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Cold War Comes Home

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 10 years, 11 months ago




The Cold War Comes Home  - the Hunt for Subversives


Loyalty Review Board (1947) 
President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9835 to  established the first general loyalty program in the United States, designed to root out communist influence in the U.S. federal government.  The Loyalty Order was part of the prelude to the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy, Republican of Wisconsin.


HUAC (The House Committee to Investigate Un-American) 

The House Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities was established in the House of Representatives in 1938 to hold hearings, examine witnesses, and issue reports concerning disloyalty. 



The Spy Trials:  Alger Hiss & The Rosenbergs

In 1948, a former Communist spy, Whittaker Chambers accused former State Department official Alger Hiss of spying for the Soviet Union.   Chambers revealed microfilm documents (hidden in a pumpkin patch), which supported his charges to a young Republican congressman named Richard Nixon.  Hiss was convicted of perjury (lying in court about the documents) and sent to jail.  Too many years had passed to convict him of espionage. 


That was not true with the Rosenbergs.  The Soviets developed an atomic bomb in 1949, giving atomic secrets to the Soviets and implicated the Rosenbergs as well.  They denied the charges but would not testify against themselves (Fifth Amendment.)  Still claiming they were being prosecuted for radical beliefs, the Rosenbergs were convicted and executed.   Often described as “hysteria” at the time because evidence in both cases was not overwhelming, Russian documents (Verona Papers) released in the 1990s after the fall of the Soviet Union revealed Hiss and the Rosenbergs were indeed Soviet spies.



McCarthyism (The Second Red Scare) 

The most famous anti-Communist activist was Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy.  In 1950, he claimed to have a list with the names of Communists in the State Department and charged the Democratic Party with treason for allowing Communist infiltration of the J.S. government. 





Dennis vs. United States (1951) Eugene Dennis and other leading members of the Communist Party in the United States were charged with violating the Smith Act in 1948.  Dennis claimed the Smith Act violated the free speech clause of the First Amendment and therefore was unconstitutional.  The Supreme Court, in a 6-2 decision, found the Smith Act constitutional.  The Court held that the dangers of communism in the U.s. constituted a “clear and present danger” allowing the government to deny individual rights when national security was threatened.



The McCarran Internal Security Act (1950)  A McCarthy era federal law passed over President Harry Truman's veto. The anti-communist fervor was bi-partisan and only seven Democratic senators voted to uphold the veto. It required Communist organizations to register with the United States Attorney General and established the Subversive Activities Control Board to investigate persons suspected of engaging in subversive activities or otherwise promoting the establishment of a "totalitarian dictatorship."


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