Statement by the President on the Government’s Employee Loyalty Program

Harry S. Truman

November 14, 1947

…I believe I speak for all of the people of the United States when I say that disloyal and subversive elements must be removed from the employ of the Government. We must not, however, permit employees of the Federal Government to be labeled as disloyal or potentially disloyal to their Government when no valid basis exists for arriving at such a conclusion. The overwhelming majority of Federal employees are local citizens who are giving conscientiously of their energy and skills to the United States. I do not want them to fear they are the objects of any “witch hunt.” They are not being spied upon; they are not being re-stricted in their activities. They have nothing to fear from the loyalty program, since every effort has been made to guarantee full protection to those who are suspected of disloyalty. Rumor, gossip, or suspicion will not be sufficient to lead to the dismissal of an employee for disloy-alty.

Any person suspected of disloyalty must be served with a written notice of the charges against him in sufficient detail to enable him to prepare his defense. In some unusual situations security considerations may not allow full disclosure.

It would have been possible for the Government to remove disloyal persons merely by serving them with the charges against them and giv-ing them an opportunity to answer those charges. I realize fully, how-ever, the stigma attached to a removal for disloyalty. Accordingly, I have ordered the agencies of the Government, except where a few agencies find it necessary to exercise extraordinary powers granted to them by Congress, to give hearings to persons who are charged with disloyalty.

Loyalty boards are being set up in each agency for this purpose. They are definitely not “kangaroo” courts. The personnel of these boards is being carefully selected by the head of each agency to make sure that they are judicious in temperament and fair-minded. Hearings before the boards will be conducted so as to establish all pertinent facts and to accord the suspected employee every possible opportunity to present his defense. The employee is to be given the right to be accompanied by counsel or a representative of his own choosing

After the hearing has been completed the loyalty board in each de-partment can recommend the retention or the dismissal of an employee. But the matter does not rest there. The employee may appeal the findings of the loyalty board to the head of the department, who can either ap-prove or disapprove the board’s recommendations.

If the head of the department orders the dismissal of the employee, he has still another avenue of appeal: namely, to the Loyalty Review Board within the Civil Service Commission. This Board is composed of outstanding citizens of the United States. These citizens have no ax to grind. They will not be concerned with personalities. Their judgment will be as detached as is humanly possible….

The question of standards is of deep concern to me. Under the Exec-utive order inaugurating this program, provision has been made, for example, for furnishing to the Loyalty Review Board by the Attorney General the name of each foreign or domestic organization, association, movement, group, or combination of persons which he, after appropriate investigation and determination, has designated as totalitarian, fascist, communist, or subversive. The Executive order in turn provides that the Loyalty Review Board shall disseminate such information to all depart-ments and agencies.

This provision of the order has been interpreted by some to mean that any person who at any time happened to belong to one of these organizations would automatically be dismissed from the employ of the Federal Government.

This interpretation completely overlooks the fact that, under the provisions of the Executive order, “the standard for the refusal of employ-ment or the removal from employment in an executive department or agency on grounds relating to loyalty shall be that, on all the evidence, reasonable grounds exist for belief that the person involved is disloyal to the government of the United States.”

Membership in an organization is simply one piece of evidence which may or may not be helpful in arriving at a conclusion as to the action which is to be taken in a particular case.

The Government has a great stake in these loyalty proceedings. The Government, as the largest employer in the United States, must be the model of a fair employer. It must guarantee that the civil rights of all employees of the Government shall be protected properly and ade-quately. It is in this spirit that the loyalty program will be enforced.

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