Document 24: False Witness
Melvin Rader, False Witness (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1969).
It is strange that the critical events that I shall narrate could happen in America, and it is profoundly disturbing that they did happen. Strange it is that I, an ordinary American, was caught up in a crisis so revealing. If persons such as I were in danger, the whole country was in danger. I was in danger, and our country is still in danger.
The accusations of a false witness put me in jeopardy. The hearing before the Committee on Un-American Activities in which he testified is the heart of my narrative. Everything else leads up to this, grows out of it, or is a reflection on its larger significance. The false witness at this hearing is a fitting symbol not only of the forces arrayed against me but of our whole historical period. Reckless of the truth, the professional informer has been a typical product of an age of tensions and strife.
In the hearing, there were none of the protections as ensured by the Constitution in a court of law. The freedoms of the First and Fifth amendments were violated by the very inquisition itself. There was no judge or jury, no right of cross-examination of hostile witnesses, no right to subpoena evidence or introduce witnesses in one's own defense. Although legal counsel was allowed, the lawyers were either forbidden to speak or restricted drastically in what they could say. In contrast, the gossip and slander of witnesses "friendly" to the committee ran on without check. From the standpoint of the accused, it is paradoxical to call these proceedings a hearing, since those who wished to speak in their own defense were often not given a chance to be heard. Instead of being assumed innocent until proven guilty, they had the burden of proving their innocence. Although they were not charged with any crime and not subjected to physical harassment, many people lost their jobs, were blacklisted, and suffered in other ways (to say nothing of mental anguish) as a result of the hearing. Some were eventually thrown into prison on charges of contempt of the committee. In the absence of due process, the hearing room became a natural haven for falsehood. The fanatic's readiness to twist the truth was reinforced, and the perjurer was protected. . . .
Much of the story that I have to tell is profoundly scandalous and raises somber questions about the character of American civilization. Although my own ordeal by perjury is the focus of my narrative, its significance far transcends any personal dimensions. The story is a kind of allegory of what happens in an age of national peril when hostilities are exacerbated and freedoms are infringed.
[Just before the Canwell hearings,] in July  I had an interview with Raymond B. Allen, the president of the university. He was a middle-aged man of impressive stature and build, and I felt tense as I faced him in his stately office. I told him the truth about myself, and he advised me to have a talk with Canwell and Houston to clear up misunderstandings.
I followed his advice. After telephoning for an appointment, I went down to the Armory Building where the committee had established its headquarters. I found Mr. Houston, rather dark in complexion and large in build, waiting for me in an inner office. Soon I was aware of another person in the room sitting at a desk within earshot. This slender, quiet person about forty years of age was later introduced to me as Chairman Canwell. In response to Houston's questions, I stated that I had never been a member of the Communist Party and that my activities in the United Front organizations had been motivated by democratic and humanitarian principles.
Houston replied, "We will call two witnesses that will testify that you were present at closed Communist meetings."
Then he mentioned a star witness who would testify. This man, he said, had been a high-ranking member of the Communist Party and had even conferred with Stalin. Since I knew no such person I was puzzled. . . .
Houston said that the committee had worked out a detailed chart of my activities and that I had invariably followed the Communist Party line. I told him this was a mistaken view, and I mentioned respects in which I had disagreed with the Communists.
"Teachers are going to be fired at the university because of the committee's hearing," Houston threatened. "They will be unable to find new teaching positions elsewhere."
On the point of leaving I turned and addressed Canwell directly. I said that I would be glad if the committee would find out the real facts about me. Then I gave him the names of ten people who knew me intimately and asked that they be questioned. I had carefully selected the names of these ten because they all knew very well that I was not a Communist. Included were some of my oldest and best friends.
Others named knew me less intimately, but they had heard me criticize the Communist Party and the Soviet Union. Houston wrote down these names and admitted that I had listed men of good repute. On checking later, I discovered that not one of them was ever approached by the committee or its investigators.
When I told my attorney, Ed Henry, about my interview with Houston and Canwell he scolded me roundly. "It is dangerous," he said, "to talk in the absence of a friendly witness." Later I recalled this admonition at a crucial moment.
Although I was not surprised to have been subpoenaed, I was deeply shocked by this interview in the office of the committee. By innuendo if not by express statement Houston had threatened to disgrace me and to force my discharge from the university. Several times he referred to witnesses who would identify me as a Communist. Then there was the enigmatic reference to a star witness who had interviewed Stalin. I saw no connection between this man and myself, but it was strange and disturbing that he was mentioned. The whole conversation had a quality of nightmarish unreality. . . .
