Holder: US Not Censoring Journalists Because ‘We’re Not in a Time of War’

Warns Press to Be Aware of 'National Security' Impact of Reporting

Addressing the National Press Club today, Attorney General Eric Holder warned reporters against coverage which “has a negative impact on the national security of the nation.”

Holder conceded that the US is not yet “in a time of war,” but cited censorship during World War 2 as an example of the government’s ability to clamp down on the press when they feel it necessary.

“In World War II, if a reporter had found out about that existence of the Manhattan Project, is that something that should have been disclosed?” Holder asked, by way of providing an “example” of the need to limit media coverage.

At the same time, Holder’s assessment of the US as not “in a time of war,” seems to contradict his own comments just a month ago in Paris, when he declared the US to be at war with “radical Islam,” and declared the US “determined to take the fight to them.”

Holder made the comments in response to questions about the Justice Department’s hostility toward journalists covering national security matters, suggesting that the policy is only going to get worse as officials escalate the current crop of wars.

In reference to Holder’s example, the Cleveland Press actually uncovered the Manhattan Project, and reported openly about the “secret city” of scientists the US had working in New Mexico at the time.

The article, titled Forbidden City, was openly critical of the censorship regime in place at the time, and defiant about the calls for “self-censorship.” Openly reporting on “tremendous explosions” about a year and a half before the atomic attack on Hiroshima, Holder appears not to have had his history right.

Not that the Office of Censorship didn’t try. They forced Time Magazine to kill a followup story on the Cleveland Press piece, and even tried to get the reporter, John Raper, drafted and sent off to die in the Pacific. That plot failed, it turned out, because Raper was in his sixties and far too old to conscript.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.