following interview with Alger Hiss was conducted on November
2, 1978 by Joseph P. Ippolito, Herbert Travers and Professor
Charles P. Kindregan, of the Suffolk University Law School
in Boston. It was published in the Fall, 1978 issue of the
school's newsletter, The
At the time of the interview, Hiss and his attorneys were
preparing for oral arguments on his coram nobis petition,
which had been filed earlier that year. The transcript begins
shortly after the start of the interview.
I would characterize what we've been talking about so far
mostly as relating to prosecutorial misconduct, and the petition
alleges, at least as I see it, prosecutorial misconduct in
several forms: the maintenance of an informer within the defense,
the pretrial statements given by Chambers to the FBI
the concealment of them from the defense, critical facts concerning
the typewriter in which the government claimed the stolen
documents were copied or abstracted that these were
kept from the defense, and that the prosecution suffered perjury
to be committed by its witnesses without protest. All four
of these bases of the petition seem to suggest prosecutorial
misconduct, not your innocence, Mr. Hiss. I'm just wondering
why at the outset you made the statement that you were not
so much concerned with prosecutorial misconduct as with establishing
your own innocence. I think you've characterized the petition
as directed towards characterizing your innocence.
I spoke of my desire of how the petition should be drafted.
Counsel said to me early on, it would be very difficult to
get any judge in the Southern District of New York after this
passage of time to say "I, Judge So and So, am convinced
that Hiss is innocent." It should be possible to get
a judge to say this was an unfairly obtained conviction because
of prosecutonal misconduct and it will be expunged. This is
counsel's question that...
but the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts went a long
way down that road, toward conceding your innocence.
I don't think so. If you read that carefully, I think you'll
find that the Chief Judge said that they could not question
collaterally the decision of the Federal Court. They had to
assume my guilt. Now I have reason to believe, of course,
the Chief Judge who wrote that spoke to a man of The New York
Times, a special reporter on the judiciary, Goldstein, up
in a meeting in Canada of the American Bar Association and
indicated that the court actually believed me innocent. That's
not what the case stands for.
The case is revolutionary in that they no longer require a
statement of contrition.
I told them frankly that if that was necessary, I wasn't going
to participate. Now let's get back to what the Professor has
I can understand the advice of counsel in reference to this
petition. Are you suggesting that there is other information
that has since been made available to you by the Freedom of
Information Act that would point in the direction of your
innocence? I think since Watergate we have been subject to
a smoking gun type of mentality.
We have no smoking gun.
Do you have anything that tended to point in the direction
of your innocence?
I will repeat myself on what I said at the outset, that the
government's case was based on Chambers's testimony plus alleged
documentary evidence. I think the petition and the facts as
developed in court and in the documents we have from the F.B.I.
demonstrate that none of the documentary evidence corroborates
Chambers, therefore there was no credible provable evidence
of guilt under the law as it then stood, unless you choose
to believe Chambers. I have said all along that the test is
the credibility of Chambers versus me. Under the law of perjury
his testimony isn't enough. Therefore there was not legal
probative evidence, in the case, of my guilt. This is my position,
but if people want to believe Chambers, as obviously Weinstein
does, that's their privilege. I don't think the courts will.
My interest is not in the battle of books, but in the court's
decision. Now can we go on with the typewriter issue a little
further? As a lawyer, my chief objection to what the government
did in the field of the typewriter, was that by withholding
from us and the Court the information they had, they deprived
us of the opportunity to cross examine Feehan. We waived cross
examination. We didn't realize the frailty of the opinion
evidence. We had not ever handled a case, none of our counsel
had, where opinions had been submitted in regard to typewriters
and handwriting was involved. We quite literally thought of
it, as Murphy said in his summation, like fingerprints. It
must be the same typewriter, so we then devoted ourselves
to demonstrating that we did not have the typewriter, which
we believed, which I still believe. Had we been able to cross-examine
Feehan, had we been able to bring witnesses, other expert
witnesses, like Mrs. McCarthy or Mrs. Ehrlich to contradict
him, the whole thing would have been different. There in summation,
Cross and Stryker would have been saying "It's Chambers
versus Hiss, and you've got two opinion experts; these documents
don't prove anything by themselves; they're not immutable,
they are just the opinion of a man whose judgment is very
fallible." This is my chief objection to what happened:
we never had a chance to cross-examine Feehan and if you will
examine his testimony in the first trial and compare it to
the second trial, he is so much stronger in the second trial
because he knows he is not going to be cross-examined. We
have FBI documents in which the assistant prosecutor assumes
we are going to produce witnesses against him which shows
they don't regard him as infallible and one of the memoranda
says shouldn't we get a second expert, if Hiss has two and
we only have one, it won't look good. But they didn't have
a second witness, that's part of the reason why they decided
no, they'd stick with Feehan. But, as a lawyer of some experience,
this is where I put my finger on the dirt that was done to
me. Sure, Edith Murray was thrown in as a very dramatic witness
at the very end when we couldn't investigate and I think this
was a type of use of false testimony. I think she was perfectly
honest, I think she was led to say things out of loyalty to
the Chambers, for whom she worked. She was a rebuttal witness.
