Protection of Official Secrets

February 25, 1948

Report Outline
Moves to Tighten Security Safeguards
Security Safeguards Under Present Law
Failure of Proposed Official Secrets Acts
American Experience with Voluntary Censorship

Moves to Tighten Security Safeguards

Current Concern Over Leakage of Defense Secrets

Government concern over possible leakage of military information that would be of value to a potential enemy of the United States has brought a search for effective means of safeguarding official secrets. The most striking of the current proposals to this end is for revival, in some form, of the system of voluntary censorship that operated during the war. On behalf of Defense Secretary Forrestal, it was announced Feb. 18 that a conference of newspaper, radio, magazine, and movie representatives was being planned for early in March to consider a voluntary censorship program. At about the same time the President is expected to take final action on a new set of rules to protect “classified information” against unauthorized disclosure.

Any move to clamp down on government news sources is viewed instinctively by newspapermen as a threat to freedom of the press. The fear is ever-present that restrictions imposed in the name of security will be used to shut off information to which the public is entitled but which those in authority wish to suppress for political or personal reasons.

The President's Air Policy Commission declared in its recent unanimous report that “Whatever the difficulties or objections, … continuing and rigid enforcement of wartime security measures with regard to advanced aeronautical development is necessary now.” The commission displayed less concern over unauthorized publication of military information than over policies of the armed services themselves in releasing technical information of interest to foreign governments. Asserting that “the Air Force and the Navy appear to be competing publicly for recognition of their individual progress.” while the public is “not kept fully informed of the dangers of the military situation they are facing,” the commission called for a reversal of present policies: “Less information should be given out as to the technical facts of our air establishment. More information should be given out as to the broad lines of the military situation which confronts the country and of the military establishment needed to handle this situation.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Government Secrecy
Feb. 11, 2011  Government Secrecy
Oct. 23, 2009  Conspiracy Theories
Dec. 02, 2005  Government Secrecy
Jan. 16, 1987  National Security Council
Sep. 20, 1985  Protecting America's Secrets
Feb. 16, 1979  Freedom of Information Act: A Reappraisal
Aug. 18, 1971  Secrecy in Government
Aug. 18, 1971  Secrecy in Government
Feb. 07, 1968  Credibility Gaps and the Presidency
Aug. 07, 1957  Secrecy and Security
Dec. 21, 1955  Secrecy in Government
Feb. 23, 1955  Security Risks and the Public Safety
Jun. 24, 1953  Access to Official Information
Feb. 25, 1948  Protection of Official Secrets
Jan. 29, 1929  Secret Sessions of the Senate
Freedom of Information
Freedom of Speech and Press
Military Intelligence