In February 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy wrote to President Harry Truman, urging him to take action against suspected communists in the State Department:
In the Lincoln Day speech at Wheeling Thursday night, I stated that the State Department harbors a nest of Communists and Communist sympathizers who are helping to shape our foreign policy. I further stated that I have in my possession the names of 57 Communists who are in the State Department at present. A State Department spokesman promptly denied this, claiming that there is not a single Communist in the Department.
You can convince yourself of the falsity of the State Department claim very easily. You will recall that you personally appointed a board to screen State Department employees for the purpose of weeding out fellow travellers – men whom the board considered dangerous to the security of this Nation. Your board did a painstaking job, and named hundreds which had been listed as dangerous to the security of the Nation, because of communistic connections.
While the records are not available to me, I know absolutely of one group of approximately 300 certified to the Secretary for discharge because of communism. He actually only discharged approximately 80. I understand that this was done after lengthy consultation with the now-convicted traitor, Alger Hiss. I would suggest, therefore, Mr. President, that you simply pick up your phone and ask Mr. Acheson how many of those whom your board had labeled as dangerous Communists he failed to discharge.
The day the House Un-American Activities Committee exposed Alger Hiss as an important link in an international Communist spy ring, you signed an order forbidding the State Department’s giving any information in regard to the disloyalty or the communistic connections of anyone in that Department to the Congress. Despite this State Department black-out, we have been able to compile a list of 57 Communists in the State Department…
I believe the following is the minimum which can be expected of you in this case.
1. That you demand that Acheson give you and the proper congressional committee the names and a complete report on all of those who were placed in the Department by Alger Hiss, and all of those still working in the State Department who were listed by your board as bad security risks because of their communistic connections.
2. That you promptly revoke the order in which you provided under no circumstances could a congressional committee obtain any information or help in exposing Communists.
Failure on your part will label the Democratic Party of being the bedfellow of international communism. Certainly this label is not deserved by the hundreds of thousands of loyal American Democrats throughout the Nation, and by the sizeable number of able loyal Democrats in both the Senate and the House.
Joseph McCarthy (Senator)
February 11th 1950