Society, The New York Institute for the Humanities at NYU and the Center for Public Integrity. Speakers will include Daniel Ellsberg, the former Defense and State Department official who gave the Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post; legendary Washington Post investigative reporter Carl Bernstein; Leslie Gelb, who led the Department of Defense project that produced the Pentagon Papers; The New York Times managing editor Jill Abramson; the Washington Post editor Marcus Brauchli; and playwright Geoffrey Cowan; among others.

Originally produced by LA Theatre Works and presented in partnership with New York Theatre Workshop and Affinity Collaborative Theatre, Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, opens Off-Broadway at the New York Theatre Workshop with previews beginning February 24. Individual tickets went on sale Friday, January 29. To purchase tickets, visit New York Theatre Workshop.

The play asks an enduring question: In a democratic society, when and how long, if ever, should a government be allowed to keep secrets in the name of national security? Top Secret provides a dramatic look at The Washington Post‘s decision to publish information from the classified study documenting U.S. involvement in Vietnam after a federal court had shut down publication by The New York Times. The ensuing court battle over the potential national security threat posed by publication tested the parameters of the First Amendment – and focused a spotlight on the conflict between government and the press. The epic legal battle went to the nation’s highest court – arguably the most important Supreme Court case ever on freedom of the press.

All TOP SECRET TALKS will be presented at New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4th St., New York, NY 10003. Discussions are free and open to the public.

Please click here for a complete schedule.