Theissue of state secrets and the freedom provided by the FirstAmendment has been rampant since the introduction of Internet andmedia, which has made the flow of information easy. The firstAmendment states that
“Congressshall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, orprohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom ofspeech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably toassemble, and to petition the government for a redress ofgrievances,” (Silverman,2012).
Itis this clause that people run to invoke when perhaps they have beenfound to utter or do something that exposes a secret that is notwelcomed by the public. It was necessary that the government’spower to control the freedom of media be abolished. This was vital toensure that the media and any individual was protected from exposingmisconduct or misdeed by the government(IQ2US Debates).
Thepublic forms opinions depending on the information that is availableto them and in the current political climate, it is crucial fordemocracy to function correctly. Thus, I believe due to the rise inhighly classified information and state secrets, it is necessary inthe interest of national security that there be an exception to theFirst Amendment in that regard.
Tobegin with, our nation is a superpower, and that superiority dependson how secretive we are in our weapons, security, covert mission, andassets that we have in various states. Let’s apply common sense,would you share everything about your family with your neighborconcerning private matters of your home? I do not think so. I believeeveryone feels that they should protect their privacy and secrets andnot expose them to others as this would make them vulnerable.
Let’sexamine the Tottenv. the United Statescase. A spy brought a case to the court to be compensated for he hadbeen sent by President Lincoln to infiltrate the south and determinethe number of troops and assets the enemy had (Silverman,2012).This claim was dismissed on the basis of national security. If theCourt felt that it was wrong to hear a case that involvedconfidential details, which would jeopardize our national securitywhy should the press publish that information? If the court has madean exception that there can be a privilege regarding the exposure ofconfidential information, then it means that some information shouldnot be disclosed to the public.
Insome occasions, the government has used prior restraint to stopindividuals from publishing information prior its actual expression.The government usually employs this method when it has entered intoan agreement with contractors, licensees, and employees where theyhave access to classified information. The government has been giventhe mandate to obtain an injunctive against a person or press frompublishing information that would interfere with the militaryespecially when the nation is at war (Silverman,2012).
Thiscan be supported in the case of Schenckv. United Stateswhere he was charged with disseminating information that encouragedpeople to resist recruitment for World War I. Thus the Supreme Courtshowed that in some instances it was necessary that the distributionof information that obstructs military function or events berestricted (Silverman,2012).This shows the nature and seriousness of the issues as it revolvesaround national security.
Forinstance, would you allow the media to print or publish informationthat would expose the state secrets such as the assets in foreigncountries or nuclear codes or military plans or weapons? Certainlynot, as this might risk the lives of American citizens who are onsecret missions, which can result to capture, torture and death.Moreover, the release of military plans and weapons further puts theAmerican lives at danger thus necessitating the deviation from theFirst Amendment.
Underthese circumstances, even the courts allow the operation of priorrestraints. To hold a claim that those who are brave are at libertyto publish information without being obstructed, but they mustcomprehend that their actions can put the lives of fellow Americansat risk if they dispose of what ought to be secret, is absurd(Silverman,2012).It is the responsibility of the government to secure its citizensagainst any information that can be considered of national security.Thus, I recommend that a clause regarding state secrets, which givesonly some members of government oversight responsibility to judgewhether that information is suitable for the public or not, beformed.
Isupport that the government prevents citizens from exposing secretsby signing a non-disclosure agreement. Under such an agreement theFirst Amendment would not apply. Thus, the government would besuccessful in preventing its employees who access secret informationfrom publishing or even speaking against such a matter.
Forinstance, in the case of Sneppv. the United States,a former agent of the CIA wrote a book based on his experience inactivities in South Vietnam as an agent thus violating thenondisclosure agreement. The Supreme Court rejected the FirstAmendment argument and held that publishing that information wasimpermissible as the government had an interest in protectingconfidential information and intelligent Foreign Service (Silverman,2012).
Weare in an era where other nations are increasing their military andforeign operations and to permit the media to expose information oran individual would be against the ultimate responsibility of anation, which is to protect its citizens. Our presidential candidateshave been marred with the inability to be trusted with classifiedinformation, and it is understood to be the primary responsibility ofcommander in chief.
Ifthe media and people feel that such information should not be leaked,then by necessity the First Amendment does not apply in this matter.This Amendment gives people the freedom of worship, association, andspeech, but we must say that in some matters, for the sake ofprotecting the freedom that we enjoy, it will not apply in somecases.
Sharinginformation and especially national secrets threatens our positionand risks the lives of many citizens that have dedicated their livesto serve our nation and not protecting their rights under theumbrella of the First Amendment, would be violating the role of theconstitution, which is to keep the American people safe and able toenjoy their freedom.
Exposingstate secrets gives insight in our national matters to the enemy whocan get an advantage to attack, but if this was not possible, theywould not have stricken. Thus, as I conclude, I reinstate that due tothe rise in classified information, it is necessary that the FirstAmendment is overlooked in a case where exposing state secrets wouldrisk the lives of American citizens as this would be treason.
IQ2USDebates. (n.d.). Freedom of the Press Does Not Extend To StateSecrets | IQ2US Debates. Retrieved fromhttp://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/past-debates/item/555-freedom-of-the-press-does-not-extend-to-state-secrets
Silverman, M.(2012). National security and the first amendment: a judicial role inmaximizing public access to information.Indianalaw Journal,1-29.