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The following program was produced and recorded by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service. Underground aid from the Educational Television and Radio Center in collaboration with the National Association of educational broadcasters news in 20th century America a series of radio documents on the gathering writing and dissemination of news compiled from interviews with men and women who make news their business. I think it's a broad general principle. The American public has a right to know. Everything. That. Its government that its elected officials that any agency which works for it is doing. Circumscribed only by the rules of national security. And I think even. Even those agencies which deal in national security have to be closely watched because there is always a tendency to. Try to classify so many items just so that you're not bothered by reporters but I think it's a broad general principle. This is
our government. We supported. It we fight for it when necessary. And then this is really us and we've got a right to know everything that's it that is doing. The voice is that of John Hay's of WTOP in Washington D.C. one of the people you are hearing today on the subject of censorship security secrecy and restricted information in covering the news of the nation's capital. This is today's edition of news in 20th century America. Now here is your host at Burroughs. The right to know is a phrase that has been heard with increasing emphasis in recent years it appears in the literature of modern journalism in the titles of books such as those written by Kent Cooper former director of the Associated Press and by Dr. Harold Krause legal authority on press matters. Mr John Hayes whose voice you heard a moment ago has helped to lead the fight for the commercial broadcasters Sigma Delta CA a
national professional journalistic fraternity has been engaged in a persistent crusade to gain greater access to governmental News in the area of legislation. John Moss representative from California and chairman of the government information subcommittee of the Committee on Government Operations conducted extensive hearings which culminated near the end of the eighth Congress in a bill bearing his name. The bill added a simple amendment to the federal government's one hundred sixty nine year old house keeping law. The amendment declares this section does not authorize withholding information from the public or limiting the availability of records to the public. There seems to be some question whether the law has yet produced tangible results and perhaps some of the correspondence now on the job in Washington can tell us why. Especially Douglas cater of the Reporter magazine who himself has recently completed a book on the Washington press called the fourth branch of government.
Here is his appraisal of the security situation. I feel that they have been that they are generally too many dogmatic assertions made on both sides in this case. This field for example Robert Cutler who served with the National Security Council in the government has given a frightening statement of the the degree in which revelation of state secrets is undermining the government. The various editors and reporters have given out an equally alarming statements about the way in which the government is hiding and putting under the wraps of secrecy information which rightfully belongs in the public domain. I tend to take perhaps a philosophical view about this that this is a part of a continuing warfare that goes on between government and the press should
go on and will probably continue to go on with no effective solutions of the short run nature. It is the job of the reporter to break through the surface facade of government to find out what really is going on and to report it. And I don't think you can take away from him that function without doing damage to the role of the free press in our society. It is the job of the government official it seems to me not to be concerned so much with maintaining everlasting secrecy except in certain highly technical areas. But to see that the development of information about government is comes out in a orderly n.. An orderly fashion that really explains it so that the development of news is not haphazard and
misleading. And so if both the government and the press regard their functions properly there can be a more effective working together than than there has been in times to break through the surface facade of government says Mr. Cater. This is what another Washington reporter did dramatically a year or so ago in a striking example of journalistic enterprise. His name Chalmers Roberts is story the Gaither report. Before we hear from Mr. Roberts himself let me quote from a statement made by Sen. Thomas E. Henning's Jr. of Missouri who has been conducting an investigation into secrecy in government. Possibly the most celebrated example of outright suppression of information in recent years says Sen. headings is the refusal of the administration last year to release the Gaither report to Congress. This report was submitted to the president by a group of prominent citizens after a lengthy study of
national security requirements. It reportedly warned that the United States faces its greatest peril in history despite its great importance to the nation as a whole. The administration refused to reveal the contents of the gate the report to either the Congress or the public apparently because of the great political embarrassment and public excitement which might have resulted. So Senator Hemmings Now let's hear from the newspaper man who finally broke the story. Thomas Roberts Well I think it's a pretty good sample of the kind of problem you have in Washington this was not strictly a diplomatic matter foreign affairs but it it was closely related to it. The fact one of the problems of covering foreign affairs is that to do it right you've got to know a lot about the military. And I think the same is true for the reporters who cover the Pentagon they have to know a lot about the State Department. And just as these two departments don't always know
