Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. Robert P. Joyce of the Policy Planning Staff

Participants: Attorney General [J. Howard] McGrath
Mr. Peyton Ford, Department of Justice1
The Under Secretary of State, James E. Webb
Mr. Charles E. Bohlen2
Mr. Carlisle H. Humelsine3
Mr. Robert P. Joyce, Department of State

The Under Secretary opened the conversation by stating that difficulties had developed between the Departments of State and Justice [Page 293] relating to the latter’s policy and procedures with regard to the admission into the United States of former members of the Communist Party.4 Mr. Webb said that he felt sure that this matter could be adjusted and machinery set up which would ensure that these cases could be handled expeditiously as between the two Departments without the necessity of individual cases having to be taken up with the Attorney General personally. Mr. Webb went on to say that in carrying out its responsibilities, particularly in the field of psychological warfare, the Department considered that these former Communists were perhaps the most effective instrumentalities in combatting international communism and Russian imperialism. The Under Secretary then requested Mr. Bohlen, who had just arrived from Paris, to set forth his views in the light of the fact that many of these visa cases involving former Communists had arisen in the Paris Embassy.

Mr. Bohlen stated that by virtue of their having been themselves involved in the Communist apparatus, many of these former Communists were in the best position to expose the realities of how Russian-controlled international communism really operates. These former Communists were now the bitterest and most effective anti-Stalinists and their activities were causing great embarrassment to the Kremlin. Mr. Bohlen went on to say that the Communist apparatus had always endeavored to capture labor unions and labor organizations as well as the intellectuals as perhaps the two most important spearheads in the field of Communist subversion and control. Former Communists have close contacts in the field of labor and have proved and are now proving highly effective in breaking the Communist control of the labor movements not only in France but in other Western European countries. Former Communist “intellectuals” by their writings, speeches and other activities in organizing anti-Soviet meetings, et cetera, are also proving to be the most effective agents in destroying the Kremlin myth and in exposing the realities of what Communism in action really amounts to.

Mr. Bohlen went on to say that it was just possible that some of these “former Communists” might in fact be playing a double game and were in reality carrying on a masquerade for purposes of penetration and infiltration to obtain information of activities in the non-Communist world, which information could be of value to the Kremlin. Mr. Bohlen added, however, that in his experience covering twenty years in international communism and Russian affairs he [Page 294] knew of no case where a Communist who broke with the Party and publicly repudiated Moscow had ever been revealed as playing a double game on instructions from the Party. He said that the Kremlin and the Communist Party always reacted violently against deviationists and apostates and could not brook any challenge to Moscow’s infallibility. He reiterated that when such persons publicly broke with the Party and over a period of years engaged in anti-Stalinist activities which were damaging to the Kremlin we could feel pretty sure that they were not masquerading and engaging in a double game in the interests of Moscow.

Mr. Bohlen said that he considered that the security risk in permitting these former Communists to enter the United States was for the foregoing reasons in reality slight and, in any event, should be considered in the light of a calculated risk which we must assume. The Government could always quietly observe the behavior, contacts and activities of these former Communists when they visited this country. On balance, Mr. Bohlen thought that the slight security risk involved in permitting such persons to visit the United States was greatly over-balanced by what they could do in our interests in the psychological field in combatting international communist activity. He added that in this period of the cold war we required all the assistance possible in order to avoid an armed conflict.5

The Attorney General agreed that it was in the national interest that we should avail ourselves of the assistance of some of these former Communists in the field of psychological warfare and anti-Communist activities. Mr. McGrath was confident that the Department of State and the Department of Justice could work out procedures whereby cases involving admission into the United States of such persons could be intelligently and expeditiously handled. He stated that when these cases arose an official of the Department of State might best take them up personally with Mr. Peyton Ford. The Department of State official could explain the national interest involved in relation to the Department of State’s responsibilities in the field of foreign affairs and Mr. Ford could go into the security considerations. The Attorney General said that he saw no reason why the FBI files on individual cases should not be shown to the Department of State official. Mr. Joyce stated that this would be most useful because if there were something in the files indicating that a person was in fact a dangerous security risk, the Department of State officials who were dealing with such a person should obviously have such information.

