Cables and Telegrams

AMERICANS WITH INTERESTS ABROAD WERE THE FIRST TO BE faced with the loss of some of their constitutional privileges. That partial loss, in the form of restriction on communication, took shape when first wireless, then cable and telegraph lines, were placed under the Navy and War Departments, respectively. Businessmen and others objected, but the regulations- some of them had been issued before the first Battle of the Marne--continued in force until long after the Armistice. Most of this censorship fell to the Navy, for the only international land telegraph and telephone lines the Army had to watch were those going into Mexico. And it was not until after hostilities had ceased that plans were made to handle those channels effectively. In the meantime, so far as Americans were concerned, cable and wireless communication with the rest of the world was possible only by obeying the censor.

President Wilson's neutrality proclamation was a day old when American censorship became a reality. The first phase of such rare restrictions in the United States came with executive order No. 2011, August 5, 1914, which took precautions to ensure the enforcement of our neutrality, as far as the use of radio communication was concerned. This order served notice that all radio stations within the jurisdiction of the United States were prohibited from transmitting or receiving for delivery messages of an unneutral nature, and from rendering to any one of the belligerent nations any unneutral service. Enforcement of the order was delegated to the Secretary of the Navy, who at once directed the dispatch of naval officers and, in some instances, wireless operators "with a knowledge of German if possible," to the six leading wireless stations on the Atlantic coast. To these officers, and to the

-73-

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Censorship, 1917
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Our Censorship Heritage 3
  • The Seed of Censorship 24
  • Laws against Spies and Traitors 39
  • The Censorship Board 55
  • Cables and Telegrams 73
  • Soldiers, Sailors, and Censors 94
  • Protective Custody in the Post Office 110
  • Banned Books 153
  • Scissors and Films 172
  • No More Soap-Boxes 190
  • Aftermath or Prologue 213
  • Notes on Sources 233
  • Index 241
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