Jeff Kisseloff (2009) – II
Jeff Kisseloff reviews a book that claims that the Hiss case is now “closed,” as a result of information in the notes taken by Alexander Vassiliev, when in the 1990s he was shown records of Soviet intelligence operations in the United States. This review was written with considerable research assistance from the Moscow-based historian, Dr. Svetlana Chervonnaya. To see more of her work related to Soviet espionage during the Cold War, visit her Web site, DocumentsTalk.com.
“Spies: Fact of Fiction?”
by Jeff Kisseloff
John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press, New Haven: 2009).
Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America marks the sixth collaboration between John Earl Haynes, a historian in the Library of Congress’s Manuscript Division, and Harvey Klehr, a professor of politics and history at Emory University. All six books examine the influence of the Communist movement in America, mostly by drawing on newly released intelligence files from the former Soviet Union. Their general conclusion is that available Soviet files support certain postwar contentions by American conservatives – namely, that Soviet intelligence had an extensive network of dedicated agents and sympathizers in America before, during, and after World War II, many of whom were government officials.  Praised for their scholarship by many historians, Haynes’ and Klehr’s work has in recent years come to be considered a “consensus” viewpoint.
Like several previous Haynes and Klehr books, Spies is published by Yale University Press. It lists Alexander Vassiliev as its third co-author, and is based on the notes that Vassiliev, a former KGB agent, took on KGB files that were shown to him in the 1990s. This is the second go-round for these notes, which were also used, a decade ago, as the source material for The Haunted Wood (Random House, 1999), a book co-authored by Vassiliev and Allen Weinstein, who recently retired as Archivist of the United States. Spies purports to confirm the earlier book’s conclusion that Alger Hiss and others, accused of espionage during the McCarthy period, were in fact guilty. Haynes and Klehr also claim that Vassiliev’s notebooks contain a great deal of information that didn’t appear in The Haunted Wood – information that confirms that Hiss was guilty as charged, and shows that the KGB net also ensnared such surprising figures as Ernest Hemingway and the journalist I. F. Stone.
The book has attracted a number of positive reviews from both conservatives and liberals – although, curiously, none of them treat it as a second look at previously covered ground. Nicholas Lemann, the Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, wrote in The New Yorker that, while perhaps Haynes and Klehr set the bar a little too low for determining who is a spy, he accepts their basic thesis about Hiss. Writing in The New Republic, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum says that Haynes and Klehr “have usually stuck to the documents, the evidence, the facts” in their historical works and do not write polemically. She adds that “Haynes, Klehr and Vassiliev are well within their rights in titling their chapter ‘Alger Hiss: Case Closed.'”
On the other hand, critics of the authors’ work have found their approach more ideological than historical, and their tone polemical, vindictive, and prosecutorial. Historian Amy Knight, for example, debunked many of the authors’ arguments in a review she wrote for the Times Literary Supplement in June 2009. “The main purpose of Spies, it seems, is not to enlighten readers,” she writes, “but to silence those who still voice doubts about the guilt of people like Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, I. F. Stone and others.”
In fact, the documents shown to Vassiliev are in no way definitive in their assertions about Alger Hiss, and the arguments based on them by Haynes and Klehr, when held up to the light of day, are no more convincing, compelling, final, airtight, or unassailable than the anti-Hiss arguments previously advanced by Weinstein. Much of the evidence cited by Haynes and Klehr can actually be viewed from a totally different perspective, as exculpatory. Unfortunately, this fact will escape reviewers who aren’t familiar with the details of the tangled arguments used against Hiss.
Spies has already provoked controversy of a different sort, relating to the diverging stories Vassiliev has told about his note-taking process and to the book’s provenance. (The issue is not so much the authenticity of the documents shown to Vassiliev, but rather whether he was deliberately shown only certain files of a relatively routine, trivial and often gossipy nature.) This is a separate issue that will be dealt with elsewhere ; my focus here is on the accuracy of the conclusions that Haynes and Klehr draw.
Some of these issues were raised publicly in May 2009, when the authors were challenged by several attendees (including this writer) at a conference convened by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington, D.C. (A separate dissection of Haynes and Klehr’s allegations against I.F. Stone was the subject of a cover story in the May 25, 2009 issue of The Nation.)
Despite all these objections, Spies does have one great virtue: it carefully reassembles, in a single chapter, most, if not all, of the charges raised against Alger Hiss, over the better part of the last quarter century (the so-called “new evidence”). It therefore provides a rare chance to see how comprehensively unconvincing the full case against Hiss actually is – both the original allegations and the second-generation accusations – and to show the flimsiness and illogicality of each individual piece of “evidence.” By devoting considerable attention to Spies, this site will draw attention both to the shortcomings of its general approach to scholarship and, more specifically, to the disappointingly slipshod and at times surprisingly amateurish nature of the case against Hiss.
This review will focus primarily on the first chapter of Spies, in which the authors lay out their arguments for declaring the Hiss case “closed.” Due to the length of the review, I’ve found it useful to group together the chapter’s major accusations against Hiss and to offer a brief response to each.
The major arguments made by the authors are:
1) Vassiliev’s notes prove that Hiss talked to self-confessed former spy Hede Massing about recruiting their mutual friend, Noel Field, into the Communist underground. (Massing made this claim at Hiss’s second perjury trial; Hiss denied it.)
2) The notes connect Hiss with another alleged Soviet agent, former Treasury Department official Harold Glasser. This link adds further weight to the accusation that Hiss was “Ales,” a Soviet agent whose code-name first became public when Soviet wartime intelligence cables, decrypted under the US government’s top-secret Venona operation, were released by the National Security Agency in 1995.
3) Hiss’s name appears in Soviet files, and in correspondence between Moscow and its agents in New York, in a way that indicates that Hiss was an agent of Soviet military intelligence (the GRU).
At first glance, a number of the documents referenced in Vassiliev’s notebooks and quoted by Haynes and Klehr would appear – if examined in isolation – to implicate Hiss. None of these allegations can be substantiated, however, once they are analyzed within a more comprehensive context that takes into account other, already known and available sources of information. As the rest of this review sets forth:
1) Hiss could not have recruited Noel Field for the Communist underground when the documents said he did, because Field wasn’t even in the country at the time. This information, first gleaned from State Department files, has long been available to researchers – but is not even mentioned in Spies. This is just one of many contradictions between what the Soviet files allege and the statements on record made by Hede Massing, Field himself, and Field’s wife. Since none of these discrepancies are explored or even acknowledged by the authors, most readers wouldn’t know that they conflict with the public record. But, in fact, the conflicts are so numerous and so serious that, instead of confirming Massing’s story, a more even-handed treatment would actually raise serious doubts about the account she gave to the FBI, her sworn testimony before the grand jury, at the Hiss trial, and before Congressional committees, and the narrative she put together for her autobiography, This Deception. Yet Haynes and Klehr accept this narrative as an authoritative source, without so much as a second glance. 