Why was I being threatened? Was it simply that the committee and its investigators thought they could extort information from me? Or was I, without being a Communist, a "fellow traveler" who could be mistaken for a member of the Party? Or could I, despite all my disclaimers, be a [secret] Communist? I shall answer as honestly as I can.
I was deeply stirred by the Depression and the Nazi-Fascist movement, and I responded to these tragic events with the determination to do all I could to avert catastrophe. Knowing that I was powerless and insignificant as a single individual, I joined with others in the "United Front.". . .
Although politicians and businessmen predicted the quick return of prosperity [after the stock market crash of 1929], conditions kept deteriorating. The failure of banks and business establishments reached panic proportions; breadlines grew longer and longer; innumerable farmers picketed to prevent mortgage foreclosures;. . .and some even starved to death. . . . Our family suffered less from the Depression than a great many. Still it was a considerable shock when my father lost most of his money and possessions. . . .
The problem that the "progressives" faced was no easy one. It was an enormously difficult task to fashion and push through reforms adequate to put sixteen million people back to work. The supporters of the New Deal were divided about many things and especially about distant objectives. Many felt that it was a mistake to debate remote ends if agreement could be reached on immediate goals. Unity was the slogan of the "United Front," and unity was highly essential for success.
If unity was imperative in domestic politics, it seemed even more necessary in foreign policy. This was the period of accelerating [Nazi] aggression, when the threat of totalitarian enslavement and war loomed more and more ominously. . . . The United Front was a drive to forge a wider bond of unity. It was an attempt to get millions of people to act together in the face of a supreme emergency, although they belonged to different political camps and professed different ideological creeds. Such a coalition, we believed, was the only way of preventing the Second World War. . . . Such considerations impelled many millions of non-Communists like myself to join the. . .United Front.
It is perfectly true that there were Communists in these organizations, but the Communists looked very different then from the way they appeared in later years. They. . .were ostensibly supporting the Roosevelt administration. Like millions of others, I reasoned that a good cause should not be deserted merely because Communists supported it, and that it was no great tragedy that the Communists, who represented internationally an immense force, were combining with liberal and democratic groups in a united stand against [Nazism] and war. Far more disastrous, it seemed to me, would be the opposite policy of teaming up with the aggressors. I observed that there was scarcely a liberal organization anywhere in the land that did not include Communists within it. Even the Democratic party, especially in the state of Washington, was a kind of united front organization, including a most varied array of adherents, some of them conservative but others far to the left. It seemed apparent that if I refused to function in an organization simply because Communists were in it, I would be stymied, unable effectively to support the very causes that I knew to be right. . . .
[At the Canwell hearings, George Hewitt accused me of having attended a secret Communist Party school in New York. After listening to Hewitt's testimony,] I was tired and emotionally shaken when the hearing recessed for the day. . . . Since Hewitt had testified that I had attended the Briehl's Farm school nine or ten years before, I began to rack my memory to reconstruct exactly what I had been doing in those years. As the evening wore on there were long telephone conversations with Virginia, and, thanks to her remarkable memory, we were able to piece together a fairly detailed account of my activities in the summers of 1938 and 1939. Then. . .[we] called the prosecuting attorney of King County, Lloyd Shorett, who promised to investigate the next day.
It was long past midnight when I returned home. Virginia had gone to bed but was still awake. She wanted to know the details of Hewitt's testimony which I had sketched to her only briefly. I related the full story, and she sat bolt upright in amazement. "No!" she said. "Not really!"
I undressed and went to bed but could not sleep. Turning on the light, I tried to lose myself in a mystery novel, but it seemed too remote and unreal. After awhile I managed to sleep fitfully. That night Virginia slept no better than I.
When we awoke the next morning Hewitt's story was already top news on the radio and in the papers. The situation was very serious—I would be disgraced and my career would be ruined if he succeeded in convincing the public and the regents of the university. My dismissal from the faculty would bring great hardship not only to myself but to Virginia and the children. On the other hand, if we could expose Hewitt as a liar and secure his arrest and conviction, we would deal a near-mortal blow to this infamous committee and the political ambitions of its members. I began to realize that we were playing for big stakes.
