Prior Restraint or Public Supression?
The debate on national security vs personal freedom is one that has raged for as long as there have been nations to protect and citizens to exercise what freedoms they have been granted. One need only to look beyond their national borders to see that there are as many differing opinions on what level is appropriate as there are nations to set those levels.
Put simply, I do NOT think that the U.S. government should have any additional power to exercise prior restraint than it already has. I don’t feel that the events of 9/11 have much relevance as to whether or not the U.S. government should have additional or less power to exercise prior restraint. More than anything, I feel that 9/11 is merely used as an excuse and isn’t even the real issue here.
From an ideological perspective, I do not support government restriction of citizen rights beyond a certain basic necessary level. People tend to act in their own self interest. This is true of organizations, regardless of type, just the same. At the base level, organizations are just collections of people. These people will tend to act in their own self interest just the same. As has been demonstrated through the years in the courts, the government officials have repeatedly attempted to abuse their positions and exercise prior restraint on those news stories that would damage them personally and professionally. Whether it be Pentagon Papers, which detailed the U.S government’s involvement and deception in the Vietnam war, or any of the other host of examples, it has been clearly shown time and time again that government officials have attempted to abuse their powers to protect their personal position, or to merely suppress information, rather than truly act in the national self interest. If the U.S. examples do not provide a strong enough impact, one merely needs to look at what has occurred in foreign countries such as Iran or Russia to see what can occur where less safeguards are in place.
I do not necessarily feel that the government needs to have less power than it does now, so I can’t say there would be any difficulty in maintaining the status quo. The government is currently trying to increase what power it has to exercise prior restraint. Thus, some difficulty could be encountered even just maintaining the government’s current level of power, as this goes against current trends.
There are two possible outcomes in the case of leaving the government’s power where it is today. Outcome one is that everything stays as it is and the government has some, but not extensive, power to exercise prior restraint. Outcome two, and the one the current and the previous administrations are proponents of, is that the government will have it’s ability to combat terrorism and pursue criminals severely diminished without increased power as of a result of new means of communication, such as the proliferation of the internet and its various services. One need only to look at the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) treaty, that the U.S. is trying to strong arm the international community into signing, to see where they stand. Perhaps most telling of the direction the government is moving is their reaction to requests from the public for the release of the details of the treaty which they had desperately been trying to conceal. From CNET, “Both the Obama administration and the Bush administration had rejected requests from civil libertarians and technologists for the text of ACTA, with the White House last year even indicating that disclosure would do ‘damage to the national security.'” Full text can be found here: Link~
In short, I only see negative implications should the government be grated any additional power in exercising prior restraint and cannot sanction any move in such a direction.