Thursday, May 28, 2009

Nat'l Security v. Free Speech (Chris)

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This cherished right has been actively fought for since its creation. Unfortunately, during times of war, attack, or panic, this right has been in some ways flat out suspended in the name of national security. defined national security as “protection of nation from danger: the protection of a nation from attack or other danger by maintaining adequate armed forces and guarding state secrets.” Supposedly, in order to protect the nation from danger, free speech has been suspended at certain times in our history and today. As a result of this, it has received massive criticism, as well as for the suspension of civil liberties and human rights.
Historically, there have been several laws passed during wartime that have restricted free speech in the name of national security. World War I was a major example of this. During this war, the Espionage Act of 1917 was passed, which made it a crime to interfere with the armed forces process. Then the Sedition Act of 1918 was passed, which made it a crime to simply speak out against the government. Eugene V. Debs received ten years in prison for saying, ‘“master classes” caused the war, the “subject classes” would have to fight it.”
Another famous instance in which free speech wrestled with national security was the landmark Supreme Court decision in the New York Times v. U.S. (1971). Fortunately, in this instance, during wartime, the court ruled that it was unconstitutional for the papers not to be able to print the then-classified Pentagon Papers. In order to claim prior restraint, the government had to demonstrate how publication of this information would cause a “grave and irreparable” danger.

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