Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Churchill Series - Oct. 30, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

The next few sentences you read may surprise, even shock, some of you. They're found on page 65 of Martin Gilbert’s
Churchill and America:

On 10 May 1917, a month after the entry of the United States into the war, the House of Commons went into Secret Session. This procedure enabled Cabinet Ministers and critics of government policy to discuss the war without any newspaper coverage.
Can you believe that? What was the Government thinking? Didn’t it realize there would be many members just itching for the session to end, so they could race out and “spill the beans” to their favorite press contacts?

No, the Government didn’t realize that because they knew that wouldn’t happen. It was considered treasonable in time of war for a member to disclose what went on during a Secret Session of the House. Even in peacetime, a Member who “leaked” from a Secret Session would be considered to have damaged not just the sitting Government, but the House itself.

During WW II Churchill took part in a number of Secret Sessions at which details of strategy and resources were discussed. Information from those sessions would have been invaluable to the Axis nations. But it didn't leak.

We live in a time now when a fair question is: Can any secret vital to America’s national security be kept?

The answer as you all know is: Not if people like the NY Times’ Bill Keller or NBC’s Brian Williams decide it shouldn’t.