Executive Order 9835 Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

At the end of World War II, tensions ran high between the United States and its former ally, the Soviet Union. The two powers disagreed on plans for the future of Europe, and the United States' possession of atomic weapons and refusal to share this technology drove a further wedge between them. As US fears of Communism grew and the Soviet Union pursued its own development of an atomic weapon, some in the US government warned of the threat posed by spies and traitors whose ideological ties to the Soviet Union could lead them to leak sensitive or dangerous information.

Summary Overview

At the end of World War II, tensions ran high between the United States and its former ally, the Soviet Union. The two powers disagreed on plans for the future of Europe, and the United States' possession of atomic weapons and refusal to share this technology drove a further wedge between them. As US fears of Communism grew and the Soviet Union pursued its own development of an atomic weapon, some in the US government warned of the threat posed by spies and traitors whose ideological ties to the Soviet Union could lead them to leak sensitive or dangerous information.

President Harry Truman's Executive Order 9835 was designed to root out this alleged subversive element in the federal government. This order required that all federal employees be screened for loyalty as a matter of national security. The effort to expose Communists prompted the widespread influence of the Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations (AGLOSO), which identified groups whose members could allegedly be suspected of anti-American sympathies. These measures led to a precipitous decline in civil liberties as ever more aggressive investigations sought to uncover Communist plots.

Defining Moment

Even before the end of World War II, the US government had begun attempts to screen its employees for loyalty by banning individuals with ties to Fascist, Communist, or other political groups seen as antidemocratic. The Hatch Act of 1939 led to the creation of a committee to investigate the possibility of subversive activities, as well as a secret version of the AGLOSO that identified groups whose members posed a potential threat. After the war, tensions with the Soviet Union quickly began to rise. Dramatically opposed ideologies between the two nations, an imbalance of power (the Soviet Union had not yet developed nuclear weapons), and economic trouble within the United States led to a highly charged atmosphere of suspicion and distrust.

As the Soviet Union became directly opposed to US foreign policy, rumors circulated that there were extensive Communist spy networks in the United States, including within the government. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), created in 1938 and made permanent in 1945, was in charge of anti-Communist investigations. The Soviet Union's increasingly hard line views and the discovery of several actual spies in the United States further fueled an obsession in the United States with internal subversion. Some political and cultural leaders, particularly religious and political conservatives, saw this “Red Scare” as a political opportunity, and the Republican Party adopted the threat of Communism and the perceived weakness of the Democrats under Harry Truman as a major issue in the congressional elections of 1946.

In 1946, the HUAC investigated several alleged Communist groups, and concluded that the security of the country was threatened by the employment of anyone with questionable loyalty. Boosted by the argument that Democrats were soft on Communism, the Republican Party gained control of both houses of Congress and demanded action to identify and eliminate subversives in any federal position. According to most accounts, the Truman administration did not view Communist subversion as a major problem, but it felt the political pressure to provide some response to the issue. In November 1946, President Truman established the President's Temporary Commission on Employee Loyalty (TCEL) to study how to best determine the loyalty of federal employees.

The TCEL investigation was based on testimony from various government agencies and officials. Attorney General Tom Clark and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under director J. Edgar Hoover helped push the TCEL's final report to recommend the creation of a strict federal loyalty program. Truman followed this recommendation by signing Executive Order 9835 on March 21, 1947, which mandated that all current federal employees as well as all applicants for federal jobs be investigated to determine their loyalty.

Author Biography

Harry S. Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri, in 1884. He served in the National Guard during World War I, aiding in the formation of his regiment and eventually becoming a captain. Thanks to his political connections, Truman was appointed or elected to a series of minor public offices before being elected to the United States Senate in 1934. Truman's strong reputation in the Senate led President Franklin D. Roosevelt to select him as a running mate in the 1944 presidential election, and Truman won the vice presidency.

When Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, Truman became the president of the United States. He oversaw Germany's surrender and made the decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan. After World War II, Truman helped establish the United Nations and the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe, and was narrowly reelected in 1948. His later initiatives included the Fair Deal domestic policy program and the containment of Communism, including the Korean War. Truman did not seek reelection in 1952, and retired from politics. He died in 1972.

Historical Document

Whereas each employee of the Government of the United States is endowed with a measure of trusteeship over the democratic processes which are the heart and sinew of the United States; and

Whereas it is of vital importance that persons employed in the Federal service be of complete and unswerving loyalty to the United States; and

Whereas, although the loyalty of by far the overwhelming majority of all Government employees is beyond question, the presence within the Government service of any disloyal or subversive person constitutes a threat to our democratic processes; and

Whereas maximum protection must be afforded the United States against infiltration of disloyal persons into the ranks of its employees, and equal protection from unfounded accusations of disloyalty must be afforded the loyal employees of the Government:

Now, Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and statutes of the United States, including the Civil Service Act of 1883 (22 Stat. 403), as amended, and section 9A of the act approved August 2, 1939 (18 U.S.C. 61i), and as President and Chief Executive of the United

States, it is hereby, in the interest of the internal management of the Government, ordered as follows:

PART I—INVESTIGATION OF APPLICANTS

1. There shall be a loyalty investigation of every person entering the civilian employment of any department or agency of the executive branch of the Federal Government.

2. Investigations of persons entering the competitive service shall be conducted by the Civil Service Commission, except in such cases as are covered by a special agreement between the Commission and any given department or agency.

3. Investigations of persons other than those entering the competitive service shall be conducted by the employing department or agency. Departments and agencies without investigative organizations shall utilize the investigative facilities of the Civil Service Commission.

4. The investigations of persons entering the employ of the executive branch may be conducted after any such person enters upon actual employment therein, but in any such case the appointment of such person shall be conditioned upon a favorable determination with respect to his loyalty.

5. Investigations of persons entering the competitive service shall be conducted as expeditiously as possible; provided, however, that if any such investigation is not completed within 18 months from the date on which a person enters actual employment, the condition that his employment is subject to investigation shall expire, except in a case in which the Civil Service Commission has made an initial adjudication of disloyalty and the case continues to be active by reason of an appeal, and it shall then be the responsibility of the employing department or agency to conclude such investigation and make a final determination concerning the loyalty of such person.

6. An investigation shall be made of all applicants at all available pertinent sources of information and shall include reference to:

7. Federal Bureau of Investigation files.

8. Civil Service Commission files.

9. Military and naval intelligence files.

10. The files of any other appropriate government investigative or intelligence agency.

11. House Committee on un-American Activities files.

12. Local law-enforcement files at the place of residence and employment of the applicant, including municipal, county, and State law-enforcement files.

13. Schools and colleges attended by applicant.

14. Former employers of applicant.

15. References given by applicant.

16. Any other appropriate source.

17. Whenever derogatory information with respect to loyalty of an applicant is revealed a full investigation shall be conducted. A full field investigation shall also be conducted of those applicants, or of applicants for particular positions, as may be designated by the head of the employing department or agency, such designations to be based on the determination by any such head of the best interests of national security.

PART II—INVESTIGATION OF EMPLOYEES

1. The head of each department and agency in the executive branch of the Government shall be personally responsible for an effective program to assure that disloyal civilian officers or employees are not retained in employment in his department or agency.

2. He shall be responsible for prescribing and supervising the loyalty determination procedures of his department or agency, in accordance with the provisions of this order, which shall be considered as providing minimum requirements.

3. The head of a department or agency which does not have an investigative organization shall utilize the investigative facilities of the Civil Service Commission.

4. The head of each department and agency shall appoint one or more loyalty boards, each composed of not less than three representatives of the department or agency concerned, for the purpose of hearing loyalty cases arising within such department or agency and making recommendations with respect to the removal of any officer or employee of such department or agency on grounds relating to loyalty, and he shall prescribe regulations for the conduct of the proceedings before such boards.

