Volume #18 - 284.|
SEVENTH SESSION OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY, FIRST PART, OCTOBER 14-DECEMBER 21, 1952
INSTRUCTIONS TO THE CANADIAN DELEGATION
Extracts from Letter from Permanent Representative to the United Nations|
to Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
LETTER NO. 724|
June 11th, 1952|
UNITED NATIONS SECRETARIAT DISMISSALS HOUSE CLEANING OR WITCH HUNT?|
Reference: Our letter No. 644 of May 26.?
1. I suppose it is not surprising that during an election year in the United States, the United Nations should come in for more than its normal quota of abuse as "a nest of communists" which the "soft" United States Administration is supporting. The recent hearings of a Federal Grand Jury in New York, coupled with the continuation of hearings in Washington by the McCarran Committee of the Senate and the House Committee on Unamerican Activities, have focused public attention on the testimony of several American citizens who are, or have been until recently, members of the United Nations Secretariat. The Bricker and Vorys resolutions in Congress and many other private resolutions such as those passed this spring by the Daughters of the American Revolution, testify to the evidently wide-spread belief in the United States that the United Nations should "clean house".
2. Since the Korean war broke out, this is what Mr. Lie has gradually been doing. The latest batch of seven dismissals in as many weeks has, however, had its reaction not only in the Secretariat but outside the United Nations as well, and at his press conference on June 6, Mr. Lie was peppered with questions which reflected a certain uneasiness as to the basis of the policy of the Secretary-General in dismissing employees on security grounds.
3. At his press conference Mr. Lie maintained his previous stand that the United Nations does not discharge communists on its staff because they are communists. The contracts of certain members of the Secretariat had recently been terminated, Mr. Lie said "in the best interests of the United Nations." He would not amplify on that statement, but said he reserved for himself the right to judge each case on its merits and the right to make his decision without giving his reasons. A copy of the report of the press conference in the New York Times of June 7 is attached.?
4. I think you are already sufficiently familiar with the background. Last summer and fall the Delegation supplied you with full documentation on the five appeals of dismissed employees to the Administrative Tribunal, the fight which then developed between the Administrative Tribunal and the Secretary-General over the two cases - generally considered the weakest - whom the Administrative Tribunal recommended should be reinstated or indemnified, and the decision of the General Assembly at its last session to strengthen the hand of the Secretary-General by amending the Staff Regulations. This decision, which was taken with the support of the Canadian Delegation, gave Mr. Lie authority to dismiss non-permanent employees without necessarily giving a reason (Article 9 of the Revised Staff Regulations of the United Nations adopted by the General Assembly on February 2 - Resolution 590 (VI).
5. In analyzing the cases of the seven United States citizens who have been dismissed in recent weeks, it is extremely difficult to sort out fact from rumour. This is a subject which members of the Delegation must approach with great caution and we have therefore discussed it with only a few members of the Secretariat whom we knew well and whose judgment and discretion we trusted. They themselves have had the same difficulty in establishing the facts because the matter had been dealt with in the Secretariat by a very few people - Mr. Lie and Mr. Byron Price being the principal ones concerned. I have not yet spoken to either Mr. Lie or Mr. Price but if I get a suitable informal opportunity shortly I intend to ask them what the facts are.
9. Members of the Secretariat cannot help comparing Mr. Lie's dismissals during the past year with the much more moderate and cautious policy which he had previously pursued.
11. I suppose that in practice the problem really only arises for the Secretary-General when he has information that a national of one of the western countries has communist sympathies and may be regarded as subversive from the point of view of his government. It is not, he feels, "in the best interests of the United Nations" to keep on its staff Americans who may be thought by influential members of Congress to be tainted, if not dangerous. In terms of good internal administration, the Secretary-General is, I know, anxious to have as few communists as possible on the Secretariat who are not nationals of a communist country. I can see that, from the point of view of western delegations, it is more likely to promote good security if we can assume, when we are speaking to a member of the Secretariat whom we know is from a western country, that he will not be reporting to the Soviet Delegation, as we must assume is the case with members of the Secretariat from Soviet and satellite countries. There is, nevertheless, no constitutional reason whatever, either in the Charter or the Staff Regulations or in any resolution of a United Nations body, to justify the Secretary-General of the United Nations in dismissing any employee because he is a communist. Article 100 of the Charter and the Oath of Office of employees of the Secretariat (paragraph 1.9 of the Staff Regulations) say only that, as international civil servants, members of the Secretariat should have "the interests of the United Nations only in view," and should not "seek or accept instructions ... from any government or other authority ..." In dismissing western members of the Secretariat because they are (from the point of view, say, of the F.B.I.) "poor security risks," the Secretary-General must therefore maintain that he is acting solely "in the best interests of the United Nations," and that, officially, it is a coincidence that the dismissed employee happens to be a communist.
12. The whole issue of the Secretary-General's dismissals is, I am afraid, likely to become more rather than less acute in coming months. We understand on good authority that there are some twenty to thirty "doubtful" cases pending. If a proportion of these cases are dismissed, and particularly if Mr. David Weintraub is forced to resign, there will in all probability have to be a major show-down at the next General Assembly - and this, we firmly believe, should if possible be avoided.