I think she was the next to the last witness. Now the theory
I have of how 230099 ever came into our hands is really very
simple. Mr. Lockey, who ran the junk yard where it was found,
was approached by my brother and Mike Catlett in, oh, I think
February. He wasn't at home. Mrs. Lockey said she knew nothing
about the typewriter. They told her what they were looking
for, and why. They thought it had come through Marlow and
various other people to Mr. Lockey. They came back later because
of Mr. Lockey, they wanted to talk to him. He then said, "I'm
sorry, I just threw it out." When he said he threw it
out he meant in his own outdoor junk yard. They went out and
looked and they found the one he had just thrown out, but
it was a Royal. So they then said you're mistaken, the one
we're talking about is the one you got from Marlow and so
on and it's an old Woodstock. No typewriter was found. Later,
Mike Catlett came back to my brother Donald and said, "Look
he has found it, he's got the right typewriter." Donald
was so assured of this he simply called Ed McLean in New York.
McLean came down, met Mike. Donald went away for the weekend
as he planned to do and it was Ed who found the typewriter.
We didn't comment on the fact that it was workable, that it
had been lying outdoors as everyone said for months, in the
rain and snow; this is rather strange, but it never led us
to think that it was the wrong machine. I think Mr. Lockey
was an honorable junkman. He had the chance to make a sale.
If he could find the real old one, it must have been in miserable
condition; how could he sell that to this nice gentleman from
New York who wants an old Woodstock? There were a lot of old
Woodstocks in those days, so he gets one that looks like it,
almost exactly the same kind as far as he can tell and he
makes a sale. He gets $15. This is where I think the mystery
becomes mysterious. I don't accuse anybody of conspiracy.
Now, we don't need to contend that it was doctored. It may
very well have been, but that's a different issue. In other
words, somebody else may have played a hand with Mr. Lockey,
but I don't need to go into that. I think Mr. Lockey simply
sold another old Woodstock and Feehan couldn't tell one old
Woodstock from another as he demonstrated.
So whatever doctoring you're assuming would have happened
after it had been found. You're not suggesting it was planted.
If there was any doctoring, it was done in the interim between
the time that Donald and Mike first spoke with Mrs. Lockey
and the time several months later when Ed McLean picked it
up; I don't assert there was any doctoring. There was some
evidence, as you know, from what Dr. Norman and others have
said that it may have been doctored. All I need at this time
to prove and to have accepted is that it was not my typewriter
that we got, and that this was withheld from us and had we
known it and, had we known that Feehan had said that all three
sets of documents came from the same typewriter and that this
was a physical impossibility, we would have had a totally
Advocate: I know you may not want to assess blame, but do
you in some way feel that counsel
my counsel? No, positively not, I was there...
with respect to the failure to cross-examine Feehan?
Claude Cross said several times, "I wish I had cross-examined
Feehan," but he had no basis to.
Advocate: At that time he thought it was your typewriter?
Positively. And I was convinced that Chambers had gotten access
to our typewriter sometime after we got rid of it. It's much
simpler to know that all he did was get access to a Woodstock
and that what I said at the time of sentencing, that this
was forgery by typewriter, was in fact accurate, but not in
the way that I thought. I thought the forgery was in obtaining
my own machine.
Did you consider even preparing a cross examination of Mr.
Feehan? He testified in the first trial too didn't he? After
that, was there any discussion of cross examining?
Yes, yes, Claude Cross thought of examining, but Claude was
urged by everyone who had been to the first trial not to.
They said, "You don't have any basis for it. Our own
experts had said the same thing that he said." So honor
seemed to keep us from it. You should not use in cross examination
something you do not genuinely believe yourself, so to make
up something which would confuse him was contrary to our sense
of principle. I'm assuming that Murphy when he cross examined
the Catlett boys must have really believed they were mistaken.
