Before the Grand Jury
November 1948, a judge in the libel suit filed by Alger Hiss
ordered Whittaker Chambers to turn over any physical proof
he had that Hiss had been a Communist. On November 17, Chambers
gave Hiss's lawyer an envelope containing copies of State
Department documents he said were typed by Mrs. Hiss for transmission
to the Soviet Union. He did not turn over several rolls of
film that he said were also in the envelope. Instead, on December
2, he gave them to investigators of the House Un-American
of turning the film over to the FBI, the Committee said that
it had asked a technician from the Veterans Administration
to develop the film, much to the consternation of the U.S.
Attorney's office in New York, whose grand jury was looking
into espionage charges. According to Richard M. Nixon, a Congressman
from California, portions of the film were exposed to light
and their contents lost forever. Suspicions about the handling
of the film by Nixon and his colleagues have persisted ever
since. Brought before the committee, Nixon refused to turn
the film over to the grand jury, prompting the discussion
are annotated excerpts from Nixon's grand jury testimony.
Nixon's dramatic appearance before the Grand Jury has been
called by Bruce Craig, one of the first American historians
to read through the released testimony, "probably his
most important political speech before the Checkers speech"
(the 1952 speech that led to Nixon's being retained as the
Republican nominee for vice president).
the examination of Nixon were Assistant U.S. Attornies Raymond
Whearty and Alexander Campbell.
M. NIXON called as a witness, having first been duly sworn
by the Asst. Foreman, testified as follows:
You have the film? We see that you have them there. There
is nothing there that means anything to us.
I will explain one other item which will explain the testimony
which probably Mr. Chambers gave before the grand jury.
two rolls of film had already been developed and they were
not in paper of this sort, but they were wrapped in a - both
were pushed together; both just wrapped around the other -
and in one piece of paper. They were developed film and no
harm can come to them. That's why they were outside the containers.
Off of these two rolls of film came the documents which were
clear enough for you ladies and gentlemen to read.
far as these two rolls, I have in my hand, which were not
injured by reason of having been opened, due to the fact that
they had not been developed for ten years had remained in
there, the pictures which we were able to get out were extremely
blurred. Those were the ones that were introduced, which Mr.
Wheeler brought before you, which were not clear, having mainly,
incidentally, the Navy Bureau of Aeronautics report which
were worth nothing whatever. We found in our own investigation,
the Bureau of Aeronautics, which the Navy by looking at them
could tell what the pictures were. The Navy indicated that
they were not - at least at that time - strictly confidential
or even confidential under the Navy code, and they had wide
far as these two rolls are concerned, on these rolls appear
only to date that we have been able to find this Navy material.
These were the two rolls that had the State
Department material, the aide memoire, which some of you probably
have seen, and the messages involving China, which Mr.
Bullitt wrote in four series, which, incidentally,
is one of the messages that Mr. Sumner Welles and Mr. Purifoy
in testimony before the committee indicated could not be released
even at this time, ten years after the message was written,
due to possibly injury to the National Security.
documents were publicly introduced into evidence the following
summer during the perjury trials.
Have you established the age of those films?
me show you what we have done in that respect, and I will
show you exactly how the age of the film - let me say on this
point I would be most happy to have representatives of the
Attorney General's office, if they're not satisfied with the
experts we call, I might say that the best source that I think
is available are the people who made the film, or anybody
else to come down to the office and examine it and reach another
conclusion. I want to say this in appearing before the grand
jury, this will be difficult for you to understand, when you
say a member of the Un-American Activities Committee, we realize
that we are subject to a great deal of criticism. Some suggestion
has been made in some quarter that the committee is trying
to frame the individuals involved here and wouldn't want the
truth if we could find it. I have been very close to this
Chambers case from the beginning, and my only interest in
it has been in attempting to get to the truth of the matter.
