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November 11, 2016
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December 15, 1998
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August 1, 1965
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READER'S DIGEST Sanitized - Approved For Release : CIA-RD August 1965 CPYRGHT The Ordeal o Otto Otepka Z1 ,y have Statd'"Department employes been using the tactics of a police state to oust dedicated security officer whose only sin seems to be loyalty to his country? fl By CHARLES STEVENSON, WITH. WILLIAM 1. GILL FEW MINUTES before noon on Friday, June 27, 1963, Otto AF. Otepka, chief of the U.S. State Department's security-evalua- tions division, was summoned to the office of his immediate superior; John F. Reilly, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Security. Reilly tossed him a one-page memoran- dum. "Effective immediately," the memo said, "you are detailed to a special project updating the Office of Security Handbook. You will re- move forthwith to Room 38A05." Within a half-hour of this ouster, Otcpka's office safes and file cabi- nets, which contained extensive security information on State De- partment personnel, were seized. The same thing was happening to two veteran security officers who worked under Otepka. These police-state tactics were used not against men suspected of subversion. They were used against men who had been trying to fight subversion-the professional "secu- rity men" whose job it is to try to keep the government service free of communists and persons who might fall under their influence. The story of Otto Otepka, a tall, quiet, darkly handsome man of 50, is still without an ending, and on its outcome hang two vitally important issues. One is whether we shall, without hysterics and false accusa- tions, fight attempts to subvert our government. The other is whether Congress-the elected representa- tives of the people-shall preserve our right to oversee the behavior of the officials in the executive branch. Many kinds of subversion are practiced today by the communists.. One of the most difficult to detect is "policy sabotage," a device by which seemingly innnr'n- r~s ri cinno ~nrr nr FOIAb3b Sanitized -.Approved For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R000600040145-5 2 Sanitized - Approved For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R0006000401.45-5 CPYRGHT 0 AUG THE READERS DIGEST August up isrupnon 711 71 ay o crucial John Foster. Dulles, on June 15,1953, activities..A classic example occurred brought him into the State Dcpart- in" the aftermath of World War II: merit to carry out President Eisen- Harry Dexter White, Assistant See- bower's Executive Order 10450, rotary of the Treasury, withheld designed to set security standards vitally needed shipments of gold or- for all federal agencies. dered by Congress to bolster Chiang ~ By 1957 Otcpka was deputy di- Kai-shek's currency, thus contribut- rector of the Office of Security-the ing to the collapse-of the currency. Department's highest civil-service The Nationalist armies were left un- 6ecurity job-and working head of paid and starving, an easy prey to State's global personnel-security or- Mao Tse-tung's communists. ganizatioii: In 1958 the State Dcpart. This type of sabotage is doubly pent awarded him its Meritorious dangerous because it creates suspi- Service Award. The citation, signed cion and confusion. Many who sup- by Secretary of State Dulles, declared ported the wild charges of the late that Otepka "has shown himself con- Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the early sistently capable of sound judgment, r95o's, for instance, failed to distin- creative work and the acceptance of guish between 'policy sabotage and unusual responsibility. His 196o de- errors of judgment, and they be- jartnicntal. efficiency report noted smirched the reputation of innocent that to his knowledge of commu- people. Otto Otepka was never such ' nism and its subversiv ff h a y o Late role in U.S, support of the Cuban n security 0J.