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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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.

 

The Price of Affiliation

Linus Pauling, 1950s

[Part 2 of 2]

Nearly halfway through the twentieth century, many scientists who had held classified security clearances during the Second World War were being blacklisted from their profession. Post-war, the clearance process for work on classified projects became subject to increased scrutiny, a duty which fell under the dual jurisdiction of regional personnel security boards and the military. The boards could revoke clearance upon examination of an applicant’s personal information, and could choose not to present evidence for their conclusions.

In such instances where an applicant wished to challenge the decision, an appeal could be issued to the Industrial Employment Review Board (IERB), which allowed individuals to present their case in person. Civilian scientists that came before the board were judged by a military review panel, whose decision on the matter was final.

As a part of his general duties after the war, Linus Pauling worked on a committee that reviewed grant requests for Caltech’s Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, many of which involved classified information for work on restricted projects supported by the Department of Defense. Because of new Caltech policies, people in Pauling’s position were required to submit an application for low level security clearance, a stipulation which Pauling agreed to but otherwise took little interest in.

On July 31, 1951 however, Pauling was notified by the IERB that his most recent request for clearance to work with classified military information had been denied. Before explaining his rights to appeal the decision, the reasons for his denial were freely expressed by the board:

Information indicates that you have been a member of the Communist Party and close associate of Communist Party members from 1943 to the present time; you have also been affiliated with or a member of numerous organizations which espouse Communist Party ideologies and on many occasions you have openly defended known Communists and Communist ideologies.

Pauling promptly requested a hearing before the board. He was soon notified of his options, and provided with an extended justification for his clearance denial. The reply from the review board included a detailed listing of Pauling’s many suspected connections to communism and communist organizations. The itemization noted, among other transgressions, his affiliations with the Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, the National Council of the Arts Sciences and Professions, the Progressive Citizens of America, and a lengthy list of people and causes that had received Pauling’s support or opposition over the previous several years. Nearly all of the listings had been cited by the Attorney General of the United States as subversive and/or communist. Having presented the lengthy list, the Executive Officer of the IERB, Donald Mare, concluded that

The foregoing information and all the investigative evidence in your case file, when considered in connection with the duties of your position as a research consultant on classified information of the Department of Defense at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, indicates that you might voluntarily or involuntarily act against the security interests of the United States, and that your employment in that position might constitute a danger to national security.

Pauling was informed that the board would be hearing cases on the West Coast during the week of November 12, at which point he scheduled an appearance. Caltech President Lee DuBridge did not immediately reply to Pauling’s inquiry about Caltech-funded legal defense and delayed the assignment of a lawyer to Pauling, thus forcing Pauling to find his own. The event precipitated one of Pauling’s first close interactions with Abraham Lincoln Wirin, the American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who would provide him with vital legal counsel over the next several decades.

A. L. Wirin

At his appearance before the IERB, Pauling read a thirteen-page statement about his life, beliefs and the value of his work to the nation. After further discussion and examination of his character witnesses, the board ended the hearing inconclusively, informing Pauling and his counsel that a follow-up hearing would be pursued later in Washington, D.C.

Several days before his next hearing was scheduled to take place, Pauling met with Mr. Wirin and President DuBridge. At this meeting, DuBridge informed Pauling that the whole controversy with the IERB had resulted from an administrative oversight. DuBridge had discovered that Pauling’s name was mistakenly added to a list of researchers requesting top secret clearance for a hydrogen bomb research program called Project Vista. It seems that the mistake had made the entire discussion of Pauling’s affiliations a moot point, as the low level security classification required for Pauling’s position would likely have passed through the clearance process without incident.

After some discussion, DuBridge agreed that the basic “Confidential” clearance would likely continue to be satisfactory for Pauling’s work on the division’s Contracts Committee. He wrote a letter to that effect, clarifying the list error, which Pauling promptly delivered to the IERB. After presenting DuBridge’s letter to the Board, Pauling’s clearance was shortly reinstated.

Though the troubling events ended mostly in his favor, Pauling was understandably shaken by the ordeal. Had the low-level security clearance not been reinstated, Pauling’s ability to operate effectively in his position at Caltech would have been greatly jeopardized. Pauling was cowed by the experience, and after talking with his wife Ava Helen, decided to tone down the political aspects of his public profile.

