Chasing Spies

Chapter One

The Soviet Espionage Threat


The Venona Project messages provide invaluable insights into Soviet intelligence activities in the United States and the covert relationship between KGB agents and American Communists. They provide conclusive evidence of Soviet espionage operations and the willingness of American Communists to spy on behalf of the Soviet Union or to persuade sensitively positioned federal employees to steal classified documents or provide information about U.S. government decisions. These espionage activities gave Soviet officials invaluable intelligence about the wartime Manhattan (atomic bomb) Project and other technological breakthroughs; about U.S. and British negotiating strategies and plans for postwar Europe, including the texts of President Roosevelt's communications with British Prime Minister Churchill; about those Office of Strategic Services (OSS) employees who were suspected Soviet agents or sympathizers; and, as early as 1948, about Washington's successful breaking of Soviet coded consular messages under the Venona Project.


The deciphered Soviet consular messages also provide fascinating insights into the parochialism and paranoia that shaped Moscow's intelligence activities. The KGB's obsessive secrecy and monolithic intolerance led it to monitor the activities of America Trotskyites, emigré Russian monarchists and Social Democrat and ethnic Americans who sharply criticized Soviet leaders and their domestic and foreign policies. These reports about the Soviet Union's ideological enemies had little effect on American security interests. American Trotskyites and Russian monarchists enjoyed minuscule followings within the United States. Their lack of influence on U.S. policy or on developments within the Soviet Union make the KGB's spying on these individuals' activities at best silly. KGB agents' reports on the plans and objectives of the Democratic National Committee, or of Republican presidential nominee Thomas Dewey, or of American congressional committees, or of the commentary of syndicated columnist Walter Lippmann only serve to document the mind-set of individuals operating in closed society. Much of what the KGB reported to Moscow as sensitive information was available to any astute reader of the American press.


But the Venona messages do tell us much about the motivation of American Communists and about other sources whom KGB agents recruited, whether or not they were employed in sensitive federal agencies. For example, much of the statistical information about wartime U.S. industrial production and troop levels reported by the so-called Silvermaster spy ring—federal employees recruited by Nathan Gregory Silvermaster to pilfer classified docu­ments and information—did not seriously damage U.S. security interests or necessarily advance Soviet interests at U.S. expense. The essence of this information was officially conveyed to the Soviet Union under the wartime lend-lease assistance program, or in response to specific requests of the Soviet Government Purchasing Commission, the liaison Soviet agency stationed in the United States to promote delivery of military-related materials under lend-lease. Since the United States and the Soviet Union were wartime allies, the reported information confirmed U.S. capabilities to wage war effectively against the Axis powers. In contrast to the advance intelligence that the British Communist Donald Maclean reported about the policy priorities of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at wartime summit conferences, or the scientific data about the Manhattan Project provided by the British Communist Klaus Fuchs, the information about U.S. industrial productivity and military strength provided by the Silvermaster group—the numbers being overwhelming—might have deterred Soviet officials from pursuing an aggressive negotiating strategy. American spies may have aimed to further Soviet interests and betray their own nation, but the effect of their actions compromised neither long-term nor immediate U.S. security interests—only the secrecy that American intelligence officials and the White House valued in formulating national security policy.1


The deciphered Soviet consular messages also proved to be crucial for U.S. counterintelligence operations. When individuals with code names were identified, in some cases as early as 1948–1949, the FBI (and the NSA) was able to determine that Donald Maclean, Morris Cohen, Klaus Fuchs, Harry Gold, Julius Rosenberg, David Greenglass, Theodore Hall, Judith Coplon, Joseph York, and William Weisband were KGB recruits. Yet this intelligence breakthrough, which compromised a series of Soviet espionage operations, did not necessarily produce convictions. Hall was never indicted, and Maclean and Cohen escaped arrest and conviction, having been forewarned by another KGB agent, Harold "Kim" Philby, that they were the subjects of an inquiry. The FBI did arrest Gold, Rosenberg, Greenglass, and Coplon—­aborting Coplon's ongoing espionage activities and ensuring the conviction of Gold, Rosenberg, and Greenglass for their wartime atomic espionage activities.* The identification of York enabled FBI officials to pressure him, first, into admitting espionage, and then to identifying Weisband as a co-participant. U.S. intelligence officials exploited this information to suspend Weisband from his position in the Armed Forces Security Agency, where he was reporting to the Soviets on the progress of the Venona Project. But Weisband denied having committed espionage and was indicted and convicted in 1950 only for contempt (refusing to testify before a federal grand jury) and not for espionage.2


