JFK's mind-blowing speech on secrecy and the role of newspapers

JFK's mind-blowing speech on secrecy and the role of newspapers

Summary: "The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings..."

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TOPICS: Security
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"...there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.

That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control."

- - -

He reminds newspapers of their duty:

"…that is why our press was protected by the First (emphasized) Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution

-- not primarily to amuse and entertain,

not to emphasize the trivial and sentimental,

not to simply "give the public what it wants"

--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect,

to state our dangers and our opportunities,

to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold educate

and sometimes even anger public opinion."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Em8cuv_a0gU

(Thanks to Donovan Seow.)

 Please listen to President John F. Kennedy's speech on secrecy and a free and democratic society. It's short but incredibly relevant.

Here is the transcript: 

"The very word "secrecy" is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and secret proceedings.

We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions.

Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.

That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control.

And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know."

For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence--on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day.

It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.

Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed."

"No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary.

I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.

I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers-- I welcome it.

This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: "An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it." We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.

Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed-- and no republic can survive.

That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy.

And that is why our press was protected by the First (emphasized) Amendment-- the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution-- not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and sentimental, not to simply "give the public what it wants"--but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.

This means greater coverage and analysis of international news-- for it is no longer far away and foreign but close at hand and local. It means greater attention to improved understanding of the news as well as improved transmission. And it means, finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security...

And so it is to the printing press--to the recorder of mans deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news-- that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will
be what he was born to be: free and independent."

Topic: Security

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9 comments
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  • Incredible. What have we descended into now?

    There is no longer press freedom.

    Journalists are no longer able to protect their sources, as the NSA can see them all.


    In some countries, there is only a two-party political system, which is only one step above a dictatorship. It's like voting for either Coke or Pepsi. A power sharing arrangement, with little difference between them.
    Vbitrate
    • That's just silly. The nsa isnt following them around. Nor can it do

      anything about anyone sending a journalist info from a bogus email account. The much bigger problem we have today is that the major network "journalists" don't investigate or report on things that don't go along with their liberal agenda.
      Johnny Vegas
  • And 200 years earlier from Benjamin Franklin.

    Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
    Arm A. Geddon
    • Oops bad copy and paste on that last quote.

      Me bad.
      Arm A. Geddon
  • Hmmm he sure wanted all the women he was screwing on the side kept a

    secret from the general public. Maybe just a tad bit of hypocrisy there. Just goes to show that even a dirt bag can have good speech writers and be a good talking head. Reminds me of another teleprompter fella.
    Johnny Vegas
    • Re: Maybe just a tad bit of hypocrisy there

      Why?
      ldo17
    • Teleprompter fella

      You mean George W. Bush? ;)
      Third of Five
  • quote from founding fathers

    "The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them."
    Patrick Henry, American colonial revolutionary
    Adam Russell
  • Now you know why he was killed

    People spend a lot of time arguing over why Kennedy was killed. This speech was one of many reasons.

    Trying to get rid of the Federal Reserve by distributing an alternative to the Federal Reserve note was probably the biggest reason. Don't mess with the bankers. Threatening to dissolve the intelligence agencies. He had no clue what he was up against there. Kennedy was too far ahead of his time.

    Dwelling on personal failings within the scope of what he wanted to achieve is moronic and unproductive. It is a sign of a small mind still caught in the paradigm that there is any real difference between a Republican and a Democrat.

    Michael Hastings aparently was a little ahead of his time. Only a little however. Even with his assassination last week for threatening to reveal state secrets (criminal activities) disclosure is inevitable. There are many that will not be intimidated and are willing to give their lives so that truth will once again become available to the public. At best they bought themselves a little more time. They still haven't got the fact that disclosure is now inevitable.
    Astringent