[Rader appeared before the Canwell Committee and vehemently denied Hewitt's accusations. However, neither Rader nor his attorney could cross-examine Hewitt because Hewitt had returned to his home in New York City almost immediately after testifying. Denied a fair chance to confront his accuser, Rader decided to press perjury charges against Hewitt.]
. . .We were determined to gather whatever evidence was required to indict Hewitt and to do so without delay.
Virginia and I conferred with Lloyd Shorett in his office as soon as the appointment could be arranged. The prosecuting attorney was a rather young man, tall and straight, with a dignified bearing. He promised to investigate and, if the evidence was compelling, to seek Hewitt's indictment and trial. To check upon my past, he enlisted the aid of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was willing to enter the case because an important federal witness was involved. After about two weeks he received a report from the bureau that they could find no reliable evidence that I was or had ever been a Communist Party member. . . .
The number of anonymous telephone calls we received [during this time] was upsetting. I could never know, when I answered the phone, whether I was about to be denounced by some unidentified person as "a Communist rat." On two occasions a woman telephoned constantly for an hour and a half, no sooner hanging up than calling again. Even when we talked to friends, we felt constrained for fear that our line was being tapped.
The newspapers and radio had spread the news of the hearing far and wide. Wherever we went, to the drugstore or the grocery, to the university or the theater, people knew about Hewitt's charges. Many were friendly, but some were hostile. The effect upon Virginia and me was to draw us closer together. On the first Monday after the hearing we climbed up to the gallery in the Metropolitan Theater to see the road show "Oklahoma," and a number of people in the audience recognized us. We felt proud and defiant and very close to one another. . . .
Virginia and I spent many hours racking our memories. She or I would wake up excitedly in the middle of the night with the sudden recollection of something we had done in those distant summers. But it is difficult to remember and even harder to prove what you were doing eight, nine, or ten years ago. For weeks and even months we investigated every lead that occurred to us. We interrogated every storekeeper who might have kept invoices of our purchases; checked with the gas and electric and telephone companies to see if they had kept records; interrogated physicians and dentists and opticians and medical laboratories that had served us; examined the monthly statements and other financial records of bank transactions; went to the County-City Building to look up voting registrations; interviewed innumerable friends and acquaintances who might remember my presence in the Seattle area during the three summers in question. Many kindly persons and even total strangers cooperated in our search. A heroic librarian, Dolly Cooper, searched thousands of books in the University of Washington Library to find in the back pocket of the books withdrawal cards, dated by a librarian, that I had signed, and was successful in discovering several crucial signatures and dates. . . . Virginia and I were disappointed to discover that most memories are short and most records are not kept for longer than five or six years, but we were heartened by the fact that so many cooperated in our search. Gradually, with their generous assistance, we built up a formidable body of evidence against Hewitt, which we presented to the prosecuting attorney.
Canwell and John Boyd, deputy commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Department of Justice, approached Shorett and tried to dissuade him from filing the perjury charge. Hewitt had been a government witness in a number of deportation cases, and Boyd evidently wished to protect him as a future witness. Shorett was a man of stubborn integrity and resisted this pressure. . . .
I had testified at the [Canwell] hearings that we had spent four or five weeks at Canyon Creek in the late summer of 1938, but we had not as yet proved that this was the case. We asked our friend Lenore Forbes, violinist in the Seattle Symphony, to drive us to the Canyon Creek area. . . . We. . .found, on entering the lodge, that it was under new management. The new owner, Thomas Grant, served us some soft drinks at the fountain, and we struck up a conversation with him. I broached the subject of our mission and explained that we wanted to check the lodge register.
"It isn't here," said Grant. "The investigators for the committee have carried it away."
Speechless, I jammed the straw down into my drink in shock and dismay. Virginia asked Grant if he had been given a receipt. "Yes," he said, "I have a written receipt.". . .
Saturday, July 24, the. . .day after my testimony [to the Canwell Committee], a group of the committee's investigators, accompanied by uniformed members of the State Patrol, rushed to Canyon Creek Lodge. . . . [They] persisted in their search of the lodge and. . . at last found the register stuck away in the attic. As the men scanned the pages, Mrs. Kirby [the caretaker of the lodge] overheard one of them say, "There it is, Rader, '38." Leaving a receipt with Grant, the investigators carried away the index card and a packet of loose leaves from the register. Canwell and his staff never divulged this fact until many months had passed.
