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Spies Among Us By: John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr
WashingtonDecoded.com | Friday, June 19, 2009


While we were writing Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, based on Alexander Vassiliev’s notebooks, we anticipated a hostile reaction from battered but still rancorous remnants of the pro-Communist left in the academic world and partisan pundits. Together they have denied for more than fifty years that Soviet espionage in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s had much significance, denounced claims linking the Communist Party of the USA (CPUSA) with Soviet espionage, and proclaimed the innocence of many of those identified as Soviet agents. 

We expected the most antagonistic reaction would involve the traditionally two most contested cases: that of Alger Hiss, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. No one who studies 20th century American history can fail to be astounded by the quantity and the viciousness of the assaults leveled on scholars who dared question the innocence and martyrdom of Hiss and the Rosenbergs. Historians Allen Weinstein and Ronald Radosh, most notably, were subjected to years of attacks on their personal integrity and professional competence for their pioneering and superbly researched books on the Hiss-Chambers and Rosenberg cases.[1]  

The opening chapter of Spies, entitled “Alger Hiss: Case Closed,” ended with our Hissconclusion that in light of new and definitive evidence from the KGB archives recorded in Vassiliev’s notebooks, as well as the ample evidence available earlier from other sources, “to serious students of history continued claims for Hiss’s innocence are akin to a terminal form of ideological blindness.” But we also noted, “it is unlikely that anything will convince the remaining die-hards.”[2] Similarly, we foresaw continued protests of innocence from the ranks (albeit much-thinned ranks) of the Rosenberg defenders in the academy and elsewhere to the extensive documentation in Spies of the extraordinary size of the espionage apparatus Rosenberg established. Spies revealed for the first time, for example, that Rosenberg had recruited a second atomic spy, Russell McNutt, in addition to the his long-identified brother-in-law David Greenglass.

Somewhat to our surprise, however, the defenses of Hiss and the Rosenbergs, while not disappearing, have taken a back seat to the protection of I. F. Stone.

In the grand sweep of Spies, which tells the story of KGB activities and networks in the United States in the 1930s and 1940s, Stone is a very minor player, with only a bit part. Most of the references to him are in passing, and the totality of his activities take up only six pages out of 548 pages of text. In contrast, Hiss has an entire chapter, thirty-one pages, devoted to his case, while the section on Julius Rosenberg and his extensive technical and atomic espionage apparatus is even longer. Indeed, numerous other Americans who assisted Soviet intelligence receive more attention in Spies than Stone simply because their roles were more important than his were.

Stone, however, is an icon in certain journalistic precincts, and to his devotees those six pages are the only ones in Spies that matter. Their responses match in distortion, whitewashing, spinning, and ad hominem viciousness any that we have received over the years and give us a better understanding of what Weinstein and Radosh had to put up with. The history of communism and Soviet espionage have never been fields for those seeking the scholarly quiet life, but the displays of rage (real and faux) in regard to Stone have been impressive.

“Izzy, We Hardly Knew Ye”

To be sure, we anticipated there would be considerable interest in our new material on Stone because the matter of his cooperation with Soviet intelligence had beenIfs murky, and Spies brought forward some significant new information. In a 1999 book, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, we had examined the evidence of WWII KGB cables deciphered by the National Security Agency’s Venona project about Soviet contacts with Stone and concluded that while the cables showed that the KGB hoped to establish a covert relationship “there is no evidence in Venona that Stone was ever recruited by the KGB.”[3] The Vassiliev notebooks, however, provided additional documentation, and in Spies we wrote that the evidence shows that Stone was recruited in 1936 to assist Soviet espionage in the United States and functioned into 1939 as a talent scout for new sources, a courier linking the KGB with sources, and a source in his own right for insider journalism information. 

