Events Calendar

Paul Clemens: Rutgers Institute for High School Teachers

Friday, November 01, 2019, 09:00am - 02:30pm

National Security and the Courts: Famous Trial from the McCarthy Era to the Present

November 1, 2019, 9am-2:30pm

Paul Clemens, Professor of History, Rutgers University

 In the post-World War II era, a number of high profile judicial cases highlighted the American government’s efforts to convict individuals identified by the FBI or congressional investigators as Communist Party spies. The outcome of these cases remains controversial today, as do the numerous less well remembered security hearings, firings, and prosecutions of other accused of disloyalty during “the McCarthy Era.” In the 1970s, and continuing to this day, the role of “whistle-blowers” in releasing classified government information to the public has occasioned an equally strong response, although one that differs significantly from that to the charges of communism in the 1950s. We will together examine three cases/trials, and in addition take a brief journey through Rutgers history to recall these issues. From the McCarthy period (which one can more accurately call the Second Red Scare or the J. Edgar Hoover era) we will look at the Alger Hiss (1949-1950) and the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (1951) cases; from the later period, we will examine the case of Daniel Ellsberg (1973) – something less than a full trial—and the release of the Pentagon Papers. I will also discuss Rutgers part in the politics of anti-communism in the 1950s, and the four cases that made the university known for rooting out “fifth-amendment communists”—a sad but now largely forgotten legacy of that era.