Truman Library, PSF–General file

The Director of Central Intelligence (Smith) to the President

Dear Mr. President: I am thoroughly distressed and very much concerned with regard to two aspects of the flare-up in connection with my testimony in the Benton–McCarthy case.1

[Page 1427]

In the first place, as far as I have read, many newspapers, even such reputable ones as the New York Times, in quoting my report to you omitted those parts which gave my considered opinion that the problems of Communist elimination from the Government will continue to be equally difficult regardless of whether the next Administration is Democratic or Republican, and that the plans and machinery now in effect to accomplish this elimination are about as good as can be provided under our American system. Most of those I have read also omitted my statement regarding the constant and effective support you have given to this Agency and to other Establishments of Government concerned with this problem.

As you are aware, I do not often express unsolicited opinions and when I do, as in this case, I say exactly what I think. Therefore, I would like in some way to make these opinions public if you think I can do this without prolonging or intensifying a thoroughly bad discussion to the detriment of this and other Executive agencies of the Government. I believe it is grossly unfair that you should be charged with having failed to take aggressive action to meet the Communist problem in Government when I know during my own service here that the exact contrary is the case.

In the second place, I find as the result of a phone conversation between one of my staff officers and Congressman Walter, of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, that in the opinion of the Democratic members of that Committee my testimony was the result of disloyal connivance on my part to injure your position or that of the Democratic candidate. This opinion, if general in the Committee, stems of course from my past close official and personal association with General Eisenhower.2 I am as certain that I have your confidence as I am sure of your realization that I have only one loyalty and that is to the Chief under whom I am serving. As you have known for some time, it is not my intention to continue in Government Service after the end of your Administration and that I have no party allegiance or leanings whatsoever. Thus, while under ordinary circumstances I would be relatively indifferent [Page 1428] to such opinions, they involve in the present case an implication of disloyalty which I cannot stomach. Therefore, I am doing what I told you once is the earmark of a poor staff officer:—presenting my own problem for your decision. If I testify before this Committee on October 13th, it will undoubtedly provoke more headlines and more press reaction. Bad as this is, I think it would be worse if you were to tell me not to testify as this would cause a shout that you wanted to conceal something. It is possible that Speaker Rayburn or one of your personal staff may be able to convince Chairman of the Committee John S. Wood that I am neither disloyal nor the instrument of Republican connivance and that if so the Committee would agree to suspend the hearing or to withdraw their subpoena. Actually I can tell them nothing except that I testified under subpoena for the purpose of recording my opinion of General Marshall and the Soviet reaction to the Marshall Plan and that my answer to the question which aroused so much comment was an honest answer given under oath and adequately amplified to the press after the testimony. In any event, your judgment as to the course of action in both matters will be the best and I will be most grateful for it.3


Bedell Smith
  1. On Aug. 6, 1951, Senator William Benton (D.–Conn.) in commenting on a Senate Rules Committee report condemning Senator McCarthy’s role in the 1950 Maryland Senatorial race, charged that Senator McCarthy was unfit to keep his seat and should be expelled from the Senate, On Oct. 9, 1951, the Senate Rules Subcommittee on Privileges and Elections voted unanimously to conduct a staff investigation during 1952 into Senator Benton’s charges. The subcommittee opened hearings on May 12 at which time the two Senators traded charges of disloyalty and corruption.

    The subcommittee continued to hold hearings throughout the summer and autumn of 1952 amid a rising number of controversial resignations.

    Smith testified before the subcommittee on Sept. 29, 1952, in response to the charge by Senator Benton that there were Communists in the Department of State as early as 1947. During the course of his statement to Senator McCarthy’s counsel, Smith was reported to have said that Communists had infiltrated the Federal government even so far as the Central Intelligence Agency. Under further questioning, Smith said he did not know who these Communists were, he wished that he did, and he and his staff were working intensively to uncover and root out such individuals. See the New York Times, Sept. 30, 1952, p. 1.

  2. Lt. Gen. Smith had served under Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1942–1945 as Chief of Staff, Allied Force Headquarters, Europe, and then as Chief of Staff, Allied Expeditionary Force, Europe.
  3. President Truman responded on Oct. 6 as follows: “Dear General: I appreciated very much your good letter Of the second which was forwarded to me by Admiral Dennison. I understand the situation thoroughly and you need have no fear at all about my losing my confidence in you. I have the utmost confidence in you and I know you are doing a job that should be done. Naturally in a political year such as this it is customary to lift a statement from any member of the Administration and distort it. Just go ahead and tell the truth, do your job and don’t let this thing get under your hide.” (Truman Library, President’s Secretary’s file, General)