The notebooks also showed that sometime in 1939 Stone’s assistance to Soviet espionage ceased, although at whose initiative is unknown. Stalin’s purge of his own security services had forced Soviet intelligence to shut down most of its agent networks in America by that year and, in any event, Stone was so revolted by the Nazi-Soviet pact that he undoubtedly severed whatever relationship existed by that time. In late 1945 the KGB again approached Stone, hoping to reestablish a relationship, but the evidence was (and remains) ambiguous on whether that was successful.

Even at the height of the relationship in the late 1930s, Stone did not steal classified documents to convey to Moscow or engage in any hair-raising activities. Yet that does not make him any less of an agent of Soviet intelligence, just not a particularly successful or significant one. An espionage network involves a great many more duties and players than is widely imagined, but the key distinction of an agent is a willingness to be “tasked” in intelligence parlance, that is, act on behalf of the intelligence service. On this point, the Vassiliev notebooks are unequivocal with respect to Stone.[4] Moreover, as we explained in Spies, journalists were particularly well-suited for agency because many of the tasks they were asked to carry out—providing inside information, serving as couriers, talent-spotters, and checking on the background of potential sources—were, or could be made to seem, a normal part of their everyday work.

In the section on Stone, we concluded that he “consciously cooperated with Soviet intelligence from 1936 through 1938—that is to say, he was a Soviet spy.”[5] Much of the controversy has revolved around that last word, which we used quite deliberately. Though in the popular imagination a “spy” immediately brings to mind someone who traffics in classified or secret information, we believe that anyone who wittingly participates in and empowers an espionage network is, broadly speaking, a spy, and can be fairly labeled as such.

The Critics: Eric Alterman

Predictably, writers associated with The Nation magazine have taken the lead in denouncing Spies and/or its authors, with the combination of rage and maliciousness that marked past assaults on Weinstein and Radosh.

The most hysterical response so far, entitled “The Smearing of I. F. Stone, Continued” was written by Eric Alterman and appears in the 22 June 2009 edition of  The Nation. Alterman writes, “Armed with generous funding from the ultra-right-wing Smith Richardson Foundation, Haynes and Klehr publicized their ludicrous claims that Stone was a ‘Soviet spy’ who ‘worked closely with the KGB,’ at a conference co-sponsored [sic] by the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars and by the Cold War International History Project.” Alterman then added, “The campaign [emphasis added] to smear Stone bears the hallmarks of a foundation-funded campaign of right-wing media manipulation.”

This is silly conspiracy-mongering. If I. F. Stone had not been mentioned on a single page of the Vassiliev notebooks, we would have proceeded in exactly the same manner, and we presume the Smith Richardson Foundation would still have deemed the project a scholarly endeavor worth supporting. The foundation, which Alterman inaccurately Spieslabels as “ultra-right-wing,” provided a grant that allowed us to contract two skilled professional translators to translate 1,115 pages of  Vassiliev’s notebooks into English. The notebooks contain his verbatim transcriptions and summaries of thousands of KGB archival documents describing  Soviet espionage in the United States. They are the richest source of KGB archival material ever to appear in the West. Vassiliev gave (not sold) the original handwritten notebooks to the Library of Congress where they are open for review by any researcher. Scans of the notebooks along with the translations were put on the web in downloadable format by the Cold War International History Project to further facilitate scholarly use. The documentation of Stone’s 1936-1938 work as an agent of the KGB’s New York station is in those notebooks, but, just as Stone is a small part of Spies, he is a miniscule part of the 1,115 notebook pages.  The notion that Smith Richardson provided a grant to hire two professional translators to work for more than a year just to get the eight pages dealing with Stone is ludicrous. Nor did the foundation provide any assistance to Yale University Press for the publication of Spies.