Mrs. Kirby, at our request, wrote to Shorett about the discovery of the register. The prosecutor planned to use. . .Mrs. Kirby [as a witness] at Hewitt's trial.
Hewitt was still a fugitive from justice, and his arrest was not easy to arrange. As soon as the indictment was filed on August 10, Shorett sent to the New York police a copy of the warrant for the arrest together with information as to Hewitt's residence and place of employment. Hearing nothing in reply, Shorett finally wired the New York commissioner of police for an explanation. . . . On October 29. . .Shorett received a. . .reply from [the New York police]: "George Hewitt has not been seen at given address. As soon as located will be apprehended." On November 4, Shorett wrote [again], asking for any information concerning Hewitt's whereabouts and enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope for convenience in replying. There was no response to this letter. Finally on November 22, Shorett wrote to New York Mayor William O'Dwyer, setting forth all the above facts. . . . Mayor O'Dwyer did not reply.
During this period, when Hewitt "could not be located," his whereabouts were reported again and again in the New York press. He appeared as an expert witness in deportation hearings in New York City on August 30, September 15, and September 23. Late in September his employer Alfred Kohlberg complained to United States Attorney General Tom Clark that Communists were harassing Hewitt and that he needed police protection. On October 5, Deputy Immigration Commissioner John P. Boyd, who had tried to dissuade Shorett from filing the perjury charge, announced that the Immigration Service had asked the cooperation of the New York police in protecting Hewitt from harassment by Communists. On October 6, the Bronx police offered to assign a guard to protect Hewitt and his family, but this offer was declined by Mrs. Hewitt.
All this information about Hewitt and more appeared in the New York Times. . . . Yet the New York police, in their communications with Prosecutor Shorett, reported that they could not find Hewitt!
[Meanwhile, Canwell and officials from the conservative Seattle Post-Intelligencer continued to pressure the King County Prosecutor's office to drop the charges against Hewitt.]
The final report of the Canwell Committee was submitted to the State Legislature on February 3, 1949. As Virginia and I read the report, we could hardly believe our eyes. It declared that the precise date of my presence at the Briehl's Farm school was 1938, that my first visit to Canyon Creek was in August, 1940, that a federal agency had produced two witnesses who verified Hewitt's charges, and that it was not Hewitt but I who had lied to the committee. . . . All this was said under the protection of "legislative immunity" against a libel suit.
I immediately issued a reply: "The statements made about me by the Canwell committee in its report to the legislature are in substance entirely false. . . . If the Canwell committee think the contrary, why are they not willing to have their witness, George Hewitt, stand trial in a fair and open court? I would welcome such a court test because I know that I am telling the truth and that George Hewitt is not."
What was the explanation of this amazing sequence of events? Why had so much pressure been put upon [the] prosecutors of King County?. . .Why had the New York commissioner of police and the mayor of New York been so unresponsive to appeals for Hewitt's arrest? Why had the police replied to Shorett that they could not find Hewitt when his whereabouts were being reported in half a dozen newspapers? Why had the Canwell Committee in its report to the State Legislature so grossly misrepresented the facts?
The explanation appears to be obvious. The Canwell Committee and its allies wanted to protect their witness, and the Department of Justice wanted to shield one of its professional informers. . . . It must have seemed very important to prevent [Hewitt's] arrest and clear his name so that he could testify in the [future anti-communist] trials. . . .
[In February 1949] the hope that Hewitt would be brought to trial began to revive. The chief investigator for the Canwell Committee, John Whipple, reported in the Seattle Post-lntelligencer that he had received a long-distance telephone call from Hewitt's wife announcing that her husband would return to Seattle voluntarily as soon as legal counsel could be arranged for him. . . . The next day, on February 10, Hewitt surrendered to the New York City police; but he was promptly released pending a hearing, and he announced that he would fight extradition. . . .
As the extradition hearing date of May 12 approached, I had a number of conferences with my attorneys as to what I should do. . . . I had no money of my own for a trip to New York [to testify against Hewitt], and it was questionable whether I could accomplish anything if I went. I might spend a good deal of money traveling back to New York only to find that there would be another protracted delay. Every indication pointed to the attempt to postpone and evade.
