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The other title of the bill which had been more in the public eye and which is known only as a Smith Act is that time which makes it a crime to seek to overthrow the government of the United States by force. And that was the actual voice of Congressman Howard Smith of West Virginia author of the Smith Act. The Smith Act is typical of the special legislation which we now have in the field of national security. Congressman Smith will explain the Smith Act and join in a pro and con discussion of new laws for loyalty and security. The topic of the second program in this series security and civil rights. Security and civil rights is produced by the University of Minnesota radio station KUNM for the National Association of educational broadcasters and a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. And now to introduce the subject and our guest authorities on today's program. Here is the consultant commentator for
security and civil rights professor of law at Columbia University. Mr. Mann read possum. One central issue which must be met at the outset is the question whether special laws are needed to take care of the problems of national security or whether our traditional criminal law is flexible enough and efficient enough to do the job we present in this program for persons who will discuss this problem to take the view that new laws are needed to defend the proposition that the ordinary criminal law is sufficient for this purpose. Speaking in behalf of new legislation setting setting forth new crimes is Congressman Howard Smith chairman of the House of Representatives Rules Committee and author of the Smith Act. And Mr. John B. Over Scn manager of the national defense part Department of the United States Chamber of Commerce
defending the proposition that the regular criminal law is sufficient for our purposes. Our Mr. Joseph L. Ron Jr. president of the Americans for Democratic Action and royal W. France executive director of the National Lawyers Guild. First of all we will hear from Congressman Howard Smith interviewed by Mr. Philip Galba producer of our series in Washington DC. Judge me could you tell us the purpose of this move back in. How it came about Reilly Smith Act had several purposes in fact there are four titles in the bill. It came about following the investigation of communism and that's the ism by the so-called Dyess committee in nineteen hundred thirty eight and around that time when that disclosed the existence
in this country of a good deal of disloyalty by people who had head to the doctrine of the Communist Party and advocated the overthrow of government by force. I prepared this. It contained for future Iran was all the deportation of criminal aliens. Another one dealt with subversion in the end Navy and prohibited subversive activities and scattering of papers and pamphlets and so forth among the personnel of the army in a second too. To bring about a spirit of insubordination in the NE there is another section requiring the registration and thing of printing in the country. Now the
reason for that was that it appeared at that time that were all but becoming imminent. And I thought it was that we should have a catalogue of aliens who in the country. So we were able to identify them and require them to report and know how hands could be laid upon any one of them at any time when it was necessary. How about the title of the bill which had been more in the public eye and which is known broadly as a smear back. Is that title which makes it a crime to seek to overthrow the government of the United States by force and violence. Understand that a provision of force and violence was that it was a necessary ingredient
that activated the law. There must be an effort to overthrow the government by force and violence always teaching of the desirability of overthrowing the government by force and violence. Now that's what's referred to that part of it is what's referred to generally as a smith. The famous Dennis case of the 11 communists who were tried in New York was the first case that arose under that act. They were convicted in the case went to the Supreme Court of the United States why it why the constitutionality of the act was attacked on the ground it was an interference with the constitutional right of free speech. Supreme court system and the constitutionality of the law and since that time a great many seditious persons have been prosecuted and convicted under this Act.
