DOES IT MATTER what he looks like? Somehow it does. He looks all right. He looks like a kid, one of those kids who lingered in school science labs, who stayed late - maybe the kind of kid who played with electric motors as a child and dissected frogs and then later could tell you, as he told me, how a car works. There is something else he can tell you. I leaned over to ask. Can you tell me how the H-bomb works?
Howard Morland smiles. In his head is The Secret. He wrote an article about it for the Progessive magazine and the government went to court to stop publication. For the first time in American history, we have government censorship of the press. He said Idi Amin might read it. It is not known if Idi Amin subscribes to the Progressive. It is known anymore where Idi Amin is.
"Could you tell me the secret of the H-bomb?" I ask Morland.
He is 36 years old. He graduated in 1965 from Emory College in Atlanta. He was a pilot in the Air Force. Now he is wearing a plaid shirt, boots and a wide and strong mustache. He knows the secret. Howard Morland knows the secret! If he tells me I can print it. I can say here is the secret of the H-bomb: Stir, don't shake.Then everyone will know. Idi Amin will know. He will slap his forehead and say, "Stir, don't shake. I should have known." Then he will need 20 years and $14 billion or something and he well have, God Willing, and H-bomb.
The question hung. Morland shook his head no.
"According to the injunction . . ."
Actually, it was all right I really didn't want to know the secret of the H-bomb. It is not something we in the newspaper business would call a story. Morland went around and visited laboratories and atomic factories and read everything there was to read and talked to everyone who knew anything-huffed and puffed and brought forth a story that we don't think has any use. Who wants it? What's the point?
Howard Morland sits in my blue chair listening to me tell him that he might be a martyr to no particular cause. Once again he has to explain the point of the article. It is to alert the nation to the dangers of nuclear proliferation-especially hydrogen bombs. You have to look at Howard Morland hard when he says something like that. He believes it. It has somehow not occurred to him that your could cringe daily form the fear of nuclear proliferation and still not know one end of the bomb from another.
Howard Morland is patient with me. He is the sort of person who would not drive a car unless he knew how it works. He need to know everything there is to know about a subject. He says the more we know the better off we are. When the government has monopoly on the information, we have to accept what we are told. He has a point. At the moment the government says that the information contained in the Morland article could shave five years off some foreign government's H-bomb program. You have to believe it. When it comes to the government and the bomb there is no other side to the story.
Still, this is the case where the First Amendment gets weak in the knees, the one that pits the right to keep a secret.
This case takes you into that no-man's land where no one wanted the go. Here you have some magazine trying to print information that could help some country in it's effort to make an H-bomb.
But it turns out that the secret may be no secret at all. Already, of course, five counties have exploded H-bombs but more than that, Morland says that enough has been published in this country to mock the government argument that what the Progressive wants to publish is a secret. Morland starts to cite articles-something published here and something written there. He cites an encyclopedia article written some years ago and then he says there is something else, but he can't talk about it.
He stops and then as if he is about to tell me something dirty he says that there are two encyclopedias that have published articles about the H-bomb. If you take the diagrams of each and over-lay them, you get a pretty good picture of the design concept of the bomb.
"Which encyclopedias" I ask.
He shakes his head no. "According to the injunction . . ."
"Give me a hint."
Morland smiles. "I can't. My lawyer would kill me."
"You mean to tell me you can't tell me what's in two encyclopedias."
He shrugs his shoulders. "Yeah."
So this is what it comes to. This, of course, is what it always comes to when you start down the road of cencorship. You start, in this case, with a devatable proposition-that we should know something about the design of H-bombs-proceed to another debatable proposition-that this knowledge would harm the cause of nonproliferation-and end up not even being able to debate the subject. In the end, you have to ask youself which you fear more-a foreign government with the bomb or your own with the power to keep someone's mouth shut his pen still.