thumbnail of Security and civil rights; Alan Barth
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
I think that these freedoms have been more than any other quality in American life. Responsible for the growth in the greatness of the United States they have been not luxuries but necessities. They are indeed the characteristic of this nation which most distinguishes us from the communist countries and which most contributed to our superiority and our superior strength in relation to them. That was the voice of Mr Allen by. Washington journalist and author of the loyalty of free men and government by investigation. Mr. Barth will now discuss some effects of security loyalty programs upon the fundamentals of democracy. On the 12th program in this series security and civil rights produced by the University of Minnesota radio station. Security and Civil Rights has been made possible by a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center and produced in cooperation with the National Association of
educational broadcasters and the University of Minnesota Law School. This series is presented in the hope that in authoritative review of the various issues involved in the field of security and civil rights will help to clarify some of the distinctive features of a free and democratic society. And now to introduce our special guest authorities. Here is the regular consultant commentator for security and civil rights and member of the law faculty of Columbia University Professor man mad Pawson. As we near the end of our series of programs we have with us Mr. Alan Barth of Washington DC who discusses some of the implications of the security loyalty program in respect to the fundamentals and basic concepts of our freedom and our democracy. His statement is a kind of summary of what the ultimate philosophical and political implications of the present security loyalty system is. Mr. Allen Barth has been a reporter and journalist in Washington D.C. for
over 20 years. He is an editorial writer for The Washington Post. His the author of two books the loyalty of free men and government by investigation. Both of these books incidentally are available in inexpensive paperback editions. Mr. Bias is interviewed in this program by Mr. Philip Gallo the producer of our series. The interview was recorded in our nation's capital. Why one book which was published in 1951 by the Viking Press and a year later by pocket books in a paperback edition is called the loyalty of free men. It's a general discussion of the problem of individual rights in relation to national security and to the development of what seemed to me at that time to be real and serious threats to individual liberty which at the same time with threats to the security of a country. Threats to
national security because they diminish the area of independent thinking and the freedom to criticize which has always been a source of strength and in the United States or in any free country. The other book published this year is called government by investigation also published by the Viking Press and it's an analysis or discussion of congressional investigations and of their impact on individual liberty and the civil rights of Americans. In our series My research paper list 13 legal rights are you rights are respected in. Question or hearings or is there a kind of a who or regulations. One has to be discriminating in discussing congressional hearings. I suppose that Perfection is achieved nowhere or not to
recognize at the outset that congressional that the Investigating Power is an immensely important and useful authority which is given to the Congress of the United States and which is which is which is an indispensable adjunct of the power to legislate. Now that power is sometimes used wisely and sometimes not so wisely. We have had periods in history when the power to investigate has been abused by some congressional committees we have it in. We have had instances of extremely valuable. Use of the Investigating Power by committees. It seems to me that in recent years. The Investigating Power has been used by some committees. For our purposes which are improper for purposes which have no relation no proper relation to the legislative function. Sometimes the power to investigate has been used it seems to me that
in order to punish citizens for ideas or activities which which members of Congress deplore. And sometimes it has been used to cut across the word of courts. And to conduct what amounted in effect to legislative trials that is trials of individuals. For wrong opinions or for activities which are not punishable by law. And trials which are conducted without any of the protections for individual rights which are encompassed in the phrase due process of law. Sometimes the investigating power of Congress has been used to punish individuals if you like by publicity for offenses which are not under the Constitution of the United States punishable by law. The most conspicuous instance of this dangerous tendency that I'm talking about seems to me to would be in the latter more case
there was a case of. In which a man was charged out of a extremely offensive behavior by a United States senator he was not however a public employee. He was not charged with the commission of any crime yet he was held before a committee of the Senate. And for 12 days he was subjected by one member of the committee after another and by its counsel as well. To a series of heresy and badgering questions in regard to which he was given very little opportunity of affective reply. So that it seemed to me as one of the newsman watching those hearings. That this was much more a lot like one of those odious people's court procedures that we hear about in the Soviet Union.