As useful as they are, the deciphered Venona messages constitute an incomplete record of Soviet espionage operations in the United States. NSA analysts successfully deciphered only a "tiny fraction" of the intercepted messages.3 And not all reports of Soviet agents were relayed by cable through the Soviet consulates. Other reports were conveyed by couriers, through diplomatic mail, through the regular mail disguised in microdots, or by Soviet officials traveling to the Soviet Union. Furthermore, some of the code names of sources and supervisors cannot be conclusively identified, or the NSA identifications are not reliable.


Allen Weinstein, Alexander Vassiliev, John Haynes, and Harvey Klehr claim to have uncovered additional evidence of Soviet espi­onage activities dating from the 1930s and extending through the early cold war years—Weinstein and Vassiliev through their privileged access to the closed KGB records deposited in Moscow, Haynes and Klehr through their research into congressional, presidential, and FBI records which they claim enable them to flush out the tantalizing disclosures of the deciphered Venona messages.


The promise of Weinstein and Vassiliev's research derives from their access to KGB records relating to some of the most hotly contested cold war internal security cases. Much of their docu­mentation, however, does not record Soviet espionage activities directed at the U.S. government. Many of their research discoveries also border on the banal—recounting Martha Dodd's actions as a courtesan, Boris Morros's successful scamming of the wealthy American Communist Alfred Stern to invest $130,000 in a money-­losing music production business**, and Congressman Samuel Dickstein's offer to Soviet agents to provide sensitive information in return for a monthly stipend of $2,500 (the Soviets agreed to pay $1,250 and never received the promised information).4 With two exceptions, Weinstein and Vassiliev's documentation of Soviet espionage activities merely supplements the Venona revelations, adding detail but no new examples of Soviet espionage operations and recruited sources. The two exceptions involve evidence about Alger Hiss's recruitment as a Soviet agent in the 1930s, and about a Soviet espionage operation aimed at the State Department in the mid-1930s.


To recapitulate the story briefly: In December 1948, ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers abruptly changed his public testimony of August that year to charge that Alger Hiss had during the 1930s provided him with classified State Department documents. This espionage relationship, Chambers said, continued at least until April 1938, when Chambers defected from the Communist party. Because Chambers had earlier accused Hiss only of being a member of a Communist cell whose purpose was to promote Communist infiltration of the New Deal, not espionage, and because Chambers had dated his own break from the Communist party to 1937, his changed testimony raised questions about the reliability of his- account. In grand jury testimony, and during his two trials in 1949 and thereafter, Hiss affirmed his own innocence, but he was indicted for and convicted of perjury. In their book, supposedly based on new evidence from KGB files, Weinstein and Vassiliev reconstruct the history of the Hiss-Chambers case, confirming Hiss's guilt and the veracity of Chambers's account of his espionage relationship with Hiss during the 1930s. But the authors sole source for their treatment of the Hiss-Chambers case is not the KGB records but Weinstein's 1978 book Perjury.5 In a footnote, Weinstein and Vassiliev briefly note their failure to un­cover any KGB records documenting their long narrative on the Hiss-Chambers case: "Since [Soviet] military intelligence (GRU) archives were not available for this or any other book, we have been able to further clarify Alger Hiss's role as a Soviet agent only through his occasional appearances in NKVD/NKGB archives* cited in [their book's] Chapters 1, 4 and 12."6


Will closed GRU records confirm the Hiss-Chambers espi­onage relationship and the contention that Chambers was a recruited GRU agent? Will these records confirm that Chambers recruited Hiss as a GRU source during the 1930s, receiving from him classified State Department documents? Will they further confirm that Chambers defected in April 1938? In fact, we do not know—nor do Weinstein and Vassiliev—what the closed GRU records may or may not confirm. It is dishonest for Weinstein and Vassiliev to imply, first, that their reconstruction of the Hiss­Chambers case is based on new evidence from KGB files, and, sec­ond, that when accessible, GRU records will confirm this as fact.