I do not intend, Mr. Campbell, to make a speech to the jury,
but I want to say why I insisted myself, when I first returned,
upon an examination of these films. I realized that you ladies
and gentlemen are faced with probably the conundrum of the
age for a grand jury, with conflicting testimony, with individuals
who have concealed testimony and then have come forth with
testimony later, and with the same conundrum with which our
committee was faced, one individual saying that he knows a
group of other individuals, and the other individuals not
only denying the charges that individual made, but saying,
"We have never seen that individual before."
was the problem, I might say, with which our committee was
concerned, and faced with, immediately after the testimony
of Whittaker Chambers on August 3rd. Mr. Hiss came down on
August 5th and said, "I have never seen this man before
in my life. I do not know why he would say I was a Communist
if I have never been a Communist."
might say that it was at that time that every member of the
Un-American Activities Committee who heard Mr. Hiss that day
with the exception of myself, felt that there was no question
whatever but that what Mr. Hiss was telling the truth. But
I felt it was essential to proceed and find out whether or
not these two individuals knew each other, on the issue of
whether one was a Communist or another was a Communist that
couldn't be determined, but whether one man knew another,
that can be determined, because if one man knew another, that
can be determined, and that's the way we solved the problem
because Mr. Hiss after a good deal of persuasion and faced
with certain facts changed his story, and changed it considerably,
as most of you are aware.
was asked if he knew "Whittaker Chambers," and even
Chambers conceded Hiss did not know him by that name. At that
time, Hiss had realized that Chambers was actually George
Crosley, a man he had known 12 years before.
bringing that out, I was interested only in getting at the
truth. If I had found as a result of that Mr. Chambers had
lied when he said he knew Mr. Hiss, I would be here before
this grand jury, I would have gone to the Department of Justice,
and I would have insisted that Mr. Chambers be prosecuted
for telling a lie, and I think he should pay for whatever
he has done, which is wrong.
Nixon explains why he took the film to the Veterans Administration,
instead of turning it over to the FBI.
Yes, I want to make that absolutely clear. I want to say that
we didn't develop these films in our office. I want to make
it clear they were developed in the Veterans Administration.
Another story that has been circulated, and it is a completely
malicious slander that we destroyed two rolls of the film,
because, we were trying to do it in apparently the laboratory
which we have in our office, and this gentleman well knows
we have, no laboratory in the House Office Building for this
kind of work. This was done by experts by the Veterans Administration.
Incidentally, I might say, Mr. Donegan, for your information,
it was a man who was formerly with the FBI, one of their best
men, who went over to V. A. And V. A. of course, has thousands
- in fact, thousands of cases of identification. We felt that
was a good place to get this information.
It seems to me that there is some particular reason why you
submitted it to the Veterans Bureau rather than the FBI. Now,
what reason is that?
Well, the Committee, as I have indicated - strike that. And
I will say this as briefly as I can. The Department of Justice
is, of course, over the FBI; that is, the FBI is a part of
the Department at Justice. And the Department of Justice,
for reasons that may be very diligent, I might say, has not
been particularly taken with the work of the Committee on
Un-American Activities. Consequently, the Committee on Un-American
Activities has not been able, frankly, to avail itself of
FBI investigators and FBI laboratories to carry on our investigations,
due apparently to the fact that the Department of Justice
has so instructed the FBI. We took it, in other words, to
the Veterans Administration because we had to have the work
done and we knew that they would do it for us. We didn't want
to get into that argument with the Department of Justice again
as to whether we had any jurisdiction to have this work done.
As I say, I for one think it's, frankly, a very unfortunate
thing that the Department of Justice feels as it does concerning
the Committee and therefore has seen fit to inform the FBI
that that should be its attitude toward the Committee. But
I can assure you that if the Committee had felt that we could
get this work done through the Department, we would certainly
have done so.
MR. CAMPBELL: May I say this: that in all of my 13 years of
experience as a United States Attorney the investigative agencies
of the United States Attorney and the FBI did not permit any
person to keep evidence which is vital and essential to the
case. We don't permit the sheriffs to keep them, we don't
permit anybody to keep them, because it's a highly important
piece of evidence.
As an attorney - I think all three of you are attorneys
- you will know that what I am discussing has been a matter
which for 150 years has been the rule of the House and of
the Congress. All that I can tell you is that this is the
situation. I mean, of course, if I were a sheriff I would
turn it over to you, certainly; a sheriff can't keep it. But
I mean there is a slight difference. I mean not much. I mean,
I don't mean to say anything derogatory about a sheriff or
about a Congressman
THE JURY: And in addition to Hiss, you have gone a step further
to see anybody up the line?
Oh, yes. I might suggest these two lines of inquiry that Mr.
