Subversive Activities Control Board – 1954 – Past Daily Reference Room

Harry P. Cain - digging out Commies until it started trampling all over civil liberties.

Harry P. Cain – digging out Commies until it started trampling all over civil liberties.

NBC – Listen To Washington – The Subversive Activities Control Board – Sept. 21, 1954 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

At the height of the Red Scare in the 1950s, a little-known/barely publicized organization started up in Washington. The Subversive Activities Control Board was headed up by former Washington State Senator Harry P. Cain. A friend of Senator Joe McCarthy and staunch conservative, it was Cain’s duty to dig out Communists, Communist sympathizers and Communist front organizations in the U.S.

Because the organization flew under the radar, their activities weren’t often known about, except for those mentioned by Attorney General Herbert Brownell in the course of prosecuting cases. It was Cain who oversaw the goings on of the Board and was, for a time, one of it’s most vigorous supporters. An appointee of President Eisenhower’s, Cain was eager to take part. And since he had just lost his bid for re-election to the Senate from Washington State, it was a plumb job and kept him right in the middle of things.

This interview is from the weekly radio program Listen To Washington from 1954. At the time Cain was doing his job with relish. However, a few months after this interview, things started getting shaky.

It came to Cain’s attention that, the cases from the government’s Internal Security program, despite being legal, were often in violation of the civil liberties of the accused, and sometimes were denied due process under the law. As he became more aware of these flagrant violations, he began to speak out. In doing so, he came under fire from White House Chief of State Sherman Adams and members of the Justice Department who labeled Cain disloyal.

And so a year after this broadcast, Cain resigned his post as Director of the Subversive Activities Control Board and quietly remained under the surface of politics until his death in 1979.

But on this program he’s gung-ho. Looking for Commies and going for the jugular. Amazing what time will do.

Here is that interview from Listen To Washington, as broadcast on September 21, 1954.

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