While the accessible KGB records do not confirm Hiss's espi­onage activities, they do record a previously unsuspected and po­tentially significant Soviet espionage operation. In 1934 the KGB successfully recruited a sensitive State Department source, code named Willie/Daniel/Albert. This source provided the KGB with seemingly invaluable intelligence that included "numerous ambassadorial, consular, and military attaché reports from Europe and the Far East" and, more important, "transcripts of recorded conversations Secretary of State Cordell Hull and his assistants had with foreign ambassadors."7


Weinstein and Vassiliev, however, do not even summarily describe the contents of these various transmissions, and thus we are left in the dark as to whether U.S. foreign policy interests and the conduct of difficult negotiations with the Soviet Union were thereby compromised. Just as surprisingly, the authors seem indif­ferent either to the length of Willie/Daniel/Albert's service as a KGB source in the State Department or how Willie/Daniel/ Albert could deliver to his KGB handler "transcripts of recorded conversations." Had he bugged the office of the secretary of state? Or listened in on and transcribed the secretary's and assistant secretaries' conversations with foreign ambassadors from an adjoining office?** How long did he serve as a KGB source, and were his espionage activities coordinated with other KGB sources recruited later in the 1930s?


Despite having discovered the Willie/Daniel/Albert espionage operation through their research in KGB records, Weinstein and Vassiliev show little interest in its scope and its relationship to other Soviet intelligence operations aimed at the State Department. This is puzzling, particularly since the authors quote a KGB report characterizing as "precious" the information that Willie/Daniel/Albert provided. Owing to the quality of his information, the KGB station chief concluded "we consider inexpedient any further penetration into the State Department either by legal or illegal operations. The task is to develop the agents we already have." Willie's annual retainer of $15,000 (approximately $190,000 in 2000 dollars) offers further evidence of how much the KGB val­ued his importance, as do the KGB's monthly stipends to "two other" recruited State Department sources working with Willie: $500 to Daniel and $400 to Albert. (Combining the two monthly stipends and annualizing them would be approximately $140,000 in 20oo dollars.) KGB officials, however, later discovered that their contact with Willie/Daniel/Albert, a "free lance journalist" code-named Leo, had falsely claimed to have received information from Daniel and Albert, then pocketed the monthly stipends. Leo's sole source, KGB agents established, was actually Willie. Nonetheless, even after discovering Leo's scam, KGB officials simply discontinued the monthly stipends and continued to "rely on `Leo' for several more years as a paid agent handling the genuine `Willie,' though it did not inform him about others at State subsequently recruited."8


Another KGB report confirms Willie's importance. In this report Willie advised his KGB handlers that U.S. ambassador to Moscow William Bullitt had complained that "the contents of his reports" to Washington were known to Moscow officials. In response, an assistant to Secretary of State Cordell Hull questioned Willie "about the possible leak of these reports," then charged Willie "with checking the employees and investigating the department"—seemingly confirming Willie's high-level position in the State Department at the time. Surprisingly, Weinstein and Vassiliev do not pursue this matter. Consistent with their downplaying of the Willie espionage operation, they do not even list Willie and Leo in their "Cast of Characters" recruited by the KGB as "American Agents and Sources."9


Yet the Willie-Leo operation (as sketchily described by Wein­stein and Vassiliev) offers invaluable insights into Soviet espionage operations. On the one hand, Willie's annual stipend and Leo's dishonesty in pocketing the monthly stipends to Daniel and Albert confirm that Soviet espionage operations depended on mercenaries—contradicting Weinstein and Vassiliev's unqualified assertion that Soviet agents "normally paid" individuals employed in de­fense industries for information, but that this was "not a practice followed with Moscow's more ideologically driven Washington sources of political or governmental data." Continuing, Weinstein and Vassiliev contend that "Paid [Soviet] informants worked mainly for U.S. defense-related industries, while many of the [ideologically motivated] `believers' rose steadily through the ranks of the Roosevelt administration's bureaucracy. Ideological reliability and access to top-secret scientific information, however, converged at times, most notably during the Second World War."10 The Willie and Leo cases, like those of Boris Morros, Congressman Dickstein, and even Nathan Silvermaster,* challenge this distinc­tion between mercenaries and "believers."