Alterman seems obsessed with the supposed machinations of “conservative” and “right wing” foundations. For years he has complained that histories of Soviet espionage and communism that he disapproved of were subsidized by nefarious (in his view) organizations, with the smarmy implication that they are paying to have evidence manufactured. He has even cast aspersions on the entire Yale University Press “Annals of Communism” book series.[6] Alterman, of course, has no evidence that such funding has led to distortions of the historical record. But he might look to his own colleagues for examples of historical malfeasance, since The Nation has for years subsidized research for articles offering ever more intellectually tortured defenses of Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs.[7] 

Equally ridiculous is Alterman’s description of the Wilson Center’s May conference about the Vassiliev notebooks. In Alterman’s telling (and he did not attend), the 1½ day conference was all about Stone. It was not. There were three panels, each with three papers. Of the nine papers given, only one was about I. F. Stone; the other papers dealt with Hiss, the Rosenberg apparatus, atomic espionage, FBI counter-intelligence, and the notebooks themselves (all the papers will appear in upcoming issues of the peer-reviewed Journal of Cold War Studies). Nor was the conference as one-sided as Alterman suggests: one of the commentators, R. Bruce Craig, disagrees with our views and is someone whose work we have vigorously criticized in the past. Barton Bernstein, a well-known senior revisionist historian, commented on another panel.

Don Guttenplan

Besides Alterman, the most energetic critic of Spies has been Don Guttenplan, notAmrad coincidentally because as the author of American Radical, he is Stone’s third and latest biographer.[8] Guttenplan did attend the Wilson Center conference, and became nearly apoplectic about the proceedings well before a single negative word had been uttered about his special interest. At one point Guttenplan attempted to monopolize the time set aside for audience participation by reading a lengthy statement, and the exasperated chair of that panel did cut him off so that others would have a chance to speak. Later, in a display of faux indignation, he appropriated  the role of Joseph N. Welch at the Army-McCarthy hearings, pointed an accusing finger at us and loudly proclaimed, “Have you no sense of decency, sirs, at long last?”  It was a bizarre performance.

Guttenplan’s indignant attack on Spies appeared in the 25 May 2009 edition of The Nation. The article, entitled “Red Harvest: The KGB in America,” begins by belittling, literally, Alexander Vassiliev. He is described in the second sentence as a “small, fair-haired man,” and in addition to being short in stature, Guttenplan intimates Vassiliev is not to be trusted because he was left angry and embittered by his unique experience. Vassiliev is more than 6’1” feet tall, however, and Guttenplan’s insinuations are equally off the mark. Vassiliev makes a positive impression on nearly everyone who hears him speak in the first person about his research. At the Wilson Center conference, he calmly answered questions that would rattle anyone’s composure. 

Guttenplan goes on to cast doubt on Vassiliev’s ability to record so much material in his notebooks from early 1994 to early 1996, dramatically labeling it a “Stakhanovite feat.” This is childish. Vassiliev’s notebooks total 1,115 pages of hand-written notes, and any reasonably conscientious researcher could accumulate that many pages of notes in two solid years of archival work.

The full extent of Guttenplan’s ad hominen attack became evident at the Wilson Center conference, when he suggested that the notebooks were forgeries and charged that Vassiliev had, for financial reasons, written what right-wing conspirators wanted him to write. In this vein, he demanded that Vassiliev disclose all of his financial records. This last insinuation is easy to dispose of. As we pointed out, if financial gain were Vassiliev’s goal (or ours), taking the book to Yale University Press made no sense at all. YUP, like all academic presses, pays only modestly. Nor, if financial concerns were a priority, did it make sense for Vassiliev to give the notebooks to the Library of Congress without compensation.

Guttenplan’s innuendoes re forgery are just as baseless. Scans of the original handwritten notebooks; transcriptions into word-processed Russian; and translations into English of the notebooks have all been posted on the web.  The transcripts and the translations are paginated and formatted to match the original, so researchers can move easily between all three versions to check on a translation or study them as intensely as they wish. Successfully forging one or two historical documents is difficult but possible. Successfully forging 1,115 pages of documents when there are ample materials available from other sources to check against is impossible. Any forgery of that size would easily be exposed. Mistakes in chronology, in terminology, and in placement of people in places and times where they provably could not have been would have been inevitable.