2) In strikingly similar fashion, Haynes and Klehr’s allegations about Harold Glasser also ignore published information that contradicts the documents shown to Vassiliev. The authors’ claim, for instance, that Glasser was a member of Whittaker Chambers’ Communist underground group was disputed both by Soviet intelligence agent Elizabeth Bentley and by Chambers himself. While both Glasser and Hiss told authorities that they knew each other, Haynes and Klehr exaggerate the extent of this relationship, to prove that Hiss was “Ales” – an identification that the FBI itself ultimately doubted. This information comes from the FBI files and points up one of the basic flaws (and ironies) in the premise of Spies: that anything the authors happen upon in Vassiliev’s notes is somehow treated as more reliable than information coming from other sources – including the FBI. Because they are building a case rather than digging for the truth, Haynes and Klehr give more weight to the documents referenced in the notes solely because, on the surface, they seem damaging to Hiss. (This is made clear when they express doubts about the only KGB document mentioned in the book that suggests that Hiss was not a spy.)
Furthermore, by accepting at face value whatever was stated in some particular Soviet document, they presume that the writer of that document was simply a diligent Russian uniformed officer or civil servant with no ulterior motive – no axe to grind, no self-interest to promote. Moreover, they assume, without even seeming to notice it, that the writer of any chosen document invariably had firsthand knowledge of the person or subject he or she was writing about.  These assumptions repeatedly fall apart when the content of the relevant documents is subjected to the kind of careful scrutiny it merits – instead of being given a free ride simply because, taken at face value, it might implicate Hiss. Again and again, more careful examination reveals deep discrepancies between these Soviet files and key American trial and Congressional testimony, or FBI interviews, or commonly accepted and undisputed facts in the Hiss case. (The great irony here – it has to be repeated – is that by omitting what the FBI turned up, Haynes and Klehr seem to be implying that the FBI’s findings can’t be trusted. This point of view is uncommon, if not unheard-of, in conservative books.)
Herein lies the true danger of Spies: Because the issues detailed here are never considered by the authors, readers unfamiliar with the minutiae of the Hiss case (a large majority of readers) will have no idea from reading Spies that there are such numerous, frequently occurring and troublesome problems with the source material being relied on, as well as with the interpretations to which it is subjected.
3) Alger Hiss’s name does appear in several Soviet intelligence documents referenced by Vassiliev, but so do the names of many people who were not Soviet agents. Most of the references to Hiss, in the documents shown to Vassiliev. relate to the allegations Hede Massing reported to her Soviet handler. And while the authors claim that a list of agents supplied to the Soviets by Victor Perlo, a government economist, implicates Hiss, that document actually supports the case for Hiss. It’s particularly interesting to note that although Allen Weinstein, Vassiliev’s collaborator on The Haunted Wood and a firm believer in Hiss’s guilt, was given access to “the Perlo list” more than 10 years previously, he chose not to discuss it in his book.
Weinstein also abstained from citing another KGB document that Haynes and Klehr claim proves Hiss’s guilt — a list of alleged American sources compiled by a KGB officer named Anatoly Gorsky. An analysis of “the Gorsky list” shows that, contrary to what is said in Spies, the most compelling conclusion that can be drawn about Gorsky’s inclusion of Alger Hiss in his hastily drawn-up, 1949 list of “failed” Soviet agents in the United States is this: that internal evidence shows the section of the list in which Hiss’s name appears was largely culled, not from firsthand KGB reports, but from publicly available material – including 1948 and 1949 American newspaper accounts of the charges against Hiss. Haynes and Klehr’s accounts of this information also ignore more recently disclosed and contradictory evidence from GRU files, information that was already in the public domain when they were writing their book.
Specifically, the newly disclosed GRU information undercuts much of Chambers’ many stories about himself and about Hiss. Although Haynes and Klehr fail to incorporate what the GRU records say into Spies, it’s clear that this information too has come to their attention, because they used it – but got it wrong – at a 2007 Washington, D.C. Symposium on Cryptological History. At that forum, the authors stated that, based on GRU files, Hiss not only was “Ales” but was also a spy code-named “Doctor.” (The same allegation was repeated this year by the late Eduard Mark at the Woodrow Wilson Center conference.) This is demonstrably false, and while not repeated in Spies, it illustrates how overeager Haynes and Klehr can be whenever anything comes their way that either might make Hiss look bad or might add another name to the long list of people they accuse of having cooperated with Soviet intelligence. This hasty and premature approach to scholarship is made abundantly clear by an allegation Spies both includes and trumpets: that career State Department official David Salmon was a paid Soviet agent. As with Hiss, the authors again choose to ignore directly contradictory, exculpatory evidence. 
The authors also downplay the importance of the vast amount of Soviet intelligence information that Vassiliev didn’t get to see: the KGB personal files of key officials and agents mentioned in Spies, for example, as well as any files at all from military intelligence. Yet despite the many discrepancies in the information put forward, and the mountains of information still missing from the picture, they blithely pronounce that Vassiliev’s notes “unequivocally identify Hiss as a long-term espionage source” – and, with breathtaking overconfidence, declare the Hiss case “closed.”
Let’s now examine why they are wrong on both of these counts:
According to Haynes and Klehr, the material in Vassiliev’s notebooks “fully corroborates” the stories of Whittaker Chambers, Hede Massing and Noel Field. Massing and Field will be discussed in depth below, but the notebooks say nothing about any of the specific charges that Chambers leveled against Hiss.
Occasionally, the authors will refer to the evidence offered up at Hiss’s 1949-1950 trials, but for the most part they use it simply to repackage their opinions on Chambers, and once again present them as established fact.  For example, they state as fact that Chambers “broke with Soviet intelligence in 1938,” and that while “many people could discount Whittaker Chambers’ testimony about his relationship with Hiss as delusional … they could not so easily dismiss the documents he produced.”
But a look at the evidence that Haynes and Klehr leave unexamined shows that, even before writing, they have already much too easily dismissed doubts that should have troubled them, and that should have been included in their narrative.
Regarding, for example, the date Chambers left the Party: From 1939 to 1948, Chambers stated for the record, more than a dozen times, that he left the Communist Party in 1937. Only in the summer of 1948 did he begin to hedge. This is not in any way a trivial matter, because the documents he claimed to have received from Hiss, but only produced in the fall of 1948, were all dated in the first four months of 1938. In Hiss’s motion for a new trial, the defense presented additional evidence to show that Chambers had originally been telling the truth, when he said he left the Party in 1937.  For the authors to accept Chambers’ revised testimony as definitive, without acknowledging in their text any discrepancy in the totality of his stories, is simply partial reporting.
Chambers testified at both of Hiss’s trials that, on a regular basis between 1937 and 1938, he picked up State Department documents at Hiss’s home; he claimed that these documents had either been retyped by Priscilla Hiss or were originals entrusted to Chambers, who would have them photographed before returning them to the Hisses before morning. Chambers’ story has been ridiculed by several experts on Soviet espionage, including Ladislas Farago, the military and espionage historian, who wrote in 1969 that the story lacked credibility because of the “blatantly non-professional way” Chambers carried out his alleged assignments, which, he said, “violated a very important rule [of clandestine behavior] in the Soviet spy book.”
There are other substantial reasons to question Chambers’ story , evidence that specifically concerns the documents Haynes and Klehr consider irrefutable. Here are just three brief examples not cited by Haynes and Klehr:
“Exhibit 2”: Among the documents that Chambers said he got from Hiss was this brief note in Hiss’s handwriting. The note summarized a longer document that had come into Hiss’s office. Chambers said such notes were written by Hiss specifically for him, when Hiss needed to pass to Chambers important information from documents that could not be taken from the office. Hiss denied this, testifying that he regularly jotted down notes to brief his boss, Francis B. Sayre, on the scores of telexes and memoranda that arrived in his office each day. Hiss said that after meeting with Sayre, the notes were either thrown out, or clipped to the original documents to be filed, or sent to a file room for destruction.
