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United States: American Legion snitches.

"Over the past decade, there has been an increase in the hostile intelligence presence in the United States." So said Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Richard G. Stilwell last month in explaining why as many as 48,000 Pentagon employees will have to take a lie detector test. For the first time, Pentagon jobs may be denied to people who fail the test.

Such is the official paranoia of our times. Nowadays, officials turn to technology to root out subversivers, whereas an earlier generation used human informants. The following National Security Council report, dated June 30,1952, and declassified just two years ago, describes a spy recruitment program of the McCarthy era: The FBI, cognizant of the fact hat American Legionnaires throughout the country are a rich source of information due to their background as well as their diversified and dispersed activities, has continued its program of regularly contactin members of the American Legion to assure the receipt of information coming to their attention which pertains to the internal security of the nation. The expanded informant program, above described, is designed to circumvent or to control and prosecute acts of sabotage, espionage, and other subversive activities. The present Informant Program was designed for periods of national emergency, such as the present, and may be expected to reach its maximum effectiveness in the even of war. In addition, however, this program serves an extremely worthwhile purpose during the period of limited mobilization.

On questions of loyalty, however, machines are sometimes as unreliable as human witnesses proved to be in the 1950s. And the political witch hunts they serve have no place in a democtratic society.

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Title Annotation:making Pentagon employees take a polygraph test
Author:Bird, Kai; Holland, Max
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:column
Date:Feb 2, 1985
Previous Article:Israel: Shin Bet terrorism.
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