What's New

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As a living document, "The Alger Hiss Story" will undergo frequent expansion and updates. Each new posting will be listed below as an active link, along with its date of entry.

12/19/2012 - We have posted a chapter from Martin Roberts' Secret History, a new book on the Hiss Case. Mr. Roberts' study, which has been years in the making, focuses on the evidence in the case, and also offers in-depth analyses of the veracity of Whittaker Chambersís Witness, and Perjury, by Allen Weinstein. Martin Roberts will be happy to answer any questions arising from his text and to engage in discussions about his research and conclusions at the following dedicated email address: secrethistory.debate@hotmail.com. To read an excerpt from the book, click here.

7/19/10 - Stephen Salant, a professor of economics at the University of Michigan, has been researching the Hiss Case since the 1960s. For the last several years, he has been exploring the possible involvement of the Army's Counterintelligence Corps in the case via Horace Schmahl, a former CIC agent who was also the chief investigator for the defense. The results of Salant's research, along with his scholarly essay, Successful Strategic Deception: A Case Study, can be accessed here. To read his comments on the project, which goes to the heart of many questions raised about the government's case since Hiss first raised the issue of "forgery by typewriter" at his sentencing in 1950, click here.

4/9/10 - Files released under the Freedom of Information show that the FBI's own investigation into Whittaker Chambers' charge that Donald Hiss had been a member of the Communist underground proved the story was false. Here's our report on how the FBI exonerated Alger Hiss's younger brother and in the process cast even more doubt on Chambers' credibility.

3/11/10 - Our investigation in the trial testimony of Hede Massing, one of the prosecution's most important witnesses against Alger Hiss, has been posted here.

11/16/09 - On our "Who Was Alger Hiss" page is a link to a fascinating interview Hiss gave in 1990 about the central role he played in the founding of the United Nations.

10/26/09 - We have posted a video link to an appearance Alger Hiss made on the "Tomorrow Show" with Tom Snyder in 1980.

9/10/09 - Our review of "Spies" has finally been posted. You can find it here.

8/1/09 - For those coming to the site for the first time to see a review of the book "Spies," our review will be posted soon. To be alerted when the review is up, feel free to follow Jeff Kisseloff on Twitter @jeffisme.

6/3/09 - It's not really on this site, but those interested in what happened at the conference on the new book "Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America" at the Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington D.C. on May 20-21 can read about it on www.algerhissblog.com. At the conference, authors John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev talked about their book, in which they claim that notes Vassiliev took from Soviet intelligence files more than a decade ago reaffirm the guilt of Alger Hiss.

4/2/09 - DocumentsTalk.com, a new Cold War Web site compiled by Dr. Svetlana A. Chervonnaya, a prominent Russian researcher well known for her in-depth analysis of Soviet era files, has just been launched. (Her work also appears on our site -- see the 2/1/06 entry below, for instance, to click to her trenchant commentary on the much-disputed "Gorsky's List.")

In an introductory paragraph, Dr. Chervonnaya describes DocumentsTalk this way:

This website looks beyond the American post-Cold War consensus about controversial early Cold War spy cases. It returns to basics, re-examining the documentary evidence. No definitive proof of guilt or innocence here; what you will find instead is careful documentary cross-checking of all the available evidence, to help you to judge for yourself whether these cases should still be considered 'closed' in the face of many discrepancies.

Visitors to "The Alger Hiss Story" will find the insights she gained from a meticulous reinvestigation of the Alger Hiss's handwritten notes - often said to be the "most damning" evidence in the Hiss Case - particularly rewarding.

4/2/09 - We have posted a review of Susan Jacoby's new book, "Alger Hiss and the Battle for History" (Yale University Press).

1/22/09 - A blog on the Hiss case to be maintained by managing editor Jeff Kisseloff has been launched. You can link to blog by clicking here.

7/4/08 - Robert L. Weinberg, who for thirty-five years litigated federal criminal and civil cases for the Washington D.C. firm of Williams and Connolly, has written "Not Guilty as Charged: A Revised Verdict for Alger Hiss." In the article, Weinberg explains that the allegedly false answers for which Hiss was indicted and convicted of perjury, did not, as a matter of law, constitute perjury. Click here to read this fascinating and important new look that calls into question the entire legal basis for the Hiss case.

