In 1946, as the FAS scientists labored for peace, the world political situation darkened.
In the fall Stalin sealed off the Eastern European nations that Russia had "liberated"
during the War, creating what Winston Churchill called an "Iron Curtain" across the
continent. At the same time, Chinese Communist rebels grew in power, threatening to
take control of the world’s most populous nation. Fears of Communist world domination
began to ripple through the United States and the Republican Party quickly took advantage,
using strong anti-Communist rhetoric as a club with which to batter the dominant Democrats
and their President, Harry Truman. After the 1946 mid-year elections, in which the
Republicans gained scores of new congressional seats, the Democrats, too, began shifting
their policies toward a hard line with the Communist world. In this changing political
scene the liberal scientists’ talk of international cooperation, world government,
and free exchange of scientific discoveries with all nations, including those under
Communist control, began to sound treasonous to many Americans.
President Harry S. Truman, seeing his political party’s power eroding, decided to
take a tougher stance toward Communists both at home and abroad. One result was Executive
Order 9835, which established in March 1947 a loyalty and security program prohibiting
Federal employees from belonging to or having a "sympathetic association" with any
group deemed by the Attorney General to be Communist, Fascist, totalitarian, or in
any other way subversive to the interests of the United States. Truman’s "loyalty
program," as it became known, started a snowball effect. Individual states started
their own loyalty efforts, putting into effect investigations and oaths designed to
weed Communists out of the ranks of teachers, administrators, policemen, or any other
government employees. This web of national and state loyalty checks would mushroom
over the next five years, constituting a extra-judicial system in which government
panels could investigate, question, and publicly expose anyone they deemed to be a
threat to security. Sometimes the threat was nothing more than attending a meeting
of a left-leaning group. The US Attorney General started a list of suspect groups,
and as the list grew, the number of Americans with investigatory files in any number
of local or national offices, from the state legislature to the FBI, grew as well.
Soon the files numbered in the hundreds of thousands. It was the start of a domestic