In the note that became “Exhibit 2” at both Hiss perjury trials, the following information was included in the original document, but not in the note written by Hiss: “The Japanese may be preparing for a move against Russian maritime provinces.” The writer then adds that the Japanese people have been whipped into such a fervor that a military move against Russia appears to be inevitable.
According to Soviet cables decrypted under the US government’s top-secret Venona operation, an agent named “Ales” was supplying military information to the Soviets. If Hiss was “Ales,” or any kind of Soviet agent, for that matter, this information would have been a vital part of his handwritten note.
“Exhibit 13”: This is a brief three-sentence note retyped from a State Department document and produced at trial as part of the Baltimore Documents — the papers Chambers produced during depositions in Baltimore, Maryland in response to Hiss’s libel suit. These were papers that Chambers said had been brought home by Alger Hiss and retyped by Priscilla Hiss. When the original document was introduced at trial, however, the routing stamp on it showed that it had not gone to Hiss’s office.
“Exhibit 36”: This document goes to the very heart of the government’s case against Hiss. The exhibit is a one-page, typed, single-spaced document that is a near-verbatim copy of a memorandum by Hiss’s boss, Francis Sayre. State Department stamping showed the document had been circulated to five offices, while the original was retained permanently in Sayre’s office. This distribution system rendered Chambers’ story absurd. Instead of Priscilla Hiss laboriously retyping the document in the middle of the night (which would have involved risk of disclosure, due to the thin walls of the Hiss home) , Hiss could simply have brought the document itself home on the days that Chambers said he came by, to pick up documents for photographing.
There are still unanswered questions about many of the other Baltimore Documents, as well. For example, “Exhibit 10” was typed on a Remington typewriter, a make never owned by the Hisses, and that document also never circulated to Hiss’s office. Even the prosecution was mystified by “Exhibit 10.” For Haynes and Klehr to state that the documents, as produced, were somehow proof of Hiss’s guilt, remains highly debatable and, from an historical viewpoint, irresponsible. 
A few more instances: The authors say government investigators “uncovered documentary evidence supporting claims by Chambers” about his relationship with Hiss. This was only true in the vaguest sense, as FBI documents released in the 1970s, and those that continue to be released today, show that the government discovered and hid considerable information demonstrating that Chambers, though he had known Hiss, was lying on many key issues. The authors also state as fact that Hiss was a member of an alleged secret Communist cell dubbed “The Ware Group,” ignoring statements from former members of the group, such as Lee Pressman, that Hiss was not associated with it.
While the authors claim that “Chambers’ account of their friendship much more closely matched the documented facts than Hiss’s story of a short-lived distant relationship,” you can read Chambers’ original, unrevised account of his relationship with Hiss and decide for yourself whether Haynes and Klehr’s characterization of their relationship is accurate and reliable.
Alger Hiss, Hede Massing and Noel Field
After their discussion of the evidence against Hiss, the authors move on to the information contained in Vassiliev’s notes. They begin by saying that the notes support Hede Massing’s testimony that Hiss was actively trying to recruit Noel Field into the underground.
The story Massing told at Hiss’s second trial was this: As a member of the Soviet underground, it was her job to recruit new members. One of her targets was a State Department official named Noel Field. But after asking Field to work for her, he told her he was being recruited by another underground group leader. Massing asked to meet this person, and in the fall of 1935, Field introduced her to Alger Hiss at a cocktail party in his Washington, D.C. apartment. There the two verbally jousted over who would lay claim to Field’s loyalty. Massing flirtatiously told Hiss that, as a woman, she had the advantage. The conversation concluded with one of them – she couldn’t recall which – saying, “It doesn’t matter since we both work for the same boss.” 
Hiss testified that he had never met Massing. The defense also presented a witness, Henrikas Rabinavicius, who attended a party with Massing a few months before the trial, where, he said, she related a different and much more innocuous version of the story. Rabinavicius’s account easily withstood prosecutor Thomas Murphy’s cross-examination.
But what the defense didn’t know at that time was that Massing was testifying under pressure of being deported, and with perjury charges hanging over her and her husband’s heads for false statements both had previously made to government officials.
It is also clear from the several thousand pages of Hede Massing’s file, released by the FBI over the past few years, that the Bureau didn’t trust her story about Hiss. The Massings had been confidential informants of the FBI for nearly two years before she told the Bureau her story about Hiss. She had also talked to State Department official Ray Murphy in 1946, telling the FBI afterward that “she had held nothing back,” and had also testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in August 1948. Although given every opportunity in each instance, not once did she indicate she knew anything about Hiss.
It wasn’t until three days after Whittaker Chambers handed over the Pumpkin Papers (the films that were the second batch of material evidence) to HUAC investigators on December 2,1948 that Massing revealed to the Bureau that she had something to add.
By not acknowledging Massing’s history with the FBI, Haynes and Klehr give the impression that they feel it is irrelevant. The Soviet files Vassiliev saw, they point out, stem from the 1930s, the time of the incident, which proves that Massing was telling the truth in her trial testimony. But all that the files Vassiliev saw indicate is that she was telling another version of her story in the 1930s. Haynes and Klehr never consider that, as an agent in Washington, D.C. who was having little success in the tasks assigned to her, she may have felt pressure, back then, to make up a few triumphs to reassure her superiors.
The basic error that Haynes and Klehr make is failing to understanding that simply because Massing said something, this doesn’t – especially given her track record – make it so. Nothing in the Soviet files offers proof that she was telling the truth. (The authors say her account was corroborated by Field, but this will be discussed below.)
What is most interesting about Massing’s stories is the fact that she never could reconcile the different versions of what was essentially a straightforward tale.
In Spies, the discussion about Hiss, Field and Massing involves two different stories. There is the one told by Massing – the topic of her trial testimony – about her alleged meeting with Hiss. But the Vassiliev notes also refer to a second story, in which Massing relates to a Soviet agent her account of Field’s alleged conversation with Hiss, and Hiss’s efforts to recruit him. None of this was discussed by Massing at Hiss’s trial, or mentioned by her to the FBI, or set down in her memoir, This Deception, which was published shortly after Hiss’s trial concluded. 
The first document cited by Haynes and Klehr, in their chapter on Hiss, is a third- or fourth-hand story from an April 1936 KGB report, relating to this alleged effort on Hiss’s part to recruit Field.  The authors say the attempt was made “early in 1936.” According to the Vassiliev notes, Massing relates that Field said that a week before his departure from Washington for London, Hiss approached him and informed him that he was a Communist. He supposedly said he knew Field was a Communist, too. Hiss also asked Field for information about the London disarmament conference, which Field would be attending.
Had Haynes and Klehr checked this information against Massing’s testimony, and against her statements to the FBI (which were the result of many interviews), they would have turned up a host of discrepancies.
* A meeting with Hiss could not have occurred in early 1936, because Field left the country for London in late November 1935, and didn’t return until early April.
* According to the story Massing told the FBI and at Hiss’s second perjury trial (the judge barred her testimony at the first trial), her meeting with Hiss at Field’s house occurred after Hiss tried to recruit Field, and the dinner party at the Fields’ occurred in mid-1935.
