Harry S. Truman photo

Remarks at the Swearing In of the President's Commission on Internal Security and Individual Rights.

February 12, 1951

ADMIRAL, I want to congratulate you on assembling a commission such as this, with yourself as chairman. I am highly appreciative of the willingness of all of you to act in this capacity. The scope of the Commission's task is carried in the statement of January 23d,1 which sets out what we hope to accomplish.

1Item 20.

The Government's loyalty program, I think, has worked well. The Commission will probably find ways in which it can be improved, and should try to find ways in which that loyalty program can be improved.

It must be kept in mind fundamentally, however, that the Bill of Rights, in my opinion, Judge, is still the principal part of the Constitution of the United States so far as the individual in this country is concerned. And we must find a balance where we can be sure that the employees of the Government are loyal to the Government, and are really interested in the welfare of the United States of America, and at the same time see that the rights of individuals are amply protected so that there will be no one who feels that he has been persecuted because he will have to answer questions before this commission.

You have the authority to administer oaths and they must answer the questions that you ask. They must give you a fair and straightforward statement when you ask for it.

You have access to the loyalty files of the FBI, just as the loyalty boards have had directly. You will not have to come to me for that authorization, because it is already implied, and the Attorney General and the chief of the FBI understand that. So that you will have access to whatever papers are necessary to find out the facts, and by obtaining them in that way, nobody can say that the files have been rifled, as we were charged with doing when we furnished files to the Tydings committee. We were charged here in the White House that the files had been picked and rifled so that they couldn't use them. There wasn't a word of truth to that.

I have the utmost confidence in the manner in which this commission is set up. I have very great confidence in your chairman, and always have had. I am anxious that this job be done in the manner that will stop witch hunting and give us the facts.

I have always been of the opinion--and maybe I shouldn't express an opinion to this commission before it starts--that the rank and file of the employees of the Government of the United States are as fine people as you can find anywhere in the world. I believe that just as sincerely as I sit here. But when you have some 2,200,000 people, it is natural that there will be some special instances where mistakes are made in their employment. If that were not the case, it would not be necessary to have courts.

And so with that, I am here to tell you that you have the complete and earnest cooperation of the President--and that is pretty good backing, so they tell me--and of all the other officials of the Government.

Note: The President spoke at 11:30 a.m. in the Cabinet Room at the White House. His opening word "Admiral" referred to Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Chairman of the Commission. Later in his remarks he referred to Judge Bolitha J. Laws, Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Admiral Nimitz' remarks in response to the President were also released.

See also Items 20, 22[2], 104, 278.

Harry S Truman, Remarks at the Swearing In of the President's Commission on Internal Security and Individual Rights. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231374

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