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But basic, far-reaching issues are involved. They make it wise for responsible citizens to weigh the question with care.
The present chapter began last August, when Red China suddenly offered visit visas to some 30 American correspondents, most of whom had sought entry for months or years. The State Department announced it would not permit such visits so long as Communist China continued to hold as “political hostages" 10 American citizens whom it had previously promised to release. Moreover, it argued, it couldn't provide any protection for news reporters in China.
In telegrams and editorials, leading press figures protested that communism thrives on darkness and that the retention of an iron curtain of our owu violated basic American principles. Press associations and newspapers laid plans to send correspondents into Conimunist China, irrespective of the ban.
At that point the State Department announced that the President had indicated his "full concurrence" in the State Department's new policy. The great majority of the press protests subsided—leaving the odd impression that a wring principle somehow becomes right as soon as President Eisenhower concours in it.
Actually, the subsiding followed a large amount of backstage wire pulling. In private, top-ranking officials had pleaded with editors and publishers. They said Alexis Johnson, United States representative in the interminable Genera negotiations over the release of Americans held prisoner in Red China, was in a tough spot: He had insisted that no Americans would be permitted to enter Red China until the captives were released; he was using the issue of correspondents as a bargaining weapon. If the press now went ahead and sent correspondents anyway, the officials argued, it would undercut Johnson's whole case and even “jeopardize the lives of American citizens."
Reluctantly key editors agreed to cooperate, at least one of them specifying that he would do so only if the President himself publicly concurred in the State Department's argument. Mr. Eisenhower's “full concurrence" followed. In succeeding months the press held its tongue--with the notable exceptions of the trade journal Editor and Publisher, Herbert Brucker of the Hartford Courant, and a few others.
Finally 3 reporters, 2 from Look magazine and 1 from the Afro-American Newspapers, went into China anyway. They scouted around, sent cables without censorship, interviewed at least one of the American captives, and departed. State Department representatives made awkward, ineffective efforts to pick up their passports, and the Department repeatedly mumbled threats of canceling passports and of seeking prosecution under the Trading With the Enemy Act.
At a press conference early in February, Secretary Dulles stuck to his position, marshaling a rather astounding array of arguments for doing so. In effect, he said American newspaper organizations could not send reporters to Communist China because (a) the United States doesn't recognize Communist China and hence cannot protect any reporters there; (b) the Red Chinese are seeking to handpick reporters and use them as channels for its own propaganda : (a) the Communists are now trying to blackmail us by offering to free the capitives if we send correspondents, and we don't propose to knuckle under; (d) the Chinese Communist Government is an untrustworthy, inhuman regime that doesn't deserve cooperation or respectability.
Incredulous Washingtou correspondents scratched their heads at the implication that the Chinese were now seeking to blackmail us into doing what Alexis Johnson had been trying to do all along.
The whole subject is a fascinating, if complex, test of the hitherto basic Amer. ican policy of advocating the greatest possible flow of competently reported news. Broken down into its component questions, the issue looks about like this:
1. Knowing that Communist China is inhuman, untrustworthy, and vicious, why should we lend it the respectability it is seeking by sending in correspondents?
It is precisely because the Communists are disregarding the basic decencies of civilization that news organizations want to send reporters to learn and tell all they can about what is really going on. Conceivably, the best way of freeing the 10 American captives is to report every available fact about them and their condition. Throughout history, the news that has warranted public attention and aroused the public to action has been news about scoundrels. Any other course, as has been said, would be like a newspaper refusing to report the doings of a crooked politician because he isn't nice to reporters.
If the civilized world were to follow to the extreme the policy now indicated by the State Department, it would withdraw reporters from Russia and Hungary and thereafter rely for information on the official Communist propaganda output. Indeed, the free world knew of last year's outrages in Hungary mainly because of reporters who took risks. Our Government itself had to rely heavily on press reports during the crisis weeks.
2. Should we permit reporters to go to an area where the State Department cannot afford protection?
We always have. We did so in the Soviet Union and its satellites for years. War correspondents have never been under an illusion that our defense forces guaranteed their safety.
3. Would American correspondents obtain the full truth even if they were in Communist China ?
The answer is clearly "No." Obtaining news is always difficult in an authori. tarian state. But they would bring the American people far more of the truth than now comes through roundabout channels and through official Communist propaganda. Even the most ruthless censorship, incidentally, cannot prevent the reporter from telling all when he leaves the censoring country.
4. What about Mr. Dulles' argument that the Chinese Communists are handpicking the correspondents in order to use them as a channel for propaganda ?
Among those seeking and now offered Chinese visas are some of the most respected individuals in American journalism. They are the kind who are not easily taken in by public figures here, let alone by Communists abroad. (American journalists as a class are as skeptical a group of citizens as exist.) An occasional correspondent is gullible, including perhaps a small minority of those on the Chinese visa list. But the idea that a government must protect the gullible press from being "used” is enough to cause our Founding Fathers to spin in their graves.