Otherwise, he had no right to try to confuse them. Two uneducated
simple fellows, up here away from home before a strange kind
of jury; the whole case might have been different too, if
it had been tried in Washington, where blacks are treated
in a different way; where Chambers' story about coming to
my house once a week or ten days in the middle of the night
knocking on the door and ringing the bell when at the house
I lived in on 30th Street you could hear people snoring next
door. Whenever I shaved in the morning, my opposite neighbor
would know that I was up and about. He testified to it. A
fellow named May. It was unbelievable that Chambers could
have been, but in Washington, people would know that Georgetown
is a quiet, residential, dead area after 9 o'clock at night.
People just didn't go around knocking on doors and ringing
bells at 2 in the morning or 3 in the morning, whatever he
said he'd come back from his trips, but that's beside the
Would you like to go on to the withheld documents? As to the
Chambers statements which were unsigned, my understanding
of the law is and I may stand corrected on this is that at
that time these were not statements which would have been
turned over, which the prosecution was under any obligation
to turn over.
Two points I would make here. I'm not sure what the law was
at the time. A very good argument could be made that you have
stated it correctly. Second, when the Jencks case came
along, the court did not say we are now changing the law as
it did in Brown in regard to Plessy v. Ferguson.
So the position we are now taking is seeking, if the court
wishes to say we think this is highly improper, but it was
all right then, let them say it.
The Jencks rule should then be retroactive?
We think it should.
There is no law on that?
We think there is no law. And secondly, it's obvious what
Murphy did was tricky in the sense that he was preventing
us from having access to what would have been very helpful.
So when he said "Don't let him sign it"... after
all, if you are an honorable prosecutor and you have confidence
in your case, you're not going to keep the normal procedures
from being followed, of having things signed that they believe
to be a statement. So we regard that as highly improper. I'm
glad to have you state it the way that you do because this
is a trial run for what the U.S. Attorney's is going to say
I've always believed personally that prosecutors should have
an open file, but of course even today they don't. As to the
holographic statement by Mr. Chambers, some commentators have
said all along that Chambers' attitude toward you reflected
possibly a homosexual attachment of one kind or another and
there have even been reports that President Nixon has made
this explanation to some people. Have you ever developed any,
well let me ask you this, have you ever given any thought
to what use would have been made of these statements, this
holographic statement by Mr. Chambers at trial if you had
had it? What would you have done?
You will remember that both the psychiatrists who testified,
testified that they felt that Chambers had homosexual tendencies.
That testimony was based on very thin evidence and they said
so. We had had a number of reports, none of which panned out
with one exception. There was one man who said yes, he had
had a homosexual experience with Chambers at some kind of
a convention when they were roommates. He said he woke up
and Chambers was practicing fellatio on him. But, my counsel
felt that one swallow doesn't make a summer. It would look
bad; that we were trying to smear someone. Had we known that
Chambers had admitted to a pathetic ten year period, this
would not only have strengthened the testimony of the two
psychiatrists, but we now know that this period in his life
exactly coincides with the period in which he says he was
receiving stolen documents. Many of the tales he tells about
picking up documents late at night in deserted parks and street
corners, are the kind of pickups of a lonely homosexual. He
says in his statement there was no lasting relationship with
any of these pickups. For a man of Chambers' peculiar
I don't want to overstate it character, he had an obvious
gift of fantasy, which he certainly had as a writer to have
transposed these instances of which he presumably was very
ashamed. He wasn't a modern homosexual who feels perfectly
justified. He was secretive. He hid it from his wife. I think
this would've been a very telling argument that this was part
of his fevered imagination. The meetings he had with people
he said were conspirators could simply have been the people
he was picking up. I think it would have much affected his
credibility. Now you may ask why we have put it in such a
minor position in the petition. That's because of the difference
in times. This is a civil liberties organization; they defend
the rights of people who are homosexuals. We certainly don't
want to make.., in fact we discussed for hours whether we
should leave it out all together. The end conclusion was that
this is a legal fact; it's one of the statements that was
withheld and cannot possibly be squared with the law before
Jencks that only signed statements ... because it was signed.
The whole thing was holographic.
And wouldn't it have been useful in Dr. Binger's testimony?
And also toward his general credibility, Chambers' credibility.
In connection with Chambers' activities, wasn't Mr. Horace
Schmahl primarily assigned to examining the question of Mr.
Chambers' homosexuality? That allegation does appear in some
of the literature.
If so, it's inaccurate because Weinstein is rather inaccurate.
