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Context of 'October 1970: Details of National Censorship Program Exposed'

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The National Security Resources Board (NSRB) adopts a national censorship plan designed to restrict the free flow of information to the public in the event of a national emergency or war. The government assumes the power to censor communications and suspend freedoms of the press. An NSRB document outlining the program says censorship may be activated in a “time of war or of national emergency proclaimed by the president and found by him to arise from the use or threat of force by a foreign power.” The new NSRB plan is an extension of a program established during World War II. Author Ted Galen Carpenter will later comment: “Although advocates of censorship habitually insisted that it would only by invoked during wartime, the guidelines contained no such limitation. A declaration of war was not required; merely a declaration of emergency arising from a perceived foreign menace.” [Carpenter, 1995, pp. 112-113]

Entity Tags: ageqixocuyu, Ted Galen Carpenter, Office of Censorship

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

President Dwight D. Eisenhower appoints CBS executive Theodore F. Koop, who served as deputy director of the Office of Censorship during World War II, to head a new, secret, 26-member emergency censorship board. The group is placed in charge of developing plans to restrict the free flow of information to the public in the event of a national emergency or war. The plans were first adopted in 1949 (see 1949). Approximately 40 “civilian executives” agree to work for the standby censorship unit should a crisis lead to its activation. [Prescott Courier, 10/1/1970; Time, 8/10/1992; Carpenter, 1995, pp. 112-113]

Entity Tags: Dwight Eisenhower, Theodore F. Koop

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The Office of Emergency Planning, which is responsible for parts of the federal government’s civil defense and continuity of government plans, is renamed the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP). Federal agencies responsible for emergency planning have undergone several duty and title changes over the past two decades (see December 1, 1950, December 16, 1950, June 12, 1953, July 1, 1958, and July 20, 1961). The changes, the New York Times notes, have created a “tale of more names than even government civil servants care to remember.” The latest change is largely superficial and comes as the result of Public Law 90-608, which was drafted and presented to Congress by President Johnson. [New York Times, 12/14/1968, pp. 19]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Preparedness (1968-1973), Office of Emergency Planning, Lyndon B. Johnson

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Press reports and freedom of information advocates expose details regarding the government’s secret plans to censor public information in the event of a national emergency or war. In the event of a declared emergency, the Office of Censorship, led by a 26-member board of “executive reservists,” would be in charge of restricting virtually all public information. The unit was established in 1949 as a reincarnation of a censorship office created during World War II (see 1949). The board was apparently put in place to oversee the unit in 1958 (see 1958). The unit is currently being operated out of the Office of Emergency Preparedness. In an article published in the Prescott Courier, Sam Archibald, director of the Freedom of Information Center, writes, “The government has set up a ‘Stand-by Voluntary Censorship Code’ and has planned all the bureaucratic trappings necessary to enforce the code.” Archibald says the plan would “become effective either in wartime or in some undefined ‘national emergency.’” The plans, he writes, are ready to be applied in “all kinds of less than war situations.” In the event of a crisis, members of the standby censorship office would be dispatched throughout the country to monitor and censor all channels of communication, from private letters and telephone calls to public radio and television broadcasts. According to Archibald, only five of the 26 board members are working newsmen. “The rest are public relations men, businessmen, government employees, college professors, or are listed merely as ‘retired.’” CBS executive Theodore F. Koop, who served as deputy director of the Office of Censorship during World War II, is revealed as the head of board. Archibald reports that Koop took up the position in the mid-1960s. Later reports will suggest President Eisenhower appointed Koop to head the censorship board in 1958 (see 1958). [Prescott Courier, 10/1/1970; New York Times, 10/9/1970; St. Petersburg Times, 10/25/1970; Carpenter, 1995]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Preparedness (1968-1973), Freedom of Information Center, Office of Censorship, Sam Archibald, Theodore F. Koop

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

In the wake of reports exposing government plans to censor public information in the event of a crisis (see October 1970), the Nixon administration changes the title of the secretive Office of Censorship to the Wartime Information Security Program (WISP). The WISP agency is run out of the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP), which is responsible for the highly classified Continuity of Government (COG) program (see October 21, 1968). The number of board members within the WISP unit, originally set at 26 (see 1958), is scaled down to just eight. The agency maintains the same basic objective of censoring public information in the event of a crisis. Author Ted Galen Carpenter will later report that “virtually nothing” changes in regards to the censorship plans. In the event of a national emergency, “press censorship would go into effect and several thousand ‘executive reservists’ would report to locations across the country to censor all mail, cables, telephone calls, and other communications (including press dispatches) entering or leaving the United States.” Under the WISP program, the government would not only censor information that may help an enemy, but also any data that “might adversely affect any policy of the United States.” Time magazine will later summarize, “Press reports in 1970 exposed the existence of a standby national censor and led to the formal dissolution of the censorship unit, but its duties were discreetly reassigned to yet another part of what an internal memo refers to as the ‘shadow’ government.” [Time, 8/10/1992; Carpenter, 1995, pp. 114]

Entity Tags: Office of Censorship, Nixon administration, Wartime Information Security Program, Office of Emergency Preparedness (1968-1973)

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees vote to cut funding for the Wartime Information Security Program (WISP), which is designed to censor public information in the event of a national emergency or war (see Late 1970-Early 1971 and October 22, 1972). By 1977, the last of the censorship units will reportedly be shut down, but information will later surface showing that the program is still in existence in 1983 (see September 21, 1983). [Ocala Star-Banner, 3/29/1986; Carpenter, 1995, pp. 114-115]

Entity Tags: Senate Appropriations Committee, Wartime Information Security Program

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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