Just as the irresponsible allegations of forgery made in 1995 about the release of the deciphered KGB cables of the Venona project vanished into the wind as countless researchers used the cables and found them reliable and authentic, Guttenplan’s forgery innuendo will disappear. Not surprisingly, the false assertions of forgery made against Venona and other documents we found in Soviet-era archives came from the same circles that cheer on Guttenplan’s malicious charges.[9]

Guttenplan then goes on to other fatuous assertions, such as claiming that the Jernotebooks show Julius Rosenberg and other Soviet sources were “careful to make clear their primary loyalty to the United States.” This is poppycock. In Spies we noted the evidence of State Department official Laurence Duggan’s emotional difficulty with reconciling his loyalty to the Soviet cause, and years of assistance to Soviet espionage, with his status as an American citizen. But Duggan was a marked exception, and Julius Rosenberg emphatically was not: the latter’s loyalty was to the Soviet Union and the Communist cause. Alexander Feklisov, the KGB case officer who oversaw Rosenberg’s work, even noted in his memoir Rosenberg’s pleasure when Feklisov compared him to resistance fighters struggling against the Nazis behind the lines.[10] Taking delight in an image that likened the United States to fascist-occupied territory does not suggest an American patriot.

Another strange passage makes one wonder if Guttenplan really pays attention to the logic of what he is writing. Attempting to exculpate Soviet spies, he notes:

The Haunted Wood [a previous book by Weinstein and Vassiliev] cites a July 1941 report from Konstantine Umansky, the Soviet ambassador, on a conversation with Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, who asked “on my personal behalf to give me and Roosevelt the heads of German agents in the U.S.” because the FBI was doing such a lousy job—letting Moscow know that Morgenthau and perhaps FDR didn't have confidence in J. Edgar Hoover. Haynes and Klehr don't mention this incident, yet they condemn Morgenthau's deputy Harry Dexter White for his own back-channel diplomacy.

Guttenplan seems oblivious to the difference between Morgenthau openly asking the Soviets to give Soviet information to the United States and White covertly giving American information to the Soviets without authorization. Morgenthau was engaging in diplomacy, while White was a Soviet spy. He met clandestinely with a KGB officer and provided information on the American negotiating strategy at San Francisco in 1945, where the United Nations’ charter was being drawn up. White assured the Soviets that “[President] Truman and [Secretary of State] Stettinius want to achieve the success of the conference at any price,” and advised that if Soviet diplomats held firmly to their demand that the USSR get a veto over UN Security Council actions, the United States “will agree.” White offered other tactical advice on how the Soviets might defeat or water-down diplomatic positions being advanced by his own government. The KGB officer meeting with White even carried with him a questionnaire on a variety of issues that were bound to be the subject of intense negotiations; White disclosed the American negotiating position each and every time. If Guttenplan thinks this is “back-channel diplomacy” he is living in an alternate reality.

All these dubious tactics are but a prelude to Guttenplan’s main aim, which is to deny, dissemble and otherwise discredit the significant new archival information about I. F. Stone, the subject of Guttenplan’s new biography.

A point of contention for years has been whether Stone was the person code-named “Blin” (or “Pancake” in English) in the Venona intercepts released in the mid-1990s. The Vassiliev notebooks are unequivocal on this point, and settle the debate. A KGB New York station report of 13 April 1936 noted, “‘Pancake’ [is] Isidor Feinstein, a commentator for the New York Post.” (Isidor Feinstein changed his name to I. F. Stone in 1937.)  Guttenplan, however, still refuses to accept this plain vanilla corroboration, insisting that it still doesn’t prove that “Pancake” was Stone.  Perhaps he thinks there was another Isidor Feinstein working for the New York Post whom the KGB recruited.[11]

Another Guttenplan aside demonstrates his ignorance of both the notebooks and Spies. He writes:

    Farther down the same page is another handwritten Russian text, which claims (in May 1936) that “Relations with ‘Pancake’ [Stone] have entered ‘the channel of normal operational work.’ He went to Washington on assignment for his newspaper. Connections in the State Dep. and Congress.” (The single quotes around “normal operational work” are clearly meant as the historical equivalent of furious cello bowing on the soundtrack.)