Because other scholars cannot research the KGB records made accessible to Weinstein and Vassiliev, the significance of the Willie—Leo operation cannot be fully understood. Nor do John Haynes and Harvey Klehr extend our understanding of Soviet espionage activities. Their research into congressional, presidential, and FBI records does not add substantially to what can be learned from simply reading the deciphered Venona messages, reprinted in Robert Benson and Michael Warner's Venona or accessible on the Internet. As in the case of Weinstein and Vassiliev, Haynes and Klehr's "new" information often turns out to be nothing more than a priori speculations about the contents of deciphered and undeciphered Venona messages.


For example, they report Elizabeth Bentley's statements to the FBI—in the month following her November 1945 defection—that in 1944, Roosevelt White House aide Lauchlin Currie had warned Soviet intelligence agents that the United States was on the verge of breaking the Soviet code. Haynes and Klehr speculate that Cur­rie "may well have heard an overly optimistic report sent to the White House about the early Venona effort." The Soviets, Haynes and Klehr continue, "appear to have learned of the existence of the Venona Project within a year and a half of its origin."11


Haynes and Klehr's speculations are unsubstantiated, and in fact are contradicted by recently released military intelligence records. In February 1943, Colonel Carter Clarke unilaterally created a special Russian section within the Signal Intelligence Service (the predecessor to the National Security Agency) to decipher the intercepted Soviet consular messages. Clarke did so without con­sulting the White House or the State Department and adopted strict safeguards to ensure that the activities of this section could not become known, even to other units within the Signal Intelligence Service itself. Because this section did not successfully decipher any of the intercepted Soviet consular messages, no reports were sent to the White House (as was done, for example, in the case of deciphered Japanese messages).12 Currie could hardly have alerted the Soviets to this code-breaking operation.


Haynes and Klehr further contend that Currie's statement about the Venona breakthrough was immediately forwarded to Soviet officials. But this is not confirmed by their source: Benson and Warner's citation of an October 31, 1943, Venona message. The referenced message merely reports that KGB officers had recently received a new codebook to replace the Petsamo code docu­ments. Benson and Warner attribute this Soviet decision to change the code not to information obtained from American sources but to "a Soviet agent in Berlin," who at the end of 1941 "reported that the Germans were trying to exploit a Russian codebook [Petsamo] acquired through their Finnish allies."13


Haynes and Klehr continue, "There is also evidence, although it is not conclusive, that Currie attempted to kill the Venona project before it revealed the contents of Soviet cable traffic." Their source is an uncorroborated assertion of two military intelligence officials, Colonels Harold Hayes and Frank Rowlett, offered in an interview during the 1990s. They claimed that their superior, Colonel Clarke, had "told them he received instructions from the White House to cease work on Soviet ciphers." They were then instructed by Clarke to ignore this order and "continue the Venona Project." While conceding that "No written record exists of these [White House] instructions," and that the two military officers referred generically to the White House "and not to anyone in particular," Haynes and Klehr claim that Currie's usual practice was to intercede verbally, confirmed by his intervention to foreclose a security investigation into the Communist orientation of Silvermaster—though in the Silvermaster case a written record had been created by the persons whom Currie had contacted.14