enough about each other so the reporters who cover the two departments don't know enough about the other departments. Again the report was a report that was made for the president as a private report by a distinguished group of private citizens who were brought into the government to make an assessment of where we stood in the world militarily and what should be done about it. To put it briefly the report was started before the first Russian Sputnik. But the fact of the Sputnik last year gave it a entirely new significance and it gave it a hearing that it probably never would have had otherwise. Bits of this had leaked out some of it had been printed and it just seemed to me that here from what little I had heard about it was a story if we could get have it and print it without breaching legitimate security that was something that would be useful to the readers of our paper and after all
in Washington we have a a and I knew zero readership in that we have the whole administrative branch of the government as well as the Congress and the foreign governments who send home great masses of what appears in the fortune and papers. So that was the basis on which we set out to try to find it. I tried to make. The most use I could of my colleagues and my friends and pretty soon we came up with a pretty good story. We wondered if there was much material like this which Mr Roberts felt was unjustly being kept under wraps. Well it's the old iceberg again. You never know what is there. Sometimes you hear about these things. Kazan like you run them down find that it's an overinflated story that the thing is I spend a lot of time running a story down some months ago which I thought was pretty
spectacular but it turned out that I'd been oversold on it. At least I satisfied myself that it wasn't flooded and then told to me to day. But I think there are a lot of these things and there's a constant battle between the press and government over secrecy especially This is especially true between the press and diplomacy because diplomats like to hide things perhaps more than other types of government bureaucrats. Sometimes they're justified. Sometimes you hear things that you know perfectly well you can't pray in the national interest but then you're always faced with that problem of judgment your own judgment your editor's judgment. Sometimes we get into arguments with the government as to whether we were right or wrong. Sometimes the FBI comes around asking where you got these things. You know tell me what about people in government who are not accessible.
When the reporter thinks they should be there are people in the government who are on available or practically unavailable and make themselves in some cases. There is probably some justification for this. I'm I don't think we're interested so much in getting the story of John Smith who was an undersecretary of something or other as we are of what the government is doing in this department or that one. If that project for man is critical to a policy that's one thing. If he is fighting it inside the government that something usually he won't want to say that publicly sometimes he will. Fees reached a point where he's on the verge of quitting over some issue of principle as in the argument say between Harold Stassen
and the Secretary of State Dulles a while back that became rather important matter of national and international concern and we had to try to get at that from all sorts of ways from people who work for these two man from their associates as well as from them selves. They were each aware of the problem presented that they could not put themselves in a position where the president would have to fire one of the other four. This loyalty to the administration. That was Chalmers Roberts of The Washington Post and Times-Herald similar perspective has been gamed by another journalist although not currently on the Washington scene has both served and observed government. He is Mark Etheridge publisher of the Louisville Courier-Journal. Mr. Etheridge was chairman of the first federal Fair Employment Practices Commission during World War Two
and conducted missions in Turkey and Greece for President Truman. We asked him if he thought the governmental agencies themselves were to blame or if the American journalist was to blame for not digging up the story. I think as far as the State Department is concerned. It's probably a combination of both factors. By the nature of Foreign Service officers are. Not supreme but at least reticent. They're not going to stick their necks out too far they're trained in the same way. I don't think that is on the part of the state department of full enough disclosure of what our real situation is. I don't think the crisis is late in I think there have been instances lately of Mr dollars leaking to favored
reporters and the infinitely better if they brief the whole press corps on what was going on and let them relay it to the people instead of through leaks to rest in your column is you. I'm not for government by leaks I believe the press ought to be dealt with frankly and openly and it's only a limitation on what is told the American people ought to be the limitation of security. And no newspaper man was violated. No I don't think the government dealt frankly by the same token I am very much afraid of Washington journalism with a few exceptions. And here that good morning hot demoing rage contribute Let's go to Russia to a few other reporters who degenerated into somewhat of a
hand-out proposition not a big thing. Robert serving United Press International had this to say on the subject of security. Well now of course I have never covered the Pentagon and I would rather have you ask someone who is acquainted on a day to day basis with the Pentagon's handling of news. I think all in all the Pentagon does a fairly good job. In a big organization and it's actually bigger than. The country's biggest corporation I think it's going to be a certain amount of loose wire. Copy or News that. Obviously doesn't hurt the security of the United States Aslaug confidential. Security matter. I think now this is in my own personal opinion but I think. There are some newspaper men in Washington who feel that in many fields.
