Carl Bernstein, "The Case of Emily Geller"
excerpt from Carl Bernstein's LOYALTIES: A SON'S MEMOIR
(New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989)

On February 7, 1949, the Executive secretary of the loyalty board had written to J. Edgar Hoover about the case of Emily Geller.

By way of background [an FBI summary prepared for Hoover begins], the Emily Ann Geller case has been remanded by the Loyalty Review Board to the Fourth Civil Service Loyalty Board on two occasions. Mrs. Geller is being defended by Al Bernstein...Bernstein has consistently requested very detailed information in the letters of charges and the Fourth Civil Service Board has refused to furnish him any details.

The board, it developed, met secretly a few weeks later with a personal emissary from Hoover, and was furnished with a letter from the Director that casts considerable light on how the government's allegations came to be made in these loyalty cases.

Confidential informants [name deleted] and [name deleted] are both reliable and are in a position to have knowledge concerning the information which they have furnished [Hoover wrote the board]. These two confidential informants, upon reinterview, have both advised that they cannot definitely state from records or other documents that the appointee is a member and general secretary of the Communist Party underground but these informants have personal knowledge of an established pattern of association by appointee with persons whom these informants know to be members of the Communist Party. This association by appointee has indicated to these informants, who are familiar with Communist Party activities, that appointee is secretary of the Communist Party underground group.

In their meeting with the FBI, according to Hoover's emissary, members of the loyalty board asked what was meant by "established pattern."

I advised...the board that the two informants who had previously furnished us with information were familiar with Communist Party activities and the activities of the appointee, and that their observations of the appointee lead [sic] them to believe that she was the general secretary of the Communist Party underground.

I further stressed...that for me to give more detailed data as to exactly what activities formed this pattern the identity of the informants would be jeopardized. I also impressed the fact that all members of the Communist Party underground operate very sub rosa and that in compliance with specific instructions issued by the Communist Party they are extremely careful to conceal any activities promoting the communist cause.

Mr. Norris and Mr. Blair [of the loyalty board] thanked the writer for these observations.

RECOMMENDATION: None. This is for record purposes.

If for no other reason, history should be grateful (at this late hour) that Hoover's m.o. included a mania for record-keeping and the preservation of the Bureau's files.

Brief excerpt from Geller's "loyalty" hearing:





MR. MARTIN [a board member]: Let me ask you this further question. You don't think that if a person was a communist and that person were in the Government employ and had gotten there or been placed there by the Communist Party and that person was in a position to do the Communist Party some good, or would give them information or exercise some influence that would be helpful to the Communist Party, you don't think that this person would openly associate with other communists, do you? Couldn't Mrs. Geller influence others in that department if she were clever enough...without stirring up any publicity or creating any undue attention to herself...?

WITNESS: If you are asking me if I see a ghost standing in the doorway: It may be there; I can't see it.

MR. MARTIN: Well, a person who wanted to operate cleverly wouldn't use pressure! Wouldn't they use intrigue and suave methods rather than pressure? The point I am trying to make is this: A person who is actually a Communist may outwardly exhibit every symptom or every characteristic to others of being a loyal American, yet he might be the most zealous Communist but may be able to conceal his feelings to the extent that no one other than Communists with whom he associates may know that fact.


Document URL:
Last modified: Thursday, 31-May-2007 09:42:27 EDT