17. I have gone into this question in some detail not only because I think the matter of principle is important but because the Secretary-General is at present in the process of having a large proportion of his temporary staff contracts reviewed. In accordance with the mandate of the last General Assembly, the status of some 1150 temporary staff with over two years service is to be determined during the next two years with the assistance of an independent five man Selection Committee under the chairmanship of Mr. F.P. Walters, former Deputy Secretary-General of the League of Nations. The Walters Committee is evidently intended by the Secretary-General more as a means of sorting out inefficient staff members than a means of screening doubtful security cases. These, we understand, Mr. Lie and Mr. Byron Price intend to deal with themselves. During the coming years of the Walters Committee's review, the whole subject of staff contracts is likely to remain in a state of flux.
18. At present a member of the Secretariat who is dismissed may appeal to the Joint Appeals Board established as a joint body with equal representation of U.N. administration and Staff Committee. From this body a further appeal is possible to the Administrative Tribunal which was set up by the General Assembly in 1950 in order to have some independent and final board of review outside the Secretariat. In practice, however, the effect of the revision of the Staff Regulations in Paris has been to give the Secretary-General virtually a free hand in dealing with security cases, as in practice neither the internal Appeals Board nor the external Administrative Tribunal now feel they can decide on cases in which they realize that it may not be possible to give them all the relevant facts for reasons of security. In recent months, there have in fact been no appeals in security cases. We have heard indirectly, from a leading member on the staff side of the Joint Appeals Board, that they have virtually decided to leave security cases alone; as the Secretary-General is no longer required to give reasons, there is nothing for the Board to review. Thus the Secretary-General has now almost unlimited power and the employee almost no recourse against the decision of the Secretary-General to dismiss him on security grounds.
19. If the Secretariat and those delegations which are interested in these matters felt that adequate procedure for handling appeals and reviewing administrative decisions in security cases existed, a large part of their doubts and misgivings would be eliminated. . . . Perhaps what is needed is something comparable to the Security Panel in Ottawa. But the history of the Administrative Tribunal in the past year has shown the difficulty of relying on its inexperienced and sometimes prejudiced members to carry out such a function impartially.
20. We are, it seems to me, faced with an uncomfortable dilemma. If we are prepared to admit to ourselves, United Nations regulations and resolutions notwithstanding, that the U.N. Secretariat should not harbour, for example, an American citizen who is known to have taken part in espionage for the Soviet Union, then we may have to reconcile ourselves to leaving the Secretary-General very wide discretionary powers. Any independent body set up with authority to review such cases would have to do so in accordance with United Nations regulations and resolutions and could not be expected to take account of secret evidence presented by, say, the F.B.I. Some people would go even further and say that as any known communist might be used for subversive activities by the Soviet Delegation, all known communists from western countries should be dismissed. Indeed, the extreme position in this direction is that anyone regarded as a political liability to the Organization should not be carried on its staff, particularly if his presence is prejudicial to United States support for the Organization.
21. On the other hand, it is possible to take the position based on the Charter and on the resolutions of the General Assembly that the United Nations cannot discriminate in this way and that provided a communist is not known to be violating his oath as an international civil servant, he, should not be touched. From this point of view, it might well be desirable to strengthen the hand of the Administrative Tribunal and the Joint Appeals Board so that they might effectively review security as well as other cases.
22. When the revision of the Staff Regulations was being discussed in Paris, the Canadian Delegation, among others, supported the extensive powers which the Assembly gave to Mr. Lie partly because we trust Mr. Lie and believe the solemn assurances which he gave to the Assembly that he would exercise his powers with the greatest care and restraint. On the basis of these assurances, I think we should continue to support Mr. Lie. But it is possible that he may need support not only against attacks from outside but against pressures from within the Secretariat. As Assistant Secretary-General for Administrative and Financial Services, Mr. Byron Price takes the initiative in the current house cleaning. Unless he is restrained effectively by Mr. Lie, many of those who know Mr. Price best think that he may go too far. Yet he is in a very strong position because he is supported by many influential people in Washington and if he were to resign on a house cleaning issue (as he threatened to do last September) it would do considerable harm to the United Nations in the United States. By letting Mr. Lie know that we are taking an interest in what is happening in the Secretariat, I think we can make him feel that he would not be alone in maintaining a cautious and reasonable policy, free from any taint of McCarthyism. For the fear of McCarthyism in the Secretariat could not only sap morale and efficiency but could very well warp the impartial character of reports drafted by the Secretariat.
23. Though Mr. Lie is perhaps unduly sensitive to personal criticism or anything he might regard as "disloyalty" among his staff, I believe he would not willingly or easily yield to pressure from any government to have a member of the U.N. Secretariat dismissed on security grounds. Moreover, I am inclined to doubt that there has been any direct pressure from the United States Government, though I should not be surprised if Mr. Price had access to F.B.I. information. It is possible, however, that Mr. Lie may feel that the mood of Congress and public opinion in the United States require him to eliminate American communists from the Secretariat "in the best interests of the United Nations." He has the power to do so. But he will have to exercise his power with care and restraint if he is to avoid criticism. Public opinion in the United States is, happily, not the only yardstick of what is "in the best interests of the United Nations."
DAVID M. JOHNSON