The British Security Program, 1948-1958

Date01 September 1960
Published date01 September 1960
AuthorWerner F. Grunbaum
Subject MatterArticles
University of Houston
DEALLY, governmental security programs in democracies should at once
protect the state from possible internal subversion and at the
the state from
same time
possible internal subversion and at the same
time up,
hold those traditional liberties essential to democratic government. Yet in
passing from the realm of theory to that of practice, the ultimate problem be-
comes one of how
much liberty and how much security.
The question of how much liberty and how much security points to one of
the basic dilemmas which confronts the Anglo-American democracies; the prob-
lem of finding a proper relationship between individual liberty and the security
of the state. This relationship could be achieved by (1) the establishment of
a precise and accurate definition of national security and security risk and (2)
the acceptance of standards of fair hearing in security dismissals. Such a pro-
gram because of its realistic conception of security would protect the authority
of the state. Yet such a program because of its sharply defined scope and pur-
pose would also preserve as much individual freedom as realistically possible.
Such a proper relationship would then insure uniformity under the law as well
as provisions for fair hearing for all concerned.
For ten years both the United States and Great Britain have been seeking
to establish a proper definition of national security and security risk, as well as
seeking to establish standards of fair hearing in security dismissals. Especially
significant in this search is the fact that during these past ten years both coun-
tries have found it necessary to make basic changes in their security programs’
since they were first publicly announced by the United States in 19472 and by
Great Britain in 1948.3
The United States has revised its basic procedure and
twice changed its definition of security risk.4
Great Britain also has revised its
originally announced definition of security risk.5 Both countries have expanded
their original estimates of the number of individuals who would be affected by
For an account of the original U.S. program, see Roger S. Abbott, "The Federal Loyalty Program:
Background and Problems," American Political Science Review, XLII (June, 1948), 486-99.
For views critical of the Truman Program, see Thomas Emerson and David Helfeld, "Loyalty
Among Government Employees," 58 Yale L. J. 1-143 (December, 1948). For a defense of
the Truman Program, see J. Edgar Hoover, "A Comment on the Article, ’Loyalty Among
Government Employees,’ " 58 Yale L. J. 401-11 (February, 1949), and Seth W. Richardson,
"The Federal Employees Loyalty-Security Program," 51 Col. L. R. 546-63 (May, 1951).
For an account of the operation of the Truman Program, see Eleanor Bontecou, The Federal
Loyalty-Security Program (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1953).
For an account of the original British Program, see Bontecou, "The English Policy,"
appendix in her The Federal Loyalty-Security Program, pp. 255-71. Also, see H. H. Wilson
and Harvey Glickman, The Problem of Internal Security in Great Britain, 1948-1953 (Gar-
den City: Doubleday, 1954), pp. 13-33.
Executive Order 9835, 12 Federal Register 1935 (March 21, 1947).
448 H.C. Deb. col. 1703-4 (March 15, 1948).
Executive Order 10241, 16 Federal Register 3690 (April 28, 1951), and Executive Order 10450,
18 Federal Register 2489 (April 29, 1953).
563 H.C. Deb. col. 152-56 (January 29, 1957).

these program. The methods of the British program were still being debated
as late as 1957,7 while the scope of the American program was recently redefined
by the Supreme Court.8 Thus, both nations are still seeking proper definitions and
standards for their security programs.
Although changes in the British9 and American10 security programs during
the last ten years reflect a concern with the same basic problems, the changes by
no means reflect the same basic solution to these problems. Americans have
held fast to a program which covers all civil servants&dquo; while the British pro-
gram is directed specifically at designated governmental positions and every
effort is made to transfer security risks to &dquo;non-sensitive&dquo; positions. The British
experience of the past ten years has not effected any change in this basic philos-
ophy even though they did find it necessary to tighten their originally announced
program. It is the purpose of this study to review the British experience and
present it as an alternative answer to that found by the United States. The Brit-
ish solution illustrates that an alternative policy in this area is workable, and it
is hoped that this solution may yield some insights into the American problem.
Although Prime Minister Attlee announced the British Government’s se-
curity program on March 15, 1948,12 it replaced an unofficial program which had
been in operation at least as early as 1947. 13 Authority for such actions are
under the Government’s general power to transfer and dismiss a1114 civil servants
at will without compensation.15 This authority is derived as an implied term of
the contract of service rather than from the Crown’s prerogative powers16 and
531 H.C. Deb. col. 1367-68 (October 21, 1954). Executive Order 10450, 18 Federal Register
2489 (April 29, 1953).
Debate on government interception of communications, 572 H.C. Deb. col. 411-22 (June 27,