Shortly thereafter, Pauling resigned from the NCASP, then declined a nomination from the American Association of Scientific Workers for a continued position as one of the organization’s vice-presidents. Pauling also resigned his vice-presidency of the World Federation of Scientific Workers, citing an inability to effectively perform his duties as an officer.  Nonetheless, even as he distanced himself from several people and organizations, Pauling found himself under continued scrutiny from investigators and other interested parties.

Though Pauling felt a pressing need to withdraw from some of his controversial associations, it was not long before he began to re-initiate contact. Pauling accepted the National Vice-Presidency of AAScW for 1952-53, less than a year after his initial refusal, and continued to receive and save AAScW newsletters throughout the 1950s. He also maintained contact with J. D. Bernal and others within the World Federation of Scientific Workers well into the 1980s. While the events of 1951 proved that Pauling could be temporarily intimidated or constrained, they also demonstrated his resilient commitment to peace-related activism and organization.

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.

The June Hearing, Part 1: Ultimatum Delivered

"Senators Quiz Pauling On Petition Backers," Washington Star, June 21, 1960.

[Part 3 of 5]

“It is well, therefore, to begin with the simple legal profile of what a Committee can and cannot do. All that it can do is to compel a witness to testify. If he talks, and talks honestly, that is the end of the matter. The Committee has no power to deal with him further; it is not adjudicating or determining any of his rights or duties; it is simply collecting information for legislative use. If a witness does not answer honestly, he may expose himself to a perjury prosecution; if he refuses to answer at all, he may expose himself to a contempt prosecution.”

–Harry Kalven, Jr., 1960

Linus Pauling was ordered to appear before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS) on June 20, 1960. He and his counsel arrived on time, as requested, at the New Senate Office Building in Washington DC, but the Senate was in session, and Pauling’s hearing was postponed until the following morning. Aside from the inconvenience of delay, Pauling was likewise, that day, notified for the first time that the hearing would be an executive session, and thus not open to the public or the press.

This meant that Pauling would not receive a copy of his testimony, and that the Subcommittee reserved the right to release portions of Pauling’s testimony to the public at their own discretion. The Subcommittee defended their decision by suggesting that “It is consistent practice…for the protection of its witnesses to hold executive sessions in advance of public hearing for the purpose of siting evidence, checking its accuracy and elimination of non-evidential material.”

Though the delay further aggravated his disposition, Pauling made good use of the extra time that was allotted to him, appearing before the press and giving several interviews. He also sent a telegram later that evening to Senator James O. Eastland, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, of which the SISS was a Subcommittee. Pauling voiced his concerns about the closed session, and requested that his hearing be open to the public.

When I appeared this morning as commanded I was surprised to learn for the first time that the session, postponed by you until 8 A.M. tomorrow, is to be an executive hearing closed to the public and the press. I do not like secrecy and I wish to present my testimony in public. I have nothing to say that needs to be kept secret and I neither require nor desire the protection of an executive hearing.

Pauling made it clear that the stated concerns of Senator Thomas J. Dodd and the Subcommittee for keeping the hearing closed – mainly to protect his Pauling’s rights as a witness – were unwarranted. His noisy protests of this decision were treated sympathetically in several prominent newspapers the following morning.

On June 21, after a few minutes of inquiry in executive session, Senator Dodd reversed the earlier decision and opened the hearing to the public. The first moments of the open session were nonetheless used by Dodd to once again justify his initial decision to hold an executive session. After defending himself satisfactorily, and explaining the rationale for Pauling’s presence before the Subcommittee, Dodd made a statement that clarified his fundamental intentions:

…while the particular objective of the session today is to learn what we can from this witness respecting communist activity in connection with protests against nuclear testing, we shall also seek other information respecting communist activity if it appears that such information might be available from this witness.

"Senate Paints Pauling Red -- Or Does It?" The Telegram, March 17, 1961. (Click for full article)

Having established the Subcommittee’s privilege to address the matter, Dodd briefly placated Pauling before moving on with his agenda. It is interesting to note that while the trial is commonly perceived as a battle between Pauling and Senator Dodd, it was Chief Counsel Jules Sourwine who conducted a majority of the questioning during the hearing, allowing Senator Dodd to play a peripheral yet authoritative role.

