What the Attack Means to American Liberties
You are an American. You love your country. You think it is the greatest and finest nation on earth. You feel, of course, that there is plenty wrong with it but that, after all is said, somehow we will always come out on top. You seldom think consciously about it, but you feel you have the protection of such a charter of freedom as man has never before known. It guarantees to you a system of government and a mode of life which, whatever their faults, have brought you the highest degree of freedom and abundance among all the world’s inhabitants.
Then, one day, quite by accident, you are shocked out of your complacence. You pay a visit to your son’s schoolroom. His teacher is expounding to the class—including your son—some theories that sound strangely alien to you. They are alien to sound American thinking, but this teacher doesn’t label them as such. He seems to be telling your son and his fellow students that these theories are the right ones—the best ones. Sorely troubled, you go to the principal. You say:
“Who is this man? He sounds like a communist to me—or at least a fellow traveler.”
The principal answers: “He is.”
You look astonished: “Then what’s he doing here—in a public school that I help support with my taxes?”
“We fired him,” the principal says. “We have a law in this state that a teacher in one of our schools who is called before an investigating committee and hides behind the Fifth Amendment to conceal his communist connections is subject to immediate dismissal.”
“Then how did he get back in here?” you want to know.
“The Supreme Court of the United States made us reinstate him in his job—with back pay, too!”
Or you overhear one day a conversation among three or four men. It might go something like this:
First Man: “We couldn’t trust too many. We’d have to use them carefully.”
Second Man: “We don’t need many—just our hard core who have been thoroughly trained. We place them in strategic spots.”
Third Man: “They’re all well indoctrinated with revolutionary techniques. We’ve done a pretty good job on the softening-up process—and now we can even talk openly about overthrowing the government, if that should be necessary.”
Second Man: “And our group can handle both—the propaganda, and the action when the time comes.”
First Man: “What are the strategic spots?”
Third Man: “We won’t discuss that too exactly. But generally let’s say New York, Chicago, L.A., and, of course, Washington, D.C., and maybe a few others.”
You wait to hear no more. You rush to the nearest office of the FBI. You tell the agent in charge what you have heard. You describe the men as well as you can. The agent looks at you sadly. He says: “Yes, we know the men. We’ve been watching them for a long time.”
“Then why don’t you arrest them?” you demand.
“A while back we could,” he replies. “Congress gave us a law under which native enemies of America who advocated the overthrow of the government could be indicted and prosecuted. But now—now it’s different. The Supreme Court says that when these saboteurs talk about overthrowing the government, they can’t be touched. We have to wait until they spell out specifically how they’re going to do it and actually try it. And then—.”
“And then,” you finish, “it might be too late.”
Or perhaps you need an attorney to handle a small matter for you. You pick one at random from the accredited list in your state and go to see him. You aren’t talking to him long before you realize that if you give this man your case, you will have a communist representing you. You leave his office in a rage and go to your State Bar Association. You demand to know how this young man, only just out of law school, can be an accredited attorney in your state—particularly in the face of all we now know about the communist conspiracy. The Bar Association official patiently explains to you that the Bar Examining Board in your state has had a rule for some time that any would-be lawyer who is a known communist or who refuses to say whether he has communist connections is not admitted to the bar and permitted to practice before your courts. BUT—he says, that was the rule. Now the Supreme Court of the United States has stepped in and told us—a sovereign American state— that we cannot set the standards for who shall and shall not practice law before our own courts. In other words, the Court says we can’t keep a man from taking the bar examination in this state because he is a communist.
By this time your mind is in a whirl. What’s going on, you ask yourself. What’s happening to us—to me, to my country? Surely something is wrong somewhere. You’ve never had too much use for politicians generally—you consider them a more or less necessary evil. But one thing you know—when all else fails, there has always been one last resort for the protection of Americans. It is in the Congress of the United States—your elected representatives—and particularly in the congressional power of investigation—the power of exposure of wrongdoing and subversion and other evils.
So you go to see your congressman. You start to tell him of your experiences. Then you notice an odd expression on his face. You stop. Despairingly you ask—“You don’t mean—you can’t mean—?”
“The Supreme Court?” he answers. “Yes, we on the congressional investigating committees have been getting it too. You know, throughout our history, Congress has always had the right to question witnesses. If they wanted to, they could protect themselves with the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. But when any subversive or grafter refused to answer other questions, we could cite him for contempt. And our courts have generally backed us up. We were the last resort for Americans to get the information they must have to protect their lives, their liberty, and their property.”
“But now—” he sighed, “now the Supreme Court says that before we can make a witness answer questions, we have to spell out for him not only the exact purpose of our committee but also the exact pertinence of the question to that purpose. Just imagine! We investigate in order to get for ourselves and our constituents—you—the information we need to write necessary legislation. But now, according to the Supreme Court, we have to know exactly what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it—and explain it all explicitly to the witness—before we get out of him the information we need in order to decide what we’re going to do and how to do it! You can see that the Supreme Court has just about put an end to our investigative powers. Certainly it has crippled them almost fatally.”
All this and very much more—actual assaults on the liberties of Americans and on their means of protecting themselves against tyranny from within and without—has been brought about by a Supreme Court composed of nine men—nine men against 170 million Americans. Who are these men? What makes them tick? How did it come about that so few—these particular few—were in the right spot at the right time to do so much harm? What is it they have done? And how have they done it? How does it affect you, your children, your business, your job, and your freedom? We must know the answers to these questions, because the future of our country—the country we love—is at stake.
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