I think that describes the general Ray and schedule a show call back if there's any question you'd like to ask me about it further inland. Right to Ed. be defining in the end. No no the act is pretty simple in its language and it provides that anyone who seeks to overthrow the government by force and violence is guilty. Anyone who teaches the viability and advocating desirability of the overthrow of the government by force and violence and then and then anyone under the so-called membership clause who is a member of. Knowingly of an organization which teaches and
advocates the overthrow of or is subject to penalty. Of course when we speak of treason and attempts to overthrow the government we in conversation describe them generally as sedition and seditious acts the that language is not contained in the bill itself. In this David Nelson case the state of Pennsylvania had a law similar to the federal law against sedition. And the state of Pennsylvania undertook to prosecute David Nelson for violation of the state law. The court of Pennsylvania held that under the so-called preemption doctrine of the federal courts that when the Smith Act was enacted it ousted
all state courtroom managers stiction to deal with the subject of sedition. When that decision came down knowing that Congress had no such intent when it enacted this minute back I introduced a bill which simply provided that the mere fact that Congress passed an act concerning any subject matter that it did not that buy of itself preclude a states from jurisdiction of similar offenses unless the Congress specifically in its legislation so provided that the states would not have jurisdiction in the future. That case went to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court. Much to my dismay upheld the Pennsylvania decision and held in effect that states no longer had the authority to punish for treason and
seditious conduct subversive or the person that was under this Act might be your next door neighbor. As it used the word many did. Did you mean that it's that extensive. No I don't think they have been more than a hundred or so convictions. The mere fact that you may think that a person is a little more liberal than you are doesn't make him a calm innocent doesn't make him a violator of the law. And if we seek to put everybody in jail and doesn't agree with our opinion perhaps we wouldn't have very many people on the outside. But the fact that out of a general reputed thousands of people who do believe in the fundamentals of the Communist Party only several hundred have been convicted. Seems
to me a very valid argument why this data should have a concurrent jurisdiction to prosecute for similar offenses so that we would have the benefit not only of the federal courts but of the state courts as well. There is individual rights of an average American and me here. While I don't know that I understand exactly what you mean by that question. I mean certainly from here an end to his overthrow the government decided he didn't have his right and that if you get anything good happen disagree this is a right and this is not in conflict with of course and that's saved by his constitutional right of freedom of speech because the constitutionality of this fact depends upon the ninth day is whether or not it is a constitutional privilege
to advocate deal with the government by force. I you can talk about how much you think of this that or the other. But when you begin to teach people and advocate that they rise up bomb force and overthrow the government then you have passed beyond the pale of those kind of expression as a that are protected by a constitutional provision with respect to freedom of speech. That was Congressman Howard Smith author of the Smith Act. The next speaker is Mr. Royle W. Frantz executive director of the National Lawyers Guild in New York City. Mr. France will express sharp disagreement with the Smith Act. The Smith Act was passed in 940 as a rider to another bell
and without much Congressional discussion or public realization of the serious nature of the act in a abridgement of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. The First Amendment specifically states that Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or the press. They lie. Doctors definitely abridge freedom of speech and the press in that it is directed toward the advocacy of certain ideas and the persons indicted under the smith that have been members of the Communist Party. None of them have been
charged with any overt acts but they have been charged the way it has been. They advocacy at some future time of what is called a conspiracy to overthrow the government by force and violence. Actually however since. Neither incitement to such overthrow or any overt acts preparing for such over such a throw has been involved in any of the cases so far brought and they act as it has been applied is a Thought Control Act. I filed an amicus brief in connection with the second string communist leaders case Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and others as
counsel for the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee. In this briefing I said. We hold as a firm Tenet and I favor that violent revolution should never be resorted to in a society where our duly changed through the will of the people freely expressed at the polls as possible. We believe however that radicals as well as liberals and conservatives must in such a society as ours be guaranteed the right within the framework of the democratic process to urge changes which they seek. Radicals in the past have often been wrong but they have served a useful purpose even when wrong in calling attention to the evils that demand correction. Any society which suppresses its most uncompromising critics runs the risk
of becoming static. If there had not been in every age been those who said things are not good enough we demand changes here. We would still be living in caves and wearing skins Arline claws. Hence if the record in this case fails to show overt acts or intent to advocate or prepare for violent revolution my proven word or deed of the appellant and by each of them as we believe to be the case. The judgement against them should be reversed as violating their constitutional right. That was rile W. Frantz executive director of the National Lawyers Guild. Our next speaker is Mr. John B. Over Scn manager of the National Defense Dept. of the United States Chamber of Commerce Mr. overseen speaks in favor of new laws to meet the problem of national security and presents the program of the United States Chamber of Commerce
