An advocate for international tribunals that investigate and prosecute crimes against humanity and a prominent figure in the history of telecommunications law and privacy, H. W. William Caming, died January 24, 2014, at his home in Summit, N.J., at the age of 94 after a three-month illness.
As chief prosecutor and deputy director of the Political Ministries Division in the Office of the U. S. Chief Counsel for War Crimes from 1946 to 1949, Caming charged 21 German military and civilian leaders with crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and membership in criminal organizations in the largest, longest, and last phase of the International Military Tribunal, commonly known at the Nuremberg trials. Many of the defendants had worked in the Nazi Foreign Office or Hitler’s cabinet. Caming earned convictions on one or more counts for 19 of the 21, and all 19 served prison sentences.
“When we were at Nuremberg, we were conscious of making history,” Caming said in November 2011 as he accepted the Joshua Heintz Award for Humanitarian Achievement from the Robert H. Jackson Center. Jackson, a U.S. Supreme Court justice at the end of the war, headed the American prosecutorial team at Nuremberg.
One of the very few surviving prosecutors from the Nuremberg trials, Caming served 27 months during World War II in India, China, and Burma (now Myanmar), trying cases for the U.S. Army Air Forces’ Judge Advocate General unit. In Miami for rest just after the surrender of Japan, he received a call from General Telford Taylor, who asked if he could come to Washington, D.C., preferably the next day.
“When a general calls and asks you to be somewhere the next day,” he told a friend, “you find a way to show up.”
Taylor and Justice Jackson offered him a position on the Nuremberg prosecuting team. According to an interview Caming gave to the Drew University newspaper The Acorn before a 2007 lecture at the Center for Holocaust Study there, “The only question I had was ‘Do I have enough time to pack a toothbrush.’”
After his work at Nuremberg, Caming joined the New York State Attorney General’s office and then in 1953 the Bell System. He eventually worked as the labor legal counsel for AT&T Long Lines, negotiating collective bargaining agreements for the one million employees of the Bell System’s 26 companies.
He moved to AT&T’s headquarters in 1965 as senior counsel and until 1984 oversaw all legal matters related to privacy, corporate security, information technology, criminal law, and related litigation for AT&T and its affiliates. During his tenure he became the company’s chief spokesperson on matters of privacy and telecommunications law, testifying frequently before Congressional committees and regulatory bodies. Caming also served as the company’s liaison to the FBI and all governmental intelligence agencies on military security and privacy matters.
In 1975 Caming defended AT&T’s tapping of its own telephone lines from 1965 to 1970 as part of a company effort to stop the theft of long-distance service. Appearing on the Today show that year, he acknowledged that AT&T devices had listened to 1,005,000 suspect calls originating from six major U.S. cities during the period but that such acts were legal under U.S. law.
The company’s actions led to convictions of more than 250 people for using so-called black boxes to steal the services, Caming claimed then. Subsequent U.S. law has made such surveillance much more difficult.
Before and after retiring in 1984, Caming served as a consultant on privacy matters to the CIA, FBI, Congress, and the American Bar Association Section on Criminal Justice. He sat on the National Advisory Board of the Center for Information Technology and Privacy of the John Marshal School of Law and on the Task Force on Computer Crime for the Council of International Business. He was a member of the advisory panel for the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress from 1985 to 1987.
He was a member of the Old Guard of Summit for 23 years, serving for a time as chairman of the Timely Topics Discussion Group and as member-at-large on the Council. He was also a long-time member of Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit.
After a private high school education, Caming graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from New York University in 1937. He also earned an L.L.M. in labor law from NYU and a J.D. from Harvard Law School, the latter in 1941.
Caming was born in New York City on September 22, 1919, to Arthur Caming, a corporate and residential real estate developer, and his wife, Ann. The couple’s divorce led to family sojourns in New Jersey, Miami, and New York state locations. From 1934 to 1939 he spent every summer in Europe and found himself in Scotland when Germany invaded Poland.
He was married for 54 years to his wife, Kathleen Marie (née White) Caming, who died in 2005. He is survived by a daughter, Patricia Castillo of Elizabeth, N.J., a brother, Lionel Caming of New York City, and his dedicated caregiver, Ann McPherson.