INT: Now you told us a little bit about the techniques that you used, in terms of following people and breaking into their houses and so on and so forth. But it seems also what the FBI were involved in was somehow creating a different kind of climate in America. Can you talk a little bit about that?
WS: Well, , strangely enough, we were using the same methods that Hoover accused the Communist Party of using and that's getting people to spy on their friends and this was one of the critimsisms [sic] he had of the Communist Party, that they would train their children to inform on their parents and the parents to inform on their children and for people to inform on their neighbours and friends, but we were doing exactly the same thing, because we would talk to children, if they were in college, about their parents and we talked to parents about the children and we talked to the neighbours about those people and we... if someone did seem halfway sympathetic in the Communist Party, we talked to them, then we would ask 'em about other friends and neighbours. So, it was a, you know, a real threat to try to get people to inform on as many other people...
INT: (Interrupts) Do you think...
WS: ...as possible.
INT: Do you think there's some way this sort of damaged, you know, civil liberties in America, constitutional rights inAmerica?
WS: I think it definitely did, because it made people afraid, some people. There were others that had enough integrity that they weren't going to fall for this kind of nonsense. But, you know, a good example was what happened in Hollywood. Some people informed on others - Ronald Reagan is a good example, I mean, he got up there and talked about everybody that he either knew as a Communist Party member, or thought he might be a Communist Party member or he was a friend of somebody who might me a Communist. And it just about destroyed Hollywood.
INT: Sure. Now can you tell me what the Security Index was and whether the... who knew about it, did the Department of Justice know about it, did the President know about it?
WS: Well, originally Congress had approved what they called a Detention Programme and I think their intention was to have a list of people who were very serious threats, like known spies, individuals who were known to possibly be in a position to commit sabotage in case we had another war. And I think that's what they intended, but then Hoover created what we call the Security Index and he didn't tell anyone about it, he tell Congress, he didn't tell the Attorney General. Now he might have said, well, yeah, we have this Detention Programme, but he didn't tell 'em about the Security Index. And we created an index almost as large as, if not larger than what he had created when he was in the Department of Justice, before he became Director of the FBI, 'cos I think had a list of something like four hundred and fifty thousand people and we had the Security Index and it got so large - this is almost comical - it got so large that it was out of control, because the idea of the Security Index was to arrest everyone on the Security Index within twenty four hours or as soon as possible, if there was a national emergency. Well, it grew to the point that even the people back in Washington realised that we can't arrest something like five hundred thousand people overnight. I mean, where are you going to get all the police officers? I mean, we had about eight thousand FBI agents, how are they going to arrest five hundred thousand people? So, they separated it into the Communist Index and the Reserve Index. Well, theoretically, you know, when you reduce it down to say like twenty five or thirty or forty or fifty thousand people on the Security Index, then when all of those people are thrown in jail in a national emergency, now we can go after the Reserve Index or those on the Communist Index.
INT: What about concentration camps? I've read...
WS: They never mentioned specifically where concentration camps were. They did indicate you know such as such is a military reservation and has ten thousand acres or whatever just in case we have something like the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbour. We can round up these Communists. Nobody said, this is actually a concentration camp, but why else would they say that, you know, we have military bases here and course it's all fenced off with the wire and everything, and we have one over here and we have 'em here and here, you know, they mentioned about a dozen different places around the country. You don't have to be a Rhodes Scholar to figure out, hey, what they're really talking about is the fear of World War Three, these five hundred thousand people aregoing to be rounded up and dumped out there on the base.
INT: Yeah. And how... Did you know how many people there were nation-wide on that Security Index and how did that compare with the numbers of people in the Communist Party?
WS: Well, it's [clears throat]... it's a little hard to say, because at one point Hoover claimed that there were X number of people in the Communist Party and then when he testified before the Appropriations Committee, he would say that the FBI knew every member of the Communist Party. Well, one of the criteria for being on the Security Index was to be a member of the Communist Party. Now if you have hundred and twenty five thousand or hundred and fifty thousand people supposedly in the Communist Party and then Hoover says, hey, we know everybody who's in the Communist Party, then all of those people, if they're known to be in the Communist Party, have to be on the Security Index. But Hoover doesn't want to tell Congress that, hey, we have a hundred and twenty five thousand on the Security Index, because they're gonna go through the ceiling. Now if we tell 'em, yeah, we have maybe twenty thousand or twenty five...
INT: Now you told me a bit about techniques you were using and how you were following people and so on and so forth, how much, you know, material did you collect and what happened to it, what did you do with it, who did you give it to?
WS: Well, we collected it in a file and then once a year we would write a report and send it to Washington. And routinely we would send copies to military intelligence, to navy intelligence, there was one, another intelligence outfit, I can't remember the name of, but most of the military groups were getting the reports. And where they went from there, I don't have any specific knowledge, but I do know that a lot of material that came out at the House in American Activities Committee hearings, sounded like a lot of information that I wrote [laughs], back in those days.
INT: And what about the press? Did you give them access to some of your stuff? I mean, you know, you can't appear in court, obviously, you can't go up to court and testify, but you've got to get somebody else to get hold of these people.
WS: Yeah, we had certain reporters that we favoured, because they wrote nice stories about Hoover and the FBI and so we would reciprocate by giving them information and sometimes it was strictly a smear campaign against some politician [coughs], whether he was actually a member of the Communist Party, but if he happened to be someone that Hoover didn't like or the administration didn't like, and he was acquainted with members of the Communist Party, we would give this to the press and then they'd write, well, yes, who knows whom, see.
WS: And then other times if we wanted to just flat out embarrass somebody like Claude Lightfoot, who was chairman of the Communist Party, we would give them certain information if we got something of a personal nature that, you know, there's a little indiscretion that's going to embarrass him, if he got drunk, if he was arrested for drunk driving or just stopped for drunk driving, not necessarily arrested. I'm not saying that he did, but, you know, situations like that, that anything that might be embarrassing to that person, we would feed to one of the favoured newspapers or reporters and then they'd write it up and course this person's embarrassed and... But that's one way of... You know, you can't really neutralise 'em that way, but it certainly does embarrass them.
INT: Now in the early fifties, what, in your estimation, what sort of proportion of the FBI's work in Chicago was given over to either political work or pursuit of...?
WS: In 1950s I would say...
WS: Yeah. In the 1950s, it was just about half and half, criminal and security and security would include the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers' Party, the Nation of Islam, Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico, but I think the agent count in the early fifties was two hundred and seventy five and we had five squads of about twenty two agents per squad, so we were almost half of the office.