ACLU History: Rooting Out 'Subversives:' Paranoia and Patriotism in the McCarthy Era
The ACLU became a target of the witch hunts as well: in 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy singled out ACLU National Board member Dorothy Kenyon at one of the first of his infamous hearings, because of her involvement with communist organizations. At her hearing, she denounced the Senator as 'an unmitigated liar' and 'a coward to take shelter in the cloak of Congressional immunity.' The following day, The New York Times published an editorial supporting Kenyon, after which Senator McCarthy claimed to have no interest in pursuing the case; the Senate subcommittee ultimately dismissed the charges.
The government's ideological assault continued well into the 1950s, as various activists were indicted under the Smith Act, a World War II-era law aimed at suppressing dissidents. The ACLU, which had testified against the Act when it was introduced in 1940, protested the indictment of dozens of Communist leaders under the Act in 1948. Nearly a decade later, the Supreme Court threw out their convictions, but the law remains on the books to this day.