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Profile: Wartime Information Security Program

Wartime Information Security Program was a participant or observer in the following events:

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

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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