Prelude to the October SISS Hearing

[Ed. Note: October 11, 2010 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Linus Pauling’s final appearance before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.  This is post 1 of 3 recounting Pauling’s autumn SISS ordeal.  A five-part series examining Pauling’s June 1960 subcommittee appearances is available here.]

In June 1960 Linus Pauling was ordered to appear before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS) at the behest of then committee chairman, Senator Thomas J. Dodd. The hearing, which revolved primarily around the circulation of an international petition to the United Nations against nuclear testing, ended in a refusal by Pauling to answer several committee questions.

Pauling was ordered to appear again before the committee six weeks later on August 9th, and to bring with him a copy of all petition signatures. Pauling was also directed to bring all petition correspondence, as well as any documentation from respondents that had returned more than one signature. This second hearing was eventually moved to October, giving Pauling and his defense attorney, A. L. Wirin, time to review Pauling’s options and plan for their case. The extra time also gave Pauling a chance to fulfill obligations that he had assumed before his unanticipated summons.

Pauling departed for Europe with his wife Ava Helen shortly after his first engagement with the SISS. Though he was forced to shorten his trip because of complications associated with the upcoming hearing, he still managed to spend three weeks in England and Switzerland. The trip overseas promised a mix of recreation, professional visits and diplomatic endeavor, but a significant motivation for the journey was to attend the Tercentenary Celebration of the Royal Society.

Pauling flew to London on Thursday, July 14, after which he attended a number of lectures and receptions, visited Oxford and went to the Glyndebourne Opera in Sussex. He also gave several talks about his most recent experiences, but spent most of his time discussing international disarmament and world peace.

While in Europe, Pauling visited with ambassadors from Great Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States, including a forty-minute appointment with the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, James J. Wadsworth. According to notes recorded after the meeting, the ambassador was very supportive of Pauling’s work and with his unwillingness to turn over the names of people who had circulated petitions. Wadsworth also shared the opinion that the position framed in Pauling’s petition, when it was written three years earlier, was now official government policy. Wadsworth encouraged Pauling to continue working on the grassroots level, and also reassured him that no one in Washington could stand up against public opinion, a validation of Pauling’s pre-trial tactics to garner public support. The meetings, and the trip in general, seem to have lent Pauling comfort as he made his way back to Pasadena and the upcoming confrontation with Senator Dodd.

 

Notes by Linus Pauling recounting his meeting with Ambassador Wadsworth, July 1960.

 

Press coverage following Pauling’s first trial was largely sympathetic. In the months intervening between the June and October hearings, many more articles were published which mentioned the case generally and provided a neutral presentation of the facts. A majority of the print media content, however, came in the form of letters to the editor, editorials and opinion articles written from all over the country.  While less prevalent, coverage of Pauling’s trials was not limited to the national level, and several news articles about Pauling’s confrontation with the SISS appeared in the international press, primarily in Europe.

The opinion articles written about the matter tended to take one of two positions – either framing Pauling as a supporter and contributor to communist causes, or as the victim of unscrupulous political prejudice. Norman Thomas, writing in the Post War World Council Newsletter, exemplified the first approach.

Dr. Linus C. Pauling has been subpoenaed to testify ‘on Communist participation in, or support of, a propaganda campaign against nuclear testing.’ The subpoena was issued by the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee. This gratuitous intrusion of a Senate committee is not born of any reasonable fear of Communist propaganda but rather of desire to stop any criticism of any resumption of nuclear tests. The committee might more usefully subpoena Dr. Edward Teller to ask him about self-interested corporation and military support of the continuation of testing.

On the other end of the spectrum were the likes of Fulton Lewis, Jr., who is excerpted here from the Washington Report.

Dr. Linus Pauling, Cal Tech professor who is ring leader in the big noise against further atomic tests, now being staged with a congressional committee deserves identification…. The professor’s record shows him to be one of the most prolific Communist front joiners in the business; the suspect petitions he has signed are almost uncountable.

Alongside his general travel engagements and mentions in the press, Pauling also gave a number of speeches and participated in several demonstrations while he awaited his hearing. On July 9, a couple weeks after his first appearance before the SISS, Pauling co-led a peace march with Ava Helen through downtown Los Angeles. When the march had reached its destination, Pauling addressed many of the topics that would characterize his speeches throughout the rest of the summer. He discussed the apocalyptic consequences of a nuclear war, the development of nuclear weapons and the need for international bomb-test agreements, as well as cooperation with the Soviet Union.

Pauling also continued to speak out about the dangers of fallout and the need for total nuclear disarmament. And he attempted to emphasize the relationship between peace and freedom, a topic made even more relevant by the impending circumstances of his battle with the SISS. Though the subject did not tend to overwhelm his general message, he took great care to mention his difficulties with Senator Dodd whenever the chance arose. When speaking of Dodd, the intensity of their association often showed through Pauling’s choice of words. During his speech after the march through downtown LA, Pauling criticized the “madness” and “evil” of Dodd’s pro-nuclear viewpoints.

 

Linus Pauling speaking at a peace march in Westlake Park. Beverly Hills, California. 1960.

 

Once the hearing was postponed to October, Pauling and Wirin attempted, unsuccessfully, to push the proceedings further back, to November. Thwarted in this effort and pressed for time, Pauling worked to address some of the committee’s pending requests. He directed Wirin to send committee counsel Jules Sourwine a list of the names and addresses that he had sent petitions to, as agreed, and took measures to consolidate all signatures contained in the petition for presentation. He furthermore had a book bound with 438 pages of names from U.S. petition signers and assembled all the signatures to be handed over for photostatic copying.

Pauling questioned the committee’s authority to demand signatures from other countries however, and spent some time discussing this aspect of the committee’s expectations with Wirin. He likewise harbored many similar concerns about the legitimacy of the committee’s authority regarding other requests, and began taking substantive legal measures to address them.

Pauling was planning to refuse a part of the committee’s request with finality, and understood well the potential consequences for the crime of contempt. He was determined therefore to resolve the matter before his scheduled appearance in October. He first sought a declaratory judgment from a federal District Court which would state that he need not submit to all of the committee’s demands. After losing the case, he appeared before the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia which also ruled against him.

Numerous legal examinations following Pauling’s ordeal surmised that the decisions handed down against Pauling in both cases were likely not made because of their legal merit, but rather because the controversy between Pauling and Dodd had not become clear enough to permit adjudication. Pauling eventually appealed to the United States Supreme Court, but his case was pending up to the day of his appearance before the SISS. Though Pauling’s attempt to prevent his full hearing before the SISS was carried out with zeal, it appears that the courts had no desire to intervene in the matter before appropriate measures had been taken by all parties.

After months of maneuvering and preparation, Pauling arrived in Washington, D.C. in October several days before the start of his hearing. At 11 PM on October 10, the night before his scheduled SISS appearance, Pauling was served with a subpoena outside of the Congressional Hotel in Washington, D.C. The subpoena commanded Pauling to bring with him all signatures to the petition, and all letters by which such signatures were transmitted to, or received by him. With Abraham Wirin by his side and a bound list of petition signatures in hand, Pauling made ready the final preparations for his case.

 

Subpoena served to Linus Pauling the night before his October SISS hearing.

 

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