There was still the hope that the court would abide by the Constitution of the United States and the laws of the state of New York. The Constitution provides: "A person charged in any state with treason, felony, or other crime, who shall flee from justice, and be found in another state, shall on demand of the executive authority of the state from which he fled, be delivered up to be removed to the state having jurisdiction of the crime." In interpreting what is admissible in an extradition hearing, the United States Supreme Court ruled: "When the extradition papers required by the statute are in the proper form the only evidence sanctioned by this court as admissible on such a hearing is such as tends to prove that the accused was not in the demanding state at the time the crime is alleged to have been committed. . . . Defenses cannot be entertained on such a hearing, but must be referred for investigation to the trial of the case in the courts of the demanding state.". . .The New York Court of Appeals, highest court in the state, supported this ruling. It declared that the only question open in such proceedings is "whether 'the extradition papers required by statute are in the proper form.'. . .Nothing more is required.". . .Although I did not know the wording of these decisions, I was told that evidence bearing on the guilt or innocence of Hewitt would be legally inadmissible at the extradition hearing.
If the court were to abide by the law and honor the extradition warrant, Virginia and I would move heaven and earth to convict Hewitt. We were prepared to beg or borrow whatever money was necessary and to rally whatever forces we could muster to see that justice was done. . . . When the hearing. . .took place, I was three thousand miles from the scene, but I was later able to reconstruct what had happened from the official transcript. . . .
[At the extradition hearing, the District Attorney of New York County Samuel Foley argued that Hewitt should not be extradited. He asked for permission to call witnesses.] Acknowledging that this procedure was "technically irrelevant," the district attorney said "I am aware of the limitations that are imposed upon me in arguing before your Honor, and. . .I do not intend to infringe upon any phase of this proceeding where I should be precluded by either ethics or rule from commenting." [The judge allowed the district attorney's motion. Hewitt and two other professional anti-communist witnesses then testified that they had seen Rader at the "secret communist school" at Briehl's Farm.]
[Hewitt's attorney Mr. Rachlin then made his closing argument:] "I think it is important to tell the Court that George Hewitt is a married man, father of three children, and that there is a fourth one on its way. . . . What is being asked in this case is that George Hewitt leave the State of New York, his home, and be sent three thousand miles away, on the mere sworn affidavit of a man whose word, to put it politely, is questionable. . . . Mr. Hewitt will have to leave his family, if this Court sees fit to recognize the request from the State of Washington."
[Hewitt's lawyer Mr. Rachlin] went on to explain [that Hewitt] was once a national committeeman of the Communist Party, and one of the most important Communists in the United States—so much so in fact that he was sent to Moscow to attend the Lenin School for Espionage, so that he could come back and prepare the way for the "Revolution." This fact, Mr. Rachlin explained to the court, is "perhaps the most important thing in the entire case"—since a man with this experience can be very helpful in exposing Communism. "He has left the Party, and has now helped the Department of Justice, helped the Grand Jury, helped various legislatures in their investigations of subversive activities. The Communist Party as a result feels that they must get rid of him. This is no idle talk on my part. I would like the privilege of showing to this court two copies of the Daily Worker" [the largest communist newspaper in the U.S.].
"I don't want to look at it," interposed the judge.
"The items are on the front page," Mr. Rachlin explained.
"I don't want to see them, excuse me," said the judge. "I never saw the Daily Worker,and I hope I never will."
Concluding, Mr. Rachlin moved that. . .[Hewitt] be released from custody.
Judge Levy then rendered his decision:
". . .From what. . .I glean from these reports, I learn that in the State of Washington there is any number of trained and iron-disciplined Communists who have operated with seeming immunity. Many of them hold almost impregnable positions of confidence and trust in their communities. . . ."
"There has not been made that showing which in good conscience I consider essential to warrant my sending this man [Hewitt] to the State of Washington to eventual slaughter. If I were he, I would be very careful about my person. We have been told what happened to other men who were similarly situated.
". . .I am convinced that this man committed no crime whatever; that if perjury was committed, it was committed by Melvin Rader, and that he ought to be the subject of a grand jury investigation rather than [Hewitt]. The necessary requirements permitting extradition have not been established. And therefore
. . .the prisoner is discharged."
When Virginia and I read about the extradition hearing in the newspapers, the whole affair appeared to be as mad as the trial in Alice in Wonderland. Everything was reversed—right was wrong, truth was false. Instead of a genuine extradition hearing there was a bogus trial with the guilty side alone represented and the perjurer defended by perjurers. The "evidence" was legally inadmissible, no falsehood was challenged, and the decision was predetermined. Unlike Alice, I was not present to challenge injustice, but Judge Levy's looking-glass logic was as illogical as that of the Red Queen.
