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March 18, 1961


JAMA. 1961;175(11):1001-1002. doi:10.1001/jama.1961.03040110065016

Recent accounts in the press concerning the two employees of the National Security Agency who defected to the Soviet Union have understandably created a feeling of uneasiness about our entire security program in the minds of the public. The fact that one of the defectors had consulted a psychiatrist shortly before his defection has further confused the picture. As a result, the relationship of the individual patient to his psychiatrist when sensitive agencies are involved has become unclear for many patients undergoing psychiatric treatment, for the medical profession, and for the public at large. It may be useful, therefore, to restate certain basic principles in order to clarify some of the current misconceptions.

The first misconception, bluntly stated, is that any employee of a sensitive agency receiving psychiatric treatment is ipso facto a security risk. This is untrue. The truth is that a substantial number of such employees have been