- Inc Senate Internal Security Sub- ficcr to call him "the best evaluator cpmmittee, investigating Wieland's in government"' secret r f S ten arl can desk officer dur. , It was, in part, his sense of perspcc- ing the early days of Fidel Castro.' Live that led one vetera g. to son a ante and good Judgment. '?.4 of an immigrant Czech blacksmith, Yet, as he was receiving these he had come to Washington in 1936 plaudits from his superiors, Otepka as a government messenger. In 1942, was incurring the enmity of an in.. after earning a law degree at night flucntial clique in the Department at Columbus University (now the' who chafed at security procedures. law school of Catholic University)," Soon after the Kennedy administra- he became an investigator for the tion took over in 1961, these persons Civil Service Commission. Follow- began to act. Otepka found his rec- ing Navy service in World -War II,' ommendations were being ignored he returned to the commission, be- or overruled. came an expert on communist sub- Then there occurred the strange version and supervised a large staff case of William Wieland, a contro analyzing cases under the Federal versial foreign-service officer who Employes Loyalty Program. hid b C ?bb c e opts u1 t e a zealot. His very background made United States "he adds persjective,.:~; him respect the undcrdo 'I"1 , b 1 1965 Sanitized - Approved For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R000600040145-5 3 Sanitized - Approved-For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R000600040145-5 revolution, declared that e cou not "escape a share of the responsi- bility" for Castro's takeover. Among other things, the'subcommittee un- covered evidence that Wieland had withheld crucial intelligence reports warning of Castro's communist'., tics. Conducting an investigation un- der specific Department orders, Otepka in 1961 reported he found no proof Wieland was a communist, but he amassed evidence that he was responsible for "policy impedance" and had "lied" both to the Senate subcommittee and to State's own in- vestigators. Otcpka recommended that higher authorities consider dis- missing him as unsuitable. For an answer, on September 18, 1961, William Boswell, an old-line foreign-service officer and at the time Otepka's immediate superior, ordered Otepka to clear Wieland im- mediately without the required writ- ten findings from the Deputy Under Secretary for Administration. Otcpka refused. The Department made its first formal move to get rid of Otepka less than six weeks later. On No- vember i, 1961, Boswell called Otepka into his office and an- nounced that 25 Security Office jobs were being eliminated. Otepka was being demoted to chief of a 32-man evaluation staff. Many men would have quit in dis- gust. Otepka stayed on, even though his old job, supposedly abolished for economy reasons, was later restored with someone else filling it. o' AU G 1965 CPYRGHT THE ORDEAL OF OTTO OTEPKA en John Reilly arrived as the new director of the Office of Secu- rity. Now Otepka's recommenda- tions and memorandums were bounced back with critical notations. And weird, things began to happen. At 10:30 p.m. on March 24 Otepka returned to his office after an eve- ning of bowling and startled two of Reilly's aides there. Later, an elec- tronic&technician- told him, "Your phone" is bugged:" Another reported that there were concealed listening devices planted in his office. One weekend his office safe was drilled open. And a mystery man with bin- oculars sat outside Otepka's home night after night. By early 1963 the situation epito- mized by the harassment of Otepka had become so critical that the State Department's entire personnel secu- rity apparatus was on the verge of collapse. The Atomic Energy Com- mission, in granting access to atomic secrets, refused to accept State De, partment investigations, and the Civil Service Commission reported to the National Security Council deficiencies and shortcomings in State's security operations. At this point, the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee resumed its hearings. During February and March 1963 it asked Otepka whether the Department was clearing possi- ble security risks despite, warnings from the Evaluations Division. Otep- ka declared it was. Reilly denied this. As the hearings progressed, more and more discrepancies de-, veloped between Otepka's testimony Sanitized - Approved For Release : CIA-ROP75-00149R000600040145-5 4 Sanitized - Approved For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R000600040145-5 CPYRGHT THE READER'S DIGEST and Reilly's rejoinders. The contra- actions "unbecoming- an officer of dictions were so serious that on May the Department of State" (specifcal- 23 subcommittee counsel J. G. Sour- ly, supplying legitimate information wine called Otepka to his Capitol to U.S. Senators). Otepka appealed Hill office. "One of you is lying un- he case, under State Department der oath," he said. "If you have regulations. Sen. Thomas Dodd, evidence to prove you're right, you'd vice chairman of the Internal Secu- better produce it." rity Subcommittee, protested to Sec- That light Otepka paced his base= ctary of State Rusk, but Rusk mcnt study at home. "The Code of reconfirmed the proposed dismissal. Ethics for Government Employes,,'?? bodd then stormed onto the Senate adopted by Congress in 1958, re- ' ' floor on November 5, castigating the quires all civil servants to put loyalty to country above loyalty to govern- ment departments. Federal statutes specifically guarantee their right "to furnish information to Congress shall not be interfered with." phone,, the subcommittee has proof ? Shortly thereafter Otepka sent the that fhe- tap was installed'.'