We are actually giving out too much innovation. Terry field. I saw a list compiled of all the news stories and it appeared in the American press. Over a two month period. And the story itself was written in the form of a Soviet agent. Reporting back to Moscow this list of various American military developments so many planes assigned to. The Pacific fleet for radar patrol. A complete breakdown of the military budget a complete breakdown of our missile program. How many missiles were going to buy and for how much money. The whole gist of the whole idea of the piece was to show that a Russian spy wouldn't have too much trust trouble. Feeding back from information released to Moscow because it's public property. I know a lot of newspaper men not not a lot but I know some newspaper men who feel that we should be a little more careful about covering Cape Canaveral.
On a day to day basis we asked Fulton Lewis Jr. a commentator for the Mutual Broadcasting System What problem of security was involved in dealing with the Defense Department. Question is a real problem with security and those of us in the press who are responsible reporters on the one side and American citizens on the other side have no wish in the world to violate any of that security unfortunately. A great majority of the cases in which security is invoked is not invoked on account of security or the welfare of the United States but is invoked not to cover up some malloc aeration and some skullduggery of one kind or another of some stupidity on the people part of the people involved. We function frankly and this will amaze you. We function very much better during the war on the question the security we do now because during the war. We had an office of censorship.
Which had the final say so I was headed by a former head of the Associated Press subsequently secretary of the United Nations a very fine reporter of the highest standing and he had the authority to overrule any security order and the army navy air force anywhere else and did all the time. You would call him. There they slap security on this I don't think it's a legitimate cover and that means that of course they are. And I I had occasion to have him even overrule the White House on some security audit during the course of the war. Today we don't have any court of appeals at all on any of this. We asked another commentator Drew Pearson if he thought the situation on restricted material had improved. No the situation's about the same as it has been in this administration. I think you have to draw two categories on restricted materials One is military the other is political. And no
newspaper man will argue with you at least effectively about military restrictions in fact many of these secret. Much of the secret data in Washington from a military point of view should not be made public and we may run across some military information and we take it out of the Pentagon and ask them about it and they tried to make it public if they can. And we're guided by their judgment. I had an experience when I got to restricted document it was not marked restricted regarding the famous Nickerson memorandum it was a copy of the Nixon memorandum I took it down to the Pentagon and they. Kept it down there when they made public parts of it but not. I lost my explosive on it they let other people have it. However that's an unusual case now the other category is political news. Or news which may have some political or critical bearing.
Now the it is argument and just argument on the restriction of that news. And I would say the best example of that and I know recently as in the case of the Dixon Yates power agreement where. That was worked out secretly inside the budget bureau we knew that something was going on in there and they wouldn't it was completely restricted. Because it would have led to great embarrassment politically to the administration. Eventually the news came out. All sorts of that kind of information is restricted. This information should not be restricted. Take any information. Which bears on expenditure which the public has a right to know about because the public pates pays taxes that should be made public unless it bears on military weapons which are restricted.
But this administration particularly has leaned over backward to hush that up. There is much more freedom of information under Roosevelt and under Truman. H.R. blockade has had years of opportunity under a variety of war and peace time conditions to observe censorship. He seemed less critical of government in this respect and I must say that I haven't encountered. Any great degree. I had almost no trouble doing the war I was reporting military news all the time and we had a voluntary censorship there and it worked very well. It was necessary. You want time. But it was a negative thing we simply didn't talk about the things that. Might be of aid and comfort to the enemy. I was called on once for describing the weather in Montreal and I was up at one of the conference and he said remember that weather will exist tomorrow at the mouth of the St. Lawrence Seaway the German subs away.