The most dangerous aspect of the latter more proceedings it was a tendency. To entrap Mr. Latham or into making admissions or to giving statements which which could be found to be in conflict with advance which had occurred 10 years or more prior to the time that he was testifying. And to use these discrepancies between the facts and his testimony as a basis laid around for a perjury prosecution and that indeed is what happened. Mr. Latimer was indicted for the discrepancies between what he said and what had happened. Of essentially a pretty trivial nature. For example he was indicted because he said that he had had a luncheon with the Russian ambassador.
Prior to that. The invasion of Germany by the way of Russia by the Germans. Whereas in fact it had taken place a few days earlier. And this discrepancy was made the basis for a perjury prosecution. He was he was prosecuted in addition for charges which seemed so vague. To the United States judge who conducted the trial that they were thrown out of court as insubstantial. Oh I was kind of sad by heritage American expressing what I hear. Of course if Americans generally want to become fearful that they might be healed before congressional committees because they had expressed opinions which were heterodox or unpopular. There would be a considerable disinclination to run that risk. To be
called before a congressional committee is not a comfortable experience for anybody. And to be called before a committee accused out of disloyalty or of being a risk to the security of the United States is can hardly be can hardly be agreeable to any patriotic citizen. So that I should take it readily understandable that men and women would be reluctant to incur that risk and that reluctance might lead them to be more guarded about what they said. More circumspect about the expression of their opinions more reticent in criticizing the government than citizens of a free country ought to be. Are you saying that my Ha Ha last night is. Mr. Mallory vindication just because that we see here patients and US you see I have a strong feeling that we make a grave
mistake when we suppose that there is some kind of conflict between individual rights and national security. When we think of individual rights as though they were some sort of privilege or indulgence to be enjoyed only in untroubled times. On the contrary it seems to me that personal freedom the kind of right to individual expression which has always been obtained in the United States has been a real and significant and affirmative source of national strength. This kind of freedom to criticize the government has been a key to the efficiency of the United States because it has enabled us it is given as a means of correcting errors which is entirely lacking in totalitarian states. When something is done wrong when a policy is mistaken in the government of a free country there are always people to challenge or to attack or to criticize it
and to point out the nature of the error. This gives us a a kind of self-governing mechanism through which we can. Overcome our errors and correct them. Now Similarly it seems to me that freedom to dissent freedom to criticize freedom to differ from the prevailing opinion the majority opinion is a tremendous source of national unity. Unity you know comes not out of any kind of enforced uniformity but it comes out of the resolution of differences through conflict through discussion through what we call a democratic process. And it is out of that process that a nation achieves the only real and enduring unity the only kind of stability which can be and which can be really counted upon to endure the test of a crisis in time. This is something which the founders of the American republic profoundly understood.
And it was for utilitarian reasons that they guaranteed to the American people in the Bill of Rights. Freedom of expression freedom to express differences of conscience and of modes of worship freedom to maintain the press the prime function of which was to criticize the government to act as a kind of censor of the government. Now I think that these freedoms have been more than any other quality in American life. Responsible for the growth and the greatness of the United States they have more than any other factor made this country invulnerable to attack from the outside. They have been not luxuries but necessities. They are indeed the characteristic of this nation which most distinguishes us from the communist countries. And which
most contributed to our superiority and our superior strength in relation to them. I think that I think that our security against foreign aggression our security against the threat of communism comes not so much from our industrial strength or from our superiority in arms as it does from the superiority. Which grows out of a system of individual freedom and of the tolerance of diversity. Now I'm not saying of course that there are not threats to national security. There are such threats there are very significant and real dangers from the outside from the expansionist tendencies and the aggressive ambitions of the Soviet Union. And against this kind of danger we certainly have to guard beyond our guide by maintaining our affective military naval strength. At the same time I think we need to be on
our guard most of all to preserve the qualities of individual freedom and freedom of expression and freedom of conscience. But I have been the prime sources of American strength in the past. Strange that in talking about these we are actually on the whole are happy with Charlie Sheen in each county and we. Two areas for example where I work he swears he sold car had a perjury trial he did the right to have definite charges that he hears he's too noisy users in fact all of these words continually expand upon concepts of freedom seemed to start with very specific illegal elements being nice is this. Yes let me say something if I may about the Peters case because it
reflects better by haps than any other single case. The notion what I think is the hideously mistaken notion that national security is promoted somehow or other. By overriding and discarding the traditional rights of American citizens. The Peters case reflects a philosophy. That simply because a man accept employment in the government of the United States that is undertakes to become an American public service servant. Even our buy for office all of the right to due process of war which are indeed the usual birthright of Americans. Now Peters as you may recall was a man who worked as a consultant to the surgeon general Dr. Peters was an eminent physician a professor of medicine at Yale University.
