by Project Censored
Published: Last Updated on

On March 9, 1984, NEW YORK TIMES columnist William Safire happily reported that Reagan’s sweeping new censorship law, NSDD-84, had been temporarily withdrawn due to too much Congressional opposition to the use of lie detectors and lifelong censorship requirements.

Throughout the rest of 1984, the NEW YORK TIMES and the WASHINGTON POST printed articles that alternately praised Congress for resisting a deplorable attempt to gag American citizens with prior restraint and chiding the Reagan administration for its ill-advised attempts to deprive federal employees of their constitutional rights.

As late as December 28, 1984, the TIMES would report “Under pressure, the Reagan Administration has withdrawn National Security Directive 84 …”.

Unfortunately, the information was inaccurate and the celebration was premature.

When the 98th Congress adjourned in October, 1984, the Reagan administration successfully put in force the largest censoring apparatus ever known in the United States.

Now, for the first time, more than three and a half million federal employees in the 12 largest federal agencies are required to submit their speeches, articles, and books for pre-publication review by their superiors for the rest of their lives.

While columnists debated the “relative” veracity of George Orwell’s dark predictions for 1984, Ronald Reagan seized the initiative, tore up the Bill of Rights, and flushed it down the toilet with an audacity that would have flabbergasted Orwell. And the press missed the story.

In yet another typically Orwellian twist, also unheralded by the press, the American Civil Liberties Union joined Barry Goldwater and the CIA in pushing for passage of HR 5164, a Congressional measure designed to free the CIA from the troublesome intrusions of the Freedom of Information Act.

Further, while there is increasing solid scientific evidence proving the unreliability of lie detector tests, the Pentagon is expanding and enforcing its use of them. Commenting on Pentagon lie detector tests, Texas Congressman Jack Brooks said: “a coin toss would be more accurate … use of polygraphs may create a false sense of security and actually weaken our defense.” Nonetheless, Defense Department use of lie detector tests has grown steadily in recent years — from 12,904 in 1980 to 21,000 in 1983, the latest year for which figures were available.


BILL OF RIGHTS JOURNAL, December 1984, “They’ve Got A Secret,” by Angus Mackenzie, pp 25-229; MEDIAFILE, November 1984, “CIA, Congress Draw FOIA Curtain,” by Angus Mackenzie; EDITOR & PUBLISHER, 1/19/85, “Pentagon Use of Lie-Detector Tests Grows;” NEW YORK TIMES, 12/28/84, “Censorship of Its Employees Would Harm Government,” by Thomas Ehrlich.