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The Navy History article on which I based my take on the Port Security Unit

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The Navy History article on which I based my take on the Port Security Unit

Post by greg parker on Thu 27 Apr 2017, 11:10 pm

Homeland defense is not new. The Coast Guard was charged 50 years ago with "weeding out" communists.


The port security mission dates to the beginning of the 20th century, but the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950 presented a different challenge. President Harry S. Truman directed the U.S. Coast Guard not only to increase its patrols of the nation's harbors, but also to eliminate risks from suspected communist merchant seamen and waterfront workers. The number of those "weeded out" probably was greater than the toll of victims in any other loyalty or security program of the day. Yet this aspect of the Coast Guard Port Security Program attracted little attention at the time and receives little attention to this day. While one historian claimed this program "brought the service the greatest unpopularity it had known since prohibition," it was unpopular only among a few militant, left-leaning maritime unions on the West Coast.1


The International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU), one of the most radical labor organizations, had bolted the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Unlike most of the labor movement, including other left-wing unions, the ILWU committed its considerable economic muscle to larger political objectives.2


Together with the National Maritime Union (NMU [deckhands]) and the Marine Cooks and Stewards (MCS), the ILWU had been communist-dominated since the 1930s. Before the Korean War, the NMU, headed by Joseph Curran, turned anticommunist and remained in the CIO. When the CIO purged itself of allegedly communist-controlled unions in 1950, it expelled the other two, led by Hugh Bryson (MCS) and Harry Bridges (ILWU). This did not, however, weaken the leadership of either man. (my insertion: according to Anthony Summers, the Smith Act was brought in specifically to try and deport Bridges back to Australia)
 
In July 1950, maritime employers and the noncommunist maritime unions attended a conference in Washington to address "questions of national security," specifically, ways to prevent communists from remaining active in the U.S. Merchant Marine.3 The ILWU and Marine Cooks and Stewards claimed the objective of this conference was to crush them. (In fact, three anticommunist locals of the ILWU attended the conference and signed the agreement.4) All agreed to a plan whereby the Coast Guard would determine, on the basis of information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Office of Naval Intelligence, who in the Merchant Marine were security risks.5


By 4 August, a Seattle steamship company had fired 65 members of the Marine Cooks and Stewards Union for refusing to submit to the screening test.6 Early in September, Captain Theodore R. Weitzel arrived on the West Coast to head a 28-member team that would screen stevedores.7


Even before the voluntary program was adopted, Senator Warren G. Magnuson (D-WA) introduced a bill to amend the Espionage Act of 1917. Magnuson's speech mentioned the danger of foreign-flag vessels smuggling an atomic bomb or bacteria into the country and the need for giving the President authority to control such vessels in U.S. waters without declaring a complete emergency.8 President Truman signed it into Public Law 679 on 9 August.


On 20 October the President issued Executive Order 10173, which directed the Secretary of the Treasury to carry out the necessary safeguards and not only superseded the voluntary program for the seagoing trades but also included waterfront employees in the screening program. Access to vessels and waterfront facilities was limited to people who carried a Coast Guard Port Security Card. The order also provided for an appeal procedure.9


On 27 December 1950, after hearing from the Maritime Committee of the CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Harry Bridges, and Hugh Bryson, Commandant of the Coast Guard Vice Admiral Merlin O'Neill issued the proposed regulations, with a few modifications proposed by the ACLU.10 The Commandant announced that maritime workers must apply for security cards, and anyone believed to be subject to the influence of a foreign government would be denied one. Dismissal would almost automatically follow. Applications were to be checked in Washington for derogatory information, and those denied clearance were entitled to appear before a Review Board accompanied by counsel. They were not, however, entitled to learn more about the charges than the chairman of the Regional Board chose to disclose. The Commandant of the Coast Guard gradually expanded the scope by designating areas of the waterfront and categories of vessels subject to the program. The executive order required the Commandant to designate waterfront facilities to be restricted.


