Joe McCarthy allegedly had spies within the CIA

Declassified memo claims McCarthy Subcommittee had recorded Agency employees in secret

Written by Emma Best
Edited by JPat Brown

A pair of CIA memos on the McCarthy Subcommittee make the startling allegation that the Subcommittee had managed to spy on the Agency. A formerly SECRET summary from the McCarthyism file states that an unnamed source had identified classified CIA materials that the Subcommittee had managed to get its hands on, as well as tape recordings of Agency officials speaking, apparently obtained through bugging.

According to the original memo, two specific files were identified. The first was a message to Washington D.C. about an intercepted message being sent to Moscow from Soviet operatives. The message apparently stated that the operatives had identified and neutralized “all of the CIA projects” in the area. The other identified file was an inch thick Top Secret outline of CIA’s operations in the Far East.

These and other files had come from CIA files as a result of “contacts which the McCarthy Committee staff had in CIA.” The source also tried to offer CIA insight into McCarthy’s tactics - the plan was apparently not to attack the Agency for alleged Communist individuals or tendencies, “but rather toward looseness of handling of funds, which [was] of course well within the McCarthy Committee jurisdiction.” It should be noted that several months later, McCarthy did attack them for allegedly having Communists among its ranks, however, this would not be the only instance where McCarthy promised to do one thing regarding an investigation or handling of information before proceeding to do another.

While Top Secret documents being improperly given to people without clearance is worrying, leaks are inevitable - especially when the leaks are made to other branches of the government. Secretly recording CIA personnel as the source alleged McCarthy staff had done, however, is an entirely different story. Although the unnamed source hadn’t heard the tapes, he had come to believe that they existed - staff members from the McCarthy Subcommittee had apparently planted microphones in a room before interviewing CIA personnel, secretly recording them. The substance of these tapes is unknown, but the allegation is an alarming example of runaway McCarthyism.

A FOIA request has been filed to learn more about this incident, but for now you can read the complete memo below.


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Image by via Wikimedia Commons