If he had bothered to read Spies carefully, or to actually look at the original document, available on the web, presumably Guttenplan would have noticed that the quote marks are in the original notebooks and indicate when Vassiliev is quoting the underlying KGB archival document verbatim rather than just summarizing it in his own words. 

Having attempted to cast doubt on the authenticity of the notebooks, Guttenplan nonetheless feels compelled to discount the significance of the information lest a reader persist in thinking they are accurate, Stone’s relationship with the KGB in the 1936-38 was above board, claims Guttenplan: “I don’t find it at all hard to believe that in 1936 I. F. Stone would have happily traded information with a TASS correspondent, whether or not he suspected the man had other duties.” But this characterization is not compatible with the KGB document Vassiliev quoted that said its relationship with Stone had entered “the channel of normal operational work.” A benign overt relationship between an American journalist and Guttenplan’s imaginary TASS reporter would not be so described in a report from the New York KGB station to Moscow headquarters. The KGB was not a journalistic enterprise; it was an intelligence service and its operations were ultimately dedicated to ferreting out information.

Without any evidence, Guttenplan speculates that KGB officers were habitual frauds, reporting back to Moscow they had recruited as agents people who were, in fact, simplyKgb casual acquaintances. Is Guttenplan that ill-informed about how the KGB worked and the context of its operations in the 1930s? Anyone recruited by a KGB officer had to have the recruitment approved by a station chief who required officers to provide elaborate background information on potential recruits. Starting in the late ‘30s, KGB headquarters also had to approve a recruitment after the background information had been vetted by officers in Moscow. Further, station chiefs rotated the liaison with a particular agent among the station’s case officers. Any officer taking over liaison duties would quickly realize if a recruited agent was fraudulent—and perpetuate the fraud at his own risk. In the latter half of the 1930s, numerous KGB officers were recalled and either executed or sent to the Gulag on the mere suspicion of misconduct or ideological deviation. Some officers, and there are examples in the notebooks, tried to protect themselves from suspicion by reporting misconduct or procedural irregularities by other officers to Moscow. In this atmosphere, any KGB officer creating a fictitious agent was signing his death warrant.

There is a KGB document in the notebooks that Guttenplan scrupulously avoids mentioning. It is a list of the American agents, including “Pancake” (Stone), run by the New York KGB station in the latter half of 1938.  The agent list reads:

Agents: (3rd qtr. of ’38)  S-1, S-2, Link, Eduard, Lever, Long and Vanguard, Toby, Talent, Yankee, Solid, Goose, Falcon, Emulsion, Emulsion’s brother, Octane and his sub-sources, Cheetah, Stanley, Film, El, Needle, Blue Tit, Charlie, Lord, Morris, Fairy, Zero, Bob, Buben, Button, Informer, Fred, Black, Pancake, Loach, Adam, Satyr, Crook, Yuzik.

There are some significant spies on this list, although the real identities of several remain unknown to this day. For example, “Goose” was Harry Gold, a long-serving KGB courier and agent handler for scientific spies; Gold eventually confessed and was imprisoned for his role as atomic spy Klaus Fuchs’s courier. “Satyr” was Sylvia Caldwell, used by the KGB to infiltrate the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party; she later cooperated with authorities and avoided prison. “Buben” was Louis Budenz, who also assisted the KGB with its anti-Trotsky work before his dramatic defection from the Communist Party. “El” was Alfred Slack, a long-term technical source who confessed and was imprisoned for his assistance to the KGB.  “Link” was William Weisband, a mere courier in 1938, but a decade later the most valuable American source the KGB possessed; it was Weisband who would inform the Soviets of the National Security Agency’s success in breaking Soviet codes. “Morris” was Abraham Glasser, a Justice Department lawyer that a Soviet defector identified as a KGB source. “Black” was Thomas Black (the cover name in Russian is “Cherny,” which means black), another long-term KGB courier. He was identified to the FBI by Harry Gold, cooperated with authorities, and avoided prison. “Informer” was Joseph Katz, one of the KGB’s longest-serving and senior American agent handlers who managed some of the most important sources in the U.S. government during World War II.[12]

