In his Dec. 30 op-ed column, Edwin M. Yoder scolded the ACLU for urging government employees to become "whistle-blowers." I leave it to the ACLU to answer his accusations that it has forgotten the actions of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.
But I was also a target of Yoder's displeasure relative to McCarthy and must respond. Yoder maligned me by suggesting that my testimony before a congressional committee in the '60s was incited by McCarthy's appeals to expose Communist subversion within the executive branch. To that falsehood he added another -- that I was the senator's most notorious whistle-blower.
I had no connection with McCarthy. I was not his whistle-blower, informant, informer, provider of information, admirer, lackey or whatever other term biased journalism has chosen to apply to me. My activity in relation to McCarthy's charges impugning the loyalty of certain State Department officers was strictly within the privileged boundaries of the department.
As chief security evaluator in the Office of Security -- not in the "passport office," as Yoder wrote -- I determined that those accused by McCarthy were neither disloyal to the United States nor Communists. These findings covered career Foreign Service officers, from whom I obtained satisfactory explanations concerning derogatory information developed by authorized investigations. My findings were submitted to my superiors and were available to top management. I also testified before Congress that I knew of no Communists in the State Department during the period encompassed by McCarthy's charges.
Yoder complained about my lengthy resistance to department attempts to fire me for what he called gross insubordination relating to my congressional appearance. I was not a clandestine witness at any time before a congressional committee. I was summoned via Secretary of State Dean Rusk's congressional liaison office along with other of his subordinates and was directed by management to comply with the summons.
After I read the testimony of my superiors who preceded me as a witness, I noted the nature and extent of their intentional falsehoods, including their use of the committee as a forum to disparage my character. In these circumstances, I considered it my right and duty to provide to the same government body documentary proof of these falsehoods.
To save face, the State Department was compelled to dismiss the liars. It then charged me with not obtaining executive approval for furnishing documents to Congress, notwithstanding that such documents, unrelated to national security, established my own veracity and proved the false testimony under oath by government personnel. Demands were made for my resignation. Rather than capitulate, I chose to exercise my legal remedies, which required that I exhaust all administrative appeals before proceeding to the federal courts to obtain an authoritative ruling as to whether availing myself of congressional procedures was insubordination.
Delays in the administrative machinery of the State Department were not my fault. After I languished six years on make-work assignments, a new administration took office. My legal advisers persuaded me to accept a presidential nomination.
The appointment process required an investigation of my character and trustworthiness by the FBI. I appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which covered evidence for and against me, and was further scrutinized on the Senate floor. I was approved by the committee by a vote of 13 to 3 and on the Senate floor by a vote of 61 to 28. No evidence was produced that I had meaningful association with right-wing extremist groups.
Yoder's attack on me not only did a disservice to responsible journalism, it was the equivalent of what he so nobly professed to detest -- McCarthyism. -- Otto F. Otepka
Edwin M. Yoder criticized the American Civil Liberties Union for its Persian Gulf whistle-blower campaign. He suggested that the ACLU is ignoring the lessons of McCarthyism.
Yoder must not have seen the advertisement to which he objected. He said it urged lower-level officials to substitute their own theories of national security for that of the president and to come to Congress with their own notions of national safety.
That is not at all what the ad said. The ACLU's effort is focused on situations where, to quote its ad in the Federal Times, "persons have knowledge that Congress has been misled by government officials about administration actions or plans in the Persian Gulf." In such situations, the ACLU believes those persons have a legal right and a political responsibility to inform the members of Congress who have been misled. The ACLU simply advised government officials of their rights and offered to facilitate access to appropriate members of Congress.
The ACLU did not issue a blanket invitation to government employees; it focused on a problem that history teaches us has undermined Congress's ability to perform its constitutionally mandated role of deciding when and if the nation should go war. -- Morton H. Halperin
The writer is director of the ACLU's Washington office.