Truman Library, President’s Secretary’s file, General

Memorandum by the Administrative Assistant to the President (Dawson) to the Secretary to the President (Connelly) 1


Re phone conversation Thursday afternoon.

Senator Tydings has asked that there be made available to him, as soon as possible, a statement of the terms and conditions under which the President is prepared to make investigative files available to the Committee under S. RES. 231.2 In a conversation with [Page 1383] Peurifoy Wednesday, he suggested that a special room be set aside in the Capitol in which the files could be brought, one at a time, for the Committee to inspect them. He referred to a conversation with the President in which he was assured that the files would be made available and, while he recognized that the conditions which he suggested might not be acceptable to the President, he would like to know what terms and conditions would be acceptable. Peurifoy said he would take this matter up with you but made no commitments to Senator Tydings. Subsequently Senator Tydings made his press release but when questioned by Peurifoy said he realized the President would call the signals and that, although he felt he had a general commitment, he had made his statement for tactical reasons in order to smoke out McCarthy’s information.

Attorney General feels that you should withhold your decision on files until McCarthy has actually supplied all the information which he has to back up his charges. However, State feels that issuing statement at this time is important as it will help Senator Tydings hold the line and prevent further public smear sessions. In the event the State Department’s view is followed they have suggested the following statement to Senator Tydings to be made public:

On March 21, 1947, I instituted the Federal Employees Loyalty Program.3 I started this program not because I distrusted the employees in the Federal Government but because I thought that the people of the country were entitled to be certain of the loyalty of their employees and because I felt that any federal employee who might be charged with disloyalty was entitled to a regular procedure consistent with our American democratic principles of justice and fair play to clear his name. Mr. Seth Richardson, a former assistant Attorney General under President Hoover, and a capable board were appointed to supervise this program. This group, together with those responsible for the program in the various departments and executive agencies, have done a good job.
In connection with the execution of the program, various demands have been made by Congressional committees for access to the reports, records, and files relating to this program. Since the days of our first President, George Washington, it has been recognized that under our Constitution the President of the United States has the right to refuse to divulge confidential information outside of the executive branch of the government where he believes it would not be to the best interests of the country to do so. It has been my judgement that, except under extraordinary circumstances, the just and efficient administration of the Employees Loyalty Program requires that the reports, records, and files in respect to it be kept in a confidential status. To do otherwise would seriously [Page 1384] weaken the national security by hindering the operations of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other investigative agencies. It would also subject government personnel to unfounded or disproved allegations and would make it more difficult to insure a fair and just disposition of loyalty cases. For this reason, on March 15, 1948, I issued a directive4 that all requests for the confidential reports, records, and files with respect to the program should be referred to me so that a determination could be made as to what is the best thing to do in the public interest.
A charge has been made that, despite the existence of the loyalty program, there are employed by the Department of State persons who are disloyal to the United States. A special subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations has been set up to investigate these charges. A prompt decision as to whether these charges are true or have been made in bad faith is a matter of great importance to the United States and to the world. These charges appear to be based in large part either on cases which have been discussed in public many times or on partial, one-sided extracts of files which were made available for inspection by the House Appropriations Committee in the fall of 1947 before the issuance of my directive. In these cases the damage which might be done to the individual involved as a result of making these files available has already been done. For these reasons I am prepared to make available to the members of the subcommittee, under the conditions outlined below, the full records, reports, and files of all persons who are or who recently have been employed by the Department of State against whom a charge of disloyalty has been made. I am sure that the committee does not intend to engage in a fishing expedition and for that reason, in requesting access to a file they should state what evidence they have in their possession which makes it necessary to investigate a charge of disloyalty.
I am sure that we are all agreed that nothing should be done which will impair the effectiveness of the Federal Bureau of Investigation or make its important work more difficult. For that reason I must insist that the records, reports, and files shall not leave the control of the President, that they be inspected in the White House, and that such inspection be surrounded with certain safeguards. In view of the importance of the issues involved and the importance of preserving the integrity of these files, I am sure the committee will not object to my insistence that the inspection be limited to the members of the committee themselves and that no copies or extracts of the material be made and taken from the White House.
However, in order that the committee shall have all the information necessary for its work, I am designating a special representative who, in any case in which the committee, after it has examined the file, so requests, will prepare a summary of the file drawn so as to prevent any disclosure of sources of information, investigative methods, or other information which might hamper the investigative processes. When the committee, after comparing this [Page 1385] summary with the file, agrees that it is a fair and accurate one, it will be made available to the committee for its records, with the understanding that the names of the individuals or other material which identifies them will not be made public unless it is necessary for an individual to meet the charges which have been made.
I recognize that there is a danger that this action will be misconstrued and will lead to requests for files and other situations. It does not constitute in any sense a waiver of the constitutional powers of the President or a precedent as to how those powers should be exercised in the future. (End of statement)

It is suggested that a man of the stature of Arthur Flemming, Marcellus Shields, Sidney Mitchell, John J. Parker, or Lee Wiggins be designated as a special assistant to the President for the purpose mentioned above. It is felt advisable to have a special representative of the President prepare summaries to avoid McCarthy’s charge that the committee was spoonfed by the very people it is investigating, the State Department.

  1. Connelly was aboard the Presidential yacht Williamsburg, and the memorandum was radioed to him. The source text is the copy of the message as received and typed on the Williamsburg; it carries the Williamsburg letterhead.
  2. On Feb. 22, 1950, the U. S. Senate adopted Resolution 231 which reads, in part, as follows: “Resolved, That the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, or any duly authorized subcommittee thereof, is authorized and directed to conduct a full and complete study and investigation as to whether persons who are disloyal to the United States are or have been employed by the Department of State.” A subcommittee under Senator Millard Tydings (D.–Md.) was duly created under the provisions of Resolution 231 and held hearings between early March and late June. The record of the subcommittee hearings is published as U.S. Senate, Senate Subcommittee of the Committee on Foreign Relations, State Department Employee Loyalty Investigations, 81st Cong., 2d sess. (Washington, 1950).
  3. Executive Order 9835.
  4. “Memorandum to all Officers and Employees in the Executive Branch of the Government”; for text, see 13 Federal Register 1359.