5. An officer or employee who is charged with being disloyal shall have a right to an administrative hearing before a loyalty board in the employing department or agency. He may appear before such board personally, accompanied by counsel or representative of his own choosing, and present evidence on his own behalf, through witnesses or by affidavit.

6. The officer or employee shall be served with a written notice of such hearing in sufficient time, and shall be informed therein of the nature of the charges against him in sufficient detail, so that he will be enabled to prepare his defense. The charges shall be stated as specifically and completely as, in the discretion of the employing department or agency, security considerations permit, and the officer or employee shall be informed in the notice (1) of his right to reply to such charges in writing within a specified reasonable period of time, (2) of his right to an administrative hearing on such charges before a loyalty board, and (3) of his right to appear before such board personally, to be accompanied by counsel or representative of his own choosing, and to present evidence on his behalf, through witness or by affidavit.

7. A recommendation of removal by a loyalty board shall be subject to appeal by the officer or employee affected, prior to his removal, to the head of the employing department or agency or to such person or persons as may be designated by such head, under such regulations as may be prescribed by him, and the decision of the department or agency concerned shall be subject to appeal to the Civil Service Commission's Loyalty Review Board, hereinafter provided for, for an advisory recommendation.

8. The rights of hearing, notice thereof, and appeal therefrom shall be accorded to every officer or employee prior to his removal on grounds of disloyalty, irrespective of tenure, or of manner, method, or nature of appointment, but the head of the employing department or agency may suspend any officer or employee at any time pending a determination with respect to loyalty.

9. The loyalty boards of the various departments and agencies shall furnish to the Loyalty Review Board, hereinafter provided for, such reports as may be requested concerning the operation of the loyalty program in any such department or agency.

PART III—RESPONSIBILITIES OF CIVIL SERVICE COMMISSION

1. There shall be established in the Civil Service Commission a Loyalty Review Board of not less than three impartial persons, the members of which shall be officers or employees of the Commission.

2. The Board shall have authority to review cases involving persons recommended for dismissal on grounds relating to loyalty by the loyalty board of any department or agency and to make advisory recommendations thereon to the head of the employing department or agency. Such cases may be referred to the Board either by the employing department or agency, or by the officer or employee concerned.

3. The Board shall make rules and regulations, not inconsistent with the provisions of this order, deemed necessary to implement statutes and Executive orders relating to employee loyalty.

4. The Loyalty Review Board shall also:

(1) Advise all departments and agencies on all problems relating to employee loyalty.

(2) Disseminate information pertinent to employee loyalty programs.

(3) Coordinate the employee loyalty policies and procedures of the several departments and agencies.

(4) Make reports and submit recommendations to the Civil Service Commission for transmission to the President from time to time as may be necessary to the maintenance of the employee loyalty program.

5. There shall also be established and maintained in the Civil Service Commission a central master index covering all persons on whom loyalty investigations have been made by any department or agency since September 1, 1939. Such master index shall contain the name of each person investigated, adequate identifying information concerning each such person, and a reference to each department and agency which has conducted a loyalty investigation concerning the person involved.

6. All executive departments and agencies are directed to furnish to the Civil Service Commission all information appropriate for the establishment and maintenance of the central master index.

7. The reports and other investigative material and information developed by the investigating department or agency shall be retained by such department or agency in each case.

8. The Loyalty Review Board shall currently be furnished by the Department of Justice the name of each foreign or domestic organization, association, movement, group or combination of persons which the Attorney General, after appropriate investigation and determination, designates as totalitarian, fascist, communist or subversive, or as having adopted a policy of advocating or approving the commission of acts of force or violence to deny others their rights under the Constitution of the United States, or as seeking to alter the form of government of the United States by unconstitutional means.

