|Date(s):||March 9, 1979 to March 28, 1979|
|Tag(s):||Law, Government, Censorship|
|Course:||“US Since 1945,” Juniata College|
On March 9, 1979, the U.S. Government issued a restraining order that stopped The Progressive from publishing an article entitled, “The H-Bomb Secret: How We Got It, Why We're Telling It.” The question posed to the court by the U.S. was, “…a clash between allegedly vital security interests of the United States and the competing constitutional doctrine against prior restraint in publication.” The U.S. also said that if a document poses a threat to national security than it should be classified as such and be censored justly to protect the security of the people it is supposed to protect. The Progressive argued, “While acknowledging that freedom of the press is not absolute, they maintain that the publication of the projected article does not rise to the level of immediate, direct and irreparable harm which could justify incursion into First Amendment freedoms.”
The Progressive is a magazine published in Madison, Wisconsin. Their motto is to, “…defend the public interest, against private greed.” Their goal is to make citizens more aware and to fight to investigate the atrocities of government. Their ideology is the same as the ideology of the Progressive Movement.
On March 28, the court ruled that the article would help a country produce an atomic bomb with more speed and that that would be dangerous to the U.S. The article also violated the Atomic Energy Act. This act put in place a standard for how to control the use of atomic energy for the country’s and the world’s well-being. They also argued the harm to the magazine would be minimal and would be warranted because, “of the existence of the likelihood of direct, immediate and irreparable injury to our nation and its people.” In the end the magazine was not allowed to publish the article.
This court case proved that the government had the legal power of censorship when they deem it necessary to protect its national security. The Progressive challenged the U.S., and the Constitution in terms of prior restraint, which is the practice of censoring expressions before they are expressed. If an individual, or in this case a publication has freedom of press and expression, prior restraint would hinder their freedom and their right to print news stories without government involvement. This was a polarizing issue, as some thought it was unwise to release this article because it could fall into the wrong hands. Others believed if the government exercised prior restraint in this case, it might set a dangerous precedent for the future. All in all, it was the courts job not to decide if it was unwise, but to see if it fell within the parameters of the law. This case could have set in motion a government that censors its people unlawfully. Instead an anti-climactic decision by the courts, and precedents not being set, led to an ambiguity in terms of prior restraints and how the government can enact them.