At the peak of World War II, the Coast Guard had 172,000 men to maintain port security. At the beginning of the Korean War, it had fewer than 30,000. The Coast Guard needed men who could undertake port security duties without extensive training, so the petty officer complements of ships and stations had to be reduced. To provide replacements, classes at petty officer schools were expanded to maximum size, and larger numbers of men went to Navy schools. The Coast Guard prepared men for waterfront security and patrol at the Army's military police school at Camp Gordon, Georgia. It also expanded its officer corps by appointing some temporary wartime officers who had returned to warrant officer or enlisted status after World War II and by commissioning recent graduates of universities and Merchant Marine academies.11
 
The program covered practically all shipping over 100 gross tons. The number of waterfronts declared also increased gradually. By 1953, 24 piers at the Port of New York had been restricted.12 The Coast Guard adopted separate but similar procedures for the seagoing trades and waterfront employees. Since seagoing personnel already were required to hold a federal license of certificate, the regulations provided a method for stamping these documents "validated for emergency service." The normal validation procedure required the seaman to apply at any Coast Guard Marine Inspection office. The office would forward the application to the Commandant in Washington, where it was checked against the files to see if it disclosed derogatory information about the applicant. The Coast Guard did not employ its own investigators in this program, nor did it attempt to verify information that may have been reported by other agencies. The Marine Inspection officer was then notified of the Coast Guard's decision and either prepared validated documents or a form letter of rejection. While awaiting clearance, the applicant could not sail in any restricted ship unless he could get a "trip letter" from the local Coast Guard Marine Inspection office.13


Because longshoremen and other waterfront workers were not required to hold licenses, the Coast Guard prescribed credentials considered acceptable for entry into restricted port areas. Among them were validated Merchant Marine documents and the Armed Forces Identification Card, as well as credentials issued to public safety officials. People not holding such credentials and who were employed at waterfront facilities or who had public or private business at such facilities had to apply for a Coast Guard Port Security Card.14


Coast Guard regulations provided that it could consider whether "reasonable grounds" existed for believing an individual had engaged in or would engage in acts of espionage or that the individual belonged to or recently held membership in or sympathetically associated with organizations designated by the Attorney General as being totalitarian, fascist, communist, or subversive.15


Joe Curran's NMU, the CIO, the West Coast Marine Firemen and Seafarer's International Union, and the AFL turned in the most names of their own radical members. Indeed, only a month after passage of the Magnuson Act, the NMU went so far as to complain that the crew of the liner America had not been screened thoroughly enough. Curran claimed to have a list of at least 200 "articulate communists" within the NMU who were exposed by their position on two resolutions. One called for expulsion of all communists from the NMU and the other promised support to the country in the event of war with Russia. All negative voters and abstainers made Curran's list.16
 
Within the Marine Cooks and Stewards, a dissident pro-government faction, known as "the Dirty Dozen" and regarded by colleagues as stool pigeons, fought Hugh Bryson's opposition to the Korean War and even won a court case over it. The Justice Department indicted Bryson for perjury in signing the Taft-Hartley noncommunist affidavit, and he served a three-year prison sentence. Solidarity on the left was not all it might have been, either. MCS militants commented bitterly that Harry Bridges' pro-communist but less vulnerable ILWU turned its back on them. ILWU longshoremen who were denied clearance normally found alternative work on nonmilitary piers not covered by the Port Security program.17


The biggest opposition to the Coast Guard program came from the ILWU, which called it blacklisting and argued that screening was unnecessary. The union asserted that in its history there had never been an act of sabotage. In April 1951, the organization condemned the screening program, declaring, "Screening is blacklisting. Blacklisting is union-busting."18


Attacks on the Port Security program took three forms. The Marine Cooks and Stewards Union filed a formal protest with the United Nations early in 1951, alleging the Coast Guard had established industrial blacklists with the intent of breaking up unions and preventing union members from engaging in political activities. Conventions or labor standards recommendations of the International Labor Office (ILO) of the United Nations condemned such practices. The ILO Committee, under the chairmanship of former French Premier Paul Ramadier, found none of the allegations valid and dismissed the matter.


