We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it. Even today, there is little value in opposing the threat of a closed society by imitating its arbitrary restrictions.…And there is very grave danger that the announced need for increased security will be seized upon by those anxious to expand its meaning to the very limits of official censorship and concealment.
[It is] our obligation to inform and alert the American people—to make certain that they possess all the facts that they need and understand them as well—the perils, the prospects, the purposes of our program, and the choices we face. No president should fear public scrutiny of his program, for from that scrutiny comes understanding, and from that understanding comes support or opposition, and both are necessary. Without debate, without criticism, no administration can succeed, and no republic can survive.
That is why our press was protected by the First Amendment—the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution—not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”—but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion. [This means], finally, that government at all levels, must meet its obligation to provide you with the fullest possible information outside the narrowest limits of national security—and we intend to do it.…
And so it is to the printing press—to the recorder of man’s deeds, the keeper of his conscience, the courier of his news—that we look for strength and assistance, confident that with your help man will be what he was born to be: free and independent.
— John F. Kennedy (1961)