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Robert Lovett to Eleanor Roosevelt

Robert Lovett to Eleanor Roosevelt

22 November 1947 [Washington, DC]

Personal and Confidential

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

The Secretary of State, just prior to his departure,13 gave me your personal note of November 13 and asked me to reply to it in his behalf.

With respect to the dismissal by the State Department in June of ten employees as "security risks", I believe you will find that the enclosed press release dated November 17 answers one part of your question.14 It represents a reversal of the State Department's earlier position. In view of the fact that the State Department procedure throughout was based on the assumption that an impartial appeal would be available to these employees, I felt this reversal should be ordered unless appeal was granted. At the first meeting of the newly appointed Loyalty Board, it was decided on technical grounds that this appeal was not available.15 Accordingly, the only decent thing to do was to let these former employees resign without prejudice since they had not had a fair opportunity to clear themselves because the classified character of the material received by the State Department from other agencies could not be made public except on appeal. And without knowing the charges, obvi-ously the men could not clear themselves. We had been assured that the appeal mechanism would provide such an opportunity.

Now that the Loyalty Board is formally set up, I hope that appeal procedures will be rapidly established, because there is nothing more destructive of morale than this type of uncertainty, even where actual injustice may not result.

My connection with the matter is of relatively recent date, as the action took place before I assumed office.16 It has, therefore, been necessary for me to question the various personnel and administrative officers in the Department in order to reply to the second part of your inquiry, which relates to a rumor that Mr. Taber imposed these dismissals in connection with appropriations. I can find no evidence of this. There were, of course, general accusations made by several Senators and Congressmen that the Department was a hotbed of fellow travellers. I do not think this is so, although I must say that, among the seven dismissed employees, if the intelligence agencies' reports are to be believed, certain incidents are most disturbing.

I do not believe that the Government has yet found a satisfactory solution to this problem. I am equally sure that the extra-sensitive agencies have similarly not found an adequate answer.17 None of us who feel strongly about certain of our basic rights are happy about the present procedures but I hope that, as the Loyalty Board gets to work, we will get rulings which should clarify the matter and protect the employees and administrators to a greater degree than has been possible in the past.

I have learned from the Secretary of your very real contribution to the American Delegation and of the superb handling of the Human Rights matters in particular. We are deeply indebted to you and I send you warm thanks for your help and your guidance.

With kindest regards, I am

                                   Very sincerely yours,

                                   Robert A. Lovett


After reading Lovett's letter and other material related to the department's change of policy allowing seven previously discharged employees to "resign without prejudice," ER wrote Marshall again, expressing her gratitude.18

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