Home
Search transcripts:    Advanced Search
Notable New     Yorkers
Select     Notable New Yorker
John B. OakesJohn B. Oakes
Photo Gallery
Transcript

Part:         Session:         Page of 512

Oakes:

Well, we had a great deal of information about the missile crisis before it broke, and we sat on the story purely as a matter of patriotics-I hesitate to use the word, but that's really what it was, a matter of national security. We were requested-and here it is a very, very tough decision, a terribly difficult thing. As a newspaper you cannot be in the position of acceding automatically to a governmental request; we certainly don't do that. But in a matter of extreme national security, and I'm thinking specifically of the missile crisis of October '62, we did have some information that if we published, the president felt could at least injure the national security in a very critical moment, and we were asked to withhold this information, and we did. Now, this was not done lightly. New York Times doesn't subscribe to censorship, I'll tell you that, but this was done in a matter of national security. At the time of the famous incident, the bank crisis of 1933-it is a matter of public record- we had some information which if published could have precipitated much more of a critical condition than actually occurred. In other words, by publishing some information at the time of the bank crisis that we had, we could have made the matter infinitely worse, and the decision was made not to publish. I don't remember the precise details, but there is a very well-known incident to that effect. This goes back thirty years.

In the Bay of Pigs operation I don't remember that we did know that this was occurring and withheld news of it at the time. I imagine that we probably would have until it had actually occurred, because it seems to me that while I am as strongly as any man against censorship, I certainly recognize that there is an obligation of a newspaper not to damage the basic national security. This is a very tough thing to decide because you are always worried about whether you are really protecting the national security or protecting an administration politically, and you don't want to do the latter but you do want to do the



© 2006 Columbia University Libraries | Oral History Research Office | Rights and Permissions | Help