-a clear subcommittee 25 unclassified, two 'diolation of State's' own regula '. "confidential," six "official use only,"' Lions. ti?;` and three "limited official use" docu- ments and memos. Point by point these papers upheld the truth of Otcpka's testimony. Four weeks later, on June 27, Otepka was given the meaningless assignment of updating the Security Office Handbook. On August 14, 1963, Otepka suf- fered the next step in his deg- radation-he was accused by his superiors at State of violating the World War I Espionage Act. He was charged with spying for the U.S. Department for "chasing the police- man instead of the culprit," and he exploded a bombshell: "Although a State Department official has denied under' oath a tap on Otepka's tele- That night the Department's top.., legal advisers called in Reilly ands'-4''.. Elmer D. Hill, an electronics techni- cian, and had them sign letters ask- ing the subcommittee for the right to "clarify" and "amplify" their earlier sworn testimony that they had not tapped Otepka's telephone. Reilly's story now changed to: "On March 18 I asked Mr. Elmer D. Hill to undertake a survey of the feasibility of intercepting conversa- tions in Mr. Otepka's office. I made it clear to Mr. Hill that I did not Senate by turning over "confiden- wish any conversations to be inter- tial documents (the papers which cepted at that time." But days later cleared him of perjury). After three days of questioning, the FBI threw out the case against him. Then, on September 23, 1963, the State Department fired Otepka for Hill confessed to the subcommittee that he had tapped."a dozen, perhaps more" of Otepka's telephone con- versations under Reilly's orders. Even ,after that, despite a written AUG 1965 Sanitized - Approved For Release.: CIA-RDP75-00149R000600040145-5 5 Sanitized - Approved For Release : CIA-RDP75-00149R000600040145-5 CPYRGHT protest approved by the entire en- ate Judiciary Committee, Secretary Rusk declared that prosecution of the Otcpka case would be "vigor- ously pursued." Security.Office divi- sion chiefs were officially notified that all who "are disloyal" to the Secretary will be "identified and ousted. We have lost face, and it's up to us to regain it." Since then the State Department has allowed little to leak out. Otcp- ka, waiting for the chance to fight for reinstatement, still goes to the State Department every Monday through Friday. In accordance with Civil Service rules, he still draws his $19,310 annual salary, but he is not given any useful tasks. He is, in effect, in exile within the Depart- ment, and many of his associates are afraid even to say hello to him. Seldom has an issue reached so deep into the roots of our govern- mental system. For if Otepka loses his appeal, now, set for October ii, it will set new precedents for conduct of government. Men like William Wieland, who withheld in- formation about Castro, will know' that they are safe from accountabil- ity. He is still in the State Depart- ment and has since been promoted. Men like Reilly, who deceived a Senate subcommittee, will know that playing the bureaucracy's game pays oa-he presently holds a high- paying;'job with, the Federal Com- munications Commission. And the thousands of dedicated public of- ficials-the Otepkas and those in .other government agencies-will have learned their lesson : In govern- ment, if you see something going wrong, forget it. Says Senator Dodd: "If those forces bent on destroying Otepka and the no-nonsense security approach lie represents are success- ful, who knows how many more Chinas or Cubas we may lose?" The American people can offer only one answer: Loud, sustained protest to President Johnson and their representatives in Congress. Until the men of Otto Otepka's stamp are safe in their jobs, with, full authority to enforce a wise se- curity program, the nation can have no reasonable assurance it is safe from enemies within. AUG 1965 Sanitized - Approved. For Release CIA-RDP75-00149R000600040145-5