This account poses a number of problems. At the most basic, Haynes and Klehr cannot corroborate that Currie's verbal inter­cession on behalf of Silvermaster constituted his usual practice, thereby explaining the absence of any War Department record of his attempt to kill Venona. Currie had acted as a character refer­ence in the Silvermaster case; to the extent that his intercession carried weight, it stemmed from his status as a trusted White House aide. But Currie had no authority to speak for the White House on a substantive policy matter such as killing Venona—a decision that would have required the direct authority of the pres­ident relayed through the secretaries of state or war. Had Currie is­sued such a verbal order, he would have had to know that Colonel Clarke had established this code-breaking unit. In any event, the thrust of the Hayes and Rowlett recollection pertained to a quite different matter—the acquisition in 1944 by the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), from emigré Finnish cryptanalysts, of a partially burned KGB codebook. Over OSS chief William Donovan's ob­jections, Secretary of State Edward Stettinius urged President Roosevelt to return the codebook to the Soviet embassy, and the president so ordered. Despite the order, some have contended that OSS officials retained a copy of this partially burned codebook,* returning the original to the Soviets. This codebook, in any case, did not enable military analysts to break the Soviet code. Instead they benefited from their successful deciphering of Japanese con­sular messages. One of these deciphered messages relayed informa­tion that Japanese military attachés had learned from the Finns about Finnish code-breakers' knowledge of Soviet codes and enci­phering procedures.15


Haynes and Klehr further speculate about the contents of un­deciphered Venona messages. After conceding that three individu­als named by Bentley as Soviet spies—Michael Greenberg, Joseph Gregg, and Robert Miller—“are not identified in those KGB ca­bles that were deciphered in the Venona Project," they contend that "Given, however, the high degree of corroboration of Eliza­beth Bentley's testimony, her statements about these persons must be regarded as having great credibility. There are, moreover, numerous cover names in Venona that one or more of these persons might hide behind." The authors repeat this tactic in the case of the radical journalist I. F. Stone. "There is no evidence in Venona," they concede, "that Stone ever was recruited by the KGB, but [Soviet KGB official Oleg] Kalugin's comments in the 1990s that he `re-established' contact leave open the possibility that Stone may have met with KGB agents on some basis after the [innocuous 1944] meeting documented in Venona." Haynes and Klehr also speculate about the contents of undeciphered Venona messages, lamenting that "Some of the GRU's known activities in the United States during World War II are not mentioned in the decrypted Venona cables. Undoubtedly, these are among the thousands of cables that were never deciphered." They specifically cite the case of Arthur Adams** whom they note "was not identified in Venona messages, nor were several of his closest collabora­tors. Either they are among the cover names that have never been identified or else the messages dealing with them were never de­crypted."16


Do the deciphered Venona messages, then, document the essence of Soviet espionage operations? Will other unreleased So­viet records reveal a more extensive and successful espionage threat or simply confirm that our present knowledge is substan­tially accurate? The speculations of Weinstein, Vassiliev, Haynes, and Klehr do not advance our understanding of this question. We cannot know the contents of withheld or inaccessible documents. But our current knowledge leaves open the possibility that the de­ciphered Venona messages and accessible KGB records represent either a mosaic or an iceberg. A mosaic in the sense that the acces­sible records describe the general picture, with the likelihood that future disclosures will add detail but not alter the essence of known Soviet espionage operations. An iceberg in the sense that what we now know is only a small part of the scope and signifi­cance of Soviet espionage in the United States. The resolution of these differing appraisals awaits the full release of all records of So­viet espionage operations conducted during World War II and the cold war.


The accessible Venona messages also raise a quite different question relating to U.S. counterintelligence operations. They confirm that Soviet agents recruited a number of Americans, some employed in sensitive government agencies, including members of the American Communist party. This contrasts sharply with the record of espionage prosecutions during World War II and the cold war eras, a record that also underscores a series of paradoxical disparities. In some cases, individuals whom the Venona messages confirm as Soviet spies were indicted and convicted; in other cases, individuals who were not identified in the Venona messages as Soviet recruits were indicted and convicted (but for perjury, not espi­onage); in still other cases, individuals whose espionage activities were confirmed by the Venona messages were never indicted and thus not convicted.