* In none of her interviews with the State Department, or in her appearances before HUAC and the grand jury, or in her numerous interviews with the FBI, did Massing allege that Hiss was looking for information about the London conference.
* Massing told the FBI in 1947 that contact with Field had been made by her husband, not by her, and she knew nothing about subsequent contact.
* The Soviet document Vassiliev saw states, “When A., whom as you recall, I met through E [Field – “E” refers to his code-name, Ernst].” However, if Hiss had just recently revealed himself to have been a Communist in 1936, how would Massing have met him in 1935, as she told the FBI – especially since the whole purpose of her alleged 1935 meeting with Hiss was to determine who would win Field’s loyalty? 
* The same document also says, based on Massing’s account, that Hiss (who was then working for the Department of Justice) asked Field’s help in getting him into the State Department, “which E. apparently did.” This is contradicted, however, by the testimony and statements of John Dickey, whom Hiss replaced, and of Francis B. Sayre, who became Hiss’s boss in the State Department. Sayre brought Hiss into the Department solely on Dickey’s recommendation. Hiss required no help from Field, and Field never gave it. 
The authors quote from a follow-up report by Massing’s Soviet handler, Boris Bazarov, that also mentions Hiss, and call it further proof of Hiss’s treachery, overlooking the fact that the report is a retelling of the earlier story, with Massing again as the primary source. They are, in effect, using Massing to confirm Massing, and in turn using Massing redoubled to reconvict Hiss.
This situation also points up another problem with Vassiliev’s notes: He was not given Hede Massing’s personal file. Nor did he see Hiss’s – if such a file even exists.  Such strictly limited access results in unconvincing and less than stellar evidence, as indicated by a document the authors cite on page 13, this one from Iskhak Akhmerov, a Soviet agent based in New York. Referring once again to the alleged meeting between Hiss and Massing, Akhmerov writes (most likely drawing from Massing’s previous account) that Massing met with Hiss only once, “in the winter.”
Akhmerov’s statement contradicts one more version of the story Massing told in This Deception – that the meeting with Hiss came a week after a sailing trip on the Potomac that she took with Field and his wife, Herta. While Herta went for a swim, Massing said, she and Field spoke privately. The result of that conversation was the meeting with Hiss a week or so later. If the meeting occurred a week after a midwinter sailing-and-swimming trip, Herta must have had skin made of iron.
The authors do not compare either Akhmerov’s document or the FBI files to the document they had already cited – the one stating that Hiss revealed himself to Field in April. But if Hiss had done so, how could Akhmerov’s account of a winter meeting have been accurate?
The authors also did not read Massing’s trial testimony. The notes of the Akhmerov document say that Massing met with Hiss at the behest of Bazarov. Haynes and Klehr write that Massing testified to this at Hiss’s perjury trial. There isn’t a single mention of Bazarov in the trial transcript. Nor is there any reference to him in her Massing’s first grand-jury appearance.
According to Vassiliev’s notes, J. Peters (mentioned as a figure in the Communist underground) was not happy about Massing’s meeting with Hiss, and warned her to stay away from him. “You had better keep your hands off him,” he warned her, according to the Vassiliev notes.
Compare that account with what Massing wrote about Peters in This Deception – that he “never as much as indicated that he knew of me and my activities.” Again, in none of her earlier versions of her story did she mention any warning from Peters. Nonetheless, the authors declare that Massing, Field and Chambers all provided “independent corroboration” of this incident.
In Spies, Massing provides no independent corroboration of her own story. She simply retells it. Haynes and Klehr write, “Whittaker Chambers also testified about the incident at the Hiss trials.” While Chambers was asked about a statement he gave to State Department Security Officer Ray Murphy in 1945, in which he mentioned Massing, he said nothing about “the incident” at either trial. The authors say Chambers wrote in his 1952 book, Witness, that Hiss told him about it. But Witness was published two years after Massing’s testimony at the second Hiss trial.
As for Field, the authors say, that while imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain, Field provided “an uncoerced, accurate account of his activities,” which included Hiss’s attempts to recruit him. Field and his wife, Herta, were living in Prague when they literally disappeared in the summer of 1949, not to be heard from again until their release from a Hungarian prison in November 1954. While in prison, Field gave numerous statements to Hungarian authorities. The transcripts of these interrogations seem, on the surface, to corroborate aspects of Massing’s story about Hiss.
After his arrest, Field was held in solitary confinement and underwent extensive questioning and torture. It was during these sessions that he first mentioned Hiss. In 2003, this author interviewed Joseph Doob, Hermann Field’s brother-in-law. (Hermann Field was Noel’s brother, who had gone in search of the missing couple after their disappearance, leading to his own arrest. Like Noel and Herta, Hermann was also held in solitary for several years.) Doob confirmed that Noel and Herta were repeatedly tortured. “Noel told me many times that they would say anything they thought their interrogators wanted to hear in order to stop their torture,” he said. 
Field in one of his prison interrogations says that when Hiss tried to recruit him for espionage he (Field) was already involved himself. Yet the core of Massing’s story was that she was recruiting him because he had not yet gotten involved. It’s a subtle difference, but an important one.
In the summer of 1949, when it was thought that Massing might testify at Hiss’s trial, the defense, at great expense – and it was hard-pressed for funds at that point – sent an intermediary to Prague to speak to the Fields. (Imagine their doing this if Hiss had known Massing and had tried to recruit Field in 1935.)
Only Herta Field saw the intermediary, Walter Staeheim, as Field was out of the country. She told Staeheim that Massing’s story wasn’t true. According to Staeheim’s account in a defense document:
She confirmed that both [the Hisses and the Massings] had been many times her and her husband’s guests, but declared that they never were invited together. She said that she could remember this distinctly because her apartment was very small and therefore they had never had large parties. They necessarily seldom included more than four to six persons.
… I then gave her details on this conversation on the basis of Mr. McLean’s memorandum (without handing it to her, of course). Mrs. Field shook her head several times during my explanations and denied, violently, that such a conversation had ever taken place in her home, and confirmed again that Alger Hiss and Mrs. Massing had never met there.
After the meeting, Herta Field composed a letter for the defense to use. The note, written by hand, states, in full:
Dear Dr. Staeheim,
Thank you very much for acquainting me with the report Hede Massing made on a conversation she claims to have had with Alger Hiss in our apartment. I cannot remember our having invited Hede Massing and Alger Hiss together for dinner. I am sure this conversation never took place.
Herta H. Field
After his release from prison, Field wrote several letters to Hiss, which contained specific allusions to what he said was Massing’s “perjured” testimony. Haynes and Klehr dismiss Field’s comments to Hiss as being “in accord with the Communist position on the subject,” but a July 21,1957 letter specifically appears to be an attempt by Field to evade any Communist censorship by not mentioning Massing by name:
Your determination to let the facts speak for themselves and the absence of all special pleading are the more impressive when one bears in mind the ordeal of fighting false charges that has disrupted your life and brought pain to you and your family … Speaking of perjury, it was, of course, not until after I came out of jail that I learned of the part played in your second trial by false testimony of a perjured witness with regard to a purported meeting and a conversation, neither of which ever took place.
