Veto of Bill To Require Character Investigations of Atomic Energy Commission Nominees.
To the Senate:
I return herewith, without my approval, the enrolled bill (S. 1004) entitled "An Act To Amend the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 so as to grant specific authority to the Senate members of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy to require investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the character, associations, and loyalty of persons nominated for appointment, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to offices established by such Act."
The bill under consideration would amend section 15(e) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, by adding at the end thereof a provision which would authorize the Senate members of the Joint Committee to direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate the character, associations, and loyalty of any person appointed by the President under the Act, whose appointment requires the advice and consent of the Senate, and would require the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to report to the Senate Committee in writing, setting forth the information developed by such investigation.
Under our form of government, the executive power is vested by the Constitution in the President. Other grants of power are made to the Legislative and the Judicial branches. As was said by the Supreme Court in the case of Humphrey's Executor v. United States, 295 U.S. 602, 629, "The fundamental necessity of maintaining each of the three general departments of government entirely free from the control or coercive influence, direct or indirect, of either of the others has often been stressed and is hardly open to serious question .... The sound application of a principle that makes one master in his own house precludes him from imposing his control in the house of another who is master there."
S. 1004 is objectionable in that it would permit an unwarranted encroachment of the Legislative upon the Executive branch. Five Senators would be authorized to direct the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a bureau of the Department of Justice, to make investigations for them. The complete independence of the Executive branch renders it imperative that the Executive have sole authority over the officers whom he appoints. Chief Justice Marshall said in Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 164:
"By the constitution of the United States, the President is invested with certain important political powers, in the exercise of which he is to use his own discretion, and is accountable only to his country in his political character, and to his own conscience. To aid him in the performance of these duties, he is authorized to appoint certain officers, who act by his authority, and in conformity with his orders. In such cases, their acts are his acts; and whatever opinion may be entertained of the manner in which executive discretion may be used, still there exists and can exist no power to control that discretion .... "
Aside from the question of constitutionality, which I am advised is serious, I believe the bill is wholly unnecessary and unwise. It would authorize the Senate members of the Joint Committee to utilize a bureau of an Executive department and direct its head to perform functions for the Legislative branch, at the same time that he was performing similar functions as part of the Executive branch, with the possibility of confusion and misunderstanding as to which branch controlled.
I fully recognize my obligation in exercising my constitutional duty of appointment to obtain the facts about any person nominated to serve as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission. Every facility of the Executive branch, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, will be used to obtain those facts. I am entitled to have placed before me all relevant information, including material which in the public interest should be maintained on a highly confidential basis.
The measure, furthermore, appears impractical because, as I am advised, investigations conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after the nomination of an individual has been publicly announced are not and cannot be as productive as those which are conducted on a confidential basis prior to an announcement. Persons are always reluctant to disclose full information about an individual after his nomination has been sent to the Senate. The most reliable information is that which is obtained by the Executive branch prior to nomination. This information is frequently of a category which cannot be made public without damage to the national interest. Although I have no desire to keep from Congress information which it should properly have, I must emphasize that the provisions of this bill are completely incompatible with the necessities of the operation of our Government and with the National security.
Accordingly, I cannot give my approval to the bill.
HARRY S. TRUMAN
Harry S. Truman, Veto of Bill To Require Character Investigations of Atomic Energy Commission Nominees. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232276