Witch-hunt transcripts released

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue May 6 07:09:56 MDT 2003


NY Times, May 6, 2003
Transcripts Detail Secret Questioning in 50's by McCarthy
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG

WASHINGTON, May 5 — Aaron Copland, the composer, fiercely defended 
himself, declaring, "I have not been a Communist in the past and I am 
not now a Communist." Langston Hughes, the poet, protested that he had 
not read much about Marxism "beyond the introduction of the Communist 
Manifesto." Dashiell Hammett, the mystery writer, invoked the Fifth 
Amendment.

They and nearly 500 others were summoned to testify in secret before 
Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, the Wisconsin Republican whose dogged 
efforts to root out Communist sympathizers shocked and riveted the 
nation 50 years ago. Today, the transcripts of those closed-door 
sessions of the Senate's permanent subcommittee on investigations were 
made public, shedding new light on a contentious chapter in American 
history.

All of the senators involved, and most of the witnesses — a list that 
included mundane civil servants and Army engineers as well as prominent 
personalities like Copland and James Reston, the Washington bureau chief 
of The New York Times — are now dead. Historians who have reviewed the 
documents say they do not support McCarthy's theories that, in the 
1950's, Communist spies were operating at the highest levels of government.

Instead, the papers, which chronicle 161 private sessions in 1953 and 
1954, when the infamous lawmaker was chairman of the subcommittee, 
reveal how he used secret proceedings to weed out witnesses who could 
adequately defend themselves against his browbeating. Only those who 
looked weak or confused, or who cast suspicion on themselves by 
asserting their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, were 
later called to testify in public.

"What these transcripts show, above all, is someone who is desperately 
trying to push a conspiracy theory, using all the badgering, bullying 
tactics in private that he was known for in public," said David 
Oshinksy, a McCarthy biographer and professor of history at the 
University of Texas at Austin who has reviewed excerpts of the papers. 
"There is no smoking gun here, and there is really nothing that will do 
McCarthy or his advocates any good."

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/05/06/national/06MCCA.html

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