Chief Counsel Sourwine soon made it clear that the main topic of interest for the hearing was the nuclear test-ban petition that Pauling had submitted to the United Nations more than two years earlier. After reading aloud the press release which had preceded Pauling’s petition submission, Sourwine began asking about the signature collection process that Pauling had utilized in compiling the petitin. The Subcommittee had previously acquired a copy of the petition from the United Nations, and after determining that Pauling had not received each petition signer’s name on separate sheets of paper, Sourwine requested from Pauling the names of those individuals who had collected and turned in more than one signature.

After repeatedly avoiding a direct answer to the request, Pauling was finally forced to fully face the issue. Having cooperated with little reservation up to this point, Pauling politely but firmly refused the request, defending his decision as a matter of conscience and stating that

I feel some concern about my duty to the people who worked for this petition. I feel concern that they may be subpoenaed before this Subcommittee, subjected to the treatment that I have been subjected to.

Senator Dodd justified the request by mentioning discrepancies that his staff had encountered with names that Pauling claimed were on the petition as well as the number of signatures reported by a United Nations staff member. Following the hearing it was determined that responsibility for the error in reporting the total number of petition signatures resided with the U.N., but the allegations during the hearing still served to question Pauling’s penchant for truth.

The Subcommittee then addressed the formation of the petition, the sources of the petition’s funding, and the nature of the roles played by Russian and other international scientists. Chief Counsel Sourwine spent time during the morning hearing’s final portion to discuss Pauling’s questionable affiliations with suspected communists and communist fronts, including the National Council of the Arts, Sciences, and Professions and the organization that had printed the petitions.

Finally, as noon approached, Sourwine again requested both a list of individuals that the petition had been sent to and a list of the individuals who had delivered multiple signatures, with an indication of how many signatures were sent in. The hearing was recessed, and Pauling was given a chance to consult with his counsel, Abraham L. Wirin, about how to respond to the Subcommittee’s final requests.

The SISS Ordeal: Background to a Trying Time

Pauling testifies before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, 1960.

[Ed Note: June 21, 2010 marks the fiftieth anniversary of Pauling’s first appearance before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.  We are marking the occasion with a five-part series that tells the story of this important and traumatic experience.]

[Part 1 of 5]

In 1956 and 1957, Linus Pauling helped organize a petition which protested against above-ground nuclear bomb testing by the world’s nuclear powers. The project was first endorsed only by American scientists, but became an international appeal shortly after the completion of a robust initial release.

Though many found the display inspirational, others questioned the petition’s motives and organization. Pauling was not alone in crafting the document, but much of both the praise and the criticism that it generated was directed at him. The petition remained a contentious issue into the following decade, as Pauling became entangled with members of the United States Senate over questions concerning the petition’s distribution.

As was the standard for him after World War II, Linus Pauling was kept busy in the late 1950s by a frenzied mixture of research, public speaking and social demonstration. He remained actively engaged in academia, but was directing more and more attention to nuclear non-proliferation issues.

Pauling’s main concern at the time was the tepid response from public officials and the Atomic Energy Commission to what he viewed to be a major problem – radioactive fallout from atomic bomb detonations. After conferring with two scientific colleagues, Barry Commoner and Edward Condon, it was concluded that, because of their insight and technical knowledge of the dangers involved, the nation’s scientists bore a special responsibility to speak out about nuclear testing.

As a result, Pauling and several associates began circulating a petition. Copies were distributed to individual scientists across several states, and soon large swaths of scientists from several universities and institutions began responding en masse. The petition’s purpose was made very clear from the outset of its introduction:

We, the American scientists whose names are signed below, urge that an international agreement to stop the testing of nuclear bombs be made now.

The initial document, “Appeal by American Scientists to the Government and Peoples of the World,” came back to Pauling adorned with over two-thousand signatures, including those of several prominent members of the scientific community. After a short interlude, the petition was supplemented by an international version, ultimately raising the total to a tally of more than 13,000 signatures.

The endeavor was seen as a huge success by advocates, but it also instigated a new movement against Pauling, one propelled by several public agencies and officials. In particular, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (SISS) began focusing more attention on Pauling, though it was not the first time he had found a place on their agenda. In 1955 the SISS released a tract titled “The Communist Party of the United States of America: What It Is, and How It Works.” Linus Pauling’s name was on a list of individuals said to be among the most active participants and supporters of communist fronts.

