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Mary Bell

Kafka in the U.S.:
How CIA Purges

(20 March 1950)

From Labor Action, Vol. 14 No. 12, 20 March 1950, pp. 1 & 7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

The New York Post is currently serializing the story of Edward P. Daniel (name fictitious for obvious reasons) who was dropped from the Central Intelligence Agency, the government’s top-secret intelligence group, without any charge, without trial, without appeal.

Labor Action considers the Post story eminently worthy of summary since the Post has little out-of-New York circulation, and particularly since it exposes to public view an aspect of the totalitarian trends inside the U.S. government. The newspaper guarantees the authenticity of the story and the integrity of the writer, who otters ta give testimony to any Congressional committee which will investigate the CIA.

Mr. Daniel found that life was imitating art in his experiences with the government’s CIA, to which he went from a job in the State Department where he had already undergone many loyalty checks as well as several in the army. He felt like the hero in Kafka’s novel The Trial who was apprehended, sentenced and punished without knowing the forces ranged against him, and he was reminded of a Koestlerian Balkan story in the manner he was quizzed to determine the degree of his loyalty.

In 1947, when Mr. Daniel became interested in a job with CIA, he spoke with friends, who somehow had never mentioned directly that they were employees of the intelligence outfit, but were, nevertheless. One day he was handed a brown envelope by one of them and told he would hear the results later.

In – But Not Quite

Some months later, he did hear and was given a series of intelligence tests. After this, he waited a year for an interview. In January 1949, he was finally hired – and yet not quite hired, since he had not yet been “cleared” completely. He was given a “temporary indefinite, non-security cleared status.”

For a definition of “t-i, n-s-c,” one must consult the government’s Newspeak dictionary. Every so-called “sensitive” government agency requires some sort of investigation. For ordinarily “sensitive” agencies only a “loyalty check” is necessary. For the CIA, however, a “full field investigation” is required. Mr. Daniel found that most people in the know estimated that it takes a full nine months for a “full field investigation.”

Before learning the meaning of “t-i, n-s-c” it is also necessary to distinguish between “eligibility” and “suitability.” A plain “loyalty check” can establish both for a “sensitive agency.” But for the CIA, a “loyalty check” determines “eligibility” but not “suitability.” For the latter, the “full field investigation” is necessary. Since it takes so long, an “eligible” employee is given the “t-i, n-s-c” status until he is completely cleared.

Mr. Daniel went through all of the run-of-the-mill swearing to uphold the Constitution, and to non-membership in the Communist Party or any of the organizations on the attorney general’s “subversive” list. After four months, he was still not “accredited.” He was informed that he was being held up, with no charge specified.

Revealing Questions

Mr. Daniel, quite concerned, had a talk with Mr. K. about what he should do. Mr. K. offered two alternatives: he might “resubmit papers back to the field for a supplementary investigation which will take a minimum of two months to complete, more likely six, or we can ask you to submit to questioning under the Keeler meter.” The latter is a lie-detector.

Mr. Daniel was given no reason for the situation he was in, but offered to submit to the Keeler meter. When he asked if he would be told the results of the lie-detector test, the interviewer said, “Aaaaah,” and referred him to a Mr. F.

Then, still in the dark as to what or who had cast suspicion on him, Mr. Daniel answered several series of questions under the lie detector. The questions dealt largely with his political past and that of his family and everyone he might have known. There were questions on communist theory, if he had ever read Das Kapital, whether he advocated reforms, the political affiliations of all his relatives, etc. The most dangerous radical behavior the questioner elicited was that he had once joined the AVC, where he participated in a movement against the Stalinists, and had once been a subscriber to In Fact.

In two weeks, Mr. Daniels learned from Mr. K. that the results of the test were against him, but he was not informed why. Inquiring about his future course, he was told by Mr. K. “Now, under the law creating this agency, the director has the right to remove anyone who does not meet the standard of employment, and we are asking you to resign – without prejudice of course – to save us the other alternative.”

Mr. K. was right. Under the National Security Act of 1947, the director of the CIA is authorized to “terminate the employment of any officer or employee of the agency whenever he shall deem such termination necessary or advisable in the interests of the United States” without regard to any existing laws affecting ordinary Americans. Thus the law violates the law; the law-makers, receiving their authority under the Constitution, remove constitutional rights from those for whom they are supposed to guarantee them.

He’s a Dead Duck

Mr. K. “supposed” there was an appeal. But Mr. F., to whom Daniels was referred on this matter, told him the truth. There was no appeal. He simply didn’t meet the standards. He was being asked to resign, without charges, without a hearing or trial, without any recourse or appeal. Daniels asked, “Will you tell me the standards I don’t meet?” The answer: “No.” So far as references for the next job were concerned, it was up to Daniels to explain his severance from the CIA. A Colonel Burns told Daniels that there was at least one case a week such as his in the CIA.

Daniels wrote a letter to Truman. He saw a top Washington lawyer. The lawyer, told the whole story, said, “Daniels, you’re a dead duck. You might as well resign.” Daniels saw a top politician. After hearing the case, hie advice was, “Young man. what you need is a good lawyer.”

Daniels resigned. In a “debriefing” process, he was made to sign a statement that he had read documents he hadn’t read. Then he was asked to put the finger on others. “Is there anyone in the CIA you would like to tell us about whom you feel is a poor security risk?” This questioner didn’t know the reason for Daniels’ resignation, so Daniels told him. He felt himself a “poor security risk” indeed to tell anything about others.

In answer to his letter to the president, Daniels received a reply from Harry Mitchell, president of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, informing him that what had happened was entirely legal. It was. And it happened in Washington, D.C.

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