The “Perlo List” and “Ales”
The “Perlo List”
Haynes and Klehr say that the Marxist economist Victor Perlo was the fourth participant in Soviet espionage, after Whittaker Chambers, Hede Massing and Noel Field, to identify Hiss as an agent. The “Perlo list” is a list of secret Soviet agents, most (but not all) in the US government, seemingly compiled for the Soviets by Perlo, who worked in the New Deal during the 1930s and was later named by Chambers as a member of the so-called Ware Group.
It should be pointed out that Vassiliev gave the “Perlo list,” as it has come to be called, to Allen Weinstein when Weinstein was writing The Haunted Wood. But while Weinstein – who has never been reticent about using less-than-convincing evidence to argue that Hiss was a spy – referred in passing to the “Perlo list,” he chose not to use it against Hiss (the subject is also discussed elsewhere on this site by Svetlana Chernonnaya, on a page called “The ‘Perlo List'”). Why did Haynes and Klehr decide to do so?
First, it’s important to understand what, exactly, the list was. In Spies, Haynes and Klehr quote a summary on top of the list, explaining that Perlo was asked to provide a list of persons not in his own apparatus but who, nonetheless, he had reason to believe “work with intelligence” (Soviet intelligence) and had a present or past connection with a Soviet intelligence agency.
According to the document itself, here is how Perlo summarized his list, in the language of Vassiliev’s notes:
A list of persons who according to Raid [Perlo] have been cooperating with the Soviet intelligence service apart from those he is working with regularly at present.
The second, more accurate, and more literal description puts a less nefarious spin on the list, primarily because of its use of the word “cooperating.” To the Soviets, cooperating meant anything from being an actual agent to someone who shared information with an agent, without even being aware that the Soviet individual receiving the information was connected with espionage. In fact, many sources of Soviet intelligence during this period were used “blind,” as the Russians said. They weren’t conscious of being part of an espionage group, but were, rather, approached for information, and because the request appeared to be on the level, they offered up their knowledge or observations. This was certainly the case with I. F. Stone, whom Haynes and Klehr wrongly label an agent on the basis of several other Vassiliev notes.
In his HUAC testimony and in various statements to the FBI, Whittaker Chambers claimed that Perlo  and Hiss worked together as part of the Ware Group. Yet, according to Perlo’s list, under the column heading, “Did I ever work with?” Perlo directly contradicts Chambers by writing “No” in the box about Alger Hiss. Under the column, “Does he know I have a connection?” Perlo writes about Alger Hiss, “Don’t know.”
Weinstein chose not to reference this material.
Perlo in his list reports that one Herbert Schimmel had a present connection to Soviet intelligence “with Blumberg,” a reference to Albert Blumberg, who was formerly head of the Communist Party in Maryland. But the “Perlo list” was prepared in March 1945. Since another Soviet document, which dates from July 1945, says that at that point there were plans afoot to approach Blumberg about cooperating , this would make Perlo’s earlier comment that Schimmel was working with Blumberg inaccurate, and should at least raise a few questions about the the validity of the list in Spies. Haynes and Klehr claim the list proves Hiss’s guilt, simply because he’s on it.
Hiss as “Ales”
Haynes and Klehr state as a fact that Hiss was the spy code-named “Ales” in Gorsky’s now-famous Venona cable No. 1822, of March 20, 1945. Without adding any new evidence to substantiate this charge, they are taking the original tentative identification of “Ales” further than the FBI was willing to in 1950, when, shortly after Hiss’s perjury conviction, it said that “Ales” was “probably” Hiss – primarily because no other candidate sprang to mind and Hiss’s name was still dominating national newspaper headlines. In fact, the FBI was so unsure of the identification that, two years later, it was still unsuccessfully looking for evidence to establish that “Ales” was indeed Hiss.
The Gorsky March 30, 1945 cable contains six separate comments about “Ales,” and Haynes and Klehr claim that all six fit Hiss. They are consistent in this assertion – but even more consistent about casting a blind eye toward anything that might indicate Hiss was not “Ales.”
Let’s take a close look at each of the cable’s six comments about “Ales,” beginning with the comments themselves, quoted verbatim from the official translation of the cable.
1) “Ales” worked continuously with the GRU since 1935. Haynes and Klehr write that the evidence supporting this first possible Hiss-“Ales” match is “overwhelming.” According to Chambers’ own story, Hiss never had contact with military intelligence until early 1937, when Chambers allegedly introduced Hiss to his (Chambers’) new contact, Peter, who, Chambers would later learn from Walter Krivitsky, was actually Colonel Boris Bykov. Although Chambers said that Hiss had given him some original State Department documents in 1935, when Hiss was working for the Nye Committee, he also maintained that this had been a one-time event (and by his own account Chambers was himself not yet working for the GRU, but was at the time connected to the American Communist Party’s informational underground). At Hiss’s trials, the defense introduced a former State Department official named Joseph Green, who had been the liaison between the State Department and the Nye Committee. He testified that the Nye Committee received no original documents from the department.
2) For a few years now he has been the head of a small group of probationers of the neighbors [the GRU], for the most part drawn from his relatives. Whittaker Chambers claimed that Priscilla Hiss conspired with her husband to produce the Baltimore Documents – and that Hiss’s brother, Donald, was also a member of the Ware group. However, as the FBI acknowledged in 1952, their investigation found that Chambers’ core charge against Donald Hiss – that he had been sent by the Party to help adjudicate proceedings against Harry Bridges  – could not have been true, and the FBI later concluded that Chambers’ allegations against Donald Hiss were no longer worth pursuing. During the Hiss-case trials, the prosecution offered no proof that Priscilla Hiss had typed the Baltimore Documents, and in Hiss’s 1952 motion for a new trial, his lawyers produced evidence that more than one typist had been involved.
As for Priscilla being a member of Hiss’s group, the prosecution produced a Socialist Party card with her name on it from 1932, and voting records showing she had registered with the Socialist Party. A prosecutor in 1949 – when all leftist parties were being lumped together under a single, anti-American label – could easily overlook the fact that the Communist Party was a sworn enemy of Norman Thomas, the Socialist leader, to such an extent that CP members physically attacked Thomas and his supporters during the 1932 presidential campaign.
Finally, as for the Baltimore Documents having been typed by the same machine, Haynes and Klehr use the word “most” in their description. Chambers said “all” the documents came from the same source and, at trial, admitted that if that was not the case, it could call into question the authenticity of all the documents. That’s why Baltimore “Exhibit 10” created such discomfort for the prosecution and the FBI, as even they acknowledged that, not only had the document not been typed on a Woodstock, but it had also not been routed to Hiss’s office. Who typed it? Where did Chambers get the document? Who was his source?
3) The group and “Ales” himself are working on obtaining only military information about “the Bank” [the State Department] – the neighbors allegedly are not very interested and he doesn’t pass it regularly. To support their argument that “Ales” was Hiss, Haynes and Klehr say that, in 1945, when Hiss was still in the State Department, he made an “extraordinary proposal” that a new “special assistant for military affairs” be linked to the Office of Special Political Affairs, the department he then headed. Their suggestion is that, through this new office, Hiss could funnel military secrets to the Russians. Haynes and Klehr also say that, in 1946, “security officers” said Hiss had obtained top-secret reports “‘on atomic energy … and other matters relating to military intelligence that were outside the scope of his Office of Special Political Affairs.”