applicable in this field. This is John B all of us I'm acting manager National Defense Department Chamber of Commerce of the United States speaking to you from the chambers headquarters in Washington D.C.. I'd like to outline for you the national chambers current policies covering national defense and subversive activities. The implications of present world tensions have awakened America to the overwhelming importance of building and maintaining a strong national security program. The war of idiology is now in the open and it promises to be both pronounced and prolonged. It requires on the part of civilians and industrial organizations participation and understanding to a marked degree and also they're undertaking a new and important role in the civil defense aspect of continental defense. It is strongly urged that plant protection and
security programs be centralized in one agency so that owners may follow a unified code. In line with this procedure sufficient authority should be granted to implant government security offices staffed with specifically trained civilians security officers to expedite practicable solutions to security problems and to determine and apply realistic procedures developed within the basic intent and framework of government security regulations. The National Chamber of Commerce is an altar bully opposed to any political ideology not consistent with the provisions of our Constitution guaranteeing Democratic Democratic government processes individual freedom economic opportunity and the right to the acquisition and enjoyment of property. We advocate an unrelenting campaign against communism. The National Chamber re-iterate sits earlier position in
favor of the continuance of congressional inquiry into all forms of subversive activity and favors and that the end of legislation to provide for more effective means of eliminating subversion spam and other threats to the national security. We favor strengthening the provisions of the labor labor management relations Act of 1947 and the regulations of departments of the federal government designed to expose and eliminate communists and labor unions. Industry and the governmental agencies. The chamber has steadfastly refused to endorse or approve broad proposals that wiretapping be legalized. We recognize however that subversive activities as now revealed are a serious and continuing threat to our national security. Under these circumstances the demands of national security may be paramount.
Therefore we urge the Congress to enact legislation authorizing the introduction and use in evidence in criminal cases involving subversive activities in our federal courts all of information secured or developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation through intercepting communications when such interception practices have been expressively authorized by the attorney general. Because teachers in our schools and colleges play a most important role in molding the minds of our children and young people. They should be free of mental shackles. Therefore those who are addicted to communist doctrines should not be allowed to hold teaching positions. We pledge ourselves to constant vigilance in exposing any activities subversive to the principles upon which our republic is founded. That was Mr. John be overseen manager of the National Defense Department of the United States Chamber of Commerce. A different point of view will be expressed
by Mr. Joseph L. Ron Jr. president of the Americans for Democratic Action. Philip gallop interviewed Mr. Ryle and Mr.. Office in Washington D.C.. The Supreme Court of the United States really settled this basic issue in favor of the government employee I referred to the so-called slow char case. That was a case of a New York City professor who was just charged because he pleaded the Fifth Amendment and the court said it was a violation of due process of law to fire him for that reason. In view of this I think what the court was saying is a government employee has a right to be fairly treated as a matter of fact this thing has been pretty much held by the Court of Appeals for the nice circuit in San Francisco. However the government didn't appeal that case. So the Supreme Court can't get their hands on it. Yes I was referring to Parker against Leicester
in which the Court of Appeals for the nice circuit in San Francisco said that a semen couldn't be taken off the boat by the Coast Guard without a facing of his accusers. Some people say that there's a difference between a seaman who's a prime ploy of a private business and a government employee I say that that's a silly now in view of a slow charge case because today the court wasn't deciding whether employment was a right or a privilege whether in private or public industry what they are saying is whether or not it's a right or a privilege. Certainly any American citizen has a right not to be fired from his job without due process of law. Anybody in the House can serve and there was always that one sure face and you hear it or at cons. But sometimes these things have to be limited or sacrificed in the national security question is How serious is the threat to national security. Do we have to sacrifice these things.
On the contrary it seems to me that our national security is best served by a protection of our democratic rights. There is a threat of communism in the world certainly. There's the threat of the Russian invasion threat of Russian aggression and threat of communist espionage at home. But there is no real threat from communist ideas. They've been like Time and again in the past and are being licked now. So what we have to say is what is a program about. And I don't see for example any need for a security program for government employees except in the area where the government employee has access to secret information and might thereby commit acts or commit espionage even in that field. In those few cases where the government employee has access to secret information is therefore an espionage risk. I do not feel it would hurt the case of the government to hurt the security government to let this man faces accusers. It seems to me that fair treatment of government
employees is going to make for better government employees and really a stronger and more secure defense. Just look at some of these cases who is Peters. But Dr. Peters was a man in the public health service and had many more access destined to a secret santa any of you listening to my voice maybe less because you could walk in the Pentagon any day without anybody looking you over very carefully and try and pick up a few. Dr. Peters was busily engaged as a doctor and he didn't have any time for that sort of operation. Who was Darcy Bailey was he was a clerical employee and they. Department of Public health education welfare I believe there is a case of a gym culture a leg was Trotskyites who was discharged from Clarke and the Veterans Administration. These people don't have anything to do with secrets. They don't have anything to do with the possible espionage. Their views are being questioned on the basis of that I don't think the same way that everybody else does.
