Secret Societies and Political Action

May 10, 1961

Report Outline
Secrecy Aspects of John Birch Society
Secret Societies on the American Scene
Means of Controlling Secret Societies

Secrecy Aspects of John Birch Society

Many Americans were shocked recently to learn of the existence of a secret or semi-secret organization of extensive proportions known as the John Birch Society—an extreme anti-Communist group dedicated to promoting radical changes in public policy. The society is little more than two years old. To date its political activity on a national scale seems to have been limited for the most part to a letter-writing campaign to generate pressure for impeachment of Chief Justice Earl Warren. Under ordinary circumstances, an organization holding views as fanatical as those attributed to the John Birch Society or its leader would attract no more than casual attention. Yet stories about this group have taken up columns of newspaper space all over the country, and it has been both attacked and defended repeatedly in both houses of Congress.

Particular objection has been raised to the John Birch Society's sub rosa methods of operating, which seem not unlike those favored by Communist and Fascist conspirators bent on undermining democratic governments. The extremity of the society's views is illustrated by the fact that it calls not only for Warren's impeachment, but also for repeal of the federal income tax and of the social security laws, for withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations and from the North Atlantic Alliance, and for termination of foreign aid and of cultural exchanges with the U.S.S.R.

Few Americans would challenge the right of private individuals to advance unorthodox opinions, and few would fear open debate on the merits of the Birch program. But until the society began to receive publicity early this year, the general public was scarcely aware of its existence, much less of its objectives or tactics. Many persons sensed something sinister in an association of well-to-do, influential Americans seeking by surreptitious means to shake public confidence in government leaders and to weaken support of public policy in major areas affecting national security.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Ethics in Government
Jan. 31, 2014  Whistleblowers
Feb. 18, 2011  Lies and Politics
Apr. 30, 2010  Gridlock in Washington
Jun. 22, 2007  Prosecutors and Politics
Jun. 16, 2006  Pork Barrel Politics
May 07, 1999  Independent Counsels Re-Examined
Feb. 21, 1997  Independent Counsels
May 27, 1994  Political Scandals
Apr. 06, 1979  Assassinations Investigation
Dec. 05, 1973  Presidential Impeachment
May 16, 1973  Ethics in Government
May 10, 1961  Secret Societies and Political Action
Jun. 29, 1960  Conflicts of Interest
Oct. 26, 1955  Businessmen in Government
Apr. 07, 1954  Fair Investigations
Apr. 25, 1952  Congressional Immunity
Dec. 05, 1951  Ethics in Government
Jan. 28, 1948  Individual Rights and Congressional Investigations
Jul. 02, 1934  Political Reform and Federal Patronage
Mar. 07, 1924  Congressional Extravagance and the Budget
Nov. 12, 1923  Issues Developed in the Teapot Dome Inquiry
Freedom of Speech and Press