1971 March 16

IRS Targets Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Library


The head of the Special Services Section (SSS) of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on this day sent a memo to IRS field offices recommending that they investigate the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Library for possible violations of its tax-exempt status. The library had sponsored a Thomas Paine Summer Law School for left-oriented activist lawyers in 1970 and was planning another in 1971. The FBI had reported to IRS that three of the instructors at the summer school had formerly been associated with the National Lawyer s Guild and/or the Communist Party. No evidence of any criminal activity on the part of those individuals was mentioned; nor was there any suggestion that the summer school would in any way be devoted to planning criminal actions.

The IRS action against the library was prompted by both the FBI’s vendetta against the Lawyers Guild and the Communist Party and by the Nixon administration’s use of the IRS and other government agencies against radicals and opponents of the War in Vietnam. On the Cold War attacks on the National Lawyers Guild, see September 17, 1950, and August 27, 1953.

The library was named in honor of Alexander Meiklejohn (1872–1964) an educator who wrote an influential book on the meaning of the First Amendment, Free Speech and its Relation to Self-Government (July 18, 1948).

Learn about the history of the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Library here.

Read: John Andrew, Power to Destroy: The Political Uses of the IRS from Kennedy to Nixon (2002)

Read the Senate Church Committee report on misuse of the IRS (pp. 835–920): http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/contents/church/contents_church_reports_book3.htm

Learn more about Alexander Meiklejohn: http://uscivilliberties.org/biography/4134-meiklejohn-alexander-18721964.html

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