He came down here for only a few days in the year to advise the surgeon general in regard to grants connected with public health research. Now he was accused of by unknown by unidentified and anonymous accusers. I was some kind of under find disloyalty to the United States. He was cleared of that accusation by a loyalty board. He was cleared again by a loyalty review board but some years later. That clearance was reversed when a new standard for the determination of why only was introduced. And Dr Peters was ousted from a job which he hadn't sought and which he rendered as a public servant. As a public service.
On the basis of anonymous accusations and without specific charges. Now now I think that the security of the United States is not protected by that kind of procedure. I think that when a bird undertakes to make a judgment as to the loyalty out of any American of any individual it needs to know at the very least the source of the accusations on which its judgment is to be based. If it doesn't know the identity of accusers then it has no means whatever of judging whether the accuser is a paragon of veracity or a name or for that matter the village idiot. It has no means of weighing the essential element of the case. That is whether the information against the defendant is reliable information.
If it doesn't know that it is engaged in something which can by no reasonable use of the term be called judgment it is engaged in something which ought to be called guesswork. And it might better make its decisions on a basis of lottery or if you like of Russian roulette because it is not engaged in anything. Which can be called rational procedure. Now I'm talking about this not in terms of its terrible impact on the individual involved and Dr. Peters for example but in terms of its terrible impact upon the national security which it is supposed to protect. So if you will of what an instrument for mischief. This reliance on accusations from anonymous sources put into the hands of mischief makers of a communist if you like or of persons who have some particular grudge or malice which they wish with which they wish to
discharge. Security national security is much too important to be left to this kind of guesswork. And if any malicious person or enemy of the United States can bring about the dismissal of able loyal devoted government services servants simply by whispering accusations about them anonymously then they have a weapon in their hands which is infinitely dangerous to the security of the country. I better hurry I question you now a hyena and a man well be of a mean by loyalty and security. Simple enough that he may do what I asked. How secure are I only the Department of Justice or the government was to me. I suppose that each one of us has his own concept of loyalty and has a pretty clear idea of what the word means to me it means a devotion
to the country which puts that country above all others. But of course the very big news of the term and the fact that it may have different meanings for different people can resulting in a great range of interpretation of it when you come to judge individual cases. And some people regard as disloyal any form of criticism of the government. Some people tend to regard dissent as the same thing as disloyalty. And this tendency to acquaint disloyalty with dissent is what I was talking about before. As a real threat to freedom of expression. If a man is fearful. The criticism of the government criticism of any governmental policy may be misconstrued by people who
judge him as disloyalty to the United States. Then he will of course be fearful about expressing dissent. And if people generally become serious or are expressing dissent of expressing criticism. Then we shall lose one of the most enriching and and healthy factoids in the life of a free society. Then we shall be reduced to the kind of expression of JA that the Germans had and that resulted in allowing all of Hitler's errors to bring about the destruction of the German people and their money out heartless as we need their measures to protect national security that it can an act of treason sedition a sad hour. How many stories of this kind are actual events. We
heard this one. Man here I have no doubt that there are real threats to national security. And they come from enemy agents who was given an opportunity would commit espionage or sabotage. Now espionage and sabotage are real dangers. They involve crimes they are forbidden by laws of the United States. And I think that we need to be very vigilant león guard against those crimes. We have an efficient national police force in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. And we have more or less sufficient local police forces which I think are competent to deal with these dangers. Treason is something else. Disloyalty is something else. Treason is a crime. The only crime
