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Alger Hiss Subpoena

Alger Hiss Subpoena/tiles/non-collection/h/hi_009imgtile1.xml
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) issued this subpoena requiring Alger Hiss to testify at a HUAC subcommittee hearing. Former spy Whittaker Chambers accused Hiss, a government official who had worked for the U.S. Department of State, of being a communist and Russian secret agent. Records show that Hiss testified before an executive session of the committee on August 16, 1948, in Washington, D.C., and appeared the following day before another executive session held in the Hotel Commodore in New York City. Freshman Representative Richard Nixon was present both days, joined by other members of the committee, including Chairman J. Parnell Thomas and John McDowell. Hiss also appeared before the committee on August 18, as the subpoena indicated, but only to accompany his wife for her testimony. Although Hiss strongly denied the charges, evidence later surfaced seemingly confirming the allegations against him. The statute of limitations on espionage having expired, Hiss was ultimately convicted of perjury in 1950 and sentenced to five years in jail.

House committees are authorized by House Rule XI, clause 2(m)(1) and (3) to issue subpoenas to legally compel the appearance of witnesses and the submission of documents. Subpoenas are often issued to gather evidence as part of a committee’s investigation into a particular person, issue, or event. Under House Resolution 5, 79th Congress, HUAC was authorized to investigate “(1) the extent, character, and objects of un-American activities in the United States, (2) the diffusion within the United States of subversive and un-American propaganda that is instigated from foreign countries or of a domestic origin and attacks the principle or the form of government as guaranteed by our Constitution, and (3) all other questions in relation thereto that would aid Congress in any necessary remedial legislation.”

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