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Context of 'September 21, 1983: Despite Reports, Emergency Censorship Program Still Active'

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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

Prosecutor Earl Silbert.Prosecutor Earl Silbert. [Source: Washington Post]The five men caught burglarizing the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in the Watergate hotel (see 2:30 a.m.June 17, 1972) are arraigned in a Washington, DC, city court on charges of felony burglary and possession of implements of crime. All five originally gave the police false names. [Washington Post, 6/18/1972] The real identities of the five are:
bullet Bernard Barker of Miami, a Cuban-American whom Cuban exiles say has worked on and off for the CIA since the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. Barker was one of the principal leaders of the Cuban Revolutionary Council, the exile organization established with CIA help to organize the Bay of Pigs invasion. Barker’s wife reportedly told attorney Douglas Caddy, one of the team’s lawyers, that, as Caddy says, “her husband told her to call me if he hadn’t called her by 3 a.m.: that it might mean he was in trouble.” [Washington Post, 6/18/1972; Washington Post, 6/19/1972] Barker owns a Miami real estate firm, Barker & Associates. [O.T. Jacobson, 7/5/1974 pdf file]
bullet Virgilio Gonzalez, a Miami locksmith of Cuban extraction. Gonzalez’s boss, Harry Collot, says Gonzalez came to the US about the time Fidel Castro became well-known, and is an ardent opponent of the Castro regime. Collot describes Gonzalez as “pro-American and anti-Castro… he doesn’t rant or rave like some of them do.”
bullet Eugenio Martinez, a real estate agent from Miami, who authorities say is active in anti-Castro activities in Florida, and violated US immigration laws in 1958 by flying a private plane to Cuba.
bullet James W. McCord, the security director for the Committee for the Re-election of the President (CREEP). McCord initially identifies himself as “Edward Martin,” a former CIA agent and “security consultant” who resides in New York City and possibly the DC area. Neither the police or the press are aware, at the moment, of McCord’s true identity (see June 19, 1972).
bullet Frank Sturgis, a former Cuban army intelligence officer, mercenary, and now the agent for a Havana salvage firm in Miami. Sturgis uses the alias “Frank Florini” during the arraignment. “Fiorini” was identified in 1959 by the Federal Aviation Agency as the pilot of a plane that dropped anti-Castro leaflets over Havana. Previous news reports describe “Fiorini” as a “soldier of fortune” and the former head of the International Anti-Communist Brigade, an organization formed after the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of 1962. The Brigade trained and ferried 23 Cuban exiles into Cuba, where they began guerrilla operations against Castro. “Florini” reportedly fought with, not against, Castro during the Cuban revolution and was originally slated to be named overseer of Cuba’s gambling operations before Castro shut down Cuba’s casinos. Apparently, Sturgis is involved in trying to orchestrate Miami Cubans to demonstrate against the Democratic National Convention, to be held in Miami in July. Sturgis is also involved in the John Birch Society and the Reverend Billy James Hargis’s Christian Crusade.
During their arraignment, one of the burglars describes the team as “anti-Communists,” and the others nod in agreement. Prosecutor Earl Silbert calls the operation “professional” and “clandestine.” The court learns that four of the five, all using fictitious names, rented two rooms at the Watergate, and dined together in the Watergate restaurant on February 14. A search of the two rooms turns up $4,200, again in sequential $100 bills, more burglary tools, and more electronic surveillance equipment, all stashed in six suitcases. Currently, FBI and Secret Service agents are investigating the burglary. Caddy, who says he met Barker a year ago at the Army Navy Club and had a “sympathetic conversation [with Barker]—that’s all I’ll say,” attempts to stay in the background during the arraignment, instead having another attorney, Joseph Rafferty Jr, plead before the court. Caddy is a corporate lawyer with no criminal law experience. [Washington Post, 6/18/1972; Washington Post, 6/19/1972] Interestingly, Caddy shows up at the arraignment apparently without any of the burglars contacting him (see June 17, 1972). [Woodward, 2005, pp. 35] Silbert argues unsuccessfully that the five should be held without bail, citing their use of fictitious names, their lack of community ties, and the likelihood that they would flee the country after they post bail. “They were caught red-handed,” Silbert tells the court. [Washington Post, 6/18/1972; Washington Post, 6/19/1972]

Entity Tags: Harry Collot, US Secret Service, James McCord, Joseph Rafferty, Jr, Frank Sturgis, Earl Silbert, Eugenio Martinez, ’Plumbers’, Bernard Barker, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Democratic National Committee, Douglas Caddy, Committee to Re-elect the President, Virgilio Gonzalez

Timeline Tags: Nixon and Watergate

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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