“Even today, there is much that we don’t know–documents that have vanished, ancient records still being censored, deceptions still in circulation. However, there is also a good deal of information available for those who care to view it: sizable tranches of McCarthy’s papers, and those of his opponents; reams of formerly confidential data from the FBI; thousands of pages of hearing transcripts and archives of his committee and other panels of the Congress; intercepted Soviet communications and revelations from Cold War defectors; and so on.
Looking at this mass of materials and matching them up with McCarthy’s cases, the main thing to be noted is a recurring pattern of verification. Time and again, we see the suspects named by McCarthy and/or his committee–treated at the time as hapless victims–revealed in official records as what McCarthy and company said they were–except, in the typical instance, a good deal more so.
The accompanying table provides a sampler of some of the suspects named by McCarthy, his aides, or in his committee hearings, and reflects what is now known about them, based on official records (some of it was known even then but ignored or misrepresented).
. . . .
Analyzing this list of 50, we find all of them either (a) identified in sworn testimony, or in FBI and other once-confidential official security records, as Communists or Soviet agents, and/or (b) plead the Fifth Amendment when asked about such activities, saying a truthful answer would tend to incriminate them.
As is self-evident from this lineup, it’s untrue that McCarthy never spotted a single Communist or Soviet agent, or–per one variation–came up with only a handful of valid cases. He in fact tracked down a small army of such people, and the roster given here is merely a sampling of the flagrant suspects who attracted his attention.
This is most obviously so of the Fifth Amendment pleaders. Our table of 50 includes 18 McCarthy cases who refused to answer questions concerning Red connections, but these were only a fraction of the total who claimed the privilege. All told, an astonishing 100-plus McCarthy suspects would plead the Fifth before his committee (the bulk of these in the Fort Monmouth/defense-supply probe that triggered the Army-McCarthy hearings).
Also, contra the standard image, McCarthy and his staffers in the usual instance did not allege that his suspects were Communists or Soviet agents–though in some famous cases (Owen Lattimore, Annie Lee Moss) this did happen–for the simple reason that the probers didn’t then know the total story. More typically, they wielded dossiers concerning adverse security findings, membership in pro-Red groups, and so on–thereby understating the scope and nature of the problem. ” (Read more)