Even the Seattle Post-lntelligencer, inveterate defender of the Canwell Committee, criticized Judge Levy. . . .
When I read the news of the hearing, I stated to the Seattle Times: "My family and I deeply resent the fact that a citizen with a long record of integrity can be subjected to malicious slander with no opportunity to clear his name in court. If the Un-American Activities Committee hearings last summer had been conducted democratically, with the right of the accused to cross-examine witnesses, this kind of attack upon me never would have occurred."
No criticism could alter the finality of Judge Levy's verdict. "This washes the whole thing up," Prosecutor Carroll told the Post-Intelligencer. "It's all over now." He made no attempt to appeal the decision, and I was powerless to do so. No official spoke out in my defense; the administration at the university remained silent. . . . So we continued to live under the stigma of Hewitt's accusations.
Soon after the extradition hearing, Managing Editor Russell McGrath of the Seattle Times called reporter Edwin O. Guthman into his office. "The courts have broken down," said McGrath. "Now it's our job to find out the truth." Ed Guthman hustled out of the city office with a long-term assignment.
He made an appointment by telephone and came out to our home. Dark, tall, and heavy-set, he was a thirty-year-old graduate of the University of Washington and a Purple Heart veteran of the Italian campaign in World War II. . . .
We showed him the affidavits we had collected from persons who knew of our stay at Canyon Creek in the summer of 1938, and we told him about the records [that verified our story.] Taking nothing for granted, he checked every item. He drove up to Canyon Creek and interviewed [many people there.] He endeavored, without success, to track down the missing lodge register. Just as thoroughly he searched for all the evidence that might be used against me, checking the details of my political activities and interviewing Canwell more than once. But Canwell refused to give him permission to examine the committee's files and accused the Times of aiding the Communists.
His investigation was a matter not of days but of weeks. The spring lapsed into summer, and the Times remained silent. Virginia and I suspected that the editors, for reasons of politics or prudence, had decided against disclosing the facts. We consequently felt stymied. . . .
We wanted a public statement of exoneration from the university without delay. Since President Allen was in the East during the summer, I approached Dean Edwin Guthrie, the next in command. I asked that all my evidence be thoroughly reviewed, that Albert Canwell be asked to disclose his evidence, and that the university administration make public its conclusions. I confirmed this oral request in a letter dated August 19 [of 1949]. "Since the charges against me are very serious," I wrote, "and since the question whether I have committed perjury is in issue, I feel that I have a personal right to have the evidence produced and evaluated. The interests of the University of Washington itself are at stake, for if the charges against me are true and I have committed perjury, I should of course be dismissed." . . .
[Dean Guthrie took over a month to respond.] "I do not believe," wrote the dean, "that the University should, as you suggest, make demands on Mr. Canwell for materials in his possession. I think that under the circumstances that should be left to your own resources under the law. . . . In a legal sense the University is not an interested party." I then wrote again to Dean Guthrie pointing out that Canwell stated in his Report to the Legislature that he had already presented the evidence against me to the president and the Board of Regents. "Surely it is only fair," I said, "to ask that the contrary evidence be examined. . . ."
This second letter brought a prompt response. President Allen's secretary informed me by telephone that the president and Dean Guthrie would like to review my evidence. The interview turned out to be decisive. When I had finished presenting the evidence, I asked the president to state publicly that the charges against me were false. He replied that he would ask Canwell to go over the evidence in my presence and, if he could not refute it, the president himself would express confidence in my innocence.
[During the meeting between Canwell, Rader, and Allen on October 21, 1949,] Canwell remained silent. At the end of the long session, when he was questioned by Ed Guthman and other newsmen, he was evasive and said nothing in my favor. "If Rader got a bad deal, it was as much his fault as ours," he declared, "and I'm not convinced he got a bad deal." I was furious when I heard these words. I turned my back and stared out of the window in an effort to control my temper.
