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Blog 4

Brendan Cronin

Blog #4

In light of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001, I do believe that the government should have more power to exercise prior restraint and block publication of material it feels might hurt national security interests. We Americans do have freedom of speech. However, when a person or publication says something that can give out top-secret information or does something else that can harm the security of our nation, then the Amendment clearly should have an exception or two.

America has elevated its level of national security since the terrorist attacks, because we are doing everything that we can to prevent something so terrible from happening again. This example of prior restraint is similar to that of national security now: people often times will complain about how much more security there is at an airport now, but at the end of the day this added security is just keeping us safe. We do not want another catastrophe like September 11 to take place, so we should take the extra time and precautions to make sure that something like that definitely does not happen. With prior restraint, people can complain that this means that the First Amendment is not valid because there are exceptions to the rule with censoring speech. However, if the thing published was a threat to our nation as a whole, then there is no reason why it should not be censored. Prior restraint is another thing that can annoy many American citizens, but in the end it keeps us safe. Safety is our priority.

While prior restraint may be overused for things that are not a matter of national security, there are also times where it needs to be used because information has been leaked that can risk our safety. An example of this is back in 1971 when the New York Times Co. v. United States court case took place. In this, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that stopped the Times from publishing “The Pentagon Papers”, a top-secret study of US involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1979, a district court stopped The Progressive magazine (US v. Progressive) from publishing “The H-Bomb Secret.” These are examples of where the courts have ruled that freedom of speech is not an absolute, especially during times of war.

Difficulties in doing this are fighting against those who are truly passionate about the fact that the First Amendment should be read literally, and there should be no exceptions. Adopting this position would help keep the nation a little bit safer, but it also would bring an outburst from the people who disagree with the decision to use prior restraint. There are definitely obstacles, but the pros certainly outweigh the cons. Therefore the government should take precaution and use prior restraint, so that we are better safe than sorry.

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  1. tessdoez
    January 23, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    This is a good start, but please revise your entry with a bit more detail with regard to what the book says about this debate, a reference to a relevant court case (there are quite a few mentioned in the book), or some other hard evidence on which to base your argument. You probably want to do a good proofread as well, since there are one or two grammatical errors.

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