• U.S.

The Press: Shocking Proposal

2 minute read

Long under fire by editors for stifling news on the pretext of “security,” the Defense Department last week issued a report by its own special committee on the problem. The most explosive recommendation: reporters should be summoned to “a grand jury investigation” to divulge their source in the case of any serious “leak” of information. This was so certain to infuriate the press that Secretary of Defense Charles E. Wilson pointedly tagged it with “serious reservations” as he released the report.

Wilson also felt serious reservations about a suggestion that the Government put out “a forceful statement to the press outlining the differences between ordinary peace and the present situation from the point of view of information security.” But on the whole, he complimented the committee, headed by Boston Lawyer Charles A. Coolidge, and gave orders for putting “the great majority” of its 28 recommendations into effect. Among the recommendations that the press can cheer: make clear that the classification system is not to be used to suppress information not affecting national security.

As the report was released, the House subcommittee on Government Operations, headed by California’s Democratic Representative John E. Moss, opened new hearings in its investigation of Government information policies. Moss denounced the grand jury proposal as “shocking.” Then his committee disclosed one reason why the Pentagon and reporters wrangled so much; none of the topmost information officers in the Army, Navy or Air Force had any previous experience in public-information jobs outside the Pentagon.

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