And that's a mistake in a democratic society. Our nation is most secure when everyone feels free to speak and think without restraint. That new ideas that are necessary to a real defense come from UN frightened people. I believe that what we really need in the Cold War with Russia is a lead in armaments our lead in thought a lead in spiritual values and we're only going to have a lead as long as our people are confident that the Bill of Rights is protecting every American. You feel as in C Major McCarthy hearings. And since. National security happy everything visual me has a very early morning on line or find your vision and direction family and frankly I think that there was some effect but it seems to me that the tide has turned in favor of the Bill of Rights again.
Seems to me that the two great acts of the past were the rejection of the Nixon charges on communism in government and the censure of Senator McCarthy and that those acts in late 1954 did constitute a turning of the tide back to civil rights and the Bill of Rights. I think a B-cell lead us not to recognize that lots for Americans to day are not as ready to sign petitions to join organizations say what they think as they once were. I think the matter is on the upgrade and I think programs like this could help to bring the facts home to the people. I think organizations that help to point these matters out. I think the various measures now being taken will again strengthen the Bill of Rights and cause people to be less afraid than they were say a couple of years ago. That was Joseph L. Routt Jr. chairman for Americans for Democratic Action as recorded in Washington D.C.. In the United States today we have many
special laws on national security. These include the Smith Act the McCarren Act the Internal Security Act of 1050 the expatriation and espionage and sabotage acts of 1054 and others. On our program today you heard varying points of view about such laws and their effects particularly on federal employees. From Mr. Congressman Howard Smith royal friends of the National Lawyers Guild and John Alderson of the United States Chamber of Commerce. What can we conclude about laws for loyalty and security. Once again here is the commentator for security and civil rights professor of law Paulson. The issue about which our participants today have disagreed has of course been resolved in favor of new legislation to meet our problem. New legislation means new legal problems. Our next program in this series will deal with the new legal problems that have arisen
with respect to security. And civil liberty. Next week a discussion of the actual and legal aspects of dealing with security and subversion. Our guest authority is Thomas Jay Herbert chairman of the National subversive activities control board. And Professor Ralph S. Brown Jr. of the Yale University Law School. They will be interviewed by the producer of the series Philip gold. A consultant for security and civil rights is Columbia University's professor of law. Paulson Professor Paulson formally was a member of the faculty of the University of Minnesota Law School whose cooperation has made this series possible security and civil rights has been produced by the University of Minnesota radio station KUNM and a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. This series is distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters. Your announcer Charles Burton. The preceding tape recorded program or the presentation of the end E.B.
Radio Network.
Security and civil rights
Howard Smith
Producing Organization
University of Minnesota
KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Congressman Howard Smith, author of The Smith Act; John B. Olversson, United States Chamber of Commerce; Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., Americans for Democratic Action; Royal W. France, National Lawyer's Guild, all debate special laws related to national security.
Series Description
Interviews on balancing national security interests with personal liberty. The series is moderated by Monrad Paulsen of Columbia University.
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Social Issues
Politics and Government
Legislation--United States.; Legislation--United States.
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Guest: Smith, Howard Worth, 1883-1976
Guest: Oliversson, John B.
Guest: Rauh, Joseph L., 1929-
Moderator: Paulsen, Monrad G.
Producer: Gelb, Philip
Producing Organization: University of Minnesota
Producing Organization: KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 57-50-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:27
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Chicago: “Security and civil rights; Howard Smith,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed October 5, 2023,
MLA: “Security and civil rights; Howard Smith.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. October 5, 2023. <>.
APA: Security and civil rights; Howard Smith. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from