The Nation: Legislate the Truth?

Since 1948, a federal law has carried the threat of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for any citizen who "willfully falsifies, conceals or covers up" a material fact from any agent of the Government. Massachusetts' Senator Edward Kennedy wants to make the law a two-edged sword: his staff is drafting a bill to declare it a crime for any Government official knowingly to mislead or lie to the public.

Under such a law, the State Department spokesman who lied about Francis Gary Powers' U-2 flight over Russia in 1960 could presumably have been prosecuted. Certainly the Nixon Administration's high-level...

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