Security Investigations: A Gathering Storm

The July adjournment of the first session of the 84th Congress left the Capitol buzzing with rumors of a drastic change in the Government security program. A series of public statements by congressional leaders and persons interested in achieving a loyal civil service while protecting the reputations and rights of government workers presaged a gigantic re-evaluation of the Eisenhower loyalty program. Two Congressional investigations are now underway to determine the effectiveness and administrative efficiency of past loyalty checks and to suggest ways of improving the security system. When Congress reconvenes, a new investigation will take place, the results of which may produce an election-year issue of paramount importance to the present administration. The calling of this investigation represents the culmination of a long political battle far hotter than the climatic temperatures in which it was fought.

The security issue is as old as the Cold War itself. It was a major point of dispute in the last presidential election when Republican leaders charged that the Truman program was not effective in clearing government service of subversives. Following his spectacular victory, President Eisenhower issued the controversial Executive Order 10450 which gave the heads of individual government agencies the responsibility for ridding their agencies of subversives and others whose employment is not "clearly consistent with the interests of national security." This decentralization proved a major change from the Truman program and, while it improved the watchfulness of administrators, it also led to many abuses against the personal liberty and good reputation of many civil servants.

Probe Procedure Faulty

Kinks in the Eisenhower security program were quickly evident. Inexperienced and overzealous agency heads proved incapable of handling delicate matters of investigation and procedure. While many administrators enforced the Executive Order with fairness and dispatch, others tended to turn investigations, which should have taken on a quasi-judicial color, into grossly unfair proceedings which did little to insure loyalty while inconveniencing and often terrorizing loyal employees. Furthermore, the terms of the Executive Order were drawn too loosely--the Director of the National Zoo ran a security check on all his curators--and gave administrators only a vague standard of judgment as to who was to be considered a security risk.

The movement to revise the loyalty program began in 1954 with citizen groups connected with Freedom House and the Fund for the Republic calling for a complete overhaul of its operations so as to prevent abuses of the rights of government workers. These protests evidently had little effect on the administration until last January when Harry Cain, a member of the Subversive Activities Control Board, publicly attacked the loyalty program in a speech in Spokane, Wash. Cain, unable to gain Administration support, continued to press for action, lobbying actively for a bi-partisan commission to review the operation of the loyalty program. After the President rejected this proposal, Cain secured the support of Minnesota's Senator Hubert Humphrey who sponsored a congressional resolution creating the commission under legislative direction. The first meeting of the commission is slated for the opening of the next session of congress, sometime early next year.

Committee Studies Problems

The loyalty question, however, did not end with Cain's success. Democratic congressional leaders, sensing a potential election issue, created two special subcommittees to look into the Eisenhower program. The most active of these, the Senate civil Service subcommittee under Olin D. Johnston of South Carolina, has been hearing witnesses throughout the summer. Chief among these has been Washington, D.C. lawyer Adam Yarmolinsky who, sponsored by the Fund for the Republic, has led a group of attorneys in a study of individual cases of employees whose loyalty has been called into question. A preliminary report of the Yarmolinsky group shows that in many cases improper and lengthy procedures have caused undue mental and emotional distress to many workers unfairly accused of disloyalty. One case involves a Post Office employee who was suspended without pay for "hanging Communist art in his home." Investigation showed that the individual was guilty of appreciating the work of Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, and others.

The Yarmolinsky report shows clearly that if the Administration is to prevent abuses of its loyalty program while preventing subversive infiltration into the Civil Service, it will have to revise the operation of the program drastically. It will have to give the responsibility of ferruling out subversives to one agency or board whose membership is experienced with the problems of loyalty probes. The investigative body, furthermore, must guard against unpaid suspension of government workers on flimsy evidence or the testimony of anonymous, unreliable informants. At the same time, however, members of the central loyalty board ought to remember that subversion in Government is not a myth and that communists have entered Civil Service in times past.

The need for a security system in the Civil Service therefore has been evident for a long time. The last two administrations programs show, however, that the task is monumental, particularly so because of the shortage of administrators experienced in loyalty work. In the next session of Congress a bipartisan commission will make a complete study of the problem, bringing the light of ten years' experience with the loyalty question to bear on the matter. The task they will face is that of guarding the nation from subversion within the Government while, at the same time protecting the rights of individual employees. As Harry Cain has said, "The problem remains that of taking action to better protect individuals from unintentional oppression and, at the same time, to protect the freedom of our nation."