Wes Vernon
November 15, 2007
McCarthy Part 4--Annie Lee Moss, VOA, and history insulted
By Wes Vernon

(See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11)

Under the Senate's "50-year rule," today's Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released in 2003 the closed-door hearings conducted by its onetime chairman Joseph Raymond McCarthy back in 1953-1954.

Not just any 50-year-old hearing

50-year-old closed Senate hearings are made public all the time. It is not every day, however, that a present-day committee successor takes some pains to see to it that the senator who presided over the hearings a half century ago is placed in an unfavorable light.

But RINO Republican Susan Collins the chairman of SPSI in 2003 knew she could count on the Senate's associate historian Donald Ritchie to put today's "politically correct" spin on it. That spin, of course, is that McCarthy was a bully and everyone he named was the victim of a "witch hunt."

Annie Lee Moss

In 1954, when McCarthy was investigating lax security procedures in the Army and the remnants of the Rosenberg spy ring in the Signal Corps, he stumbled over an FBI memo that one Annie Lee Moss a worker in an Army cafeteria had been shifted to the position of code clerk for the Army Signal Corps and had been given security clearance for such work.

The senator was intrigued. Why would an Army cafeteria worker with no known background in this highly sensitive work be offered that job seemingly out of the blue? McCarthy's focus was anything but idle curiosity. Moss had been identified by FBI undercover operative Mary Stalcup Markward as a member of the Washington, D.C., Communist Party.

During the years of investigative work for his just-released book Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and his fight against America's enemies, M. Stanton Evans found another FBI report on Annie Lee Moss. This one showed that the Bureau briefed the Democrats on McCarthy's committee that Annie Lee Moss was in fact a Communist.

The Democrats on the panel had been quite supportive of their Republican colleague, Senator McCarthy, in the early months of his chairmanship. But now (for their own partisan purposes and under prodding from their Senate Democrat leadership), they were forming an odd bedfellow alliance with the Republican Eisenhower administration, which had made a decision to destroy and discredit McCarthy. The old general in the White House feared the senator's hearings would give the Army a bad name. Moreover, Ike had little use for Senate conservatives who had grown somewhat disenchanted with his administration's left turn since their leader Senator Robert Taft of Ohio died the previous year. Taft had tried to bridge the gap between the GOP factions at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The confrontation

So Senator McCarthy called both Markward and Moss before his committee to try to sort this out.

Markward testified that she knew of Moss's Communist Party membership because of her dues records to which Markward had had access and she added Annie Lee Moss was on the list of subscribers to the Communist Party's Daily Worker. Markward added that for a time, Mrs. Moss had been dropped from the formal party rolls when she went to work for the General Accounting office (GAO) the investigating arm of Congress. This was in line with party policy to treat members holding official jobs on a separate, more confidential basis.

When Moss testified, she seemed distracted and frail "not fitting the usual picture of a party apparatchik," says Evans. The Democrat senators at the hearing were totally condescending to Moss, who suggested her new notoriety was the result of mistaken identity that other Annie Lee Mosses were in the D.C. phone book.

Again, bear in mind that before the hearing, these same three Democrat senators John McClellan (Ark.), Stuart Symington (Mo.), and Henry "Scoop" Jackson (Wash.) had been fully briefed by the FBI, which had thorough documentation that the Annie Lee Moss subpoenaed to testify was the person in question and that she was a Communist. Nonetheless committee Dems treated her case as mistaken identity, strongly hinting that McCarthy was bullying a poor black woman. At the end of the hearing, Symington offered to find her a job a knee-jerk histrionic for which the Missourian would later privately and sheepishly express regret.

Not mistaken identity

Not only the FBI, but the Subversive Activities control Board (SACB), would nail for posterity the fact that the Annie Lee Moss investigated by McCarthy was the Communist Annie Lee Moss. George Clooney's 2005 film Good Night and Good Luck rehashed the false picture of Moss-as- victim/McCarthy-as-bully. Even Clooney admitted when questioned about it that Moss was a Communist, but that she had "a right to face her accusers." 1 That was precisely why she was called to testify and answer Markward. 2 As Evans opines in his book, if Clooney knew Annie Lee Moss was a Communist, he did a good job of hiding it in his film.

Bad enough a film-maker distorts history when an historian does it...

