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Re: Bernstein hearing: The Press Release


On Sat, 21 Sep 1996, jim bell wrote:

> At the risk of being a devil's advocate, let me suggest that you are 
> conceding too much even with the preceding paragraph.  The 1st amendment 
> says nothing about preventing speech  which (even admittedly) would result 
> in "direct, immediate, and irreparable damage to our nation or its people."

I believe there is one section in the Constitution that says that speech
harmful to national security is not protected under the 1st amendment.  However,
I don't agree with this provision at all.  "National security" is a phrase that
is applied to anything from information on the JFK assassination to DES source

> I could list many more, but won't because of lack of space.  But notice 
> that, presumably, each and every one of these incidents was AT ONE TIME kept 
> secret, arguably because it would be better for the country to do so.  Thus, 
> presumably it was thought or at least asserted that to reveal them would 
> cause "damage to our nation or its people."

If secret information was released, it would cause most people to completely
lose respect for the government (some people call this damage -- I call it

> The way you've written the paragraph I've quoted above, it appears that you 
> are somehow acknowleding that there  are certain circumstances where certain 
> types of speech are controllable because they are "harmful," but you fail to 
> explain how even this constitutional restiction is tolerable.    Frankly, I 
> don't see it!  What you need to do is to be far more specific about such 
> speech and exactly where it can be controlled.

There may be certain circumstances under which speech can be directly harmful.
Military operations and missle launch codes are things that should be kept
secret.  Information about high-powered weapons should be too.  If the Japanese
had been able to get information about how to build A-bombs during WWII, major
cities in the U.S. probably would have been completely wiped out.  I don't like
the idea that the government has the power to decide what's harmful and what
isn't, but there are beneficial uses of the provision.

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