14. PRESIDENT REAGAN'S "SECRET LAWS" AND
In August, 1987, unions of Federal
workers filed a lawsuit to stop the Administration from requiring more than two
million Federal workers to sign nondisclosure agreements in an effort to silence
dissent. Workers had to promise not to reveal classified information or even information
In December, 1987, Congress prohibited
the implementation of the secrecy agreements, saying they violate the employees'
First Amendment rights and interfere with the right of Congress to be fully informed
of waste, fraud, and abuse.
On May 27, 1988, in a little-publicized decision,
U.S. District Court Judge Oliver Gasch overturned the Congressional prohibition,
effectively giving the President sole authority over national security information.
Equally disturbing, the decision reinforced the authority of the President's National
Security Decision Directive 84 issued in 1983, which the secrecy agreements implement.
84, called the anti-leak directive, is one of almost 300 NSDDs issued by President
Reagan which carry the force of law and are known as "secret laws."
Reagan used "secret laws" and "white propaganda" to implement
his agenda and to manipulate media coverage. Reagan used the NSDD procedure to
implement actions ranging from deployment of nuclear weapons to ordering the U.S.
attack on Grenada.
NSDD directives, like executive orders and presidential
findings are issued by the president but differ, however, in that executive orders
are published, while findings, which are classified, notify Congress about intelligence
operations. NSDDs do neither Further, unlike presidential terms, NSDDs do not
expire every four years. In his effort to manipulate the media and the public
mindset, Reagan signed a directive on January 13, 1983, called "management
of Public Diplomacy Relative to National Security," which established the
Office of Public Diplomacy (OPD). One of its tactics, often used by the CIA in
foreign countries and known in the intelligence community as "white propaganda,"
calls for planting articles and stories in the press under the names of third
parties. These OPD activities were conducted inside the United States with the
full knowledge of the White House.
In a "confidential" memorandum
dated 3/13/85, OPD deputy director Jonathan Miller cited five examples of OPD
success: an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal attributed to an academic but
actually written by OPD staff; a positive NBC news story on the contras; two opinion
pieces written by OPD "consultants" but published under the names of
contra leaders (one in the New York Times and another in the Washington Post);
and briefings arranged for contra leader Alfonso Robelo at the Post, Newsweek,
and USA Today.
At the request of Congress, the General Accounting Office
investigated the OPD and ruled that its operations were illegal. It closed its
doors officially in 1987 but it may be gone in name only. At the time, State Department
officials let it be known that they would "simply reorganize the office,
distributing its functions to other parts of the department."
NATION, July 2/9, 1988, "Reagan Rex;" SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER, 8/3/88,
"Presidential `secret laws' under probe," both by Angus Mackenzie and
Eve Pell; PROPAGANDA REVIEW, Summer 88, "Reagan's Propaganda Ministry,"
by Peter Kornbluh, pp 25-28.