Follow by Email

Monday, July 18, 2011

Should Freedom of the Press Extend to State Secrets?

Some years ago, Nat Hentoff, a former columnist for The Village Voice published a book called, "Free Speech for Me But Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other." His point was that while in theory many Americans believe in the right to free speech, in practice they often only affirm it for those who happen to agree with them.

This pattern extends beyond free speech to things such as freedom of religion and freedom of the press. For example, in their recent book, "The Price of Freedom Denied: Religious Persecution and Conflict in the Twenty-First Century" Brian Grim and Roger Finke note that people often support religious freedom for themselves but not for others. According to a 2006 Pew Forum Survey of 10 countries (India, Nigeria, Philippines, South Africa, Kenya, South Korea, United States, Brazil, Guatemala, and Chile), the average gap between people affirming religious freedom for themselves but not for others was 14%, with India having the largest gap (30%) and Chile having the smallest (3%). The US gap was 6% (see page 44).

Freedom of the press is another contentious issue. In fact, its limits were recently debated on Intelligence Squared US: "Freedom of the Press Does Not Extend to State Secrets." Here's a description of the debate from the Intelligence Squared US website:
The First Amendment protects freedom of the press, but how do we reconcile the conflict between national security and accountability? Do we err on the side of secrecy or transparency? From the Pentagon Papers to WikiLeaks, join the debate between the need for government secrecy and the public’s right to know.
Arguing on behalf of the motion are Michael Chertoff and Gabriel Schoenfeld. Arguing against it are Alan Dershowitz and David Sanger. Their biographies appear below (from the Intelligence Squared US website):

Michael Chertoff served as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from 2005 to 2009. He is currently Senior of Counsel at Covington & Burling LLP and a member of the White Collar Defense and Investigations practice group. Before heading up the Department of Homeland Security, he served as a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, and as a federal prosecutor for more than a decade.

Gabriel Schoenfeld is Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute and Resident Scholar at the Witherspoon Institute. He is the author, most recently, of "Necessary Secrets: National Security, the Media, and the Rule of Law," which questions whether the press should be prosecuted for revealing information that might endanger national defense. His essays on national security and modern history have appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Commentary, where he was Senior Editor from 1994-2008.

Alan Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School who has been called “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer.” He recently joined the legal defense team for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Dershowitz is the author of 27 non-fiction and fiction works including "Finding, Framing, and Hanging Jefferson: A Lost Letter, a Remarkable Discovery, and Freedom of Speech in an Age of Terrorism."

David Sanger is Chief Washington Correspondent of The New York Times and a part of the team of reporters and editors in The Times’ WikiLeaks coverage. Sanger recently wrote "The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power," an examination of the challenges facing the United States at a time of global and economic turmoil. In a 27-year career at the paper, Sanger has reported from New York, Tokyo and Washington, covering issues surrounding foreign policy, globalization, nuclear proliferation and Asian affairs.

If you recall, those attending an Intelligence Squared US debate vote prior to and after the debate, and the winning debate team is decided by how many minds were changed and in what direction. As always not only can you listen to the debate at the Intelligence Squared website ("Freedom of the Press Does Not Extend to State Secrets"), but you can access transcripts of the debate as well. The debates can also be downloaded from iTunes.

No comments:

Post a Comment