specifically defined in the Constitution. Which is narrowly defined there. Precisely because the authors of the Constitution understood very well. That loose and vague definitions of treason could be used to curb dissent to punish any kind of an orthodoxy. And so they said that treason shall consist only in giving aid and comfort to the enemies of the United States and they specified even the means by which a Conviction of Treason could be procured. I think they did that because they had had long experience with the tendency in England during the 17th and 18th centuries to use accusations of treason merely to punish dissent or criticism of the government and they desired
to keep alive the freedom of expression which they thought the basis of all other freedoms the freedom to criticize to dissent to express heterodox or unorthodox points of view. They desired to keep that freedom alive and it was because they wished to keep it alive that they tried to be very careful to avoid having that kind of freedom of expression confused with treason. They wanted to confine a crime of treason to the to the commitment of certain very precisely defined overt acts against the security of the nation as well. Questions or has this been your experience whenever I tell people the stories in various cases far west of Israel he was or see here three hundred bad police their oppression is that this is
smart police work they say to get this impression from the newspapers radio and television. Sure is that where you are very seldom where anybody at any legal rights or constitutional protections really needed the average individual might do to be more aware of what his rights are in terms of where hotter. Here you're using just hear anything I wish he had I don't know we don't I don't know if your premise is right. We and we have in the United States a longstanding long established and recognized code of fair play. I couldn't undertake to define it for you but it encompasses a whole lot of. Our ideas regarding the worth and dignity of the individual
regarding respect for differences of opinion regarding tolerance of diversity regarding CNS in dealing with a fellow who is down regarding that that vague ideal called sportsmanship and these are if you like rough and ready approximations of what the lawyers mean by due process they are rough and ready approximations of what we formalized as justice in our laws and our rules of judicial procedure. Americans generally have a highly developed sense of fair play and this is I suppose our richest and our greatest heritage as a people. That was Mr. Alan Barth editorial writer for The Washington Post
and author of two books on security and loyalty government by investigation and the loyalty of free men. Mr. Barth was recorded in Washington D.C.. Next week from New York City the National Association of educational broadcasters presents the final program in the series. Security and civil rights. In this program. We will present a summary and recommendations for our security programs. Mr. Dudley Bunce. Mr. Bunce is chairman of a special nonpartizan committee set up by the Association of the bar of the city of New York to evaluate our security loyalty programs. Here Dudley be banned next week on security and civil rights produced by the University of Minnesota radio station KUVO am under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. This series is edited and produced by Philip go consultant commentator Columbia University professor of law. Read Paulson your announcer Charles Brin the
preceding tape recorded program or the presentation of the end E.B. Radio Network.
Security and civil rights
Alan Barth
Producing Organization
University of Minnesota
KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-k9316p29).
Episode Description
Journalist Alan Barth, author of "The Loyalty of Free Men" and "Government by Investigation" discusses some effects of the security loyalty programs on the fundamentals of freedom and democracy.
Series Description
Interviews on balancing national security interests with personal liberty. The series is moderated by Monrad Paulsen of Columbia University.
Broadcast Date
Social Issues
Politics and Government
Freedom of expression--United States.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
Guest: Barth, Alan
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: 57-50-12 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:20
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Security and civil rights; Alan Barth,” 1957-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 29, 2023,
MLA: “Security and civil rights; Alan Barth.” 1957-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 29, 2023. <>.
APA: Security and civil rights; Alan Barth. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from