One of the documents that we have given as an exhibit is a
defense trial pattern, a list of issues that the defense intended
to explore which we found, for some strange reason, in Murphy's
files. It's quite early in January or February. It shows how
able a lawyer Ed McLean was because most of the basic issues
were sketched out. That was one of the things which Schmahl
was going for. The typewriter. I'd say the homosexuality was
a minor issue. Chambers' history in terms of his credibility
If you had the inconsistent statements made by Chambers at
trial, one of the possible defenses against Chambers was the
psychological motivation. If you had had the inconsistent
statements, it seems to me they would have gone against that
defense because Chambers' statements made in 1946 didn't in
any way try to implicate you in espionage, but only as a member
of the Communist Party...
If you try to ruin a man in terms of his career, that does
not seem to be very kindly. You see, my theory of why Chambers
made the charge of espionage is that it was very much a last
minute thing, after I sued him for libel. It wasn't that he
didn't want to hurt me before, but it hadn't occurred to him
to try to hurt me in that way. So that wouldn't bother our
theory; inconsistent statements were helpful in showing that
his testimony was a tissue of fabrications. Now, going back
to the homosexual question. I can't tell you on how many occasions
Harold Shapero, who was Stryker's chief assistant, and one
of the few survivors... I'd say half a dozen times Stryker
said to me, "Alger, are you sure he never made a pass
at you?" And thinking back as honestly as I can he made
the most about his heterosexual conquests which sounded a
bit unlikely, he wasn't that attractive. Stryker said, "It
would clear everything up, the jury would buy that right away."
I don't know if Stryker was right. Ed McLean in one of the
documents of the defense files went to see Chambers at Westminister
because Chambers claimed to have some things I had given him.
Ed was the least psychiatrically oriented person I'd ever
known. He asked him, "What did Mr. Hiss give you? What
was it?" Chambers said, "He gave me a love seat."
We moved out of the apartment which Chambers occupied. There
were a number of pieces of furniture we did not take with
us, and one of those was a small sofa which I distinctly said,
"Sure, you can have it." I wouldn't have called
it a love seat. Ed said, "Well, he did think that was
a love seat." That upset him. Chambers said, "Oh,
you want to see something that used to belong to Alger Hiss?"
Now I'm almost exactly quoting from Ed's memorandum of the
conversation. He said Chambers went trotting upstairs, like
a little puppy and he came back with two carefully folded
pieces of ancient fabric. He said he heard a drawer being
opened. Obviously these were fetishes of some kind, he'd been
saving. He said in awe, "These used to be part of the
slip covers." Ed was so upset; he said there's something
spooky here, and he said every time Chambers referred to my
wife, he was very hostile and thought of every nasty thing
he could say, but whenever he talked about me, it was as though
he was doing me a favor with everything he'd ever said so
that there's no question that what Stryker, Cross, Binger,
Murray, all believed that Chambers had some sort of peculiar
homosexual attachment to me. Never overt, and this was like
the things in Shakespeare's phrase about "Hell hath no
fury like woman scorned!" He felt doubly damaged when
I cut off relations, that that was a rebuff as if he had had
a real relation with me and I'd said, "Get lost."
So that statement would have made a tremendous amount of difference
to the morale of my attorneys. But this is the kind of thing
they believed they thought was somehow being kept from me,
and I'm sure now that if Cross and Stryker were alive this
would be one of the things they would find most reprehensible
on the part of the government.
Can I raise a question of Mr. Horace Schmahl, whose name has
come up? He apparently was a defense investigator and your
petition indicates on the basis of new evidence that he was
coopted to some extent by the prosecution. Are you saying
that there is anything improper in a prosecutor interviewing
a prospective defense witness or investigator as long as the
prosecutor does not disrupt the defense tactics or planning
or cause him to breach any confidential communication?
That last clause is the trick. If Schmahl is the man who turned
over this confidential outline of defense tactics, he's obviously
breached the confidence. I would think any prosecutor who
talks to an employee of counsel on the other side whether
a confidential investigator or a secretary should make that
fact known. This was a secret. We never knew what Schmahl
was telling in these meetings with the FBI or the prosecutor.
Yes we do think that was improper.
Do you have any evidence that Schmahl was in fact revealing
defense tactics, confidential information to the prosecution?
Yes, yes. I think some of those are cited as examples in the
exhibits. The plan with regard to the typewriter was very
important with regard to their determination that the typewriter
which we in fact found was not the right one. He never told
us that. They were ahead of us. He gave them information on
Mr. Martin, Mr. Fansler's partner. He gave them names of other
people; yes, he was very helpful to them in their own investigation.