Haynes and Klehr characterize actions that Hiss’s superiors, liberals and conservatives like, regarded as routine as “extraordinary,” and thus potentially subversive. Hiss, a key player in the creation of the United Nations, used the information he received about US military preparedness to evaluate the chances of getting UN assistance to further the US goal of avoiding future nuclear wars. Hiss’s personal State Department files, for instance, contain the background materials and drafts of a major address he researched and delivered in 1946 about the future of nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The speech was entitled “The Prospects for Peace.”
As for the critical memos by “security officers” – these were first reported in two influential anti-Hiss books (Perjury, by Allen Weinstein and Whittaker Chambers, by Sam Tanenhaus), they came from two State Department officials, Samuel Klaus and Joseph Anthony Panuch. How reliable did other government officials consider information forwarded by Klaus and Panuch? As the FBI learned, Panuch thought almost anyone in the upper echelons of the federal government was a spy. Here’s an excerpt from an FBI report on Panuch:
Mr. Joseph A. Panuch, deputy to Assistant Secretary of State Russell, has reported to the Bureau that Alger Hiss together with Dean Acheson, Under Secretary of State; Herbert Marks, Assistant to the Under Secretary of State; John J. McCloy, former Assistant Secretary of War; Assistant Secretary of War Howard Peterson; Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Commerce; Paul A. Appleby and George Schwartzwalder of the Budget Bureau; Dr. Edward U. Condon of the Bureau of Standards and the US Committee on Atomic Energy; James Newman of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, and also an advisor on the Committee of Atomic Energy; and Abe Fuller of the Budget Bureau and UNO are operating as an enormous espionage ring in Washington with the ultimate objective of obtaining all information concerning atomic energy … for the purpose of making such information available to the Soviet Union.
When Hiss left the State Department two years later, he received outstanding commendations from the likes of Francis Sayre, Stanley Hornbeck, Leo Pasvolsky, James Byrnes, Dean Acheson and Edward Stettinius, all men with solidly anti-Communist views. Hiss worked especially closely with Sayre and Hornbeck, and neither ever expressed any concern about Hiss’s actions or views while he worked for them.  None of Hiss’s superiors in the department, a government agency rife with internecine conflicts , raised issues about Hiss’s requests.
4) In recent years, “Ales” has been working with Pol’ repeat Pol’ who also meets with other members of the group on occasion. According to Haynes and Klehr, Pol’ was the literary agent Maxim Lieber. Lieber, they say, knew Hiss.
This item raises four basic questions: 1) Was Lieber “Pol'”? 2) Was he involved in espionage? 3) What was his relationship with Hiss? and 4)What connections, if any, did their relationship have with the Communist underground movement?
In Witness, Chambers recalled giving Lieber the name “Paul,” a recollection confirmed by Lieber in his interviews with the FBI and with Allen Weinstein in 1975. “Paul,” however, was nothing more than a nickname. It was not a name that the Soviets would have used as a code name. In fact, “Pol’,” in Russian, is actually pronounced “Pavel,” which was not a name ever associated with Lieber.
Despite what is alleged in Spies, the government never suggested that Alger Hiss had a relationship with Lieber. The only suggested connection between Lieber and the Hisses came from Whittaker Chambers, who testified that he rented a cottage from Lieber in the summer of 1935, and claimed that Priscilla Hiss had been a house-guest there for 10 days. Priscilla and Alger Hiss denied the story, and so did a witness named Boucot, who owned the cottage the Chamberses rented and who lived next door. Boucot testified that he never saw Priscilla Hiss there.
Haynes and Klehr write that after a Hiss defense attorney met with Lieber in 1948, the lawyer was told that “Lieber does know Hiss but does not propose to admit it.”
It is likely that Lieber was only saying he knew Hiss because he did not want to appear in court under any circumstances, fearing that doing so would place his own freedom at risk. Here is the turn of events.
The first time the defense approached Lieber was in 1948. Lieber knew that, if he testified for the defense, he would leave himself wide open for a perjury charge. FBI documents show conclusively that the government was threatening to bring charges against many witnesses who had denied Chambers’ accusations. Under those circumstances, it was a smart tactic to plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid jail, and shoo away the defense by claiming he did know the Hisses. When told that he might still be called by the defense, Lieber expressed his extreme unhappiness at being dragged into the case.
Harold Rosenwald, one of Hiss’s attorneys, went to see Lieber again a couple of weeks later, and again warned Lieber that he might be subpoenaed. According to Rosenwald’s memo, Lieber responded that “he would be very vulnerable to attack and that he would be hostile to us.” When Rosenwald asked if he had ever been convicted of a crime, Lieber perked up. “He seemed quite delighted with the possibility of getting out of testifying and said that he had been arrested.”
At one point, however, Harold Rosenwald quotes Lieber as saying, “I wouldn’t know Mrs. Hiss if she were to come in this office and spit in my tea.”
As it turned out, Lieber was not called by the defense or the prosecution. He did talk to the FBI, though, telling them he was not involved in espionage and did not know the Hisses. Lieber held to this story when he saw Weinstein in 1975.
According to a recording of Weinstein’s second interview with Lieber (available at the Hoover Institution), Lieber denied, several times, knowing the Hisses, and also denied participating in espionage. Haynes and Klehr felt that none of his denials were worthy of inclusion in Spies. 
Haynes and Klehr do not ask why the defense (whose efforts were being followed by the FBI) would have invested considerable time and effort to approach Lieber, to convince him to voluntarily testify on their behalf, if Hiss and Lieber had been cohorts in the Communist underground.
5) Recently “Ales” and his whole group were awarded Soviet medals. There is no evidence that Alger Hiss, Priscilla Hiss, or Donald Hiss were ever awarded Soviet medals.
6) After the Yalta conference, when he had gone to Moscow, a Soviet personage in a very responsible position (“Ales” gave to understand that it was Comrade VYShINKIJ) allegedly got in touch with “Ales” at the behest of the Military NEIGHBORS and passed on to him their gratitude and so on. Haynes and Klehr rely on the research of Eduard Mark to prove that this was Hiss. Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya have demonstrated, in their article, why they think this was not Hiss.
The Gorsky List
The authors claim that a list, compiled by Anatoly Gorsky, entitled “Failures in the USA (1938-1948)” is further evidence of Hiss’s guilt because the third name under the first heading in the report, “Karl’s Group,” is “Leonard – Alger Hiss.”
Vassiliev’s notes say this list was compiled in December 1948, but the heading on the actual list shows that it was dated December 1949 (a fact that took some time to establish because, when Vassiliev’s transcription was originally scanned, the top lines where the date appears were accidentally cut off, a fact reported on this website in 2006). This is crucial because the short-lived formal unification of Gorsky’s KGB and the GRU (the two groups were in fact competitors, and did not actually share archival information) had ceased by February 1, 1949. Therefore, a supposition that Haynes and Klehr are relying on here – that Gorsky wrote his report solely using GRU records – was after that date chronologically impossible as well as operationally unattainable. While Gorsky did obtain some information (most notably a series of numeric codenames) from the GRU, it’s clear that most of the information related to “Karl’s Group”  did not come from information being held by the “neighbors” (the GRU). Instead, Gorsky was likely relying on names that had been mentioned in American press reports the Soviets were monitoring, and other sources.