For example, after her defection in November 1945, Elizabeth Bentley described to FBI agents her role as a courier for two Soviet espionage rings headed by Nathan Silvermaster and Victor Perlo. She named more than 150 federal employees whom she claimed delivered government secrets to her that she then transmitted to her KGB handler for transmission to the Soviet Union. She further claimed that some of the 150 named individuals were aware they were involved in Soviet espionage, but others believed the infor­mation was to be given to officials of the American Communist party. Bentley identified William Remington as one of the latter group, claiming that he paid her Communist party dues, person­ally gave her "scraps of information" and oral reports, and was not a member of either the Silvermaster or Perlo rings. The Venona messages confirm Bentley's account of Silvermaster's and Perlo's roles, and of the activities of those whom she described as mem­bers of these two espionage rings. No Venona message documents Remington as providing written or oral reports to Bentley which she then delivered to her KGB contact. Nonetheless, none of those whom Bentley identified—and whom the Venona messages confirm-as members of the Silvermaster-Perlo espionage rings were indicted—but Remington was indicted and convicted (but for perjury, not espionage).


This same disparity recurs in the case of Alger Hiss. Convicted in 1950 for two for perjurious testimony—denying before a federal grand jury that he gave classified information to a known Communist—Hiss’s alleged espionage activities are not confirmed by the Venona records. Hiss is cited by name, however, in one of the intercepted Soviet consular messages, of September 28, 1943. This report of the GRU's New York station chief observes that Hiss was mentioned in a KGB report about the State Department. The re­mainder of this GRU report, however, could not be deciphered by U.S. code-breakers.17 Does the fact that Hiss was cited by name in this GRU report (and that his identity was not disguised by a code name) indirectly confirm that he was not a recruited Soviet agent? We cannot know from the deciphered Venona messages.


Another Venona message, dated March 30, 1945, led NSA ana­lysts to conclude that in 1945 Hiss had been assigned the code name Ales. The concluding paragraph of this deciphered message reads: "After the Yalta Conference, when he had gone to Moscow, a Soviet personage in a very responsible position (ales gave it to understand that it was Comrade vyshinskij) allegedly got in touch with ales and at the behest of the Military neighbors [GRU] passed on to him their gratitude and so on.”18 Hiss attended the Yalta Conference as a member of the U.S. delegation, then trav­eled to Moscow with Secretary of State Edward Stettinius and three other members of the U.S. delegation. Does this awkwardly worded translation confirm that Ales had gone to Moscow after the Yalta Conference, or instead that Ales had been briefed by this "Soviet personage"? The preceding paragraphs of this Soviet con­sular message, moreover, suggest that Ales might not be Hiss. These passages describe Ales as having worked with the GRU "continuously since 1935" and "obtaining military information only. Materials in the `Bank' [State Department] allegedly interest the neighbors [GRU] very little and he does not produce them regularly." Hiss was employed in the Justice Department's Solici­tor General office in 1935, however, and did not transfer to the State Department until 1936. While the writer of this 1945 message might have erred on the date of Ales's recruitment, the unqualified assertion that this GRU recruit provided only military information is inconsistent with Hiss's State Department responsibilities, which involved trade and diplomatic matters. The State Department documents that Chambers turned over in 194.8, which he claimed to have received from Hiss in 1938, reported information about trade and diplomatic matters.*


The Venona messages highlight even more puzzling disparities in espionage prosecutions. They confirm that Julius Rosenberg and Theodore Hall had been witting participants in atomic espi­onage. The Venona intercepts document that Rosenberg had re­cruited his brother-in-law, David Greenglass, a military draftee assigned to Los Alamos, and that Hall had approached a KGB agent in New York to volunteer sensitive information he had learned about the atomic bomb project as a current employee at Los Alamos. FBI and Justice Department officials learned about Rosenberg's and Hall's espionage activities almost at the same time in 1950. Rosenberg was indicted and convicted for atomic es­pionage, as was his wife Ethel, despite the fact that the Venona messages record that while she knew of her husband's activities, she was not a co-conspirator. Hall was never indicted.


The deciphered Venona messages also led to the FBI's discov­ery that the KGB had recruited a junior Justice Department em­ployee, Judith Coplon, who would be in a position to obtain information about FBI surveillance activities. An intensive FBI in­vestigation and sting operation was launched leading to Coplon's indictment and conviction. Nonetheless Coplon's conviction was reversed on appeal, but she was never retried. Justice Department officials delayed until 1967 before formally dropping the case.