Stripling may not have covered when he was before you. I don't
know what witnesses the Grand Jury has heard. But of course
this is a process of deduction, to a certain extent. And as
you will note, the documents which appeared on the microfilm,
a great number of them came from the office of Mr. Sayre.
You can tell that by the stamp that appears on the document.
We have taken testimony from those who were familiar with
the State Department procedures, which have indicated that
where a confidential document - of course, and you obviously
have taken testimony, I assume, in this regard too - a confidential
document is distributed in the State Department, there is
a distribution list which is relatively small. Where Mr. Sayre's
stamp appears on it that means that document was delivered
to the office of Mr. Sayre, was kept there in a locked compartment
and was available only to the people that worked in that office.
There were four people that worked in his office: Mr. Sayre;
Anna Belle Newcomb, who is Mr. Hiss' secretary; and Miss Lincoln,
who was the administrative assistant to Mr. Sayre.
problem of determining how the document which could definitely
be traced from Mr. Sayre's office, in that respect, of course
will involve to a certain extent those four individuals. And
I would think that the Grand Jury would want to hear all four
of them on that point as to how those documents would have
been removed from the office and not returned, because this
is an important thing to note: The documents that appeared
on the microfilms have Mr. Sayre's stamp and do not have a
stamp which indicates that they were filed in archives; in
other words; that they had left Mr. Sayre's office and had
been filed finally in archives. For that reason the document
therefore is traced that far. It is therefore - and beyond
that point it means that it is pretty clear that the document
had to come from that office.
of course, there are other explanations that could be given,
but probably - and I won't go into that - but that is one
line of inquiry which I think would interest you.
here to read Sayre's testimony to the grand jury about
how many State Department officers and employees had access
to the Pumpkin Papers and Baltimore Documents.]
Nixon concedes that HUAC had uncovered no hard evidence indicating
Hiss was a Communist.
matter which I don't think you have taken up, and you may
of course, is this: Of course, involved in this matter of
whether or not Mr. Hiss could have been the one who furnished
the information that came from Mr. Sayres office -
and of course there was another information in addition to
that - is of course the basic problem of whether or not
Mr. Hiss was or was not a Communist. Now, that point of course,
is a most difficult one and one of the weakest points of the
case, that is, from the standpoint - from the standpoint of
pointing any finger of guilt, shall we say, at Mr. Hiss is
that there has been little evidence other than Mr. Chambers'
statement that Mr. Hiss was a Communist. I do not know whether
or not the Committee has investigated Hiss' association with
Mr. Noel Field.
WHEARTY: You mean the Grand Jury.
WITNESS: I meant to say the Grand Jury; I'm sorry.
the Grand Jury has investigated his association with Mr. Noel
Field. If not, I'm sure the Grand Jury would want to do that.
I also think the Grand Jury would be interested in checking
on Mr. Hiss' associations with Mr.
Zabodowsky [sic]. I assume all these cases, not knowing
what the Grand Jury has considered, that there might be possibilities
that you have. But our own investigations, I might say, prior
to the time of the discovery of the documents, brought out
some very interesting information in that field which would
be of help to you on that particular issue. And I would say,
in that regard, that it particularly would be helpful to you
in cross-examining Mr. Hiss. I might say that you are dealing
here with two witnesses speaking now of Mr. Hiss and Mr. Chambers
and leaving out Mr. Wadleigh,
Mr. Pigman and the others
who have been named - you are dealing here with two witnesses
who are most difficult to deal with. And I am sure that the
representatives of the Department of Justice have been doing
what they can to bring the facts out before the Grand Jury
and you also have done so in your questioning. But we found,
ourselves, in dealing with Mr. Hiss particularly, that Mr.
Hiss is a very persuasive witness. When he first came down
before the Committee and made his now famous statement that
he didn't know Mr. Chambers, he convinced ninety per cent
of the press and virtually all of the members of the Committee.
The only way that Mr. Hiss can be cross-examined is by obtaining
basic information and then confronting him with that information
and then cross-examining him relentlessly and I mean relentlessly,
until the truth comes out.
made several inaccurate statements before HUAC. His memory
of events of a dozen years before was faulty, and he could
not get access to records to check details. To read about
the accuracy of Chambers' charges, read his August
7 testimony before HUAC.
Would you state again those four persons in Mr. Sayre's office?