Similarly, when Pauling and his associates released their nuclear test ban petition in June 1957, they were met with substantial criticism from a wide variety of opinion makers. Initially Pauling’s scientific authority on the issue was the primary in question. Soon enough though, Pauling was being accused of communist conspiracy, and was subpoenaed by the SISS to discuss the potential role of communist organizations in the petition’s distribution. Pauling expressed his willingness to appear before the subcommittee, but unforeseen senatorial politics eventually interceded, forcing a temporary delay of his compulsory appearance in Washington, DC.

The SISS itself was essentially the Senate version of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), having served similar purposes in the past. Indeed, in 1960 the committee was composed of many staff members recycled from past HUAC activities. Most notably, Senator Thomas Dodd, chairman of the Subcommittee at the time, conferred regularly with former HUAC investigator Benjamin Mandel. Senator Dodd and others were also working periodically with the FBI in a joint effort against suspected communist subversion.

Before they refocused on Pauling, Dodd and the SISS were popularly credited with instigating the dissolution of the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE), a collection of locally oriented anti-bomb protest groups. Dodd worked discretely with SANE’s national leadership in providing the organization with an ultimatum:  either cull itself of alleged communist membership or risk a prolonged investigation by federal authorities. SANE’s leadership chose to impose loyalty oaths, a move that split the entire organization, leaving the severed parts largely incapacitated. After the subcommittee’s apparent victory, Dodd and his counsel were emboldened enough to focus their full attentions on Pauling.

Following a speech given to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in the spring of 1960, Pauling was handed several fliers, a poem, some news clippings and other random papers while answering people’s questions. That night, after returning to his hotel room, he found a subpoena addressed to him within the clutter.

Subpeona issued to Linus Pauling by the Internal Security Subcommittee of the United States Senate. June 20, 1960.

The subpoena adjured his appearance before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee on June 21st, two days from then, to address:

Communist participation in, or support of, propaganda campaign against nuclear testing, and other Communist or Communist-front activity with respect to which you [Pauling] may have knowledge.

Abraham Lincoln Wirin, a lawyer who had helped Pauling through an earlier dispute, flew directly to Washington, DC the next day. The duo discussed Pauling’s options and decided to utilize the press as much as possible, a tactic that had proven fruitful for Pauling in the past. Though Pauling was given very short notice, he and Wirin were able to devise what seemed to be a simple but promising broader strategy. They decided to make the entire affair as public as possible, cooperate to whatever extent was appropriate, and maintain the integrity of Pauling’s constitutional rights. Though he was alarmed, Pauling felt reasonably prepared for the engagement ahead of him.

The Story of 1960

[A look back 50 years in honor of the Pauling birthday anniversary on February 28th.]

Throughout most of 1959, Linus and Ava Helen Pauling were actively engaged in several peace-related activities, including a nuclear test ban treaty being deliberated in Geneva. Certain developments preceding the New Year made it clear, however, that a full nuclear test ban treaty (atmosphere, water and underground) was unlikely to be negotiated. Richard Lippman, a good friend and ally of Pauling, passed away suddenly around the same time. Quite understandably, the two events had a depressive effect on Pauling. When he and Ava Helen visited their Big Sur ranch the following January in 1960, Pauling decided to go for a walk early one Saturday morning.

After following a deer trail for some time, Pauling became lost and then stuck on a cliff under a large rock formation. He found himself surrounded by slippery blue shale, and the unstable rocks shifted towards the cliff edge every time he tried to move. Ava Helen contacted the Forrest Service in the evening when her husband failed to come back or return her shouts. Pauling heard searchers at one point in the evening, but his voice wouldn’t carry up to the would-be rescuers above him. That night he slept under a map that he had with him, and tried to keep warm in the freezing fog.

He was found the next morning in “high spirits,” but was deeply shaken by the ordeal. He attempted to go back to work the following Monday, but was forced to return home after a short time in his office, fully conscious but unable to speak. He had been terrified by his night on the cliff, and it seems that after years of internalization, the unsettling experience was forcing him to confront many repressed emotions. His physician diagnosed Pauling’s condition as shock, and ordered him to rest for a few days. During the ensuing weeks of recovery, he was more emotionally vulnerable than his family had ever seen him.

