It is a difficult choice to decide whether or not President Bush should be allowed to censor information on the war on terrorism.
If he allows the public to know what the government knows about terrorist activities, then it may threaten national security. On the other hand, if he chooses to censor information it could be considered a violation of freedom of speech. The best solution would be to let Americans know about their findings once the threat is over and not release information that involves an ongoing investigation.The main problem with the censorship of information is that it goes against the 1st Amendment. The Bill of Rights state, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” (Brant, 1965, p.
13). If the President stops newspapers and TV from reporting on terrorist activities, he is not upholding this right of Americans. Over the past few months, the media has found themselves in an awkward position on what they should report on. One recent example is how the New York Times has angered the President over printing an article about a secret war on terror program.The article covered the government’s program to try and trace bank records of suspected terrorists. The government asked the paper not to print the article, but they did anyway. About the story being exposed, Dick Cheney stated, “Some in the press, in particular the New York Times, have made the job of defending against further terrorist attacks more difficult by insisting on publishing detailed information about vital national security programs” (Smolkin, 2006, p. 22).
Some supporters feel that the New York Times committed treason and put the United States in a dangerous position. These editors counter argue that Americans have a right to know and that they do not purposely set out to expose dangerous information.The story was printed on June 22, 2006 and after the anger over its danger to national security, a bill was introduced that would make it a criminal act to reveal classified information. “On June 29, 2006, the House of Representatives voted 227-to-183 to censor the publication of top secret information and to urge the media to help with the war on terror” (Smolkin, 2006, p.23). Reporters feel that they are not going against the government when they report on terrorist activities or programs that help seek out terrorists.
Many newspapers state that they talk to government officials before printing a story to make sure that it won’t cause any damage to national security. They weigh the concerns of the government and the President, and then decide if they should print a story. If they feel that the story does not put lives at risk, they will go on and print it.
It does not seem that it should be the media’s decision on whether a story will endanger lives or not. If the President decides that it is putting the country at risk, the newspaper should respect that decision. However, if the government does not want a story to run because it makes them look bad, then the media should be allowed to go ahead with the article. “This happened in 2005 when the New York Times ran an article about the National Security Agency wiretapping individuals” (Smolkin, 2006, p.
25). It was important to give Americans this information since it could be considered a violation of privacy. It was also a display on how the government may be abusing their power and whether this wiretapping program is legal or not.If certain information about terrorist activities is not going to endanger lives or if it’s not part of an ongoing investigation, Americans should be allowed access to it. If there are reasonable claims of its dangerousness made by the government, then reporters should not be allowed to print these stories.
It is not a violation of the freedom of speech, if it is protecting national security and helping to ensure the safety of the United States. Still, the President should not be allowed to abuse this power of censoring information and if it does not pose an immediate threat, then Americans should be allowed to know about the state of the war on terrorism.