posted on May, 31 2017 @ 09:45 PM
The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to
secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far
outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its
arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there
is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of
official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration,
whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to
cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.
But I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our
country's peril. In time of war, the government and the press have customarily joined in an effort based largely on self-discipline, to prevent
unauthorized disclosures to the enemy. In time of "clear and present danger," the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First
Amendment must yield to the public's need for national security.
Today no war has been declared--and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under
attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been
declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.
If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a
greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of "clear and present danger," then I can only say that the danger has never been more
clear and its presence has never been more imminent.
It requires a change in outlook, a change in tactics, a change in missions--by the government, by the people, by every businessman or labor leader,
and by every newspaper. For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for
expanding its sphere of influence--on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on
guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly
knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.
Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is
questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the Cold War, in short, with a war-time discipline no democracy would ever hope or
wish to match.
Nevertheless, every democracy recognizes the necessary restraints of national security--and the question remains whether those restraints need to be
more strictly observed if we are to oppose this kind of attack as well as outright invasion.
For the facts of the matter are that this nation's foes have openly boasted of acquiring through our newspapers information they would otherwise hire
agents to acquire through theft, bribery or espionage; that details of this nation's covert preparations to counter the enemy's covert operations have
been available to every newspaper reader, friend and foe alike; that the size, the strength, the location and the nature of our forces and weapons,
and our plans and strategy for their use, have all been pinpointed in the press and other news media to a degree sufficient to satisfy any foreign
power; and that, in at least in one case, the publication of details concerning a secret mechanism whereby satellites were followed required its
alteration at the expense of considerable time and money.
The newspapers which printed these stories were loyal, patriotic, responsible and well-meaning. Had we been engaged in open warfare, they undoubtedly
would not have published such items. But in the absence of open warfare, they recognized only the tests of journalism and not the tests of national
security. And my question tonight is whether additional tests should not now be adopted.