Truman Library, PSF–General File

Memorandum by the Director of Central Intelligence (Smith) to the President

Although you have not asked for it, I believe it my duty to report to you all that has transpired in connection with my testimony in the Benton–McCarthy case.1 You are already familiar with the basic subject of this testimony, that is, the Marshall Plan and the violent reaction against it by the Soviet Union. I dictated to your secretary the explanatory statement I made to members of the press after giving, in reply to cross-examination, answers which were necessarily brief and susceptible of misinterpretation by anyone who lacked or chose to ignore the background provided by the explanatory statement above referred to. This statement (copy of which is attached) was also given by me this morning to a group of twenty-three radio and press executives. At this conference, I was asked by Mr. Lewis Woods of the New York Times:—“The President is quoted as having said that Communists have been pretty well cleaned out of Government. Does your statement contravene this?” I replied that it did not—that Communists have been pretty thoroughly cleaned out of the Government but that this did not in any way relieve Security Agencies from the necessity of continual vigilance. I was also asked by Mr. Elmer Davis of A.B.C. if the President or anybody else had ever suggested or directed me to go slow in eliminating Communists in my organization or from any other Government agency. I replied that on the contrary you have given this organization the most complete support and while I have no direct responsibility in this connection with other Agencies in the United States, I know that you have similarly and insistently urged effective action in the elimination of Communists.

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Also this morning, acting under your instructions to keep both Presidential candidates informed on intelligence matters, I telephoned Governor Stevenson and General Eisenhower, told each of them what had actually occurred, and read to each of them the attached statement. I stated to them, in effect, that it would be deplorable if the precautionary assumptions and procedures of a sensitive organization like the Central Intelligence Agency or of any similar organization were used for political capital at the expense of lowering the efficiency of the organization and shaking the confidence of the public in this and other Executive Establishments upon which any future President of the United States, Republican or Democratic, must inevitably depend for accurate and reliable information and guidance—that their own experience would confirm the soundness and wisdom of our procedures since they must realize that the problems and difficulties involved will remain constant and equally difficult regardless of whether the next Administration was Republican or Democratic—and that the personnel engaged in this highly technical work is not easily replaceable. Both indicated their agreement.

To General Eisenhower I also read the following statement attributed to the Chairman of the Republican National Committee: “Republican national chairman Arthur E. Summerfield last night said General Walter Bedell Smith’s statement about Communists in Government was a ‘shocking revelation’ and that the G.O.P. would stage a nationwide exposé on the subject tonight.” I said to him that if he had the same confidence in me which he had previously expressed on several occasions, he would accept my previous statement and that in view of the way this matter had been seized upon politically only he could put a stop to it in the G.O.P. He reaffirmed his confidence, said that he had not known about the broadcast, that he was leaving New York in half an hour but that he would get on the matter at once.

It would be well if there were no further serious attempts to exploit either this organization or the general subject for political purposes, as in my opinion the plans for Communist elimination from the sensitive agencies of Government and the machinery which implements these plans are about as effective as can be devised under our American system.

If you wish me to take any further action, I await your instructions.

Walter B. Smith
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Statement by Walter Bedell Smith, Director of Central Intelligence

Any Intelligence Agency that did not act on the assumption that it would be penetrated at sometime, somewhere along the line, from charwoman to executive, would be foolishly complacent and we would be criminally negligent if we did not act on that assumption. This is not to reflect on the loyalty of our employees or to suggest that any of our Security Agencies are “riddled” with Communists as has been alleged from time to time. We, ourselves, in spite of the most unusual precautions, have never detected a Communist in our ranks in the United States.

However, one of the elementary precautions of Intelligence Agencies the world over is the elaborate security and compartmentalizing of work so that no single individual below the very top level is able to gain the whole picture, even though he may obtain part of it. We have to act on the assumption that our opponents are at least as smart as we are, and that they will gain entrance from time to time. This necessitates constant vigilance in order to keep them out, to prevent them from obtaining vital information if and when they get in, and to detect and remove them as speedily as possible. CIA, in common with all other Security Agencies of Government, is extremely active in exercising such vigilance.