The Hughes Investigation

Frances G. Knight, head of the State Department's passport office, has decided only one error was committed in asking our Paris and Moscow embassies to keep tabs on H. Stuart Hughes--giving the story to the New York Times.

But Miss Knight has missed the point. The Hughes directive was an unpardonable extension of the government's investigative powers, and not--even according to the passport office--an isolated incident. The directive cited Hughes's testimony at a 1961 hearing on behalf of the late Robert A. Soblen, who had been convicted of espionage, as evidence of Hughes's "pro-Communist leanings." But Hughes testified only as an expert witness on OSS procedures during the war, saying that Soblen could not have had "access to information on highly secret weapons."

Even if he had gone further, his testimony would hardly be an indication of "pro-Communist leanings," and even if one could prove these leanings, they would not necessarily justify keeping track of his activities abroad. Such a move should be based on something more than the way a man leans.

Secretary Rusk has said he will formulate a new policy on transmitting FBI requests to U.S. embassies, and a new policy is certainly needed if Hughes is representative of the people the FBI likes to keep tabs on. What must be considered in deciding where to draw the line is whether the danger presented by a person's going uninvestigated equals the danger presented by the practice of investigation. The Department must recognize the right of privacy, and only agree to transmit FBI requests when it considers that right to be outweighed by the interests of national security. Perhaps it is only possible to make a subjective judgment on this question, but a subjective judgment is better than none at all.

Miss Knight, however, regards anything less than complete cooperation with the FBI as one manifestation of "Schwartzism," a phenomenon she named after Abba P. Schwartz, former director of the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs. Schwartz, a proponent of more liberal passport policies, resigned three weeks ago after he got wind of a Knight-encouraged and Rusk-approved plan to abolish his bureau. And now that he has been phased out of the State Department, a little creeping "Schwartzism" might be a fitting legacy.