Senator Joe McCarthy is dead but his legacy lives in the form of a powerful branch of the Massachusetts State Police known as the Division of Subversive Activities.
When the Division was created in 1954, evidence was collected and used to force faculty members to resign from M.I.T., Salem State College, and Lowell Technological Institute because of their alleged Communist affiliations.
Today, college campuses in Massachusetts are attracting an increasing amount of the Division's resources.
Captain Joseph Ahern, who runs the Subversive Activities Division along with two state police sergeants and two women clerks, said last Tuesday that the scope of investigations has more than doubled since 1964, when he was put in charge.
His last annual report to the governor states that during the 1968 fiscal year the division "conducted 409 investigations relative to complaints on subversive activities." and "performed 4034 security name checks."
The annual report further states that, "A separate file has been made of peace groups, civil rightists, and other such groups where due to their enthusiasm, they might have a tendency to adopt or show a policy of advocating the commission of acts of force or violence."
The Division also supplied the House Committee on Un-American Activity and the Subversive Activities Control Board with requested information, according to the report.
After checking identification and refusing to talk into "electronic devices" (a tape recorder), Captain Ahern granted this reporter an interview last Tuesday.
"We have contacts with Harvard--especially since last April's incident. We want out sources to remain anonymous. But we've had things to do at Harvard prior to the raid," Ahern said.
"And it's not a police raid, it's police assistantce," he added.
Ahern emphasized his Division's unused power. "We have not made any prosecutions. If we found a violation of law, we could go ahead and prosecute. This here, in essence, is an intelligence bureau. We gather intelligence and maintain files," he said.
Ahern views Communism and the New Left as vital, realistic dangers. "Communism is still a threat. Do you know what Communism's purpose is? Their theory is to overthrow the government of the U.S. with any means whatever. It would be a difficult thing to do but it's not an impossibility."
"These new movements are around and they're doing their job," Ahern said. To prove his point, he cited Gus Hall, secretary of the U.S. Communist Party, as saying "We've got a good thing going for us."
To account for the decrease in prosecuting Communists but the increase in campus demonstrations, Ahren blames the Supreme Court and points to "a small percentage of students who say they're dissatisfied with the world situation."
Ahern compares moral support for the existence of his Division with patriotism to the United States. "I think you're for the United States of America, aren't you, It's good country."
But not everyone abides by this comparison. In an amendment which failed (53-170) earlier this month, some State Representatives voted to deny the $43,862 appropriation to the Subversive Activities Division.
Despite this threat to his Division's existence, Ahern views his job with a long-term perspective. "The war against Communism has been going on long before Joe McCarthy and will be going on long after we both are gone," he said.
Ahern also has visions of expanding his staff to handle the increasing workload. "I would like, to get more men. I could use more men. I could use five more men easy."