There are also questions about the pseudonyms on the list – especially the use of “Leonard” for Hiss. If Hiss was “Ales,” and this was known to Gorsky when he sent the 1945 Venona cable from Washington, why would he call him “Leonard” four years later, when he was back home in Moscow? It turns out the name “Leonard” was assigned to Hiss only after Chambers’ charges appeared in the newspapers, at a point when the Soviets needed a pseudonym for him in their correspondence about the investigations.
The “Karl’s group” part of the Gorsky List contains 10 numbered cryptonyms, beginning with “101st.” (For example, Henry Julian Wadleigh is “104th,” while Franklin Victor Reno is “118th.”) These numbers, according to Soviet documents not cited by Haynes and Klehr, do indeed look like actual cryptonyms used in the operational correspondence between Moscow and the US. (Wadleigh, for example, admitted giving Chambers documents from the State Department, where he was employed at the time.) Importantly, though, neither Hiss nor his brother, Donald, are assigned numerals by the list.
The reason why this list is, in fact, fascinating and important is that the number “100th,” the logical “first number” in such a sequence, is missing from the list. That’s because, according to another Soviet document (also not cited in Spies), “100th” was an operational code name assigned in the 1930s to Whittaker Chambers.
Haynes and Klehr declare the case against Alger Hiss closed. They have ignored exculpatory evidence and avoid any information – and there is a wealth of it – that runs counter to their theory. This is a one-dimensional methodology unworthy of responsible historians. The primary victim of their efforts, of course, is the reputation of Alger Hiss, but to the extent that they have continually steered others away from the facts, another victim is also in jeopardy – history itself.
The search for the truth continues.
1. Haynes and Klehr’s books have a generally conservative and anti-Communist tone. In a book entitled Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today (1989), Harvey Klehr connects the nuclear freeze movement, the Rainbow Coalition, and the work of the civil rights leader, Ralph Abernathy. to the Communist Party and its activities.
2. In his New Yorker review of Spies, Lemann quotes I. F. Stone’s biographer, D. D. Guttenplan, as saying that, to call Hiss innocent, one would have to believe that Vassiliev faked his notes. But questions about Vassiliev’s note-taking were raised recently in a paper prepared by Moscow-based researcher, Svetlana Chervonnaya. In that paper (which was prepared for distribution at the Wilson Center Conference), Dr. Chervonnaya demonstrated that there were substantial differences between Vassiliev’s notes from an important document and the full text of the document itself, a 1942 orientation memo prepared by then-KGB Captain Vitaly Pavlov about Soviet agents and the Roosevelt White House. The full memo indicated that Soviet efforts to penetrate FDR’s inner circle had so far been unsuccessful, a disclosure blurred by the notes. If accurate, the full memo would call into question allegations, by Haynes and Klehr and Allen Weinstein, about Lauchlin Currie, among others.
3. Massing acknowledged to the FBI, which vetted her book, that she had changed certain facts to hide embarrassing incidents.
4. In How the Cold War Began, historian Amy Knight writes that GRU agents, stationed in the West, were so eager to enjoy the good life that their output was often exaggerated, and low-grade information was presented as being more significant than it actually was.
5. The Salmon story is revelatory for two reasons. It sheds light on the methodology of Haynes and Klehr, while also suggesting a tantalizing possibility about how the State Department documents in the Hiss case may have been faked. Briefly, the authors say that Salmon was an agent code-named “Willy,” a valued and well-paid source being handled by a mercenary Soviet agent-group leader named Ludwig Lore. According to a chapter in an official history of the KGB’s foreign intelligence [“The Paper Mill,” by J. N. Kobyakov, in Essays on the History of Russian Foreign Intelligence, vol. 3, 1933-1941, Moscow: “International Relations, 2003,” pp. 191-199] based on Lore’s file (a file which Vassiliev did not have access to), however, the Soviets had serious doubts about Lore’s claim that Salmon was working for him and that “Willy” was real in any way. These doubts were heightened after the KGB began round-the-clock surveillance of Lore’s New York home, and found out he was there when he claimed to be in Washington, meeting with “Willy.” They demanded that Lore produce “Willy.” He did, but the Soviets had, in the meantime, also been monitoring Salmon’s home. The man Lore introduced them to was about 40 and spoke English with a German accent. Salmon was much older – he was born in 1879, and in Connecticut. The KGB also concluded from its surveillance of Lore’s home that he was personally pocketing the money he claimed to be paying “Willy.”
How is this relevant to the Hiss case? The KGB operatives, staking out Lore’s house, reported to Moscow that they had seen a document-typing operation in his home, involving his wife and family. Lore was friendly with Whittaker Chambers, who was, at the time, a frequent visitor to Lore’s house.
In 1948, Chambers turned over copies of State Department documents to Hiss’s lawyers, claiming they were typed in Hiss’s home and that he, Chambers, had then secretly stored these copies in a Brooklyn apartment belonging to his wife’s nephew (keeping them, he said, so that he would have a “life preserver,” in case the Soviets wanted to harm his family after he left the Communist Party).
According to FBI documents released in the 1970s, however, Mrs. Lore told the FBI that, in the 1930s, the envelope had actually been stored for a year or so in a Brooklyn bank vault that Lore had rented for Chambers. Chambers later testified that when he had his wife’s nephew retrieve the envelope for him in 1948, and opened it, he was surprised to find the papers inside. He said he had just hoped to find some handwriting samples.
Could the typed documents inside the envelope have been produced by Lore and his family, and not by Priscilla Hiss, as Chambers claimed, and then placed in the envelope by either Lore or Chambers? If so, this would jibe with the findings of typing experts hired by the Hiss defense, who asserted, after examining the papers, that not only did Priscilla Hiss not type them, but that more than one typist had been involved in the operation. Could it have been Lore and his family, perhaps along with Esther Chambers, who typed them?
As for the Salmon/”Willy” story, this author questioned Haynes and Klehr about it at the Wilson Center conference in Washington. Haynes responded that the Russian historian who had written about Lore’s manipulations was biased and therefore could not be trusted. Haynes said that if they included all the information that ran counter to their stated thesis, their book would have been too long.
6. Other examples include, “Despite massive [author’s italics] evidence to the contrary, some have insisted on Hiss’s innocence and that Chambers was a fantasist who invented his own work.” If there was “massive” evidence, it seems odd that the authors keep restating the same case; that they do so is, on the contrary, an indication that a good number of people continue to believe Hiss innocent. As for Chambers being a fantasist, neither Vassiliev, nor anyone else, for that matter, has ever turned up a single document in Soviet files that was directly sourced to Whittaker Chambers’ alleged espionage ring.
The chapter is filled with similar statements that are coded to indicate the authors’ polemical stance. The assertions that John Lowenthal briefly “persuaded” Dmitri Volkogonov to issue a statement affirming Hiss’s innocence, and that Volkogonov then “quickly retracted” the statement, are among general mischaracterizations of what Volkogonov did say. The authors write that “supporting witnesses testified to Chambers’ activities as a courier.” But the evidence of these witnesses does not hold up under scrutiny.
7. Hiss’s motion for a new trial presented considerable evidence that the 1937 date was more accurate. According to Chambers’ original story, he quit the Communist Party and then obtained a translation job from the Oxford University Press (OUP). Documents found by the defense showed that he had to have been working on the translation in late 1937. In response, Chambers changed his story, to say that he was still working for the Party when he got the OUP translation job, but documents revealed by a Freedom of Information Act release in the 1970s included an FBI interview with Chambers’ friend, Meyer Schapiro, who told the FBI that he was the one who helped Chambers get the translation job, and that he didn’t do so until after Chambers had left the Party.
