Library - Reading Room
Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
Guidance On Dissent
Note: the following are excerpts selected from Annex Communication from the Adjutant.
Department Of the Army Office of the Adjutant General Washington, D.C. 20310....
Subject: Guidance on Dissent
4. The right to express opinions on matters of public and personal concern is secured to soldier and civilian alike by the Constitution and laws of the United States. This right, however, is not absolute for either soldier or civilian. Other functions and interests of the Government and the public, which are also sanctioned and protected by the Constitution, and are also important to a free, democratic and lawful society, may require reasonable limitations on the exercise of the right of expression in certain circumstances. In particular, the interest of. the Government and the public in the maintenance of an effective and disciplined Army for the purpose of National defense justifies certain restraints upon the activities of military personnel which need not be imposed on similar activities by civilians.
5. The following general guidelines are provided to cover some of the manifestations of dissent which the Army has encountered.
a. Possession and distribution of political materials.
(3)A commander may not prevent distribution of a publications simply because he does not like the contents. All denials of permission for distribution must be in accordance with the provisions of para. 5-5 Ar 210-10. For example, a commander may prohibit distribution of publications which are obscene or otherwise unlawful (e.g., counseling disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty). A commander may also prohibit distribution if the manner of accomplishing the distribution materially interferes with training or troop formation). In any event, a commander must have cogent reasons, with supporting evidence, for any denial of distribution privileges. The fact that a publication is critical––even unfairly critical––of government policies or officials is not in itself a grounds for denial.
b. Coffee Houses
The Army should not use its off-limits power to restrict soldiers in the exercise of their Constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association by barring attendance at coffee houses, unless it can be shown for example, that activities taking place in the coffee houses include counseling soldiers to refuse to perform duty or to desert or otherwise involve illegal acts with a significant adverse effect on soldier health, morale or welfare. In such circumstances (sic), commanders have the authority to place such establishments “off limits” in accordance with the standards and procedures of AR 15-3. As indicated, such action should be taken only en the basis of cogent reasons, supported by evidence.
d. Publication of “Underground Newspapers
Army regulations provide that personal literary efforts may not be pursued during duty hours or accomplished by the use of Army property. However, the publication of “under- ground newspapers” by soldiers off–post, on their own time; and with their own money and equipment is generally protected under the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Unless such a newspaper contains language, the utterance of which is punishable under Federal law (e.g., 10 U.S.C. Sec. 2387 or the Uniform Code of Military Justice), authors of an “underground newspaper” may not be disciplined for mere publication. Distribution of such newspapers on post is governed by para. 5-5, AR210-lO discussed in para. 5a above.
BY ORDER OF THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY:
(signed) Kenneth G. Wickham [Major General, USA] – The Adjutant General
A COMPLETE COPY OF THE GUIDANCE ON DISSENT MAY BE OBTAINED BY WRITING TO DULL BRASS.
Dull Brass , vol. 1, no. 2