Telling It Like It Is Essay

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Telling It Like It Is

“My country, right or wrong,” is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, “My mother, drunk or sober.”—G. K. Chesterton, The Defendant

These are indeed desperate times.

On September 11, 2001, America witnessed the worst act of terrorism in U.S. history. Grief-stricken, angry, and shocked, people from all over America came together in the face of tragedy and solidly affirmed their pride in the U.S.A. The outpouring of patriotism that resulted from this tragedy was astonishing. Our country came together: specific agendas were swept aside in favor of partisanship and overwhelming support for our leaders, for our institutions, for our democracy.
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For example: in the immediate wake of September 11th, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer requested that the press limit its details on Presidential security and U.S. intelligence. He asked the media to refrain from printing “advance notice of the president’s schedule…and… how U.S. intelligence gets its info, like saying it came from phone intercepts or satellites.” He also asked that they not take any pictures of White House security. The media largely agreed, in part because the request seemed reasonable, and in part because of the patriotic fever sweeping the nation. One news journalist, justifying the sensibility in restricting information, commented “Nobody wants to see the president hurt.”1

Historically, First Amendment rights have been highly disputed in cases of national security. In 1971, the right to publish disputed information was affirmed in the landmark Pentagon Papers case. A former Defense Department employee, Daniel Ellsberg, stole a copy of a document entitled “History of U.S. Decision Making Process on Vietnam Policy,” better known as the Pentagon Papers. The documents “contained evidence on the military’s bungled handling of the Vietnam War”. Ellsberg leaked the copy to the New York Times and the Washington Post, and the Times began printing articles referring to the papers. The Nixon administration quickly ordered the Times to cease printing, arguing that publishing
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