The most perplexing disparity in FBI and Justice Department decisions on prosecution, however, relate to the leadership of the American Communist party. The Venona messages confirm that the wartime head of the party, Earl Browder, was aware of and en­couraged Soviet efforts to recruit American Communists to steal industrial and governmental secrets. No Venona message, how­ever, documents that other senior party officials—notably Eugene Dennis, William Foster, John Williamson, Henry Winston, Jack Stachel, Benjamin Davis, Carl Winter, John Gates, Irving Potash, Robert Thompson, Gil Green, and Gus Hall—either knew or en­couraged such espionage activities. Yet Browder was never in­dicted for violating either the Foreign Agents Registration or the Espionage acts while all the other party officials named above were indicted in 1948 and subsequently convicted for conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government by force or violence.


In light of what the deciphered Venona messages tell us, does this confusing record of prosecution and nonprosecution indi­rectly support the charges of "softness toward communism" lev­eled against the Roosevelt and Truman administrations by Senator Joseph McCarthy and his followers in the 1950s? Did President Roosevelt's indifference make possible Soviet espionage, and did President Truman's partisanship or indifference foreclose FBI investigations of Soviet espionage activities that could have ensured the prosecution of guilty spies? The answers to these questions are closely tied to the performance of the FBI.

* FBI officials also alerted their British counterparts to Klaus Fuchs's wartime atomic espionage activities. Working with British intelligence, FBI agents succeeded in breaking Fuchs, getting him to admit his guilt and to identify Harry Gold as the courier to whom he gave his reports for transmis­sion to the Soviet Union.


** The FBI, however, had learned of the Morros-Stern financial relationship as early as October 1944, having broken into Stern's New York office to pho­tocopy his records. Report, name-redacted agent, October 27, 1944, FBI 100-203581-3392.

* The "occasional appearances" turn out to be based on a series of ques­tionable speculative conclusions. These are that KGB agents assigned Hiss and Harry Dexter White the same code name (Lawyer), that KGB agents either "forgot" or "did not know" Hiss's code name when citing him by name in their reports (which would seem to confirm that Hiss was not a recruited agent but a valued or helpful source), and that Ales was Hiss's assigned code name in 1945. Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, pp. xxiii, xxiv, 5, 7, 43, 79n, 80, 157, 165, 165n, 267-268.


** The KGB reports seemingly confirm an account of Ludwig Lore, an FBI informer, who told the FBI in 1941 that Whittaker Chambers headed a KGB operation of approximately seventy recruits, including "two girls who were private secretaries to Assistant Secretaries of State" and who had provided "copies" of President Roosevelt's correspondence. The FBI reports on Lore are reprinted in Edith Tiger, ed., In Re Alger Hiss Volume II (New York, 1980), pp. 208-209.

* Silvermaster not only received "expense" stipends but requested and was paid $6,000 ($60,000 in 2000 dollars) to purchase a farm.


* For example, Robert Lamphere, the FBI’s liaison to military intelligence, claims that cryptanalyst Meredith Gardner had a copy of this codebook.


** Adams became the subject of the FBI's comrap program (see Chapter Three). While Adams's activities were closely monitored (including wiretaps and break-ins), FBI agents were never able to confirm his involvement in espi­onage. Having monitored his contacts with three employees of the Manhattan Project in Chicago, who were described as having "Communist and pro­-Soviet backgrounds," FBI agents suspected that these three were the source for the microfilmed documents they found in Adams's possession through a break-in to his hotel room in New York. The FBI was unable to establish that Adams or the three had been involved in espionage, and eventually lost con­tact with Adams, reporting in January 1946 that he had "disappeared." Nonetheless, in this as in other cases, Haynes's and Klehr's clairvoyance—as­suming that Adams's reports must have been transmitted by Soviet consular officials—misses a different reality. Adams was an "illegal," entering the United States through Canada and not officially assigned to a Soviet consular post or to an agency such as the Soviet Government Purchasing Commission. FBI agents suspected that Adams's activities were funded through the Elec­tronic Corporation of America, and that he used the company as a cover for his espionage activities. Through the break-in to Adams's hotel room, more­over, FBI agents learned that the microfilm documents contained chemicals used in connection with microscope dots." Confidential Letter, Conroy to FBI Director, November 15, 1944, FBI 100-203581-3425; Teletype, Conroy to FBI Director, November 14, 1944, FBI 100-203581-3428.

