Resonating with disturbing implications for the present, American Blacklist is the only full-length study of the so-called Attorney General's List of Subversive Organizations (AGLOSO) and its critical role in the post-World War II Red Scare.
Although earlier versions of AGLOSO date back as far as 1903 and were wielded by the federal government during both the post-World War I Red Scare and World War II, they were not widely publicized. But beginning in December 1947, as part of the Truman administration's loyalty program, the federal government engaged in a massive effort to publicize the AGLOSO lists. In the process, it threatened, damaged, or destroyed nearly 300 organizations, all of which were listed without any notice, evidence, or hearings.
Drawing heavily on previously classified FBI, Justice Department, and other documents, Robert Goldstein demonstrates how the listed organizations and their members (including a large number of federal employees) came under suspicion, were investigated, and suffered numerous public and private penalties. These included the loss of federal tax-exempt status, the denial of passports, deportations and immigration exclusions, ejection from federally subsidized housing, and private employment bans. AGLOSO, which was dominated by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI, also placed a huge damper on political dissent throughout the nation.
After 1954, AGLOSO and the Red Scare both came under increasing attack as serious violations of American civil liberties. Indeed, AGLOSO's declining significance after 1954 reflected a more general decline in the postwar Red Scare campaign itself. Both gradually diminished in impact and importance, but they left a long-lasting legacy.
As Goldstein reveals, AGLOSO's final demise in 1974 resulted from congressional opposition to President Richard Nixon's attempt to revive it via a 1971 executive order, which was severely attacked as an abuse of executive authority and an attack on civil liberties. The subsequent controversy preceded by only three months the Watergate investigation and the collapse of the Nixon presidency, events that continue to leave their unsettling mark on an equally troubled present.