5. Why yield to Communist "blackmail" by letting correspondents go into China in return for the freeing of American captives?
If Red China were indeed seeking such a "deal," it would be a remarkable occurrence. It would be, as James Reston expressed it, “the best offer from the Communists since the invention of vodka."
The theory that we should steer away from doing anything that the Communists are willing to have us do presupposes Communist omniscience. If carried to the logical extreme, it would mean that we would never cover the news in a hostile state that permits us to do so.
6. Have the Communists really adopted this new "blackmail deal" approach?
Neither the CIA nor the President knew about it at the time Mr. Dulles used it as an argument in his press conference.
No one who has worked with Foster Dulles entertains doubts about his knowledge and mental capacity. We find ourselves, therefore, concluding that at least in this case he is indulging in the lawyer's practice of "inconsistent pleading”-the technique of presenting to the court every conceivable argument, without regard to consistency, on behalf of a client and inviting the judge to take his choice. Some able lawyers have attached more importance to this technique than to factual precision. Mr. Dulles may have forgotten that a press conference is not a court.
7. Isn't it true that any correspondent in Communist China, even if he formally foregoes government "protection,” can involve his nation in an international incident?
Obviously it is true, and the point clearly deserves attention. The ability of the American people to be informed, however, will be seriously impaired when we drop the principle of permitting reputable reporters from entering, at their own risk, unsafe areas abroad or at home.
8. Is the right of a citizen to travel abroad an item to be granted, withheld, or rescinded according to the judgment of one man or one department?
The courts are casting increasing doubt on this. Long before the Eisenhower administration took office a legally dubious practice developed within the Department of State. Individuals considered as holding extremist views were denied passports without hearings and without any formal proceedings. The courts have now started whittling away at such administrative practice. There is a growing belief that the passport and the right to roam the globe should be denied only in cases of clear and present danger to the Nation, provable in open hearings and subject to judicial review.
On balance, the State Department's new policy appears clearly ill-advised. The sound course obviously would be for the Department to announce simply that any reporter entering Red China does so at his own risk, with no right to claim official United States protection.
Perhaps this is one of those rare cases where a government should and could aclmit to an error and frankly reverse itself. If it won't do so, the American press can force the issue in the courts. It is time for a highest level clarification of whether the right of citizens to roam the globe and the obligation of the press to pursue news everywhere can be used as pawns in a diplomatic chess game, however important the match.
The founders of the Nation believed deeply that truth could stand against all comers in the marketplace. They wove the principle of an unimpeded flow of information into our constitutional fabric. Throughout most of the cold war our Government, including President Eisenhower, impressed the world by stoutly opposing iron and bamboo barriers to the flow of information. The principle is basic. It is doubtful that even the highest minded official should be permitted to use a fundamental principle as an item of bargaining in international negotiations.
EDWARD W. BARRETT. Mr. PATTERSON. I simply was constructively wanting to call it to the attention of the committee.
Senator O’MAHONEY. The editorials of the Saturday Review are always constructive.
Mr. PATTERSON. Thank you, sir.
Mr. PATTERSON. The importance, it seem to me, of Mr. Barrett's views was that he was an Assistant Secretary of State concerned with the informational problems. He has been an editor of a national news magazine and he is the dean of the school of journalism.
And he made 1 or 2 points that I might emphasize here:
Should we permit reporters to go into an area where the State Department cannot afford protection?
That has been summarized here. And he makes the point:
We always have. We did so in the Soviet Union and its satellites for years. War correspondents have never been under an illusion that our defense forces guaranteed their safety.
He admits that this is a serious problem. He feels that these men going into Red China were, in effect, cold-war correspondents. He raises that point:
Isn't it true that any correspondent in Communist China, even if he formally forgoes Government “protection”that is, protection by his own Government, the United States Governmentcan involve his nation in an international incident?
Obviously it is true and the point clearly deserves attention. The ability of the American people to be informed, however, will be seriously impaired when they drop the principle of permitting reputable reporters from entering, at their own risk, unsafe areas abroad or at home.
It seems to me that Mr. Wiggins spoke very effectively in answer to a question from you on this point, and I simply want to quote an additional viewpoint. And it is an additional viewpoint which we at the magazine also, as working journalists, magazinemen, feel very strongly about.
Senator O*MAHONEY. Do you regard this policy as being simply a policy of the suppression of news?
Mr. PATTERSON. The policy of the Department?
Mr. PATTERSON. The effect of the policy is an unfortunate suppression of news. It is not the intent of the Department to suppress news.
I don't think anyone would make that allegation. The Department has a very difficult problem. I was talking
with Mr. Barrett and he said anyone that has had the responsibility for releasing, or trying to secure the release of Americans who have been seized by Communist authorities—and this has happened in other countries; we had the case of the Associated Press correspondent whom the State Department worked assiduously for months to get released—anyone is aware of the human problem involved here and the diplomatic difficulties. What you have, I think, as Mr. Wiggins said, is a question of risks. The business of newspapermen and of foreign correspondents in war or peace and the cold war, is to take these risks. As you said, sir, the risks are on both sides. The effect of the policy, we think, is an unwise and unfortunate suppression of news. But it would seem to me, at least, to be unfair to say that the intent of the State Department was to suppress news.
There is a curious paradox in this statement of Mr. Dulles' I believe, on February 5 at a press conference in which he said:
The Communists are now trying to blackmail us by offering to free these captives of whom we have talked if we send our correspondents, and we don't intend to knuckle under,
Now, we have been trying for years to get correspondents in China ; and we have been trying to get the captives released. And suddenly we are being told that we are being blackmailed because the Chinese will release the prisoners if we let foreign correspondents in. I submit that there is an internal contradiction here, that it is worth questioning. I understand some State Department representatives are going to appear before the committee at subsequent sessions and this point may be raised.
Mr. SLAYMAN. Mr. Chairman, I suggest that after we hear the State Department witnesses we ask them to enlighten us on the curious diplomatic reasoning that might be involved in reaching such a conclusion about blackmail.
Mr. PATTERSON. You had that experience with a deputy sheriff, and I think his subsequent action was guidance for the State Department, if I may say so.
Senator O’MAHONEY. Any other questions, Mr. Slayman?
Mr. SLAYMAN. I would like to ask a question which involves a little knotty question of law; but, since Mr. Patterson has mentioned it at this point, I think I would like to ask him a little bit about it. The question is simply this, Mr. Patterson.
Don't you believe that it is really possible for an American citizen to go to a specific area at his own risk, making it plain, if necessary, by signing documents to that effect in advance, and being warned by the State Department that, if he persist in going there, he is going at his own risk? In other words, there would be an offer and an acceptance of that status; thus he would, in law and in fact, travel to that specific area at his own risk. Therefore, he could not later in that area look to the American Government to do whatever it does to protect American citizens wherever they are.
Mr. PATTERSON. Well, this is a very central and valid point, Mr. Counsel. I think that it would be helpful to have this specifically stated: that you are going into areas at your own risk, so to speak, and have it understood that you are in effect releasing your legal right to call upon the State Department or your Government for protection.
I think correspondents understand that there are many areas in which this risk is implied, and they go into them. I think the ordinary citizens who have rights to the passport also might be prepared to make a statement to that effect and, in fact, in statute or administrative procedure, should be, or certainly might be, well required to do it. The problem, I think, as Mr. Wiggins in speaking on this point in a related sense said, it is the citizen who does this. And the Government is relieved formally of a responsibility. But the fact is that if he is apprehended-if, as a newspaperman, for example he is apprehended, imprisoned, false charges made against him, kept in secret, and punitive custody by some Communist authorities, for example in Red China, despite this, the State Department is involved. I think what you have here is a useful clarification of responsibility and obligation, but at the same time an American citizen, I don't believe, can divest himself from his Government and his Government cannot divest itself. It is a difficult problem and it gets into the area of risk.
And yet I think, and Mr. Barrett, as a matter of fact, makes this point—there should be a declaration that you are going into risk areas, at least areas where normal means of protection are not available.
Mr. SLAYMAN. But the legal relationship between the citizen and the sovereign state and the duties and responsibilities of each depend upon the citizenship, not upon the travel document or the passport, no matter what interpretation is given to a passport today. The duty of protection by the sovereign state is owed to the citizen or national because of that citizenship or nationality.
We do have in statutes today specific ways by which an American citizen, born or naturalized, may expatriate himself. He has to do certain acts and sometimes those acts are very difficult to perform, to make out his intention; but nevertheless we have statutes on expatriation. Now, perhaps a statutory clarification of this point for a specific risk situation would be desirable. I wonder if you would want to check with your legal advisers and send in any recommendations with such statutory changes that you might want to recommend as a publisher.
Mr. PATTERSON. We would be glad to do that. We do feel that the committee has before it an opportunity for important action clarifying and reinforcing this important area of constitutional rights. And it involves the right of a citizen to obtain a passport, and the collateral obligation of the Department to the citizen once he has his passport. There seems to have been a number of unwise administrative practices developed, both in the cases of correspondents and citizens, of withholding passports from them. I think again, I believe as the counsel from the American Civil Liberties Union said, that it would be a service to the Secretary of State and the Department to have the areas of his discretion more clearly defined by statute, as a result of the recommendations from this committee. It would relieve him of a responsibility which the Secretary of State might possibly find cumbersome or arduous. And it would also define this area between men and law where, it seems to me, at least, very vital rights of our citizenship are involved.
Senator O’MAHONEY. Thank you very much, Mr. Patterson. We are grateful to you for your presentation.
Mr. PATTERSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.