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Context of 'Late 1970-Early 1971: Emergency Censorship Reassigned within ‘Shadow’ Government'

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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 Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 10186, shifting many responsibilities of the National Security Resources Board (NSRB), which oversees federal emergency planning, to a new civil defense organization, the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA). The FCDA is placed within the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), an agency established as part of the Executive Office of the President years earlier by President Franklin Roosevelt (see September 8, 1939). The purpose of the FCDA, according to President’s Truman’s order, “shall be to promote and facilitate the civil defense of the United States in cooperation with several States.” [Executive Order 10186, 12/1/1950] The Federal Civil Defense Act of 1950 will be signed into law weeks later, establishing the FCDA as an independent agency and detailing the organization’s responsibilities (see January 12, 1951)

Entity Tags: Federal Civil Defense Administration, Harry S. Truman, Office of Emergency Management

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

President Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 10193, establishing the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) within the Executive Office of the President. The ODM is granted a wide range of emergency powers in order to mobilize civilians, industries and government agencies to defend the country during a crisis. As part of a broad “mobilization” effort, President Truman calls for increasing the number of total armed forces, increasing defense spending, and expanding the economy to increase war production. President Truman declares a national emergency and delegates many of his war powers to the head of the ODM. According to the New York Times, “President Truman proclaimed a state of emergency this morning and delegated many of his own war powers to Charles E. Wilson, the new mobilization director.” Citing the threat of “Communist imperialism,” President Truman “signed the proclamation of emergency, which unleashed scores of additional executive powers, and issued an executive order granting virtually blanket authority to Mr. Wilson to carry out all aspects of war production and economic control he deemed necessary.” According to the order, the mobilization director “shall on behalf of the president direct, control, and coordinate all mobilization activities of the executive branch of the government, including but not limited to production, procurement, manpower, stabilization, and transport activities.” [Executive Order 10193, 12/16/1950; New York Times, 12/16/1950, pp. 1; New York Times, 12/16/1950, pp. 1]

Entity Tags: Office of Defense Mobilization, Charles E. Wilson, Harry S. Truman

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1953 is signed into law, restructuring the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) within the Executive Office of the President. The ODM, originally created by President Harry S. Truman in December of 1950 (see December 16, 1950), will incorporate the responsibilities of the National Security Resources Board (NSRB), which shares similar objectives. The purpose of the ODM is to ensure the continuation of essential government and industry functions, particularly during times of crisis. President Dwight D. Eisenhower says merging the ODM and the NSRB will “enable one Executive Office agency to exercise strong leadership in our national mobilization effort, including both current defense activities and readiness for any future national emergency.” [New York Times, 4/3/1953, pp. 1; US Congress. House. Senate., 6/12/1953]

Entity Tags: Office of Defense Mobilization, ageqixocuyu, Dwight Eisenhower

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

Reorganization Plan No. 1 of 1958 is signed into law, merging the Federal Civil Defense Administration (FCDA) and the Office of Defense Mobilization (ODM) into a single agency, the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (OCDM). The OCDM will be responsible for ensuring the continuation of essential government and industry functions in the event of a national emergency. President Dwight D. Eisenhower submitted the reorganization plan to Congress in April 1958 with the intention of establishing a “single pattern with respect to the vesting of defense mobilization and civil defense functions.” In addition to merging the civil defense agencies, the reorganization plan transfers to the president the authorities previously delegated to the FCDA and the ODM (see December 1, 1950 and December 16, 1950). [Message of the President, 4/24/1958; US Congress. House. Senate., 7/1/1958]

Entity Tags: Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, Federal Civil Defense Administration, Office of Defense Mobilization, Dwight Eisenhower

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

President John F. Kennedy signs Executive Order 10952, calling for a nationwide fallout shelter program. According to the New York Times, “President Kennedy today put the Pentagon in charge of a greatly increased [shelter] program to protect American civilians against the effects of nuclear attack.” The New York Times reports the program will “concentrate on public and quasi-public buildings—factories, office buildings, churches—where basements and other protected areas could be easily made into shelters for large numbers of persons.” The fallout shelters are expected to cost approximately $300 million. The plan is largely the creation of Frank B. Ellis, the new director of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization (OCDM). The White House reorganizes civil defense responsibilities within the federal government. The OCDM is renamed the Office of Emergency Planning (OEP) and several of the organization’s responsibilities are shifted to the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), a new organization established within the Department of Defense. [Executive Order 10952, 7/20/1961; New York Times, 7/21/1961, pp. 1; New York Times, 8/2/1961, pp. 1; New York Times, 8/31/1961, pp. 17]

Entity Tags: Office of Emergency Planning, Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, Office of Civil Defense, Frank B. Ellis, John F. Kennedy

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

Representative William S. Moorhead (D-PA) publicly criticizes a secret government contingency plan to censor public information in the event of a national emergency or war. Moorhead claims he has obtained a copy of the plan as part of an investigation by the House Foreign Operations and Government Information Subcommittee. His primary concern is that the censorship plans could be implemented in the event of a “limited war,” such as the conflict in Vietnam. According to Moorhead, representatives of the Office of Emergency Preparedness (OEP), which is responsible for managing the secret censorship program, testified to the committee that the plans were for use only in the event of nuclear attack within the United States. Moorhead, however, after reviewing the plans first-hand, says the program could be activated during “limited war or conflicts of the ‘brush fire’ type, in which United States forces are involved elsewhere in the world on land, sea, or in the air.” The plans would involve “opening mail, monitoring broadcasts, and questioning travelers entering the country.” Moorhead says James W. McCord Jr., who was arrested as part of the Watergate scandal (see June 17, 1972), was one of several individuals responsible for drafting the plans. Moorhead alleges McCord developed a “National Watchlist” as part of the program. [United Press International, 10/23/1972; United Press International, 10/23/1972]

Entity Tags: William Moorhead, House Foreign Operations and Government Information Subcommittee, Office of Emergency Preparedness (1968-1973), James McCord

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

Despite reports alleging the Wartime Information Security Program (WISP) has been shut down, an internal Pentagon memo reveals it is still in existence. The program, which is currently being run out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is designed to censor public information in the event of a national emergency or war. It was supposedly shut down after Congress cut off funding for WISP in 1974 (see 1974). The recent memo, however, summarizes the WISP’s current objectives: “The National WISP provides for the control and examination of communications entering, leaving, transiting, or touching the borders of the United States, and voluntary withholding from publication, by the domestic public media industries, of military and other information which should not be released in the interest of the safety and defense of the United States and its allies.” Investigative columnist Jack Anderson will later report: “There has been no Congressional funding for work on the censorship program since 1974, but the Pentagon directive is still in effect. So, too, is Executive Order 11490, which outlines each federal agency’s responsibilities in time of ‘severe emergency.’” Anderson will add that FEMA has drafted “standby” legislation to activate the censorship plans “whenever the president shall deem that the public safety demands it.” [Ocala Star-Banner, 3/29/1986]

Entity Tags: Wartime Information Security Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

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