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Remarks by Senator John F. Kennedy, City Square, Mount Clemens, MI - (Advance Release Text)

October 26, 1960

The present administration has consistently followed a policy of suppressing important public information. It has denied the people their right to know the truth.

When a congressional committee tried to find out why high bids were accepted and low bids rejected on certain Government procurement contracts, the information was refused.

When the Comptroller General tried to find out whether our economic and technical assistance programs were being efficiently administered in India, Laos, Pakistan, Bolivia, and other countries, the information was refused.

The Defense Department and its three branches, the State Department, the International Cooperation Administration, and many other executive agencies have repeatedly refused the public free access to public information.

Shortly after it took office, the present administration extended the authority to classify documents as secret and confidential to hundreds of agencies, including many which did not need it - the Lincoln Sesquicentennial Commission, the Outdoor Recreation Resources Commission, and the Civil War Centennial Commission. Since 1946, the executive branch of the Government has drawn a curtain of secrecy on more than a million cubic feet of documents. Indeed, in recent years the administration has classified three times as many documents as were classified in the entire previous history of American Government.

The chairman of a special House Subcommittee on Government Information, Congressman John Moss, warned in a report to the House: "Security has been perverted as a tool for the manipulation of information. Nonsecurity information has been withheld solely on grounds that it could be embarrassing."

And J. R. Wiggins, an ex-president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, said, "Our secrecy has frustrated the work of our scientists, complicated the task of our Defense personnel, concealed delay and inefficiency, hidden the consequences of budgetary limitations, and prevented the healthy operation of public opinion."

In America, the people, if they are armed with the truth, can be trusted to make the right decision. The administration does not trust the people. It has kept the unpleasant truth from them in order to convince them that, as Mr. Nixon says, they never had it so good.

The latest example is the suppression of the recent U.S. Information Agency report on our prestige abroad.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Fulbright, asked last week that this report be made public. He charged that this secret report contained a recent worldwide survey showing that American prestige abroad had declined and that the administration was suppressing it for political purposes during this campaign.

During our fourth television debate last Friday night, Mr. Nixon replied that, in his words, "The facts simply are not as stated." He said that the report in question was one made "many, many months ago"; indeed that it related to the time 3 years ago when the Russians first launched sputnik.

But now we learn, not from the administration, but from vigilant newspapers and networks, that the secret report is not 3 years old but a few weeks old, and that it shows an almost unanimous opinion abroad that the Soviet Union is the world's leading military power. That is the report which was suppressed, at a time when Mr. Nixon was campaigning on the theme that our prestige has never been higher.

It is bad enough to suppress the truth about procurement contracts or foreign aid expenditures to conceal waste or inefficiency or worse.

It is far more dangerous to hide the truth about our position abroad - and to hide it for political purposes.

The administration is afraid to tell the people the truth about their situation.

I call upon Mr. Nixon to make the secret report public, and to explain to the people how in the face of its evidence he can continue to pretend that our prestige is at an alltime high; and to explain why a public report, paid for with public funds and containing information important to the public, was not made public until its concealment was exposed.

Perhaps this incident of political coverup will remind us that it is time to face, not hide, the facts about our situation, both at home and abroad.

If we are to make the sacrifices and summon the courage that are necessary to meet the challenge of the 1960's, we need to know the truth, the bad news as well as the good.

We must hold steadfastly to the Biblical injunction: "Ye shall know the truth and the truth will make ye free."

John F. Kennedy, Remarks by Senator John F. Kennedy, City Square, Mount Clemens, MI - (Advance Release Text) Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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