Tuesday, February 9, 2021

OTD in 1950 Senator McCarthy Held in His Hand a List Provided By the State Department's Office of Security

The popular narrative of Senator McCarthy and his lists of "known communists" in government, like this one, are wrong in several respects, and as a public service I take it upon myself to correct that misimpression.

Also, I just think it's amusing that his lists came from the State Department itself.

The History Channel's OTD message for today repeats what we all know:
Senator McCarthy famously announced that he had a list with the names of over 200 members of the Department of State "that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department.”
What's not so famous is that McCarthy's list(s) of names, whatever else they may have been, were "not fictitious."

Have a look at Chapter Four of the history of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security (here), an official publication of State's Office of the Historian.
McCarthy’s numbers—205, 57, and 81—were inconsistent, but not fictitious. The numbers were derived from testimony by Department of State officials and Division of Security files. An SY [Office of Security] memorandum admitted in April that the “81” figure that McCarthy presented to the Senate was drawn from the “108 Cases,” which had been derived from SY files by a team of House of Representatives researchers in 1947. That group found 108 employees of questionable loyalty working for the Department. The “57” figure was also from the 108 cases; Deputy Under Secretary for Administration John E. Peurifoy had testified to Congress in March 1948 that 57 of the 108 still worked for the Department.(4) The number “205” was also derived from SY figures. In 1946, Robert L. Bannerman’s Security Office and the Department’s Screening Committee had flagged 284 “security risks.” Secretary of State James F. Byrnes reported this to Congress in July 1946, noting that the Department had dismissed 79 of the 284, leaving 205 possible risks. As the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations emphasized, McCarthy’s “information was beyond all reasonable doubt … a ‘dressed up’ version of material” previously presented to Congress. Yet McCarthy had so effectively repackaged the numbers that it was several weeks before Department of State officials determined their origins.(5)


(4) Memorandum, Division of Security, n.d. [April? 1950]. Memorandum “History of 108 Cases,” Division of Security, 6 April 1950, Folder – Administrative Folder, Box 5; and Memorandum “Report on Loyalty Security Performance – 1947-1952,” Conrad E. Snow, Chairman of the Loyalty Security Board, to Dean Acheson, Secretary of State, 8 January 1953, Folder – Loyalty Security Board, Miscellaneous 3/1952 – 3/1953, Box 4; both Security Files 1932-63, A/SY/Evaluations. Committee on Foreign Relations, State Department Employee Loyalty Investigation, p. 8.

(5) Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense, 109, 111-112, 156 ( McCarthy quotation on page 156. Committee on Foreign Relations, State Department Employee Loyalty Investigation, 81st Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Report 2108, p. 7, 14-17. Of that report, pages 6-17 make clear the connection between McCarthy’s numbers and the figures and files of the Security Office and of SY. Memorandum, Division of Security, n.d. [April? 1950], p. 6.
So, I guess those listed names really were known to the SecState.

There is more detail here on the interplay between McCarthy and his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Senate Government Operations Committee and the subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (“Tydings Committee”) concerning those lists.


Anonymous said...

TSB: Great post, although I have to admit you lost me at OTD. Office of Thorodactyl Dinasours? My conclusion is that McCarthy was out to scare a lot of people into thinking we were being over run by communists. (Along the lines of Steve King.)
I notice today that Biden is thinking of imposing flight and travel restrictions on Florida to prevent the scourge of the new covid type from spreading. It is responsible for 3-4% of recent cases there. He is holding a
"Town Hall" next week in Wisconsin about the pandemic but not sure where in Wisconsin. I hope someone asks him why he thinks he can dictate to Governors on their covid restrictions and what he thinks of having a "reality czar"? gwb

TSB said...

GWB: McCarthy was looking back on all the communists in government that were tolerated in the '30s and '40s, which is a subject that became extremely embarrassing after Stalin got the Bomb and the Korean War started in 1950.

Now that you mention reality czars, he would have made a good one. Plus, he was from Wisconsin, so he'd be at that townhall to hold Biden to account.

Anonymous said...

TSB: Bernie asked the ONLY great question at this historic impeachment today:
He asked Trump's Attorney if, in Mr. Berman's opinion Trump had actually won the election? Berman asked to have the question repeated twice. He responded:
MY OPINION? That is irrelevant!! Leave it to Bernie to realize Trump's attorney doesn't even think his client won. gwb (I bet Bernie thinks he won too, along with everyone else there.)

Anonymous said...

TSB: This is getting pretty exciting! Now they are calling for my representative to testify. I think it was Lindsey Graham who decided to change his vote and saying if they called one witness there would be many. Rand Paul wanted a debate. So now, Mitch has called a leadership meeting. Plus we have college basketball and 5 inches of frozen snow. What a day!! I have to get to work on my witness list. gwb lol

Anonymous said...

TSB: What's this? The Houthi's are attacking US troops in Erbil?? And
Kamela Harris is handling talks with foreign leaders??

Plus lights , water plants, cellphones and windmills are down in Texas? gwb

TSB said...

GWB: Kamala did, indeed, handle the president-to-president phone call with her (I mean Joe's) French counterpart. I haven't seen any White House explanation for Joe's absence.