This WILL Radio discussion from 1950 centers on the perceived threat of a Communist conspiracy to undermine and ultimately overthrow the U.S. government. In 1940 Congress had passed the Smith Act in response to fears about “fifth column” agents from foreign powers at the outbreak of WWII. In 1950 prosecutors used the Smith Act to charge 11 leaders of the Communist Party USA with advocating the violent overthrow of the government.
Panelists consider how this conviction, and the pending appeals, might square with the rights of free speech and assembly guaranteed by the U.S. Bill of Rights. They also consider how the McCarren Act could impact the fate of the communist leaders and the general “crisis” posed by communism. They also briefly considered how the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII compared with restrictions on the civil liberties of communists in the 1950s.