One of the cases in which I did get back to the exhibits,
the exhibit that mentions that Schmahl was subject to being
arrested for posing as an FBI agent. It also mentions that
he was a suspected Nazi. That would suggest that, those charges,
whether or not true, in the hands of the government would
be enough to put a man who needed a license to operate under
the thumb of the FBI.
Exactly, right. That's the implication. Now the same thing,
jumping back to Chambers. Chambers having confessed in a holographic
statement to his homosexuality which he was ashamed had put
himself under their thumb in an unusual way. Now, all people
who claim to be co-conspirators who testify against their
co-conspirators are likely to be subject to the charge that
their self-interest calls for them to tell the prosecutor
just what the prosecutor wants. Chambers was in this respect
subject to immediate prosecution for perjury. He had admitted
lies, there's just no question. He was saved by the government,
because the Grand Jury sua sponte wanted to indict him, and
they were told "Look, we don't have any case against
Hiss if his chief witness is being prosecuted for perjury."
What kind of confidence does that show you really have in
your chief witness if you only don't indict him for perjury
to make him a more respectable looking witness? In addition,
they had his confession of homosexuality about which he was
desperately anxious to hide. So he was under their thumb,
and as the petition shows, he met with them 39 times, from
early January to just before trial. He was with them day after
day, all day long. Think of how subject to influence this
makes any witness. He was living with the prosecution. This
is hardly the way that you get the most objective testimony
of a witness.
In a follow up question on the Schmahl aspect, didn't he leave
the defense team's employ at some time? If he was really under
their thumb, it must have been a soft thumb pressure to allow
him to leave.
He was fired. We didn't have any more money, and he was being
absolutely useless the last month. McLean said to me "We
just don't have the funds. He's drawing down per diems; he's
going off on trips." But that didn't mean that we felt
he was hostile.
On the contrary, didn't your lawyer offer him further work?
That's right; we tried to hire him back later when we had
some money. If he had come in with information we would have
been very pleased, as a volunteer. He retained his confidential
relationship with us right through the motion for a new trial.
It was only when Chester Lane said to me "Did you ever
know that Horace Schmahl was a double agent?" I said
no. I had no such knowledge, but I did know that on one occasion
Ed McLean said to me, "Schmahl says he can get documents
from New York from HUAC because he has connections with HUAC.
What do you say?" I said, "We're not playing that
kind of game. Tell him thanks, but no thanks." It'd be
improper and I said to Ed "What would you have done if
I said go ahead and do it?" Ed said, "That's a different
question, that's an iffy question." From then on Schmahl's
work wasn't very helpful and he may actually, it now occurs
to us, he may have been trying to compromise us, getting us
to accept improper documents that he got secretly from the
House Committee and then suddenly have it blown, which
would have been very embarrassing to us.
One of the other things in the petition with regard to Schmahl
is that possibly the FBI made a deal with him based on not
arresting him for impersonating an officer or an agent. Did
you ever come up with any evidence that he was actually impersonating
an FBI officer or agent?
If you look at the exhibits you'll see that this is reported
to the FBI. that he had. They think they could have prosecuted
him. We didn't know about it. He never told us he was impersonating
an FBI agent.
When he did, was he working for your defense counsel?
That I don't know. In other words, there might have been other
occasions. Yes, I think one of the charges is that when he
was employed by us he told somebody he was working for the
F.B.I., but they seem to have other instances.
What I guess I would assume would be a key in the testimony
because it points out one of those little concrete moments
in time is the incident of the car purchase and where he got
the money for it: the alleged $400 loan. Now this is an instance
where you have charged that prior inconsistent statements
have been withheld, but aren't the prior inconsistent statements
at least quite curious in that if he had been prompted by
the FBI why would he have gotten the numbers and the dates
wrong? And if he wasn't prompted by the FBI that was a hell
of a stab in the dark.
Our theory on that is that some people in the FBI were playing
it straight, and some weren't. And that he got a tip off about
a withdrawal that I'd made at a particular time but he didn't
get the exact data, so he made a stab in the dark and used
the wrong figure. But, remember that before that his wife
presumably on his say so had said that the money for the car
came from his mother. So everything seems to us to indicate
that it was a stab in the dark after he had been given partial
enlightenment. It was a stab in the twilight, let's say, not
the dark. Somebody said "Hey, did you know that Hiss
had withdrawn some money? I don't know how much it was, but
it was a sizable sum of money." After all a dozen FBI
agents were working on this case, maybe more. I don't know.