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Mr. Joyce stated that there were presently pending before the Department of Justice three visa cases relating to former Communists. The Department of State had addressed letters to the Attorney General recommending that these persons be admitted to the United States for a temporary visit as such was considered to be in the national interests. He added that the Department of Justice had recently declined to accept the Department of State’s recommendation in one case and that the Department would like to review this decision with the Department of Justice as it was still considered in the national interest that the persons involved be admitted to this country for a temporary visit. Mr. Joyce added that time was of the essence in two or three of these cases. Mr. Ford took note of the three pending cases and stated that he would look into them.

Mr. Webb directed Mr. Joyce to get in touch with Mr. Ford as soon as possible with a view to working out with him personally the cases now pending.6

Under Secretary Webb raised the question of actions on the part of the officials of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in connection with the Polish vessel Batory when it called at New York. He expressed the view that perhaps the Immigration authorities were being over-zealous in their treatment of the Batory’s crew when the vessel was in the New York harbor. He did not think that these excessive controls and the attendant publicity were doing us much good abroad. Mr. Ford replied that the Captain and certain officers of the Batory were now being permitted to leave the vessel and visit New York City but that controls were still being exercised over other members of the crew. He added that the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the FBI still considered that the Batory was being used to promote Communist activities in this country and therefore certain controls were necessary. Mr. Webb expressed the hope that something might be done to make the matter less of a show. It was agreed that the press was building up the visits of the Batory to New York harbor in a sensational and harmful fashion.7

The meeting ended on the note that the Departments of State and Justice should and would cooperate, particularly with regard to this question of the admissibility of former Communists and that Mr. Ford [Page 296] of the Department of Justice and Mr. Joyce of the Department of State should initiate this cooperation by clearing up the presently pending cases and arranging for direct liaison on similar cases arising in the future.8

[Robert P. Joyce]
  1. Assistant to the Attorney General.
  2. Minister in France.
  3. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Administration.
  4. Section 3, Proviso 9 of the Immigration Act of February 1917, as Amended and Supplemented, authorized the Commissioner of Immigration and Naturalization with the approval of the Attorney General to control and regulate the admission and return of otherwise inadmissable aliens (defined as anarchists and others who advocated the forceful overthrow of the United States) applying for temporary admission.
  5. Many of the arguments advanced here by Minister Bohlen had been made previously in telegram 149, January 12, 1950, from Paris, not printed (161.1B/1–1250). Telegrams 196, January 13, from London; 558, January 19, from Berlin; and 466, February 6, from Rome, none printed, had concurred in Embassy Paris’ analysis (741.001/1–1350, 161.1B/1–1950, and 161.1B/2–650).
  6. In a memorandum of August 21, 1950, to Deputy Assistant Secretary Humelsine, not printed, Joyce recalled that he had subsequent conversations with Peyton Ford and other officials of the Department of Justice on the subject discussed here. Agreement was subsequently reached between the Department of State and the Department of Justice on the admission into the United States in the national interest of three persons in whom the Department of State was interested (117.3/8–2150).
  7. Regarding the protests by the Soviet and Polish Embassies in September 1950 regarding the treatment of the M.S. Batory while in the port of New York, see Acting Secretary of State Webb’s memorandum of conversation of September 13 and his memorandum of a meeting with President Truman on September 14, pp. 1036 and 1039.
  8. In his memorandum of August 21 to Humelsine (see footnote 6, above), Joyce observed that there had been several embarrassing delays in cases where the Department of State had sought to obtain Department of Justice agreement to admission of aliens into the United States. Joyce recommended the adoption of new procedures within the Department of State in handling such matters with the Department of Justice, and he suggested that if the new procedures were not successful, “this troublesome and very important problem” might be referred to W. Averell Harriman, the President’s Special Assistant on foreign policy matters, who could lay the matter before the National Security Council and the President.