Aftermath of the June SISS Hearing

"Nobel Winner Defies Probers," Baltimore Sun, June 22, 1960.

[Part 5 of 5]

Shortly after his first appearance before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, Linus Pauling’s counsel succeeded in postponing the scheduled follow-up hearing from August to October, 1960. The extra time gave Pauling room to plan for his upcoming defense, and to resume plans he had made before being served with the SISS subpoena.

In due course, he attended rallies and events to which he had previously been committed, making sure to discuss his dispute with Senator Thomas Dodd whenever a chance presented itself. He also encouraged people to write to their representatives in protest of his treatment, and gave many critical interviews to the media. Pauling was gaining popular support, evident in part from the positive mention he received in editorials and letters to the editor across the country, including this write-up in the Washington Post.

Justice is best served at times by those who defy authority. Prof. Linus Pauling offered a splendid illustration of the point, we think, when he refused the other day to give the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee the names of persons who had helped him circulate a petition in favor of the abandonment of nuclear weapons tests.

Pauling felt that he had been subjected to a great injustice. Though he had remained calm and civil during the questioning, his anger took little time to surface after the encounter. He resented the hearing in a general sense, and was particularly embittered by a few particular aspects of the experience. He took his time reading over the hearing transcripts, slowly digesting the implications of the Subcommittee’s line of questioning. After combing through his testimony, Pauling wrote a letter to the SISS that was eventually attached to his testimony, and thus made part of the public record. The letter expressed his sense of victimization, detailing six specific points from the Subcommittee questioning that he found to be exceptionally inappropriate.

Pauling took special offense to the title that was given to his hearing, “Communist Infiltration and Use of Pressure Groups,” a decision by the Subcommittee that seemed particularly baleful and malfeasant. Pauling emphasized that the Subcommittee had both no substantive reason to suspect that he was involved with communism or communist conspiracy, and that no new evidence connecting him to communist activity was revealed by the end of the hearing.

Another criticism that Pauling listed was a question posed by the Subcommittee, which suggested that he had omitted Soviet signatures from the United Nations Bomb Test Petition when it was released to the press. The Subcommittee had in fact obtained a complete copy of the petition, which included the Soviet signatures, three months prior to the hearing. Pauling considered these three months ample time to clarify such an obvious error well before his questioning, and made his perception of the matter explicit:

Damage was done to me by your false statement and by my having been questioned on the basis of your false statement. No matter whether the false statement was made (by your Chief Counsel) through gross carelessness or through malignancy, I protest this action.

A similar point of contention involved a letter that the Subcommittee introduced into the record, which it had received from a staff member of the United Nations. It stated that while Pauling had listed a certain number of petition signatures in his original press release, the United Nations had only received a portion of that number – an error that, as it turned out, was attributable to the UN. Though the staff member’s mistake was eventually clarified for the record, Pauling was later informed that the Subcommittee had been previously aware of the error. Indeed, a complete and accurate list of the names, matching those specified in Pauling’s press release, had been in front of the Subcommittee during the hearing. Pauling accused the Subcommittee members of intentionally entering the untrue statement into the record in order to damage him, by defaming his reputation and casting doubt upon his integrity.

"Opinions Split on Dr. Pauling," Los Angeles Mirror News, July 6, 1960.

Lastly, Pauling addressed the Subcommittee’s threat, by intimation, of imprisonment. During the hearing, a Subcommittee member had asked Pauling if he was familiar or acquainted with Dr. Willard Uphaus. The question was posed after Pauling had displayed a continued reluctance to reveal the list of individuals who had delivered more than one signature to the petition. Pauling answered that he did know of Dr. Uphaus, though he made no open recognition of the question’s implication. Dr. Uphaus was, at the time of the hearing, in jail for a transgression – contempt of court – similar to the one it seemed Pauling was about to commit. Pauling closed his letter to the SISS with a biting critique of the question and its inference:

I consider this veiled threat, this intimation of the fate that awaited me if I did not conform to the demands of the Subcommittee, to be unworthy of the Senate of the United States of America. My respect for Senator [Norris] Cotton would be greater than it now is if he had said straightforwardly that for me to refuse to give the Subcommittee the information demanded by it might lead to my citation for contempt of the Senate and to a prison sentence. I prefer straightforward statements of fact to veiled threats and attempted intimidation. I prefer the forthright search for the truth to the sort of trickery and misrepresentation that in my opinion has been revealed by the proceedings in my hearing before your Subcommittee.

On top of his continued interactions with the press and his efforts to revise the published hearing testimony for the public record, Pauling also took direct legal action after the first hearing. In particular, he sought a declaratory court judgment that would affirm his right to refuse the Subcommittee’s request. In so doing, he was attempting to clarify his position and reduce his risk in the matter, but the District Court and Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia both ruled against him. He appealed and, at the start of his second hearing in October, his case was pending before the US Supreme Court.

Pauling also continued to travel during the interlude between his hearings, visiting London and Geneva, where he furthered the discussion of an atomic test-ban treaty with American, British and Soviet officials. He received a great deal of support during the trip, and the pressure from the hearing, as well as the threat of imprisonment, seemed to lessen as a result.

Though Senator Dodd attempted to address Pauling’s growing campaign against the Subcommittee, increasing his rate of public retaliation as the second hearing date grew closer, he found that he could not match Pauling’s intensity and drive. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, Pauling was trying very hard to avoid jail time. At the same time, he was defending his reputation (and thus his very livelihood) as a scientist, academic and activist. Dodd’s political gambit for an increased share of national spotlight, however much buttressed by honest concerns about communist subversion, was no match for Pauling’s grasp of the situation’s severity.

As the second hearing drew closer, Pauling’s resolve continued to strengthen. Pauling’s supporters, on the other hand, remained anxious, as the outcome of his fate, which lay at the discretion of Senator Dodd and the SISS, remained elusive.

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