We thought it was worth bringing up, but if I was a U.S. Attorney
I'd make the same argument you're making in opposing me. The
Judge will have to resolve it.
Weinstein's book ends up with a whole appendix on conspiracy
theories. He mentions the various types that have been put
forward. There's a lot of them, and you mention that you didn't
support a lot of them. If you read Weinstein one might think
that you did support one or two of these theories.
There's a lot of misleading implications in Weinstein's book.
For example, he says that he started out being very favorable
to my point of view. I have absolutely no evidence to that.
I would have thought it would have been improper for him to
indicate that. He's supposed to be a historian. In the article
in The Nation Victor Navasky says there was no written
record that he had that point of view. I think that's good
As far as the various conspiracy theories go?
Hiss: I have never been a believer. I have believed that J.
Edgar Hoover and the FBI did some pretty dirty tricks
call that conspiracy if you like and I would say to
Mr. Weinstein in the words of Patrick Henry, "If that's
conspiracy make the most of it." It is a charge I make.
This was improper tactics on the part of the FBI and the prosecutor.
How about Mr. Nixon?
Well, that was clearly opportunistic. And I think he clearly
prejudiced all the jurors. I think he had a great deal to
do with obtaining the indictment, particularly with preventing
the indictment of Chambers. I suppose if Chambers had been
indicted, it would have been somewhat of a standoff. I don't
see how they would have gone forward and prosecuted me with
Chambers also indicted.
I've never understood why a Junior Congressman, such as Nixon,would
have any influence with the U.S. Attorney's Office in a Democratic
I don't think he did. Now he got before the Grand Jury, that's
where his influence was, and with the public.
As far as you know, was your indictment recommended by the
U.S. Attorney's Office?
Yes. Positively. I'd like to know what Nixon and the prosecuting
Do you have any way of getting those in connection with the
No, we tried, but were badly slapped down under the Freedom
of Information Act, knowing that it did not perfectly apply;
the government did not oppose; the same Mary Daly (of the
U.S. Attorney's Office) said, "Look, there are so many
references to the Grand Jury testimony in FBI documents, that
we have gotten, because they are privy to them, it's not quite
fair." So much of it has now leaked, but not the part
I'd be most interested in, so we made a motion before the
very judge that now has the case before him.
And the part you'd be most interested in is Richard Nixon?
Nixon and what the prosecuting attorney said.
Was that Mr. Murphy also?
No, it was, I think, Donegan his assistant.
Do you ascribe very much importance to both the statements
recorded in the Watergate tapes and the written statements
in "Six Crisis"? Do you think those were slips or
You know I've been doing my best not to give any support to
the conspiracy theories. So it's a question I would like to
duck, but I won't. I think when Nixon says the FBI found the
typewriter it means they knew the typewriter we found was
at Lockey's because there are too many other similar statements.
A letter written of which I have a copy, by McDowell, says
the FBI found it. That was written contemporaneously. There
was a press item in December '48 in Washington, saying the
FBI found the typewriter. The man who wrote that was located;
at that time he was working for one of the major Republican
Are you talking about Lasky?
No, this is a more reputable fellow who said, "I have
no idea now where I got the information but I must have believed
it was credible. Otherwise ,I wouldn't have written it. It
must have come to me as a leak from the committee." Then
two committee reports which we paid no attention to then said
the same thing. Then there was an article published in, I
think the American Weekly, which used to circulate
with Sunday newspapers, and the man who wrote that said he
had access to FBI documents for his story about Edith Murray.
In that, he too said that the FBI found the typewriter. I
think there must be something to this, but I don't think it
was conspiracy. I think it may prove that they knew about
the typewriter, they looked at it, they knew it had the wrong
serial number and therefore left it where it was. I don't
mean they planted it there, but they chose to walk by on the
other side, and let us pick it up.
For what strategic purpose was the typewriter introduced?
I'm sorry to say that there was no strategic purpose. I insisted.
I said, "Look, this is an important part of the evidence;
we have sought it. I think everything ought to be above board
and open. It can't hurt me because I got rid of it before
the date of the documents, but I think it ought to be in evidence."
Somebody ought to talk to Harold Rosenwald and Harold Shapero
and see if there was any opposition. I really don't know.