In the first test of the program's constitutionality, Federal Judge Edward P. Murphy observed that while important constitutional rights were involved, "the public interest would suffer immeasurably by the issuance of an injunction" halting the loyalty check.19 The judge's ruling was appealed. Radical labor publications carried a barrage of articles opposing the program, and picketers distributed handbills during sporadic picketing of Coast Guard offices. The opposition mainly argued that the only purpose of the program was to "bust" unions, to "blacklist" active trade unionists, to prevent democratic operation of trade unions, and to keep workers from engaging in legitimate, democratic political activities.20


Neither the Coast Guard, which enforced the program, nor the seamen and waterfront workers who were affected by it, knew the sources of derogatory information. The FBI argued that "informers" had to be kept anonymous. Its officers objected to confronting the appellant with the informer on the grounds that it would prevent ordinary citizens from giving information, and result in trouble and embarrassment for those who were required to testify.21


The radical unions charged that such information most frequently was "supplied by disaffected ex-wives, neighbors, bill-collectors or personal enemies in and out of the union itself" and was "composed of rumor, distortion, misinterpretation of facts and motives and downright lies."22 Such a charge implies that government officials did not screen sources for reliability and accepted all charges without question. Ordinarily, where confidential information was used, the FBI and other agencies used labels such as "reliable informant" or "informant of unknown reliability" to evaluate the validity of the case against an individual.23


A controversy existed over the legal aspects of the appeal process as well. The appeal board informed the appellant that his appeal was not a trial; that no evidence would be introduced against him; no witnesses would be heard; and there would be no prosecutor. The identities of those who had furnished derogatory information about the appellant were concealed, even from the very Coast Guard official hearing the appeal.24


After the appellant testified, the appeal board forwarded a recommendation to the Commandant of the Coast Guard. The recommendation either would substantiate the original ruling of ineligibility or state that the appellant had succeeded in overcoming either the factual information or its implications in other words, proving himself innocent.


By August 1952 the Coast Guard had screened approximately a half-million individuals. Of these, about 3,700 were denied clearance and 1,200 were cleared on appeal. About 2,000 either were finally denied or did not appeal. The Coast Guard ultimately denied clearance to less than half of 1% and cleared a substantial percentage of those appealing.25 By the end of that year, about 1,821 seamen, or .54%, lost their jobs.26


The program suffered a major legal defeat in October 1955, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (California) considered the case of some seamen who had been refused clearance without adequate charges or the right to confront hostile witnesses. While the District Court in 1951 had adopted the government's view and preserved the program, the Court of Appeals did not. In its judgment (Parker v. Lester) the court ordered the Coast Guard to allow defendants access to evidence against them as well as the right to confront hostile witnesses.


In April 1956 the Coast Guard amended its regulations accordingly, and after further litigation, the court ordered all licenses restored, pending the implementation of the new procedures. On 27 August the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals voted two-to-one to uphold Federal Judge Murphy's injunction, ordering the Coast Guard to issue sailing papers "forthwith" to all the seamen. In November the Coast Guard finally complied, issuing credentials stamped "Order of U.S. District Court," in effect "clearing" them all while ensuring they remained branded.


Furthermore, the Coast Guard (and FBI) continued to reserve the right to conceal their informants where "national security" was involved. This accorded with the court's ruling that "[the] opportunity for confrontation and cross-examination of adverse witnesses cannot be afforded a petitioner in these situations without destroying the security program."27


Undoubtedly, errors were made from time to time in a program of such vast scope, involving the rapid handling of a half-million cases. A high-ranking Coast Guard officer at the time admitted that many "loyal Americans" had been barred my mistake, although he refused to say how many or how many had been reinstated.28


Some seamen who were denied clearance found work on foreign-flag vessels, although at lower pay. (About 730 privately owned vessels transferred to foreign registration between 1939 and 1951 to avoid stricter standards and to be able to pay lower wages.)29 In fact, World War II screening procedures were more arbitrary than those under the Magnuson Act.


