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Should former US high officials have to clear their memoirs?

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Little attention is yet being paid to a public policy dispute brewing in Washington. At issue: How far should the American government go in protecting sensitive official secrets? For example, when a Jimmy Carter, Henry Kissinger, or Harold Brown leaves office, he draws on his official experiences to provide personal insights about the most critical issues of the day. Should that former official have to clear all his remarks - whether in the form of a history, speech, biography, or even book review - with the administration currently in power? Should that requirement for prepublication clearance follow him for the rest of his life?

There is no disputing that the United States government must be concerned about preventing the disclosure of information which could damage national security.

But what prompts the current discussion over such questions as these is a new presidential directive issued by the Reagan administration. The directive requires that all federal agencies involving classified information draw up internal guidelines to protect categories of the most sensitive information within government. Although each agency will draft its own internal measures, the directive provides that all persons having access to what is called ''SCI''- sensitive compartmented information - sign a nondisclosure document requiring prepublication review by that agency ''to assure deletion of SCI and other classified information.''


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