I would have insisted. You see, we were absolutely convinced
of the honesty of the Catletts. A very fine man who later
became an NAACP lawyer, a black man who I think taught at
Howard, I've forgotten his name, wished to be helpful to me
personally, because I had signed a brief amicus before the
Supreme Court about restrictive covenants. That was obviously
a racist procedure, and Phil Jessup and I wrote the brief
amicus saying it was contrary to the Civil Rights Covenant
of the United Nations Charter. And this man thought I had
done something, with no benefit to me, on racial issues and
he wished to be helpful. He met with them. Here he was, a
friendly black lawyer...because we didn't want the New York
lawyer Stryker or a Boston lawyer, like Claude Cross to disturb
them. And he was convinced as to the accuracy of their story.
So we had no doubt. We were surprised and shocked at the skill
and the ruthlessness with which Murphy upset them; and he
had them angry, calling names, saying "The FBI put this
down, not me. I didn't put that in the statement." Then
Murphy was able to say to the jury, well, if any of you believe
that the FBI did anything wrong in this case, acquit this
man. Today that would hardly be a good statement to make,
but then, particularly that jury, really felt that he was
charging them that they would be guilty of treason if they
didn't believe that. That was quite a trial. If you read Mr.
Murphy's flamboyant summation you'll see. Remember too, this,
this is something nobody has gone into. In Murphy's opening
in the first trial he stated accurately the law of perjury.
"If you don't believe Chambers the government has no
case." In Stryker's summation he kept going back to that,
"If you don't believe Chambers there is no case. Pay
no attention to all these corroborations; that only corroborates
a supposed true statement." Murphy never said that again.
This is quite accurate. This was the basic issue. Was Chambers
credible or was I? Murphy was straightforward enough to state
what was the rule of law.
I don't mean to be repetitive, but on an issue which we went
by... in talking about the Grand Jury and Congressman Nixon's
role in it, you said you would very much like to see the minutes
of the Grand Jury. Do you have any reason to suspect or to
know what might be in it?
Because there were press accounts almost immediately after,
in which he said what he had told them, that he had urged
them to indict me, so I believe he did; but I can't prove
Would that have any legal effect as far as you know for a
witness to try to persuade the Grand Jury?
At this time we're not attacking the indictment. I think there
are various grounds on which to attack. This would simply
please my curiosity, because I havenever understood why the
Grand Jury which voted by a divided vote there have
been various reports as to what the vote was and I
know they refused to indict my wife, even though they were
asked to by the U.S. Attorney because a grand juror did report
I've always wondered, why did you agree to meet with Mr. Chambers
and Mr. Nixon in a New York Hotel? Why did you not demand
a meeting in some public forum?
I didn't know Chambers was going to be there. I was asked
if I would meet McDowell. I had known McDowell in some respect.
McDowell called my office and said he was going to be in town
and said he would like to see me, so I said, "Come to
my office." He then called me and said, "It would
be more convenient if you'd come over to the Commodore,"
which was just across the street, and before he hung up he
said, "Oh, there will be one or two others here."
He might have said Nixon would be there, but he didn't say
it'd be the second appearance. And when I came in, it was
all set up for a Committee hearing. They said "You wanted
to meet Chambers, you're going to meet him." I knew something
was funny, that's why I asked Chuck Dollard to go with me.
Concerning Mrs. Murray, as I understand she did not testify
at the first trial, she testified only at the second trial
and in rebuttal, at the very end of the trial. She was a woman
who had, between the time in question and the time of her
testimony suffered a nervous breakdown. Wouldn't it be consistent,
you have suggested she was coached...
I wouldn't go that far, I try to be subtle and say she was
a suggestible witness. To me, a suggestible witness is somebody
who learns what you want them to say and picks it up to please
you. That isn't strictly coaching. You don't say- "Look,
say it this way. Now try it again." But a suggestible
witness can be imposed upon, and I think she was such a witness.
But I'd go as far as to say I think she was coached. It comes
down to the same thing. I think she knew what they wanted
her to say.
Well, apparently she first saw you in person at a very hectic,
suggestive, as you allege, setting, at the courtroom where
you were the focus of attention.
No, outside the courtroom as I stepped off the elevator.
But weren't her preliminary statements, I guess around the
25th of September concerning a lady from Washington and a
tall slender man, although not as strong as this statement
she later made, were they not corroborative of what Chambers
had been saying?
No, I think you have misstated what the earlier interrogation
shows. As I remember it, she said, "No, I don't think
I've seen either of these pictures." She was told who
they were. Sometime later she said, "This looks like
somebody I know. Isn't she an actress? This looks like a lady
from Washington. Yes, I think maybe it was the lady from Washington."