* 'Weinstein and Vassiliev claim that an April 2, 1945, KGB report corrobo­rates that Ales was Hiss's code name. Their conclusion is not borne out by this report. Contrary to their implication that Ales's report to a KGB recruit alerted the KGB to FBI monitoring of a Soviet espionage operation, the refer­enced FBI investigation involved the leaking of classified documents to a radi­cal journal of Far Eastern affairs, Amerasia (this case will be discussed in detail in Chapter Four). Weinstein and Vassiliev base their conclusion that Ales was Hiss's code name on a reference in this report to Secretary of State Stettinius having been told that FBI agents had identified Ales as one of "only three people" who had access to the leaked documents and that Stettinius had then confronted Ales, stating, "I hope it is not you" who leaked the documents. Because the leaked documents pertained to Far Eastern policy and involved an individual who would have had access to documents relating to that policy over the preceding eighteen months, the suspected Ales more logically would be either John Carter Vincent, who headed the Far Eastern desk at State, or Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Harry Dexter White, given his role in drafting the Treasury Department's position on a proposed gold loan to the Chinese Nationalist government. An FBI wiretap installed during the Amera­sia investigation lends further credence to the White identification, in addition to the fact that the KGB's source for this report, Harold Glasser, was a Treasury Department employee. The intercepted conversation records the claim of one of the suspects that an associate could obtain "a lot of stuff on Far Eastern things that the other guys don't get" through weekly meetings with White, as White "will tell you a lot of stuff." Harvey Klehr and Ronald Radosh, The Amerasia Spy Case: Prelude to McCarthyism (Chapel Hill, 1996), pp. 52-53.


1 Benson and Warner, in Venona, reprint selected Venona messages that document Soviet intelligence operations. See pp. 199-450.


2 Ibid., pp. xxiv-xxviii.


3 Ibid., p. xxxii.


4 Weinstein and Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, pp. 50-71, 110-150. Indeed, the KGB agents assigned Dickstein the code name Crook and in their reports described him as “an unscrupulous type, greedy for money.”


5 Ibid., 38-49.


6 Ibid., 44n


7 Ibid., p. 34.


8 Ibid., pp. 34-35.


9 Ibid., pp. xxi-xxiv, 36-37.


10 Ibid., pp. 25, 29.


11 Haynes and Klehr, Venona, p. 47.


12 Alvarez, Secret Messages, pp. 204-213, 218, 223; Benson and Warner, Venona, pp. xiii, xxii, xxxiii.


13 Contrast Haynes and Klehr’s account and citation with Benson and Warner, Venona, p. xiv.


14 Haynes and Klehr, Venona, p. 48.


15 Benson and Warner, Venona, pp. xvii, 43-48, 59. Robert Lamphere and Tom Shachtman, The FBI-KGB War: A Special Agent’s Story (New York, 1986), p. 84.


16 Haynes and Klehr, Venona, pp. 114, 167, 173, 249. The authors' penchant to indict, despite having uncovered no evidence confirming accusations that specific individuals were involved in espionage, is repeated in their treatment of the atomic scientist and head of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer. After asking, "What do the Venona cables have to say about J. Robert Oppenheimer?" they respond, "Directly very little, but indirectly perhaps a bit more." They then note that Venona offers no evidence that Oppenheimer spied or compromised the atomic bomb project. Nonetheless they conclude: "While the preponderance of the ev­idence argues against Oppenheimer having been an active Soviet source, one matter cannot be ruled out. The possibility exists that up to [August 1944] ... he may have overlooked the conduct of others whom he had reasonable grounds to question, a passivity motivated by his personal and political ties to those persons." Ibid., pp. 329-330


17 New York to Moscow, No. 1579, September 28,1943 Venona messages.


18 Washington to Moscow, No. 1822, March 30, 1945, Venona messages.



From Chasing Spies, copyright c 2002 by Athan Theoharis, by permission of Ivan R. Dee, Publisher.