9. The Loyalty Review Board shall disseminate such information to all departments and agencies.

PART IV—SECURITY MEASURES IN INVESTIGATIONS

1. At the request of the head of any department or agency of the executive branch an investigative agency shall make available to such head, personally, all investigative material and information collected by the investigative agency concerning any employee or prospective employee of the requesting department or agency, or shall make such material and information available to any officer or officers designated by such head and approved by the investigative agency.

2. Notwithstanding the foregoing requirement, however, the investigative agency may refuse to disclose the names of confidential informants, provided it furnishes sufficient information about such informants on the basis of which the requesting department or agency can make an adequate evaluation of the information furnished by them, and provided it advises the requesting department or agency in writing that it is essential to the protection of the informants or to the investigation of other cases that the identity of the informants not be revealed. Investigative agencies shall not use this discretion to decline to reveal sources of information where such action is not essential.

3. Each department and agency of the executive branch should develop and maintain, for the collection and analysis of information relating to the loyalty of its employees and prospective employees, a staff specially trained in security techniques, and an effective security control system for protecting such information generally and for protecting confidential sources of such information particularly.

PART V—STANDARDS

1. The standard for the refusal of employment 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.

2. Activities and associations of an applicant or employee which may be considered in connection with the determination of disloyalty may include one or more of the following:

3. Sabotage, espionage, or attempts or preparations therefor, or knowingly associating with spies or saboteurs;

4. Treason or sedition or advocacy thereof;

5. Advocacy of revolution or force or violence to alter the constitutional form of government of the United States;

6. Intentional, unauthorized disclosure to any person, under circumstances which may indicate disloyalty to the United States, of documents or information of a confidential or non-public character obtained by the person making the disclosure as a result of his employment by the Government of the United States;

7. Performing or attempting to perform his duties, or otherwise acting, so as to serve the interests of another government in preference to the interests of the United States.

8. Membership in, affiliation with or sympathetic association with any foreign or domestic organization, association, movement, group or combination of persons, designated by the Attorney General as totalitarian, fascist, communist, or subversive, or as having adopted a policy of advocating or approving the commission of acts of force or violence to deny other persons their rights under the Constitution of the United States, or as seeking to alter the form of government of the United States by unconstitutional means.

PART VI—MISCELLANEOUS

1. Each department and agency of the executive branch, to the extent that it has not already done so, shall submit, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the Department of Justice, either directly or through the Civil Service Commission, the names (and such other necessary identifying material as the Federal Bureau of Investigation may require) of all of its incumbent employees.

2. The Federal Bureau of Investigation shall check such names against its records of persons concerning whom there is substantial evidence of being within the purview of paragraph 2 of Part V hereof, and shall notify each department and agency of such information.

3. Upon receipt of the above-mentioned information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, each department and agency shall make, or cause to be made by the Civil Service Commission, such investigation of those employees as the head of the department or agency shall deem advisable.

4. The Security Advisory Board of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee shall draft rules applicable to the handling and transmission of confidential documents and other documents and information which should not be publicly disclosed, and upon approval by the President such rules shall constitute the minimum standards for the handling and transmission of such documents and information, and shall be applicable to all departments and agencies of the executive branch.

5. The provisions of this order shall not be applicable to persons summarily removed under the provisions of section 3 of the act of December 17, 1942, 56 Stat. 1053, of the act of July 5, 1946, 60 Stat. 453, or of any other statute conferring the power of summary removal.

6. The Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy, and the Secretary of the Treasury with respect to the Coast Guard, are hereby directed to continue to enforce and maintain the highest standards of loyalty within the armed services, pursuant to the applicable statutes, the Articles of War, and the Articles for the Government of the Navy.

7. This order shall be effective immediately, but compliance with such of its provisions as require the expenditure of funds shall be deferred pending the appropriation of such funds.

8. Executive Order No. 9300 of February 5, 1943, is hereby revoked.

Harry S. Truman

The White House,

March 21, 1947.

