1953 November 4

President Eisenhower Privately Admits Loyalty Program Problems; Does Not Act on Them


President Dwight D. Eisenhower privately admitted on this day that there were serious problems with the Federal Loyalty Program, which President Harry Truman had created on March 21, 1947. In particular, he pointed out that under the “guilt-by-association” principle the program used, people who had been associated with left-wing groups during World War II fell under suspicion, even though the Soviet Union was a major ally during the war against Nazi Germany. The Loyalty Program tainted people even if they had dropped their associations years ago. Eisenhower never acted on his doubts, however.

In fact, President Eisenhower broadened the Loyalty Program on April 27, 1953, with Executive Order 10450, which added the provision that security risks included persons suspected of “any criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, habitual use of intoxicants to excess, drug addiction, or sexual perversion. Among others, this new provision covered people who were homosexuals. Eisenhower’s Cold War policies were directed by Attorney General Herbert Brownell, who was very good on civil rights issues, but also a hardline anti-Communist.

The inclusion of “infamous,” “immoral,” notoriously disgraceful conduct,” and “sexual perversion” as categories in the loyalty program were part of the homophobic scare of the early 1950s. For some of the events of the “lavender scare,” see March 29, 1950, May 19, 1950 and November 27, 1950.

Learn more about Eisenhower and Brownell on civil liberties: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2013)

Learn more about the Loyalty Program: Robert Justin Goldstein, American Blacklist: The Attorney General’s List of Subversive Organizations (2008)

Read: David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (2004)

Learn about the blacklist authorized by the loyalty program here.

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