8. Haynes and Klehr also claim that the FBI uncovered additional information supporting one of the most contentious questions in the dispute between Hiss and Chambers that arose at the 1948 HUAC hearings: Chambers’ claim “about the used Ford car Hiss secretly donated to the Communist Party, and financial transactions between him and Hiss.” Chambers claimed that Hiss donated the car to a poor party organizer through what he called a “Communist-owned service station or car lot.” Both the FBI and HUAC learned that the car was turned over to Washington D.C.’s largest Ford dealership, and that the signature of a former Party member, William Rosen, on the title transfer certificate. had been forged.
Regarding the “financial transactions,” only one was alleged, not the multiple transactions implied. Information that emerged in the 1970s, contained in FBI files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, indicated that Chambers changed his story about money he allegedly received from Hiss – and that his final, revised claim that Hiss loaned him $400 was made only after the Bureau obtained Hiss’s bank records, which indicated that this sum had been withdrawn from the account. (The Hisses said the money was used to furnish a new home.)
9. Living next door to the Hisses at this time was a couple named Geoffrey and Elizabeth May. Mr. May testified that the walls between their homes were so thin they could hear Hiss when he was in his bathroom. They never heard Priscilla typing, but said that after the Hisses moved, a sportswriter took over the place, and his incessant typing was an extreme annoyance. In an interview in 2001, Elizabeth May still recalled the thin walls and reaffirmed her husband’s testimony. In a visit to the house in 2007, this author met the gentleman living in what had been the May’s home, who said the noise was so bad from next door that he had had a special wall built to soundproof his home.
10. As an indication of Hiss’s alleged treachery, the authors point out that Hiss’s initials appear on other documents. They do not question why Hiss would have handed over an initialed document that would have directly tied him to an espionage operation.
11. According to Chambers, Hiss was working for the Communist Party in 1935, while Massing was with the NKVD (the KGB’s predecessor agency). Haynes and Klehr say Hiss was working with the GRU, and, if that was correct, he would not have worked for Hede’s KGB boss.
12. Getting a well-paying publishing contract was a motive for testifying, the FBI documents show. Within weeks of her conversation with the Bureau, she was negotiating a book deal and became nearly hysterical when it almost fell through. The book was published shortly after the end of the second trial, having first been thoroughly vetted by the FBI. Massing also told the Bureau that she fudged at times to improve her story-telling, and omitted the account of one key meeting with the FBI, because she didn’t want the book to reflect badly on the FBI, from which she was hoping to obtain more work.
13. Haynes and Klehr write that Hiss tried to recruit Field into his “GRU-linked apparatus.” Elsewhere in the chapter, the authors write that Chambers worked with J. Peters “on various assignments for both the GRU and the KGB.” The problem is that Whittaker Chambers only connected Hiss to military intelligence after, at least according to Chambers, Hiss was introduced to a Col. Boris Bykov in early 1937. How then would Hiss be recruiting Field into the GRU in 1936? Also, according to Chambers, he himself wasn’t associated with military intelligence until after Peters handed him over to Bykov, so how could he have been working for the GRU and Peters at the same time?
14. Another document referenced in Vassiliev’s notes stems from April 1936, and says that Massing met Hiss “more than two months ago,” which would put the meeting sometime in February, when Field was out of the country.
15. The charge that then emerged, before HUAC in 1948, was that Hiss tried to have Field hired as Sayre’s assistant when he (Hiss) moved on to another State Department job. Although Allen Weinstein later tried to resurrect this claim when he wrote Perjury in 1978, the allegation was without substance. State Department documents show that Hiss actually recommended someone else for the job.
16. In 2005, this author interviewed retired Soviet General Julius Kobyakov, formerly head of the American department of the KGB foreign intelligence. Kobyakov had personally examined both Massing’s and Field’s personal files, and said nothing in them indicated that Hiss had been an agent.
17. We cannot be certain, from the transcripts, what Field actually told his interrogators. Erica Wallach, Noel Field’s foster daughter, was arrested by Communist authorities in East Germany in 1949, and not released until 1955. She, too, was beaten and abused while in captivity. Shortly before her death in 1994, Wallach read about the transcripts surfacing, and commented on them in a letter to her literary agent:
As you know, I was able to see my own Stasi (East German State Security) file of 1950-51. Since I remember extremely well my nightly interrogations and sometimes day and night – from August 1950 to March 1951 (the last entry in that file but by no means my last interrogations which lasted ’til December 1952), I am amazed at what it contains or what it does not contain.
Apart from several pages in my handwriting, there are only 7 interrogations for the entire period of over 6 months. The answers as well as the questions were written by the interrogator in his language and his interpretation. It has nothing to do with what I had said which should not really surprise me: whenever I tried to rectify their imaginations and lies, I was told that they would not write down lies. It is impossible to convey to anyone who has not been in that situation the impossibility of the prisoner to defend himself, and no historian will ever be able to learn the truth from those files.
18. In his 1945 interview with the FBI, Chambers apparently referred to Victor Perlo as “Nathan Perlow” (an identification he repeated in a subsequent interview with Raymond Murphy of the State Department), casting doubt on the true extent of their relationship.
19. When Vassiliev prepared his manuscript for Weinstein, he added a footnote, saying that Schimmel and Blumberg had nothing to do with Soviet intelligence. This would contradict the heading that Haynes and Klehr have affixed to the list.
20. The Justice Department was trying to deport Bridges, an Austrialian national who was a radical West Coast union leader and a friend (but not a member) of the Communist Party.
21. In a 1993 letter to The Wall Street Journal, Hiss denied Klaus’s allegations, referring to his “overheated suspicions,” while adding, “My office, Special Political Affairs, was expressly responsible for our country’s relations with the UN, including the topic of trusteeships and international control of atomic energy. Such information therefore came to me as a matter of course. In addition, my office, like many other State Department offices, received a wide array of other political information. Neither Klaus nor Mr. Tanenhaus was or is justified in finding anything improper about the materials in my office.”
22. Klaus and then-Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, an ally of Hiss’s in the State Department, were engaged in a dispute about what role the Department would play in overseeing the newly created Central Intelligence Agency. The disagreement quickly turned nasty, with Klaus leveling McCarthyite charges against Acheson and his supporters.
23. According to the late Eduard Mark, an article posted on the Internet is further proof that Hiss was lying, because, in the article, Lieber’s children told the author their father had had a long-term relationship with Hiss. At the May 2009 conference on Spies at the Woodrow Wilson Center, I asked Mark if he had checked out the claim before assuming that the article could be relied on, as additional proof that Hiss had lied. “No, I didn’t,” he said. “Harvey did.”
Klehr nodded, acknowledging that he had done so. I mentioned that two days before, I had spoken to Lieber’s children. They said the article was false, that there was no relationship with Hiss, except that Lieber’s daughter had met him once in 1993 at a fundraiser for a summer camp, and that afterward Hiss had sent them a copy of his recently published book, Reflections of a Life. Klehr had no further comment.
24. “Karl” was only one of many pseudonyms that Chambers, according to his testimony, used or was assigned during his association with the Communist Party.