Security Unlimited

October 17, 1951 — The Milwaukee Sentinel

The Mossadegh Project | July 22, 2018                    

U.S. President Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

President Harry Truman’s press censorship order was the subject of this defiant editorial in a leading Wisconsin newspaper. The title riffs on Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here, about “a real fascist dictatorship” emerging in The Land of the Free.

Harry Truman editorial archive
Harry Truman letters, speeches, etc.

It Can Happen Here

ALMOST ALWAYS a threat to freedom comes first by stealth. It insinuates itself by masquerading as an emergency, or a benefit, or a matter of no great importance. It fattens and grows on trivialities.

In such a way there has entered a threat to the fundamental right of the American people to information.

It is beginning to happen here.

We are already beginning to see the results of Mr. Truman’s recent order authorizing heads of non-military departments to classify information as secret on the grounds of security. Mr. Truman has handed these civilian agency heads the same power now used by Defense and State Departments.

★ ★ ★

AS EXAMPLE of how this power can be—and was—distorted and abused we offer the great San Francisco dog incident.

The San Francisco Call-Bulletin picked up in routine way at city hall a story about a planned dog-training project, to teach dogs in the “detection and detonation of land mines.” You would have thought from the hell that broke loose thereafter the paper had published a formula for the atomic submarine.

The Sanford Research Institute threatened to file a notice of security violation under the Espionage Act. Two so-called security officers came all the way from Belvoir, Va., to tell the editor of the Call-Bulletin that the dog story was not news in the first place, that he shouldn’t have published it, and demanded assurances of “co-operation.”

Naturally, he told them that the Call-Bulletin always had co-operated with the government in matters of national security and always would, but no one was going to tell that newspaper what was or was not news and what it should not print.

★ ★ ★

THE OUTCRY that followed Mr. Truman’s blunder was strong, thank God, and is growing stronger. The American Society of Newspaper Editors denounced it. Republican Senators Bricker of Ohio, [John W. Bricker] Capehart of Indiana [Homer E. Capehart] and Ferguson of Michigan [Homer S. Ferguson] are sponsoring a measure to kill it.

We want to repeat: It is beginning to happen here.

We want to affirm: We will fight all attempts to debauch the right of the American people to proper information of their government, national, state or local.

The Crisis Technique | Bruce Barton on Emergency Powers (1951)
The Crisis Technique | Bruce Barton on Emergency Powers (1951)


Related links:

Dizzy Performance | The New London Day, Oct. 6, 1951

Truman’s Censorship Order Can Be Menace to Freedom | Owoss Argus-Press, Sept. 1951

Censorship Can Neutralize Stench from Washington | Robert Ruark (Oct. 2, 1951)

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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