Access to Official Information

June 24, 1953

Report Outline
White house and freedom of information
Congress and Access to Executive Papers
Access of the Press to Government News

White house and freedom of information

Eisenhower and Secrt Government Information

President eisenhower took an important step in behalf of freedom of information when he announced, June 17, that he would drastically modify President Truman's controversial executive order on classification of government information. Final action is being withheld temporarily to give the press an opportunity to suggest further changes for the administration's consideration. But the terms of the proposed new order, as now outlined, indicate that it will go far to meet complaints leveled against its predecessor. It is in line also with the 1952 Republican platform pledge “not to infringe by censorship or gag order the right of a free people to know what their government is doing,”

Issuance of the original executive order on Sept. 24, 1951, aroused vigorous press criticism. The order directed all federal agencies to put into effect the system for classifying security information theretofore used only by the State and Defense departments. Newspapermen feared that extension of sweeping classification powers to the whole Executive establishment would lead to suppression of news not truly of a security nature. But protests to the White House were unavailing. And after President Eisenhower took office, it looked for a time as if he would let the Truman order stand. At a press conference Apr. 2, he parried questions by asking correspondents to report to him any case in which legitimate news had been strangled or choked off—something difficult to do without access to the material that had been classified.

When the subject came up at another news conference three weeks later, however, the President disclosed that he had asked the Department of Justice to review the question and let him know whether the Truman executive order had obstructed the free flow of news. The order now proposed grew out of that study. In a letter to the President, made public along with the tentative provisions of the new order, Attorney General Brownell said the existing classification regulations were “so broadly drawn and loosely administered as to make it possible for government officials to cover up their own mistakes and even their wrongdoing under the guise of protecting national security.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Jan. 16, 1987  National Security Council
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Feb. 16, 1979  Freedom of Information Act: A Reappraisal
Aug. 18, 1971  Secrecy in Government
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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