And then sometime later she said once there was a tall slender
man with that lady, but at no time till she came up to New
York did she say she could identify me. Then, when she saw
me at the landing Ñ this would be a pretty easy identification.
She did not say after looking at your photographs of yourself
and your wife, that they looked something like them....
Hiss: She might have. I'd have to go back to the documents.
...and looks something like, in regard to you whom she thought
she'd only seen once and in your wife's case whom she'd thought
she'd seen four times that she looked very much like...
You're now talking about the specific validity of the charge
we've made. This is the way it'll be argued in court. If I
were arguing this, I would want to examine the documents,
before replying. In the documents we've got, there are the
threads of what they eventually had her say, but I think it's
very thin. In a cross examination which may not have been
put in the petition, she said that when first shown the pictures
she said, "I think I've seen them in the movies."
Now, maybe that should be put in the petition. Maybe that's
stronger. On cross examination, that was the first thing she
told Claude Cross, and of course she denied she was told the
name. She said "I think I've seen them in pictures."
Well of course she was very likely to have seen us on a newsreel.
It was very much a part... every time we went in and out of
court. No, I don't think the Murray case is the strongest
case. I really think she was a suggestible witness, and it's
significant that they didn't put her on in the direct case
where there was no way of investigating her, checking on her.
But it's also consistent with the analysis that it was trial
tactic discretion and not misconduct.
And also with Victor Rabinowitz's belief that the first trial
was a trial run and that they were there to strengthen their
hand. Now I think it was a very skillfully done prosecution,
the more l study it the more I give Murphy credit for unscrupulous
ability. In that sense you can say that he was more able than
my counsel, but only because he was willing to be unscrupulous,
and of course my counsel weren't. I've been very interested
as the questions have come, I don't get even the suggestion
that you find any impropriety on the part of the prosecution.
I wouldn't assume that at all ...
It may just be the way it came up in questioning.
Perhaps if we were interviewing the prosecutor, we would've
asked about nothing else..., and I think perhaps you've picked
that up because we expected a different kind of petition,
and it raises the question that if the motion from the petition
is granted, that the legal judgment will be that the prosecution
acted improperly but that we can't really hope for any ultimate
legal judgment as to your guilt or innocence. Am I stating
Well, as you can tell from what I said before, I think the
material as it now exists in the public record will indicate
that none of the corroborative material was probative for
its alleged purpose. In order to prove my innocence, it's
quite possible that Chambers is telling the truth, but had
nothing to back him up. Sure, I can understand people saying
that; but it comes down, I think, to the validity of my testimony
versus Chambers'. And I said that from the beginning, the
credibility of two men. Actually, I think anybody who believes
Chambers ought to have their head examined. He was a very
Well that's a very telling point especially in the context
of why he held on to these documents. Now, he and yourself
had some sort of relationship. Weren't you, or a person like
you who was well respected and influential, the only type
of person whom those documents could hurt because to
bring them forward he would have to implicate himself? The
only way he could use them would be against a person who had
more to lose.
There may have been a blackmail in his mind when he saved
them. See, we have not mentioned Malcolm Cowley. Malcolm Cowley
was told by Chambers in 1940 that Francis Sayre was the head
of a communist unit in the State Department, and Cowley was
so flabbergasted that he burst out,"You know, Sayre was
President Wilson's son-in-law." Every one of these documents
could have been used to implicate Francis P. Sayre. Mrs. Chambers
served as Sayre's brother's secretary. John Nenns Sayre was
in the Fellowship of Reconciliation. Mrs. Chambers was a volunteer
worker. So he knew. He was a magpie. He told Wadleigh a lot
about Charles Darlington, Wadleigh's boss. Wadleigh asked
him, "How do you know all about Charles Darlington?"
He said, "I make it my job to know, to find out about
people connected with people I know." He was a magpie,
he picked up all kinds of things. He made charges. As we go
through documents... I just sent two off to Gerard Piel, head
of the Scientific American, he calls Gerry Piel a communist,
which tickles Gerry Piel. There are 50 or 60 people that he
alleged were to be communist, and some he alleged to be spies.
People asked me, "Why did he say this about you."
He didn't at first. He picked on any number of people including
Laurence Duggan, and the first person to be the goat was Harry
White. White died of a heart attack, and they had to get somebody
else. And that's when they closed in on me, on the afternoon
on the day after White's death.
Thank you, Mr. Hiss.
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