The October SISS Hearing

[Part 2 of 3]

Until Supreme Court of United States decides Pauling v. Eastland, Dodd and others pending before it, Dr. Pauling will not appear before your subcommittee and bring with him the documents ordered. Respectfully request that committee postpone hearing date until October 26 on assumption court will act on pending petition for writ of certiorari either October 17 or October 24. Your attention is called to fact that McClellan committee took similar action when similar case was pending in U.S. Supreme Court.

– A. L. Wirin, Telegram to Senator Thomas J. Dodd, October 10, 1960.

The telegram excerpted above was sent from Linus Pauling’s counsel to Senator Dodd’s office the afternoon before Pauling’s hearing was set to take place.  And, as might be expected, it was not well received.

Indeed, the action was apparently so insulting that Senator Dodd felt compelled to address the matter during his opening statement at Pauling’s hearing, which did in fact take place the following morning. According to Dodd, the move was a “deliberately contemptuous challenge to the authority of the Senate of the United States.” The telegram, as Dodd disdainfully related, was followed several hours later by a press conference where Pauling declared that he would not appear at the hearing as scheduled.

Similar complaints comprised a substantial portion of the senator’s opening statement, the sum of which was a general reprimand of Pauling and his counsel. The scolding, like much of the affair, seemed in tone and language to be directed not at Pauling and Wirin, but rather at the wider audience of the day’s events. In this vein, Dodd related in carefully scripted detail his reaction to Pauling and Wirin’s last ditch effort to delay the hearing. According to Dodd, he subpoena that Pauling received at his hotel the night before had resulted directly from this turn of events.

And so began Linus Pauling’s hearing, as scheduled at 10:35 AM, in the New Senate Office building on Tuesday, October 11, 1960. Present on the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee was Senator and chairman Thomas J. Dodd, chief counsel Jules G. Sourwine, director of research Benjamin Mandel and chief investigator Frank Schroeder. Other senators that had been present for Pauling’s June hearings were noticeably absent, and a recitation of Nebraska Senator Roman Hruska’s telegram, which apologized for his absence, was the first order of business for the day. From there, addressing the various media elements present, Dodd ordered that there was to be no recording of the proceedings and that only a two-minute time window for photos would be allowed.

After voicing his frustration with Pauling for the events immediately leading up to the hearing, Dodd made sure to clarify once again that Pauling was not on trial. According to Dodd, the purpose of the occasion was simply to “secure information, on the record, under oath, which will be helpful to the Congress in the discharge of its legislative duties.” Those present were meant to understand that the hearing was necessary for proper legislation.  Dodd also took pains to address perceptions by some that the dispute with Pauling had somehow jeopardized the right to petition, sharing his opinion that the subcommittee had violated no rule of law. Imbued in the atmosphere of the day, however, was the threat of a contempt of Congress charge, an offense that could lead to imprisonment should Pauling fail to comply with each of the subcommittee’s requests.

Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1960

After reading a part of his drafted opening statement, Dodd suggested that he not finish, but instead insert the full opening statement into the official record following the testimony. After a few objections and some discussion, Pauling and Wirin accepted the action and the proceedings were allowed to continue.

Chief counsel Jules Sourwine then introduced a number of pleadings which were ordered into the appendix of the official record. Afterward, Dodd and Pauling discussed turning over the bound signatures from the United Nations bomb test petition for photostatic copying, and agreed to have them added to the hearing record.

Once these details had been cleared up, Dodd finally came to the question that everyone had been waiting for: Had Pauling brought with him all letters of transmittal?  Would he provide the subcommittee with the names of those who had helped him to compiled the petition?

After a series of comments, wherein Pauling requested assurance that he would have a chance to clarify his decision and respond to the remarks of Dodd’s opening statement, he answered Dodd’s long awaited question.

I have not brought with me the documents, namely, ‘the letters of transmittal by which or in connection with which  such signatures were transported to you or received by you,’ for the reasons that I presented in detail at my hearing on the 21st of June, when I was asked if I would tell the subcommittee who had gathered the signatures, and how many signatures each person had gathered. And I replied that I would not do this because I was unwilling to subject people who are innocent of any wrongdoing to the reprisals of this subcommittee, that my conscience would not permit me to sacrifice these innocent people, some of whom had been without doubt led into this activity by their respect for me, in order to protect myself.

Pauling had reacted with defiance, despite the common perception that doing so could lead to his imprisonment. The brave response brought to an end months of suspenseful speculation.  And after a brief pause, Dodd simply replied… “very well.”

For much of the remainder of the hearing – which extended into the afternoon past a lunch break – chief counsel Sourwine took control of the proceedings. In so doing, Sourwine meticulously questioned Pauling about his association with thirty-four organizations and twenty-five individuals that had come under the suspicion of the subcommittee. Pauling replied to most inquiries with characteristic wit and humor, and Dodd was often forced to gavel down the frequent bouts of laughter that resulted from Pauling’s answers. Though the hearing was by most measurements stern and rather grim, one gains the impression that Pauling was enjoying himself at least a little bit during his testimony, perhaps relieved that Dodd had blinked on the issue of Congressional contempt.

Sourwine’s interrogation continued until the very last minutes of the hearing. The final line of questioning was directed at Pauling’s involvement with the Pugwash conferences, which like most individuals and organizations mentioned during the proceedings, was accused of acting as a tool of propaganda and suffering from undue communist influence. Pauling was given a chance to address these final suggestions before the hearing was ended, quite suddenly, after Sourwine stated that he had no more questions for the witness. After roughly six and a half hours, Linus Pauling was officially excused from his subpoena and the subcommittee was adjourned.


 

The merit of the October hearing is brought greatly into question by a simple comparison of the purported purpose and final results. By most measures, the subcommittee failed to produce any new or relevant information for its own use during its questioning of Pauling. Instead, the hearing seems to have been used to let the press and others know what the subcommittee found out about Pauling contacts and associations during months spent dredging through his past. It likewise appears that Dodd understood well before the trial that public sentiment and media exposure would not allow him to charge Pauling with contempt. But Dodd was loath to let Pauling escape unscathed, and as a result the hearing proceeded as scheduled.

So Pauling stood up to the committee, refused to release information he felt in appropriate, and escaped a contempt charge.  But what of other damages to his reputation in the public sphere? According to Harry Kalven, Jr., a law professor from the University of Chicago who researched aspects of the case extensively, the results of the day, in regard to Pauling’s alleged communist affiliation, were not so damaging as might have been supposed.

What emerges then as ‘his long record of service to Communist causes’ is that he favors repeal of the Smith and McCarran Acts; that he has doubts about the justice in the Rosenberg and Sobell cases; that he did not like the deportation of Hans Eisler or David Hyun, a Korean about whom he makes a particularly effective statement; that he favored abolition of the Attorney General’s list; that he protested the treatment of the Hollywood Ten before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1948; that he opposed the contempt citations against defense counsel in the Communist trials and the proceedings against the Jefferson School under the McCarran Act; that he thought the Hollywood Committee on Arts, Sciences, and Professions in which he, along with Mrs. Roosevelt, was active around 1948 was a useful idea; and that he has a deep concern about world peace which leads him to participate in many movements for it.

In other words, the red-baiters had precious little to add to their dossier.  From Pauling’s perspective, after months of planning, stress and legal maneuvering, the hearing went about as well as could have been imagined.

Editorial cartoon by Bill Mauldin, St. Louis Globe-Dispatch, October 11, 1960.

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