The Hiss Act and Its Application to the Military

Military Law ReviewNbr. 14, October 1961

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The Hiss Act and Its Application to the Military


Public Law i69 of the Eighty-third Congress was enacted on September 1, 1954.l It was a direct outgrowth of the famous Alger Hiss case,' and thereby became known as the Hiss Act.

Aleer Hiss was convicted in federal court on January 21, 19E0, an two counts of perjury.' He preriously had testified before a federal grand jury in December of 1948 that he had not seen the farmer Communist Whittaker Chambers after July 1, 1937. and that neither he nor his wife had turned oyer any documents of the federal government to Chambers or any other unauthorized person.* When that testimony, which related to a period during which he was in the service of the federal government, was proved false, his con.iction for perjury resulted.

If it were not for the Hiis Act, Alger Hiss would have eventually become eligible for an annuity based upon his past federal service.5 It was this possibility that seems to have triggered the congressional activity which resulted in enactment of the act. A majority of Congress was apparently united in the belief that it was intolerable to grant retirement benefits to federal officers and employees who brake faith with the Government. This senti'This article WBP adapted from B theais presented to The Judge Advocate General's School. U. S. Army, Charlatterville, Virginia, while the author was B member of the Kinth Career Course. The opinions and ~ondusion~ presented herein are those of the author and do not neewsmiiy representthe WBI of The Judge Advocate General's School or any other governmental agenes [Ediior's Sote. The reader should carefully note that thli article vas uriffen p n ~ r to the pssnage of the amendments to the Hian Act in the firs J ~ S P I D ~ of the 87th Cangre~~.

Pub L. 81-299. 87th Cang., 1st Seas. iSept. 26, 10611.1

** SAGC, U. S. Army; Judge Advocate Divimn. Paris Office, Headquarters United States Army, Communications Zone, Europe; LL.B, Loyala University (Sew Orleans) ; Member of the Louisiana Bar.

'68 Stat. 1142 (1954). as amended. 5 U.S C !I 2281-2288 i19581. 'Cook. The Cnflniihed Storr of Aizer Hiss 11968)

. .

'Hirs was tried in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The canvietion was affirmed on appeal. United Statea Y. Hiss, 185 F.2d 822 (2d Or. 1950) A motion far B new trial was

denied in United States Y. Hmr, 101 F. Supp. 128 1S.D. K.Y.

1952). ard.

201 F.Zd 312 (2d Clr 1963).

'Cook, op. ait. ~apia

note 2. at 1-20,iHranngs on H R . 1289, 9901, 6299, 6940. 7001. 7582, 7415. 8081. 8547,and BliO Betow the H w s e Commtfier on Past Once ad Civil Srrvioe, 88d Cang., 2d Seal. 28 (1954).1\00

11618 67

ment is clearly set forth in the report an the bill ahlch became the Hias Act:

The purpo~e of this IeLiiIarion IS TO prahlblt Federal snnultm or retired pay to per~anr aha commit offenses which I" effect e~nsfi~ute

* I U I _ . .

In general, thir legislatian nil1 prohibit the award or grant. after date of enactment, of any Federal annuity or retired pay to any indi-vidual eanvieted of specified crimes 8s ret iarth ~n the Cr1rrm.1 Code istrict of Columbia Code It wli sl~od pa) for an) person uho reiuiei onon to appear, ieitifg, or produce anyre B Federal grand jury or court or before any cangreriianal committee with reaped to his prerent or former duties as an officer or employee of the United Ststea.

In B broader aenie, this legislatian will exercise the greatest pouer and influenee to clear the mora! climate in ahich The business of the Vnited States is transacted and to improve the ethical conduct of those individuals. both in and outride oi the Gassmmsnt, aha tranraet iuch burinerr , . .'

The legislative history of the Hiss 4ct indicates that Congress was thinking principally in terms of eib-ilisn officers and employ-ees. However, the act also was made apeeifically applicable to members of the Armed Forces.

Many problems have arisen concerning the circumstances under which the Hiss Act will operate to preclude payment of retired pay ta military personnel, particularly those convicted by courts-martial In addition, news articles concerning the act haw brought its existence and possible ramifications to the attention of most militsr>- personnel, as a result of which, local judge advocates are beginning to receive numerona inquiries about the act.' However, most of the material concerning the act is not readily available to jiidge advocates; and there 1s no exhaustive study of the act to which reference can be made

It is the purpose of this article. therefore. to provide an analysis of the Hiss Act as it relates to military personnel who are con- 'H R. Rep Pa 2438, 83d Care, 2d Seis. 4 (1564)

.Examplei ai such srticlei may bp found in the Army Yaw Air Force Journal, June 13, 1960. p. 6, ed1. 1-4: Arrry Sevy Air Force Journal, Oet 22, 1960. p 1, ~01s. 3 and 4

.For B brief dincuinan of the act. see Kratochuil, The Appiieabiiity oi itme Xias Act to Person8 Canaicieci b? CaJAG...

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