During President Nixon’s Summit Conference in Moscow, the whole world had a close look at what happens when the Government controls the news. As soon as the TV networks began to relay news that the Kremlin did not want the American people to hear, the Soviet television technicians simply pulled out the plugs. The TV screens went blank and the sound went dead.
The Soviets were very crude with such tactics, and the media reacted with righteous indignation. However, only two days earlier, the U.S. Government imposed another type of censorship, and hardly anyone protested.
When Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Elmo Zumwalt appeared on a Sunday network television program, reporters asked him important and relevant questions about the SALT agreements and about our prospects for regaining strategic equality with the Soviets. Admiral Zumwalt declined to answer, pleading that it would not be appropriate to reply while President Nixon was in Moscow.
Finally, a persistent reporter asked the question which exposed the real reason for the Admiral’s reluctance: Defense Secretary Schlesinger had issued a direct order forbidding Admiral Zumwalt to answer questions on strategic matters. We were deprived of the answers that Sunday morning just as effectively as if the television technicians had pulled out the plugs.
The implication was given that the purpose of this order was to protect President Nixon’s negotiations in Moscow. Well, President Nixon is back home now. We ought to find out whether Secretary Schlesinger’s gag order was temporary or permanent by asking Admiral Zumwalt the same questions again on network radio and television.
We would like the answers to important questions about the strength of the Soviet Navy and the power of the new Soviet SS-N-8 (the first submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile). We would like to know if it is true that the Russians are already dismantling some of their old ICBMs preparatory toward in- creasing their submarines up to the total of 62 allowed by SALT I, and, if so, why is the United States not increasing our Poseidons to the SALT I limit of 44?
These gag orders are far more widespread than is generally realized. When the great physicist, Dr. Edward Teller, was questioned by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he sadly replied: “It is secrecy, the keeping of Russian secrets, which happens to be imposed on me by the United States Government, which prevents me from describing to you this tremendous Russian research effort which outstrips us. …Secrecy unfortunately prohibits me from giving you real details.”
The Soviets disconnected the TV cameras in order to prevent us from learning about their terror tactics used against the dissidents. The U.S. Government issues secret gag orders to prevent us from learning about the enormous investment the Kremlin has made in military research and in submarines and missiles to destroy us. Both are censorship of information the American people have a right to know.