Now here is a classic case of where a historian does not let facts get in the way of his version of "history."

The ruling by the SACB was handed down in 1958 a year after McCarthy was dead and buried. Evans is highly critical of "historians" who have written about the case without mentioning the Board's findings. In some cases, Blacklisted by History chalks this up to a lazy willingness to live up to the (false) legend without doing original research. "But in other still more troubling cases, it is evident the McCarthy critics do know about the SACB [findings]," but have chosen to ignore them.

In the name of the U.S. Senate?

M. Stanton Evans' new book flatly charges that the Senate's associate historian Donald Ritchie in his notes accompanying his editing of the 50-year old transcripts made errors in the Moss case which are all the more "unforgivable" because they bore the "imprimatur" of the United States Senate and were thus "thought by researchers to be established fact of record."

Ritchie does acknowledge the SACB findings all right, but does so in such a way as to blur their meaning. In volume 5 of the 2003 release, Ritchie writes, "But the board conducted no further investigation of Moss and the following year, it concluded that 'Markward's testimony should be assayed with caution.'"

It's hard to understand how someone charged with getting the full story right could so badly mangle history in one sentence. But Evans, who took the trouble to examine the SACB records, says that is exactly what Ritchie did. "Demonstrable obfuscations," the author alleges.

1 The Board did not launch its hearing focused on Moss other than to gauge the credibility of Markward. There was never a question as to any need to "follow up." The Board had backed Markward in the case.

2 Viewing Markward's evidence "with caution" had nothing to do with Moss. Rather, the author says, it "concerned the issue of payment from the FBI and the way Moss interpreted it."

When the hearings were released in 2003, Evans phoned Ritchie to point out some of his distortions in the Moss case. Ritchie soon gave his unwelcome caller short shrift, ending the conversation.

Not the only time

I had my own run-in with Ritchie. One of McCarthy's first investigations concerned the Voice of America (VOA) and why one of its transmitters had been placed in such a way as to minimize its effectiveness in reaching the enslaved people behind the Iron Curtain.

An employee with the VOA Raymond Kaplan died when hit by a truck the day before he was set to testify in the probe.

Later, William Marx Mandel took the Fifth Amendment before McCarthy's committee as to whether he was a Communist and whether he had committed espionage or other illegal activity against the U.S.

Ritchie, in his notes, goes out of his way to highlight Mandel's accusation that "you, Senator McCarthy, murdered Raymond Kaplan [a VOA engineer] by forcing him, by pursuing him to the point where he jumped under a truck."

As would be expected of one who uses the Fifth Amendment to decline to answer a question about Communist activity, that hyperbole was well short of the truth.

Ritchie e-mailed me in 2003 when I reported in NewsMax his failure to give equal billing to testimony that Kaplan was expected to be a friendly witness before McCarthy's panel, eager to tell the senator of his frustration that some with whom he worked had blundered in placement of the transmitter.

The Senate's associate historian informed me that only one person so testified. Well, that's half the story. Here's the other half: That one person a Kaplan co-worker testified that she and many others did not believe Kaplan committed suicide.

Dorothy Fried swore under oath and under penalty of perjury that Kaplan had told her he wanted to testify and had said, "It's a sorry mess," and kept saying, "I don't know when they will call me. I don't understand why they don't call me."

When Kaplan finally was summoned to testify, Fried quoted him as being anxious the day before his scheduled appearance to tell all before the panel.

Only "one" person saw Kaplan in that light? Fried swore under oath that "many people did not believe he committed suicide," even though he had written a note not necessarily a "suicide" note expressing concern that he might be made a "patsy" (by unspecified parties) for errors in the transmitter program, and that he would suffer "harassment" (from unspecified persons). Further, Fried added, "he [Kaplan] called up [the office] close to five o'clock that evening [of his death] asking us to extend his travel authorization another day."

That does not sound like a man about to commit suicide. Coroners have been wrong before, and this would not be the first time a rush to judgment wrongly ruled as suicide a death that should have been ruled an accident or a homicide. Fried said she and other co-workers could not believe that Kaplan actually wrote the note found in his pocket.

Up until that time, Kaplan had had zero contact with Senator McCarthy. But none of the above has dissuaded McCarthy's accusers from blaming him for the engineer's death. (To be continued)

© Wes Vernon

Comments feature added August 14, 2011

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