Cole v. Young, 351 U.S. 536 (1956).
For British changes, see text following.
For American changes see Ralph S. Brown, Jr., "The Operation of Personnel Security Programs,"
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, CCC (July, 1955), 94-101,
and "Secrecy, Security, and Loyalty," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. XI (April, 1955).
For the view that the revised U.S. program has not established a proper relationship be-
tween the ends and means of the program, see Eleanor Bontecou, "Due Process in Security
Dimissals," Annals, CCC (July, 1955), 102-9.

Cole v. Young, 351 U.S. 536 (1956) was not considered as a major exception to this thesis as
it dealt with the more limited issue of Congressional intent in the security area.
448 H.C. Deb. col. 1703-8 (March 15, 1948).
435 H.C. Deb. col. 1656 (March 31, 1947).
With only rare exceptions, such as those of the comptroller, auditor-general, and the assistant
comptroller and auditor, under "The Exchequer and Audit Departments Act," 1866, 29 and
30 Victoria, c. 39.
"Superannuation Act," 1834, 4 and 5 William IV, c. 24, at s. 30 states that "nothing in this
Act contained shall extend or be construed to extend to give any person an absolute right
to compensation for past activities ... or to deprive ... the heads or principal officers of
the respective departments, of their power to dismiss any person from the public service
without compensation."
C. S. Emden, The Civil Servant in the Law and the Constitution (London: Stevens, 1923),
pp. 21-22. Also, N. E. Mustoe, The Law and Organization of the British Civil Service
(London: Pitman, 1932), p. 132.

it applies even if the terms of the employment contract are to the contrary.~7
This power was affirmed by the courts in 189618 and has been affirmed in more
recent cases.19
There is little likelihood, however, that the Government would make arbi-
trary use of this power to transfer civil servants at will because were it to do
so, it could be challenged in Parliament. Thus, in practice the Government
claims only &dquo;the right to choose [those whom it] select[s] to employ in positions
involving national security.’ 1 20
In addition to its authority to transfer and dismiss civil servants, the Gov-
ernment may also rely on the Official Secrets Act, 1911,21 which makes the
unauthorized disclosure of official information by state officials a punishable of-
fense. Under this act atomic spies Alan Nunn May and Klaus Fuchs were
prosecuted. It was in part the actions of May and Fuchs which prompted the
Government to assert its right to transfer or remove security risks in the civil
Prime Minister Attlee was prompted to make his statement on the Govern-
ment’s policy in the security area in answer to protests by the Civil Service
Clerical Association and the Professional Civil Servants Association22 in which
they demanded an explanation as to the Government’s reasons for transferring
or dismissing scientists in 194723 who were engaged in atomic research. This
issue was the topic of discussion in May, 1947, in the Whitley Council between
the Staff Side, representing the civil service associations, and the Official Side,
representing the Govemment.24 On March 15, 1948, Prime Minister Attlee
made a statement in the House of Commons which constituted the official Gov-
ernment reply to the civil service unions’ protests which were now of some ten
months’ standing. In this reply, Prime Minister Attlee officially announced the
Government’s security program.
In answers to Questions on the subject of the transfer or dismissal of certain Government
servants, I have said that there are certain duties of such secrecy that the State is not justified in
employing in connection with them anyone whose reliability is in doubt.
Experience, both in this country and elsewhere, has shown that membership of, and other
forms of continuing association with, the Communist Party may involve the acceptance by the in..
dividual of a loyalty,...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT