Establishing Office of Censorship

December 19, 1941


All Americans abhor censorship, just as they abhor war. But the experience of this and of all other Nations has demonstrated that some degree of censorship is essential in wartime, and we are at war.

The important thing now is that such forms of censorship as are necessary shall be administered effectively and in harmony with the best interests of our free institutions.

It is necessary to the national security that military information which might be of aid to the enemy be scrupulously withheld at the source.

It is necessary that a watch be set upon our borders, so that no such information may reach the enemy, inadvertently or otherwise, through the medium of the mails, radio, or cable transmission, or by any other means.

It is necessary that prohibitions against the domestic publication of some types of information, contained in long-existing statutes, be rigidly enforced.

Finally, the Government has called upon a patriotic press and radio to abstain voluntarily from the dissemination of detailed information of certain kinds, such as reports of the movements of vessels and troops. The response has indicated a universal desire to cooperate.

In order that all of these parallel and requisite undertakings may be coordinated and carried forward in accordance with a single uniform policy, I have appointed Byron Price, Executive News Editor of the Associated Press, to be Director of Censorship, responsible directly to the President. He has been granted a leave of absence by the Associated Press and will take over the post assigned him within the coming week, or sooner.

Executive Order:

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the statutes of the United States, and particularly by section 303, Title III of the Act of December 18, 1941, Public Law 354, 77th Congress, 1st session, and deeming that the public safety demands it, I hereby order as follows:

1. There is hereby established the Office of Censorship, at the head of which shall be a Director of Censorship. The Director of Censorship shall cause to be censored, in his absolute discretion, communications by mail, cable, radio, or other means of transmission passing between the United States and any foreign country or which may be carried by any vessel or other means of transportation touching at any port, place, or Territory of the United States and bound to or from any foreign country, in accordance with such rules and regulations as the President shall from time to time prescribe. The establishment of rules and regulations in addition to the provisions of this Order shall not be a condition to the exercise of the powers herein granted or the censorship by this Order directed. The scope of this Order shall include all foreign countries except such as may hereafter be expressly excluded by regulation.

2. There is hereby created a Censorship Policy Board, which shall consist of the Vice President of the United States, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, the Attorney General, the Postmaster General, the Secretary of the Navy, the Director of the Office of Government Reports, and the Director of the Office of Facts and Figures. The Postmaster General shall act as Chairman of the Board. The Censorship Policy Board shall advise the Director of Censorship with respect to policy and the coordination and integration of the censorship herein directed.

3. The Director of Censorship shall establish a Censorship Operating Board, which shall consist of representatives of such departments and agencies of the Government as the Director shall specify. Each representative shall be designated by the head of the department or agency which he represents. The Censorship Operating Board shall, under the supervision of the Director perform such duties with respect to operations as the Director shall determine.

4. The Director of Censorship is authorized to take all such measures as may be necessary or expedient to administer the powers hereby conferred, and, in addition to the utilization of existing personnel of any department or agency available therefor, to employ, or authorize the employment of, such additional personnel as he may deem requisite.

5. As used in this Order the term “United States” shall be construed to include the Territories and possessions of the United States, including the Philippine Islands.

Franklin D. Roosevelt


John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA. Available from World Wide Web: http:/J/