THE GOVERNMENT has finally dropped its six-month long effort to suppress Howard Morland's "The H-Bomb Secret," and the article will appear in The Progressive's next issue. It's about time. The court based its prior restraint injunction on specious "national security" grounds; as the government has admitted, and as Morland had contended all along, the supposedly "secret restricted" information contained in the article had been available to the public from a variety of unclassified sources, including several public libraries, scientific journals and the current edition of the Encyclopedia Americana.
Although the government eventually gave up its suit when the same information appeared in another publication two weeks ago, the precedent of prior restraint whenever authorities feel the urge to suppress publicly available information has unfortunately been established. Aside from the violence done to the First Amendment, this attempt to reclassify information already in the public domain constitutes retroactive censorship, an ex post facto law, another unwelcome infringement on Constitutional liberties.
The legal "basis" for the government's censorship is the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, a Cold War relic that prohibits the release of "all data" concerning nuclear technology. A vague and probably unconstitutional act, it has lent itself to selective and capricious government enforcement, and should be revised or repealed.
Once again, the government and its overeager classifiers have invoked the magic words "national security" as an excuse for compulsive secrecy, as they did in the CIA covert operations and Pentagon Papers disclosure. And once again, they have suffered a telling and well-deserved blow to their credibility.