Deadline Now: The Bill of Rights and National Security

Deadline Now: The Bill of Rights and National Security

Friday, May 2, 2014 at 8:30 p.m.

The Bill of Rights contains guarantees of freedom of the press and protection against unconstitutional invasions of our privacy. But there are also issues involving national security.

Lawyers, the press and the U.S. government have been arguing about these issues for years. And today, thanks to technology, it is possible for the government to collect more information about us than even George Orwell may ever have dreamt possible.

This week, U.S. District Judge James G. Carr, ACLU of Ohio Board of Directors member Sue Carter, and attorney Fritz Byers, noted for his expertise in cases involving the First Amendment, join host Jack Lessenberry to discuss the issues.

 Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edtion of "Deadline Now:"

Fifty-three years ago, a reporter for the New York Times named Tad Szulc learned that the United States was involved in planning a secret invasion of Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

President Kennedy learned about the story before it was printed, and called the publisher of the Times, and asked him not to run it, because doing so would endanger national security.

The publisher complied. The Bay of Pigs invasion was launched, and was a total disaster. Sometime later, the President told the publisher he wished the Times had run the story anyway.

You might have saved us from committing this disaster, he said. Not long afterwards, President Kennedy again complained about the Times’ coverage of Vietnam. This time, the newspaper didn’t listen.

Ten years later, a man who worked at the Pentagon gave a secret study of the Vietnam War to the New York Times and the Washington Post. They began publishing it. President Richard Nixon asked the U.S. Supreme Court to order the newspapers to stop.

But the nation’s highest court ruled that the First Amendment basically meant there could be no “prior restraint” against the media publishing anything, though if laws were broken, there might be legal repercussions later.

That’s the basic framework under which the press has operated ever since. The Supreme Court also has ruled that the Fourth Amendment means that neither federal nor state governments can search our homes or seize our possessions without a warrant and “probable cause.”

Yet we live in a world today in which the government is probably able to hear and record virtually any phone or Internet conversation I have with anyone in my bedroom.

Does that violate the Fourth Amendment?

There are those who say the standards should be different because we are, in fact, at war. But others say we cannot be, because Congress has in fact not declared war as the constitution prescribes. Meanwhile, while technology makes it easier to spy on us, a rogue journalist with nuclear secrets can share them with the entire world before anyone can even say injunction.

Clearly, there are a lot of things to think about here – morally, ethically and technically, and not all that much time to come up with solutions. We can’t afford a total system crash.