It is disingenuous to argue that Stone was included on this KGB list of active agents on the basis of casual chats with an imaginary TASS reporter. Some of these listed were couriers or agent handlers. Others were sources. Some performed different tasks at one time or another. Guttenplan (and Alterman for that matter) may wish to narrow down the definition of “spy” to mean only sources who steal secrets. But to the KGB, its couriers, agent handlers, talent spotters, and sources—including I. F. Stone—were “agents” assisting the KGB’s intelligence operations in the United States. As such, all of them participated in espionage and empowered Soviet intelligence operations in the United States.

Inadvertent Corroboration

The responses above do not address all of Guttenplan’s distortions, evasions, and too-clever-by half explanations. They are only a representative sample.

In his Nation essay, however, Guttenplan also ostentatiously thanked Victor Navasky and Moscow historian Svetlana Chervonnaya for their assistance. These acknowledgments warrant two comments. 

Navasky, former editor and publisher of The Nation and currently a professor at VsnColumbia University and chair of the Columbia Journalism Review, has long been a leading champion of Alger Hiss’s innocence, perhaps the most prominent figure in the ever-dwindling band of Hiss supporters. In 2007, Navasky gave the keynote speech at a New York University conference devoted to defending Hiss. Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya authored the chief paper presented at the conference. The Bird-Chervonnaya paper, later published as “The Mystery of Ales” in  The American Scholar, purported to show that the Soviet spy “Ales” in Venona wasn’t Hiss and was actually Wilder Foote, a close aide to Secretary of  State Edward Stettinius.  Navasky was described as “bursting with enthusiasm” for the Bird-Chervonnaya thesis that Foote was the real spy.[13]   Guttenplan also makes favorable reference to their article in his essay.

The Foote thesis is an irresponsible fantasy, as we pointed out at the time in “The New McCarthyism,” an April 2007 article in Washington Decoded. We reiterated this point in Spies, and the late Eduard Mark definitely demonstrated the same in his paper at the May conference. “Ales” was, indeed, Alger Hiss. 

Guttenplan appears to be clueless about the damage he does to his own cause by bringing up the Bird-Chervonnaya essay. The key document upon which Bird and Chervonnaya base their argument, and which they insist is authoritative and accurate, is a 1945 two-page cable written by Anatoly Gorsky, the KGB’s Washington station chief. It is not actually an individual document from KGB archives but photocopied pages from Vassiliev’s notebooks. Guttenplan, who spent much of his article in The Nation, and engaged in histrionics at the Wilson Center in an effort to discredit the authenticity of the notebooks, has unknowingly endorsed the reliability of the notebooks, that is, when he perceived it suited his purposes.

Another inadvertent endorsement came from Chervonnaya during the conference at the Wilson Center. Someone distributed a paper by the Russian researcher, who now runs a website, DocumentsTalk.com, dedicated to “re-examining the documentary evidence” and “going beyond the American post-Cold War consensus” on the controversial spy cases. (The website is underwritten, perhaps entirely, by The Nation Institute, the grant-making affiliate of the magazine). The paper, entitled “Vassiliev’s Notes on Pavlov Orientation: A Comparison,” painstakingly compared a 1942 memo written by a KGB officer named Vitaly Pavlov with the same memo as summarized in Vassiliev notebooks. At the same time hard copies were distributed, the paper was posted on DocumentsTalk.

