Finally, we can see the long-hidden records of the U.S. government prosecution of the Chicago Tribune during WW2

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tags: First Amendment, freedom of the press



The U.S. government’s most significant prosecution of an American media outlet prior to the Pentagon Papers fell through during World War II when a grand jury refused to indict the Chicago Tribune in 1942 for an article stating the U.S. Navy had advance knowledge of Japanese plans to attack Midway Island in June of that year.

Documents posted today by the George Washington University-based National Security Archive detail FBI, Justice Department, and Navy efforts to charge the Tribune with damaging national security by indirectly alluding to U.S. penetration of Japan’s naval codes – one of the most sensitive secrets of the day.

The Tribune case was the first time the U.S. government tried to pursue charges against a major media source under the Espionage Act for publishing classified information – making it of particular interest in the current political environment.

Today’s posting draws on grand jury records that had been sealed for decades until historian Elliot Carlson, joined by the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press, the National Security Archive, and other historians’ organizations, filed a lawsuit for their release.  This is the latest in a series of judicial decisions to open grand jury records of historical importance, including from the investigations of Alger Hiss and Julius Rosenberg.




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