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Freedom of the Mails


Eighteen months ago President Kennedy removed restrictions on the delivery of mail from Communist countries. Now Congress is threatening to reverse this long-overdue action by reviving a postal screening system devised during the high point of the McCarthy era.

Rep. Glenn Cunningham (R-Neb.), originator of the House bill, declares that his measure is really an innocent plan to increase revenue, since it would shift Communist mail from first and second class to revenue-producing fourth class rates. He denies that he is attempting to stop people from reading Communist opinion.

The version which came out of the Senate post office committee this week and which Cunningham supports, belies this argument. It is a straightforward act of censorship, stripped of all provisions that might secure revenue: recipients can get their "propaganda" (at regular rates) only by filling out a government form requesting it.

This procedure is particularly objectionable, for it forces one publicly to declare his willingness to receive what has been clearly labeled as "Communist lies." Many people worry, with reason, about the potential value of such declarations to the professional anti-Communist.

The overwhelming vote by which the House passed the Cunningham amendment makes it unlikely that all restrictions on Communist mail can be stricken from the final bill. The Senate, however, should realize that accepting the bill as it came from committee merely to placate the House would demonstrate a lack of faith in the American people. By passing the bill, the Senate would in effect announce that, given both sides of the story, Americans can not be trusted to support their own system. For self-styled "super-patriots" like Cunningham and his supporters, this would be quite a confession.

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