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the time of the alleged meeting at the restaurant, Hiss was
counsel to a Senate Committee investigating the munitions
industry (the Nye Committee). Hiss's first assignment, according
to Chambers, was to procure through the Committee, confidential
State Department documents that dealt with "some angle of
the Munitions Investigation."
1936, Hiss was transferred first to the Justice Department
and then to the State Department. In January 1937, Chambers
claimed that he arranged a clandestine meeting between himself,
Hiss and a certain "Peter," whose real name, Chambers found
out years later, was Col. Boris Bykov. Chambers said Bykov
was his superior in the Communist underground.
and Esther Chambers
went on to say that, at that meeting, Bykov said that the
Soviet Union needed help, and that Hiss could procure confidential
documents from the State Department and turn them over to
Chambers for transmission to Bykov. Soon after, Chambers said,
Hiss began to take home State Department documents every week
or ten days which Chambers would pick up the papers from Hiss
at his home and take them to Baltimore for photographing,
returning the originals the same night. In mid-1937, Chambers
said, he instructed Hiss to have papers brought home every
night and to have Mrs. Hiss (also allegedly a Communist) type
some of them verbatim and paraphrase others. Hiss was also
to bring home, and turn over to Chambers, originals of State
Department documents coming to his desk on the particular
days of Chambers' visits. Hiss would also turn over handwritten
notes about documents which he seen but which, for some reason,
he was unable to bring out.
the photographing of the documents, the originals would be
returned by Chambers to Hiss, to be restored to the State
Department files. The typed copies, or paraphrases, and handwritten
notes would be burned. The photographs would be turned over
by Chambers to Bykov.
Chambers stated that in April 1938 he broke with the Communist
Party and discontinued his espionage activities. But he retained
some of the typed documents, handwritten notes, and exposed
film which had come into his hands between January and April,
1938. In May or June, 1938 he left them in an envelope with
his wife's nephew, Nathan Levine. Levine testified that he
kept an envelope given to him by Chambers from sometime in
1938 until November 1948, when he returned it to Chambers
at the Chambers' request. Levine never saw the contents of
In addition to these contacts claimed by Chambers during the
period from 1934 to 1938 for espionage purposes, Chambers
testified to frequent and intimate social contacts between
the Hiss and Chambers families during this period, including
several after January 1, 1937. These involved stays by the
Chambers family at Hiss' home, visits on various social occasions
and various trips out of town.
government's case rested largely on Chambers' testimony. As
to the first count, Chambers was the sole witness who testified
to the alleged falsity of Hiss' statement, with one single
exception (testimony by Mrs. Chambers as to a single meeting).
The same was true of the second count. To corroborate Chambers
on both counts, the government offered the handwritten and
typewritten documents and developed film produced by Chambers
as described above, together with testimony by an expert witness
that Baltimore Exhibits 4-9 and 11-47 and certain letters,
admittedly typed by Mrs. Hiss, were typed on the same typewriter.
defense, Hiss denied any Communist membership or affiliation,
denied having given Chambers any State Department or other
classified documents, and denied ever meeting J. Peters. He
testified that in December 1934 or in January 1935, while
he was counsel to the Nye Committee, Chambers came to see
him, introducing himself as "George Crosley," a
freelance writer doing a series of articles on the munitions
a subsequent luncheon meeting, Crosley-Chambers told Hiss
that he was planning to move from Baltimore to Washington,
to complete his articles on the munitions investigation, and
he was looking for a place to live with his wife and child.
Hiss sublet his apartment at 2831 28th Street, Washington,
D.C. to Chambers for a few months; the Hisses had already
moved to a house at 2905 P Street, the now unoccupied 28th
Street apartment had some time left on the lease.
moving into the 28th Street apartment, the Chambers family
spent a few days at Hiss's P Street house. Chambers told Hiss
that the van bringing their household effects had been delayed.
Hiss met with Chambers a few times after that, the last contact
in the spring of 1936 when Hiss refused Chambers' request
for the latest in a number of small loans. Both Hiss and his
wife denied any visits to any of Chambers' homes; any visits
by Mr. and Mrs. Chambers to Hiss's 30th Street or Volta Place
homes (the houses Hiss moved to after leaving P Street), and
any trips with Chambers, except on one occasion, when Hiss
gave Chambers a ride from Washington to New York. Throughout
their acquaintance which, Hiss said, lasted only about two
years, he knew Chambers only by the name of "George Crosley."
addition to denying Chambers' testimony, the defense contended
that Chambers had left the Communist Party prior to April
1, 1938, the date of the last of the Baltimore Documents;
that Hiss had disposed of his typewriter prior to January
1, 1938, the date of the first of the Baltimore Documents.
headlines announce the guilty verdict
these contentions, the second trial ended with a guilty verdict
on each count on January 21, 1950.
was sentenced to five years on each count, the sentences to
run concurrently. After an appeal, Hiss surrendered to the
United States Marshall on March 22, 1951, and remained in
prison until his release in November 1954.
January 24, 1952, while Hiss was in custody, he moved for
a new trial on grounds of newly discovered evidence:
that the typewriter placed in evidence by the Hisses, who
thought it was their old typewriter, was in fact not the
machine owned by the Hisses in 1934-38;
that Edith Murray, supposedly a maid of the Chambers', who
was the only person to testify to any social relationships
between the two families, had made a false identification;
that Chambers' testimony that he had remained in the Communist
Party until mid-April 1938 was false.
the motion for a new trial was denied by Judge Goddard, and
his denial was upheld on appeal. Hiss served out his full
prison term, although he did receive time off for good behavior.
March 25, 1975 and September 10, 1976, Hiss made a number
of requests of the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau
of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency and other
government departments, under the Freedom of Information Act,
to release their files relating to him. These various government
agencies subsequently began transmitting tens of thousands
of files, often severely censored, to Hiss. Still, based on
the evidence of governmental misconduct apparent in the files,
Hiss, in 1978, filed a petition of coram nobis to overturn
the 1950 guilty verdict. According to information in the files,
the prosecution had a "mole" in the defense team
and also hid information that would have helped the defense.
The petition was denied in 1978. Subsequent appeals were unsuccessful.
As a legal proceeding, the Hiss case had ended.
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