Chervonnaya’s paper, while exaggerating the historical importance of this one memo, reflected her pride in making the entire document available as opposed to a handwritten summary. The full text certainly conveyed more information and is preferable to any summary. But what Chervonnaya seems not to have noticed is that rather than undercut Vassiliev, the essay confirms the fidelity of his note-taking and his no less important ability to get down the gist of a useful document. Vassiliev’s summary is entirely accurate, and includes all the key points from the 1942 Pavlov memo. If anything, Chervonnaya’s comparison tends to authenticate the provenance and reliability of Vassiliev’s notebooks. This cannot be what the remaining defenders of Hiss, the critics of Spies, or the underwriters of DocumentsTalk want. 

In some quarters, the release of Vassiliev’s notebooks and simultaneous publication of Spies has been greeted with falsehoods, obfuscation, ad hominem attacks, insinuations of financial chicanery and forgery, and illogical, wrong-headed, and easily rebuttable arguments. These efforts will prove futile. By putting Vassiliev’s original notebooks in the Library of Congress with no restrictions on their use, and by posting scans of the notebooks on the web, the archival source of Spies is conveniently and easily available to the entire scholarly world, or to anyone simply interested in the subject. As other scholars consult and use the notebooks, we are entirely confident they will judge them authentic and reliable. There is much material in the notebooks that we did not use in Spies, and other researchers may spot matters we overlooked or will use the material to address questions we did not think to ask.

Notwithstanding the scurrilous attacks, Vassiliev’s notebooks will become a standard and invaluable source used by historians of espionage and the early Cold War.

Notes:

[1] Allen Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case (New York: Random House, 1978); Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton, The Rosenberg File: A Search for the Truth (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1983).  

[2] John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, & Alexander Vassiliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009), 30-31.

[3] John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000), 249. 

[4] Haynes, Klehr & Vassiliev, Spies, 150-151.

[5] Ibid., 152. 

[6] Eric Alterman , “A Cold War Over the Cold War?” The Nation, 15 February 1999.

[7] For but one example, see Ethan Klingsberg, “Case Closed Alger Hiss?” The Nation, 8 November 1993.

[8] Another Stone biographer, Myra MacPherson, author of “All Governments Lie”: The Life and Times of Rebel Journalist I. F. Stone, has also vehemently criticized Spies. Although her article was titled in The Huffington Post as a “review,” it was all about Stone and nothing else. Hiss, the Rosenbergs, Oppenheimer, and atomic espionage, indeed, all other subjects dealt with in the book were entirely absent.  MacPherson’s charges essentially duplicate Guttenplan’s. 

[9] Victor Navasky, for example, initially suggested the Venona messages were part of a sinister American government project “to enlarge post-cold war intelligence gathering capability at the expense of civil liberty.” The late William Kunstler, a prominent radical lawyer, insisted that the messages should be treated as forgeries because of their derivation from U.S. government agencies. The late Bill Reuben, a staunch defender of the Rosenbergs denounced Comintern and CPUSA documents as a “hoax” and a “fraud.” Victor Navasky, “Tales from Decrypts,” The Nation, 28 October 1996; William Kunstler, Letter to the Editor, The Nation, 16 October 1995; William A. Reuben, “The Latest Spy Hoax: ‘Secret World’s’ False Secrets,” Rights, 1995.

[10] Alexander Feklisov, The Man Behind the Rosenbergs (New York: Enigma Books, 2001), 120-121.

[11] Guttenplan also asserts without evidence that all of the FBI’s identifications of real names behind cover names in Venona are suspect. Later this year we will be presenting a paper at the National Security Agency’s Symposium on Cryptologic History where we will report that the cover names identified in Vassiliev’s notebooks provide confirmation of the real names identified by the Venona project for 176 cover names. In only four cases do plain text identification in Vassiliev’s notebooks correct identifications made by Venona analysts, usually the FBI. By any standard, the FBI’s accuracy in identifying real names behind cover names was extremely high.

[12] For identification of the real names and status of the persons listed, go to the on-line concordance for the Vassiliev notebooks.

[13] Ron Rosenbaum, “Alger Hiss Rides Again,” Slate, 16 July 2007.




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