President Allen promptly issued his statement of exoneration. Affirming his conviction that I had been falsely accused, he said among other things: "The University of Washington administration is fully satisfied by the present evidence that Mr. Hewitt's allegations have been disproved." Backing up the president's action, Judge Lloyd Shorett was explicit: "From my investigation when I was prosecuting attorney I am convinced that Rader never was a Communist; never attended the Communist summer school in 1938 or 1939; and that he was in Washington State during the time Hewitt said Rader attended the Communist school. I am convinced that Hewitt's testimony in this regard was false, and that the manner in which the New York court refused Hewitt's extradition was a disgrace to the administration of justice and the dignity of our courts." Fifteen months after Hewitt's original testimony, I was thus exonerated. It had been a long and hard ordeal.
Ed Guthman told the story under banner headlines in the Seattle Times of October 21. . . . His report, distinguished not only for its accuracy but for its human warmth and insight, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the best national reporting of 1949. The story, once told, was echoed by newspapers and magazines throughout the country.
I was deeply stirred by these events, not only because I was personally vindicated but because justice prevailed. As I stated to Guthman: "Thanks to the fact that I live in a democracy and that many people have helped me, I have been able to clear my name." In this one instance at least, misrepresentation and blind prejudice had been defeated by fair play and a free press.
Despite Guthman's investigation, the mystery of the lodge register was still unresolved. The receipt for the register had been signed by investigator Aaron R. Coleman, and this receipt was in the hands of Thomas Grant, the present owner of the lodge. . . . This very crucial item of evidence. . .had thus been discovered by agents of the Un-American Activities Committee within three days after Hewitt concluded his testimony. Canwell and his staff, nevertheless, denied that they knew anything about the register. . . .
The Canwell Committee had thus apparently suppressed documentary evidence that I had told the truth and Hewitt had lied. To have concealed this evidence when Hewitt was under indictment for perjury was itself a crime. . . .
A week after President Allen issued his statement of exoneration, State Attorney General Smith Troy agreed to investigate the apparent suppression of evidence. . . . After four months of investigation Troy announced that Canwell Committee investigators had taken register pages bearing my name from Canyon Creek Lodge, that these pages had not been located, and that he intended to ask the president of the senate and the speaker of the house to open and search the committee's locked files. Canwell replied that opening the files would be a "calamity" which would aid the Communists, that the register was not in the files, and that he thought he knew where it was. The [state legislature] then gave Canwell ten days to produce the register and appointed a committee of three [legislators] to search the files if he should fail to do so. . . .
Three days later on April 23, 1950, Canwell delivered a stack of loose-leaf pages from the register to Prosecutor Carroll. The pages contained signatures and addresses, some followed by dates and some not. At the bottom of one page were Virginia's and my undated signatures. These were the signatures for our visit in June when we had gone to. . .make reservations for later in the summer. The last dated signature preceding our names on that page was June 12, 1938, and we must have signed the same day or shortly thereafter. The pages for the first week in August—the week when we registered a second time—were missing. These pages may have been removed and destroyed. Nothing would have been easier than to delete one or more of the loose-leaf pages.
Even without the later signature, the facts were damning enough. The committee investigators had picked up the register. If it had shown that I had not been at Canyon Creek Lodge when I said I was, then the committee most certainly would have brought it forward as Exhibit A. But if the register supported my account, then the committee had reason to conceal it, and of course they did exactly that. . . .
The events that I have narrated were bound to have political repercussions. "Communist Fighter Al Canwell," as he characterized himself in his campaign literature, had hoped to climb to high political office through his fame as committee chairman. In 1950 he sought the Republican nomination to oppose United States Senator Warren Magnuson but was defeated in the primary election. Running for congress. . .on the Republican ticket in 1952 and 1954, he lost both times to the Democratic candidate, Don Magnuson. Most of the members of his committee fared no better when they sought re-election.
. . .In its final report to the State Legislature in January, 1949, the committee had listed among its achievements the accumulation of "an index file of approximately 40,000 subjects dealing with Communists, their Front Organizations and activities and related materials." To safeguard these precious records, armed members of the Washington State Patrol carried three safes from the committee's Seattle headquarters to the Legislative Building in Olympia and placed them in a locked room. . . .The three safes, supposedly containing voluminous records, remained locked for six years.
Finally in February, 1955, the State Legislature voted to turn over the files to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. . . . Since the combination for only one of the safes was known, a safe expert was called to crack the others. To the consternation of everyone present, two of the safes yielded only a few dusty papers and books, and the remaining safe was empty!
