Facts you deserve to know

Viel wird derzeit über Staatsgeheimnisse, vermeintliche Verschwörungen und deren Aufdeckung geredet. In diesem Zusammenhang hat John F. Kennedy kurz nach seinem Amtsantritt vor der American Newspaper Publishers Association eine interessante Rede gehalten.

The very word „secrecy“ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions. Even today, there is little value in insuring the survival of our nation if our traditions do not survive with it. And there is very grave danger that an announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment. That I do not intend to permit to the extent that it is in my control. And no official of my Administration, whether his rank is high or low, civilian or military, should interpret my words here tonight as an excuse to censor the news, to stifle dissent, to cover up our mistakes or to withhold from the press and the public the facts they deserve to know.

Edle Worte. Keine geheimniskrämerische Regierung, gegen den überbordenden Apparat der Geheimdienste! Doch es gibt da eine Ausnahme:

But I do ask every publisher, every editor, and every newsman in the nation to reexamine his own standards, and to recognize the nature of our country’s peril. In time of war, the government and the press have customarily joined in an effort based largely on self-discipline, to prevent unauthorized disclosures to the enemy. In time of „clear and present danger,“ the courts have held that even the privileged rights of the First Amendment must yield to the public’s need for national security.

Today no war has been declared–and however fierce the struggle may be, it may never be declared in the traditional fashion. Our way of life is under attack. Those who make themselves our enemy are advancing around the globe. The survival of our friends is in danger. And yet no war has been declared, no borders have been crossed by marching troops, no missiles have been fired.

If the press is awaiting a declaration of war before it imposes the self-discipline of combat conditions, then I can only say that no war ever posed a greater threat to our security. If you are awaiting a finding of „clear and present danger,“ then I can only say that the danger has never been more clear and its presence has never been more imminent.

Frei übersetzt: Aber unsere Geheimnisse sind so wichtig, dass Journalisten sie stillschweigend akzeptieren sollten. Wer an unseren Geheimnissen rührt, rührt an der Sicherheit des Landes! Back off!

PS: Der historische Kontext ist auch spannend: Zehn Tage vor der Rede hatte Kennedy die Invasion der Schweinebucht befohlen, ein Angriff auf den kommunistischen Vorposten in Kuba. Um den Kriegsakt vorzubereiten, hatte der Geheimdienst CIA ein Jahr lang kubanische Exil-Kämpfer rekrutiert und ausgebildet.