Will I stop telling people that when I was a Montreal other time German when I was in Germany under wartime Nazi censorship and. Atmosphere my saying fine move over Berlin tonight. Lovely night for an air raid. Well that got over. And the censor called me in the next day. Fine fellow Nazis. So at least then and he said you can describe the weather in Berlin but always make it last nights not tonight. As in there's other censorship though I. I don't know. Such as exist and I suppose you mean that kind of censorship won't let you report the elevator that's Macy's and department store being advertised. Well I think there's less and less of that. And I
think. As to his cure I can only offer something very old fashioned they. Say it's a matter of values. And it goes very deep. In the individual it's a question of policy. And honesty is the best policy. And it seems to pay. We asked Mr. Barch age if he felt that most of the material coming into his hands marked Confidential was justifiably restricted. Well it's hard to say the percentage because in the first place of things that really don't get into our hands. And the things that we know and hear. That we know shouldn't be published. We don't publish again. On the other hand it's perfectly true that in a big bureaucracy. You'll get a lot of stuff stamped confidential simply because a person doesn't want to take a
chance. And you know the thing of course they sometimes want to cover up. And that's what Congress's investigations investigations such as led to the passage of the mosse act. We asked Mark was trials of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch or if he had noted further activity along these lines going on in Washington today or whether the present tendency was toward more irksome restrictions on news man. Well of course this is increasing effort it was true under Truman and it hasn't changed very much on the rising or the increasing effort to put confidential secret or top secret stamp on documents that have no business being stamped in that way. I don't refer only to the Defense Department but to other departments in which this goes on. One of the handicaps in the eyes not ministration has been that so many of the top people who came into the executive branch of the government had had very little relationship with the press except at 3 or 4 removes with a high paid public relations man they
regarded the press as a necessary nuisance. Or maybe not always necessary. Now this has made for considerable handicaps in the business of getting out of the various government departments. Leads them all the opinions of members in the field of the daily press and electronic journalism for another angle on the subject of security. We went to Roy Larson president of Time Incorporated. We share the general failing of the press that this is a very important and serious continuing problem both in peace and war. I think the government and government officials have a really tough problem on this. There are many differences of opinion in Washington and always have been from administration to administration and from year to year within the
administration as to what is real security and and what is publishable and what is is not. We have always attempted to to cooperate with the. Threshold people were charged with security matters. We have encouraged them. On the other hand to take a more liberal view. Of releasing information which is not really classifiable in terms of security but perhaps more in terms of protection for individuals. I may be talking out of turn. My feeling is that a pretty good job has been done over the
years at Washington on this problem and I think perhaps it's been that way because the representatives of the press in Washington have been of such high caliber. That the officials there have been willing to to listen to them and perhaps a stooge has eased up what would otherwise they have very tough and difficult problem. That was Roy Larson president of Time Incorporated related to this tough and difficult problem he speaks of of general access to government is the question of the exclusive interview and leaks that go to individual news man. This concern of the Washington correspondent will be considered in the next program in this series. The last of six devoted to Washington coverage Drew Pearson H.R. blockage Robert Hartman Mark was trials and Douglas
Peter will be heard on that subject. Roscoe Drummond will discuss the reporter's asocial involvement with his sources. And finally Merriman Smith would enlarge on what he calls the Washington complex. You have been listening to censorship and secrecy in Washington another in the series of programs news in 20th century America. In this series of programs we explore all facets of the gathering writing and dissemination of news by means of recorded interviews with leading news men and women interviewers for the series are Glenn Philips and Ed Burroughs serving as consultant is Professor Kenneth steward of the University of Michigan Department of journalism news in 20th century America is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in aid from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. Larry Jones speaking. This is the
Series
News in 20th Century America
Episode Number
10
Episode
Secretary & Secur.
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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cpb-aacip/500-qn5zb995
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News in 20th Century America is a radio series on the gathering, writing, and dissemination of news. Each episode addresses a specific topic in the news industry, and features interviews with men and women who make news their business. This program is produced by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service in cooperation with the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.
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Journalism
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00:29:18
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 59-48-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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Duration: 00:29:03
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Chicago: “News in 20th Century America; 10; Secretary & Secur.,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 23, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qn5zb995.
MLA: “News in 20th Century America; 10; Secretary & Secur..” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 23, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qn5zb995>.
APA: News in 20th Century America; 10; Secretary & Secur.. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qn5zb995