Meanwhile, after negotiations had stalled in Geneva, the international moratorium on nuclear testing expired at the end of 1959. The expiration catalyzed a strong re-emergence of proponents for renewed nuclear bomb testing, and the force of the new movement compelled Pauling and his wife back into the nuclear test-ban arena. The Paulings attended several protests and in June Linus gave a speech to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Afterwards he was handed several fliers, newspaper clippings and an array of other papers which he stuffed into his pockets while answering questions. Back at his hotel room that night, he was sorting through everything when he noticed a subpoena that had been handed to him during the post-speech discourse. It stated that he was to appear before an executive session of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee two days from then, on Monday, June 20.

Subpeona issued to Linus Pauling by the Internal Security Subcommittee of the United States Senate. June 20, 1960.

Pauling immediately called Abraham Lincoln Wirin, a lawyer who had assisted him with a number of legal disputes, to discuss his options in addressing the subpoena. The day before Pauling was to appear before the subcommittee, he held a press conference, and successfully lobbied to have the first executive session opened to the public. After being sworn in, it became clear why Pauling had been summoned. Several years prior, he had submitted a nuclear test ban petition to the UN with a substantial number of signatures. The petition was initially an appeal by American scientists but was later circulated in many other countries, several of them governed by Communist parties, for an expanded petition response. The subcommittee wanted to know how he’d done it, and if he utilized the help of any communist organizations. Pauling politely answered every question, but when it came to divulging the names of those who had helped to collect more than one signature, he became openly concerned. After some questioning and a short recess, Pauling stood and said:

The circulation of petitions is an important part of our democratic process. If it is abolished or inhibited, it would be a step toward a police state. No matter what assurances the subcommittee might give me concerning the use of names, I am convinced the names would be used for reprisals against these enthusiastic, idealistic, high-minded workers for peace.

The acting chairman, Senator Thomas Dodd, gave Pauling until August 9 to come up with a list of names. Wirin succeeded in getting the deadline postponed to October 11, and Linus and Ava Helen  continued to travel and deliver speeches. Pauling received a great deal of support from many academics, members of the press and fellow Nobel Prize winners as well as a great number of constituents who wrote letters of protest to Dodd and other senators. When asked to relinquish the requested names at the October hearing, Pauling refused. He was not given a contempt citation, as was somewhat expected, but instead subjected to a loyalty inquiry. After five hours of questioning related to his presumed affiliation with the Communist party and party members, Pauling was allowed to leave.

As the Dodd confrontation was entering its final stages, Pauling remained on the offensive. Though it appeared to most that he had won, Pauling took the matter very personally. He continued to attack Dodd publicly and began campaigning for the abolition of investigatory committees, even mounting several libel suits against newspapers and organizations that had released material reflecting allegations and positions taken by the SISS. Pauling came into conflict with past associates and organizations, and became a more open critic of American society generally. He had resigned his chairmanship at Caltech several years before to focus more of his time on personal pursuits, and his political crusades grew more public after years of partial restraint. He was still supported by an array of old associates, though many became concerned with Pauling’s new disposition.

Linus Pauling speaking at a peace march in MacArthur Park, Los Angeles, California. 1960. Photo by Robert Carl Cohen.

Linus Pauling’s rescue from a cliff and his confrontation with the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee – events which were both widely publicized and of enormous import to Pauling’s life – overshadowed most of his other activities in 1960. He made frequent appearances in all forms of media throughout the year, and gave a considerable number of speeches.  He remained very active in the nuclear test ban arena, and even spoke to ambassadors from the U.S., Great Britain and the Soviet Union during a July visit to Geneva.

Though he came out relatively unscathed from his activities, the SISS confrontation soured Pauling in a way, and further radicalized his positions. For the time being however, he remained popular within the establishment. The following year he was among the American scientists honored by Time magazine as “Men of the Year,” received the title of Humanist of the Year from the American Humanist Society, and would participate in a number of high-profile conferences and protests. But despite this series of mostly positive outcomes, 1960 was a difficult year that significantly influenced the direction of Pauling’s ever evolving demeanor.

For more on Pauling’s peace work, see the website Linus Pauling and the International Peace Movement: A Documentary History.