Glossary

adjudication: the act of a court in making an order, judgment, or decree

derogatory: tending to lessen the merit or reputation of a person or thing; disparaging

endowed: to furnish, as with some talent, money, faculty or quality; equip

expeditiously: characterized by promptness; quickly

whereas: while on the contrary

Document Analysis

Executive Order 9835 begins by laying out the premise for testing the loyalty of all federal employees. It acknowledges that though most—in fact, “by far the overwhelming majority”—of employees are loyal, the possibility of any “disloyal or subversive” people anywhere in public service constitutes a threat to the entire nation. Since the United States needs protection against any possibility of infiltration, it is necessary to investigate all current and potential employees. Truman also states that these investigations will also protect employees against false accusations.

The body of the order lays out the structure for performing these investigations. New applicants for positions will be screened thoroughly by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), and multiple aspects of their lives, including schooling, former employers, and any other records deemed relevant, will be examined. Any indication of disloyalty will be followed by a full investigation. Current employees are to be examined according to a system set up by their department heads, who are held responsible for removing any disloyal individuals serving beneath them. Departments are required to set up loyalty boards, which are to investigate employees to the standards set by the order. If employees are found to be disloyal, they have the right to defend themselves in a hearing. The accused will be given adequate time to prepare their defense, but only as “security conditions permit,” and the identities of any informants against them will not be revealed. When a loyalty board recommends the removal of an employee after a hearing, the decision may be appealed by the employee in question.

Truman declares that an overarching Loyalty Review Board is to be established in the CSC to hear appeals and coordinate information sharing between the loyalty boards of individual departments. It will also run the internal management and dissemination of the list of subversive foreign or domestic organizations to be provided by the attorney general or the Department of Justice. The basic standard for disloyalty is laid out; in addition to spying and espionage, reasons for dismissal include membership, affiliation, or “sympathetic association” with any of the organizations on the attorney general's list. All employees' names are given to the FBI for checks against its own records. The heads of the armed forces are given the task of ensuring that they will “continue to enforce and maintain the highest standards of loyalty within the armed services.” All information gathered in the federal investigations will be kept in a master index.

Essential Themes

Executive Order 9835 demonstrates the willingness of the Truman administration to take drastic measures in the name of national security in the highly charged postwar atmosphere. The establishment of a federal loyalty program sparked the postwar erosion of civil liberties that marked the Red Scare. Shortly after Truman signed the order, the AGLOSO was published and gained widespread public attention, eventually being used as a blacklist by many private groups as well as government organizations. The frenzy of anti-Communist activity culminated in the egregious persecution led by Senator Joseph McCarthy and the HUAC in the 1950s, which gave rise to the term “McCarthyism” for unsubstantiated accusations of subversion made for political gain. Many of those accused suffered significant professional and personal damages due to the negative impact of being associated with Communism, regardless of their actual level of involvement or political beliefs, and McCarthyism had a deep impact on the social and political landscape of the United States.

Truman's Executive Order 9835 did receive criticism, especially from civil liberties advocates concerned about the lack of effective protection against false accusations. The order itself was eventually revoked by President Dwight D. Eisenhower's Executive Order 10450 in 1953, though the debate over the surrounding issues lived on. The later order took away the powers of the Loyalty Review Board, though it did not reinstate any federal employees who had been previously dismissed for disloyalty. The controversial subject of citizens' rights versus national security would remain for years to come.

Bibliography and Additional Reading
  • Gaddis, John Lewis. The Cold War: A New History. New York: Penguin, 2007. Print.
  • Goldstein, Robert Justin. “Prelude to McCarthyism: The Making of a Blacklist.” Prologue Magazine 38.3 (2006). Web. 20 Feb. 2015.
  • Storrs, Landon R. Y. The Second Red Scare and the Unmaking of the New Deal Left. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2013. Print.
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