The House of Representatives then voted unanimously to investigate the mystery of the missing records, and Canwell was subpoenaed to appear on February 21. When questioned on the stand in the packed hearing room, he admitted that he had destroyed a large portion of the records. He destroyed them, he said, to protect his sources of information and to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.
"Much of the reports went through the fireplace of my home," he testified. "Nobody said how long we should keep them. They were for our own use." . . .
"Did you set yourself up as the sole judge of what was to be done with the records'" [House Speaker John] O'Brien asked.
"Precisely, yes, sir," responded Canwell. "I was discharging a high responsibility, and there are people in this Legislature who should appreciate that I destroyed these records."
"That's where we differ," said O'Brien.
When Canwell testified that some of the records had been microfilmed, he was asked what had happened to the microfilm.
"I decline to answer," said Canwell.
When pressed for an answer, he said the microfilm "might be in the hands of an agency whose business is not public."
"Did you give it to the F.B.I.?" asked O'Brien.
"I decline to answer."
"Are you asking immunity under the Fifth Amendment?"
"No, only Communists do that." . . .
All that Canwell would say was that he did not have the microfilm, and he refused to give an explanation.
The question of the missing records has never been resolved. Canwell was not cited for contempt, nor was he prosecuted. . .for injury or destruction of the public records.
Unwittingly, the Canwell Committee had performed a great service to me as an individual, since it forced me to recast my basic political convictions. In the period of the Depression, I felt that the ideal of human equality must take precedence over every other ideal, so great was the disparity between rich and poor and so urgent was the problem of want. To this ideal of equality the more sincere Communists were devoted, and to this they were prepared to sacrifice the ideal of liberty. After my experiences with the Canwell Committee, I continued to believe intensely in human equality, but freedom seemed to me no less paramount. . . .
When I discovered that the American Civil Liberties Union was dedicated to the principles of fair play and free expression, I was immediately attracted. . . . My decision to join the union was motivated largely by my reaction to the Canwell Committee and the extradition hearing. Not only did I resent the injury to my family and myself inflicted by the committee —I objected on principle to its policies and tactics.
During my second term as president of the. . .Washington branch [of the ACLU], our attorneys carried to the United States Supreme Court the fight against a repressive loyalty oath imposed upon all public school teachers. . . . On June 1, 1964, the verdict was rendered. Mr. Justice White, speaking for the majority of seven to two, declared the Washington State loyalty oaths unconstitutional. Among the consequences of this historical precedent was the striking down of oaths in state after state. . . .
The [existence of large numbers of false witnesses like George Hewitt] can be understood only in the context of the Cold War. If men think in terms of a life-and-death conflict between the Communist and the Western worlds, each side is prone to cast the other into the stereotype of a monster. Then both sides act toward the other in ways that confirm their reciprocal image: they arm to the hilt, engage in mutual recriminations, and hunt down "subversives." The informer is prized, and the accused, not the accuser, must bear the burden of proof. In an ordinary courtroom there is considerable protection against injustice, but in a legislative hearing, or its Communist counterpart, the rules of evidence are suspended. Hence it becomes a haven for slander and perjury. . . .
During a period of severe tensions men tend to lose their grip on freedom and tolerance. In a crisis situation there is nothing harder to bear than ambiguity, and frightened men are likely to think in black and white terms. There is a kind of historical law at work here—the law that tolerance is characteristic of a period of security and intolerance of insecurity. The events set forth in my narrative illustrate the truth of this law. . . .
Justice William O. Douglas, in The Anatomy of Liberty, has phrased the main point that I wish to urge: "As the wife of an American Ambassador in Southeast Asia recently said to me, 'There is too much we-ness versus they-ness in the world. We are the "good"; they are the "bad.". . .We need to educate ourselves to the oneness of mankind.'" . . .
I ask myself, will the time ever come when men will say "We" instead of "We and They"? Will we regard men of other nations and races and creeds as friends rather than as enemies? Will the great powers, Communist and non-Communist, learn to live together in peace? . . .
The tragedy is that the fear of "Reds" has infected not only irrational [people] but the mass of Americans as well. Without the common belief that Communism is on the march for the conquest of the world,. . .we would not have tolerated the cloak-and-dagger methods of the Central Intelligence Agency, we would not have poured more bombs on little Viet Nam than we rained on all of Europe or Asia in World War II, we would not have permitted the growth of a military machine so huge that it has drained off the funds needed desperately to feed the hungry and fight urban decay.