Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

The Manship School of Mass Communication

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

This dissertation explores the tension between the U.S. government’s control of information and government employees’ claims to free speech rights. The U.S. government prepublication review is a censorship system that requires former and current federal government employees to submit any materials intended for publication to their agencies for prior review before they attempt to make any external communication or proceed with any publications. The prepublication review regime has become an essential means by which the U.S. government controls internal information, and has long been controversial because of its censorship nature. Specifically, this dissertation focuses on legal disputes between the U.S. government prepublication review regime and government employees’ First Amendment rights. Because Snepp v. U.S.(1980) is the only prepublication review case the U.S. Supreme Court has ever decided and the Court has never revisited it, lower federal courts have been responsible for shaping federal government employees’ First Amendment rights in the context of prepublication review over the last forty years. Accordingly, the dissertation examines all judicial opinions involving government prepublication review and the First Amendment, issued by federal courts from 1980s (post-Snepp) to the present, and analyzes how lower federal courts, following the sole Supreme Court case, deal with the conflict between the federal censorship regime based on national security interests and government employees’ free speech rights. The dissertation found that lower federal courts can strike a relatively fair balance between the competing interests of both parties, and they will continue to employ their balancing approaches to resolve future prepublication review legal disputes. However, the courts fail to fairly recognize First Amendment values contributed by government employee speech. They stick to a conventional deference to the executive branch when it comes to national security matters.

Date

4-2-2023

Committee Chair

Mari, William

Available for download on Wednesday, April 01, 2026

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