Coast Guard Rear Admiral H. C. Shepheard, Chief of the Office of Marine Safety, defended the program in an August 1952 speech, saying that it "can only be regarded as one of the inevitable sacrifices which the individual must, from time to time, make in the interest of national security. It can hardly be compared with the sacrifice of those who are drafted to fight against the various communist soldiers in Korea."30


Those who lost jobs undoubtedly disagreed. Were these "sacrifices" in the interest of national security? If the state of the world makes sabotage and espionage real dangers and most Americans believed it did then the shipping industry was undoubtedly vulnerable.


Since fewer than 1 out of 200 jobs were lost, accusations of attempts to "bust" the waterfront and maritime unions appear to have been unfounded. In fact, the Coast Guard had no way of knowing about an individual's union membership until the appeal stage.


This program like the other "security" programs in the era of Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch hunts"was controversial at the time and remains controversial today. A number of contemporary historians believe it to be another example of oppression by "the national security state," as some saw the United States in the early 1950s. Some historians also note the likelihood that right-wing union leaders may have intended the program to "bust" what they considered to be renegade left-wing unions.


This was not just a witch hunt. The need for this program was compelling, and the federal courts agreed, at least initially. Federal Judge Murphy, in his ruling on the program's constitutionality in 1951, observed that "personal deprivations petitioners had suffered . . . bulks small beside the incalculable loss which might result if this court summarily suspended even part of the security program." In his ruling, Judge Murphy recalled that Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas had laid the entire problem bare in connection with another case involving civil rights. "The problems of security are real," 
Justice Douglas said. "So are the problems of freedom. The paramount issue of the age is to reconcile the two."31
note: all highlighting is mine

_________________
Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is
I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses
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Out to where the van is waiting
I'm looking for the Great Leap Forward

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-----------------------------
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             Lachie Hulme            
-----------------------------
The Cold War ran on bullshit.
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"The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk they are sober." Billy Yeats
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Re: The Navy History article on which I based my take on the Port Security Unit

Post by greg parker on Thu 27 Apr 2017, 11:16 pm

Note that this was yet another reaction to the Korean War.

Note also that despite the urgency and the need for huge numbers of trained men for the PSU, Pic was granted one or two weeks off to show his kid brother around the Big Apple.

The CG has a heart, I guess...

_________________
Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is
I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses
While looking down the corridor
Out to where the van is waiting
I'm looking for the Great Leap Forward

            Billy Bragg
-----------------------------
 Australians don't mind criminals: It's successful bullshit artists we despise. 
             Lachie Hulme            
-----------------------------
The Cold War ran on bullshit.
              Me

“God favors drunks, small children, and the cataclysmically stoned...” Steve King
"The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk they are sober." Billy Yeats
"You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on." Dino Martin


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Re: The Navy History article on which I based my take on the Port Security Unit

Post by beowulf on Fri 28 Apr 2017, 7:20 am

I'd note that until it was moved to new Dept of Transportation in 1967, the Coast Guard was part of Dept of the Treasury, along with our friends in the Secret Service (both agencies were moved to the new Dept of Homeland Security in 2003).

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Re: The Navy History article on which I based my take on the Port Security Unit

Post by greg parker on Fri 28 Apr 2017, 7:29 am

beowulf wrote:I'd note that until it was moved to new Dept of Transportation in 1967, the Coast Guard was part of Dept of the Treasury, along with our friends in the Secret Service (both agencies were moved to the new Dept of Homeland Security in 2003).
Yep. I think that could be very germane.

Same with Robert Morris being in NY at the time, connected to ONI and a "go to" expert in communist infiltration and communist influence on kids.

_________________
Mixing Pop and Politics he asks me what the use is
I offer him embarrassment and my usual excuses
While looking down the corridor
Out to where the van is waiting
I'm looking for the Great Leap Forward

            Billy Bragg
-----------------------------
 Australians don't mind criminals: It's successful bullshit artists we despise. 
             Lachie Hulme            
-----------------------------
The Cold War ran on bullshit.
              Me

“God favors drunks, small children, and the cataclysmically stoned...” Steve King
"The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk they are sober." Billy Yeats
"You're not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on." Dino Martin


The 2017 ROKC Conference tickets and info
https://www.thenewdisease.space/conference
avatar
greg parker
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Re: The Navy History article on which I based my take on the Port Security Unit

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