The Test of National Security

On April 27, 1961, President John Kennedy delivered a speech before the American Newspaper Publishers Association at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. He addressed the issue of the press’s role in preserving national security in the Cold War. President Kennedy lamented the fact that secret information about America’s covert operations had routinely appeared in American newspapers, to be read by friend and foe alike. He noted that the Communists had openly boasted of gaining information from American newspapers that they would otherwise have had to use spies to attempt to steal. And he called on newspapers not to publish stories based on the single test, Is it news? but rather to add a second test: How does it affect national security?

The speech can be both read and listened to in its entirety here. The speech is around 19 minutes long. Click on the audio player below to hear the brief excerpts that are most relevant to the present controversy.

I would encourage you to listen to the entire speech. It is, in several ways, a relic of a better time.

Thanks to reader Carlos Fernandes.


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