Miss Lincoln, Miss Anna Belle Newcomb and Mr.Sayre
And Miss Newcomb was Mr. Hiss' secretary?
Yes. She is now in Europe with Mr. Sayre, or may have just
Well, that's only three, Congressman.
Well, I meant including Mr. Hiss; Mr. Hiss, of course.
Oh, I see; Mr. Hiss, Mr. Sayre and the two -
Yes, a total of four.
Was one of them his personal secretary?
Well, Miss Newcomb did much of his secretarial work but also
did work in the office for - I assume for Mr. Sayre as well.
For the period of time -
During this period of time.
And who was the other chap with the long name that you mentioned?
A. David Zabodowsky. I think the Bureau people are all familiar
with his record and also of Mr. Hiss' connection with him.
Well, Congressman Nixon, you indicated that to determine whether
or not Mr. Hiss was a Communist was an important factor. Have
you developed anything along that line that would be helpful
as far as we are concerned?
I would say in the way of evidence that could be presented
before the Grand Jury, no, on the issue of whether or not
he was a Communist.
Well, any other evidence?
Nothing; except that if the jury has not heard it, I think
they should take into consideration Mr. Hiss' provable contacts
with Mr. Field and Mr. Zabodowsky, both of whom have rather
Nothing beyond that that you can suggest?
I would say at the moment that's all that I can think of.
Have either one of these men that you mentioned stated that
Hiss is a Communist?
A. Oh, no, we have heard neither one of the men ourselves.
They are not available. Mr. Field was out of the country when
it came before our Committee.
Did Mr. Hiss commit perjury before the Committee, when he
said he didn't know Mr. Chambers and then later on he admitted
A. Technically, he may not have committed perjury. He did lie.
Nixon does not offer examples. Hiss said he did not lie, while
Chambers admitted that he lied under oath on a number of occasions.
How does Mrs. Hiss - did you have Mrs. Hiss before the Committee?
We had Mrs. Hiss before us under a very interesting circumstance
which meant that we could not cross-examine her, as we should
have. Arrangements were made for Mrs. Hiss' appearance while
Mr. Hiss was in the room before the Committee, and then the
suggestion was made that she appear, Mrs. - Mr. Hiss asked
the Committee chairman, Mr. Thomas; whether or not he could
appear with her in executive session, and Mr. Thomas said
yes. Well, as a result, when Mrs. Hiss came in with Mr. Hiss,
all that we could do was have a perfunctory examination. Understand,
I want to point out that our Committee always allowed counsel
to come with a witness. But to allow Mr. Hiss to come with
Mrs. Hiss of course made it impossible for us to get any information.
Did her testimony sound convincing to you?
A. It didn't.
Nixon urges the grand jury to find a way around the statute
of limitations on espionage charges to indict Hiss. Two days
later it indicted Hiss on two counts of perjury for denying
NIXON: There is only one point that we have, of course, been
concerned about, and I would be remiss unless I mentioned
it, and I will finish with this, because this extremely important:
It is a point which I have made publicly, which I wish to
make before the jury.
have here a difficult problem of law, as well as a problem
of who furnished the information, which is a problem of fact,
and that is that there is a possibility that due to the expiration
of the statute of limitations that the individuals who furnished
this information to Chambers might go scot-free, and that
the grand jury would have no power whatever to indict them,
due to the fact that the statute of limitations would have
run on the crime that they committed.
is where the Committee on Un-American Activities have a responsibility
that they must meet because I think you ladies and gentlemen
will agree with me that the important matter in this case,
as of the present time - now that Chambers has confessed -
of who turned the information over to him, and the fact that
the Grand Jury is not able to indict because of the statute
of limitations, does not mean that the investigation should
stop, and the spotlight placed upon those who are responsible,
and I want to point out that we feel a solemn responsibility
on that point, that if because of legal technicalities some
of those who were as guilty as Chambers, and in some cases
more guilty; because they took an oath of allegiance - to
the Government that those individuals, because of technicalities
are able to go scot-free, and I want to assure you that if
you feel you are unable to indict because of those technicalities,
you will feel assured that we will go ahead with our investigation
of the case.
more on the Pumpkin Papers, including the grand jury testimony
of Francis. B. Sayre about the documents, click
to the Grand Jury