9/20/07 - In "The End of the Journey: From Whittaker Chambers to George W. Bush," a 6,000-word essay that was the cover story in the July 2, 2007 issue of The New Republic, Sam Tanenhaus, the author of a well-received biography of Whittaker Chambers, criticizes recent scholarship indicating that Alger Hiss could not have been the Soviet agent code-named ALES. In rebuttal, Jeff Kisseloff offers a detailed analysis of the numerous innaccuracies in Tanenhaus's essay. Click here to read Kisseloff's response.

7/10/07 - We have filled out and updated the section on the "jury bundle," Russian intelligence documents several of which created an uproar on the Internet when they were publicly released in 2005. (For more information on this, see the 2/1/06 section below.) The new additions to the section include a document allegedly compiled by Victor Perlo, listing his underground contacts. Also new are scans of the documents, transliterations of the Russian documents and an annotated retranslation of the March 5, 1945 cable that helps prove that Alger Hiss could not have been Ales.

4/17/07 - On April 5, 2007, the New York University Center for the United States and the Cold War held its inaugural conference: Alger Hiss and History. Among the many speeches at the conference, easily the most emotionally moving was the one delivered by Dr. Timothy Hobson, Hiss's stepson. Speaking publicly on the case for the first time at 80 years of age, Hobson delivered a firm rebuke to those who claim Hiss was guilty. "I was there. Chambers wasn't," he declared, referring to the Hiss's homes where Chambers said he visited frequently during the 1930s. Hobson also defended his mother against charges that she typed the so-called Baltimore Documents that Chambers said he delivered to the Soviet Union. Click here to see excerpts from Hobson's speech.

Two days before the speech, Hobson traveled to Washington, D.C. to visit the houses that he lived in with his mother and stepfather. Click here to read the story that appeared in the Washington Post about his visit (free, but registration required).

2/1/06 - In 2002, Alexander Vassiliev, the co-author with Allen Weinstein of “The Haunted Wood,” sued John Lowenthal for libel in London over an article Lowenthal had written for Intelligence and National Security. The article accused the two of shoddy research when they claimed that the Venona releases proved that Alger Hiss was a spy.

To make his case, Vassiliev brought to court a number of KGB documents which were then called a “jury bundle.” One of the documents was a list put together by a Soviet official formerly in the United States named Anatoly Gorsky of people he said had been American agents between the years 1938 and 1945.

Among the people included in the list was Alger Hiss.

On its surface the list seemed devastating to Hiss’s claims of innocence, but is the list all it is purported to be? A careful retranslation and analysis of the list by Russian historian Dr. Svetlana Chervonnaya, an expert in the history of espionage, raises many important questions about various aspects of the list's accuracy and sourcing. Click here to begin reading our section on "Gorsky's List."

11/2/05 - Recently, at the biannual NSA-sponsored "Symposium on Cryptologic History," a clean, typed copy of the Russian text of Venona No. 1822 made from the decoder's original worksheet (and omitting any annotations that might have pointed to the actual decoding process) was made public. That text is presented on our site along with a fresh, annotated translation of Venona No. 1822 by Dr. Svetlana Chervonnaya, a Moscow based Cold War historian who is a long-time student of the Hiss case. Click here for more information and to read the Russian document and the retranslation.

11/11/04 - Thinking about Alger on his 100th birthday, we remember him with admiration. He spent the first half of his life fighting for his country–helping President Roosevelt’s New Deal put the country back on its feet again during the Great Depression and then trying to put the world on its feet again after World War II by setting up the United Nations. He spent the second half of his life fighting for the truth, after falsely being accused of disloyalty and espionage. Throughout his life he remained decent and caring.

6/3/04 - A brief appreciation of the life of William A. Reuben, who died on May 31, 2004, appears in Hiss Case in the News. More on Reuben, an extraordinary journalist who spent more than 40 years writing about the Hiss case, will be posted in the coming weeks.

5/25/04 - A response to G. Edward White's hostile biography, "Alger Hiss's Looking-Glass Wars: The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy," has been posted.

12/12/03 - Richard Nixon wrote about his "Six Crises" in his 1962 autobiography. Eleven years later during the Watergate hearings, Alger Hiss followed with "My Six Parallels," an article for The New York Times op ed page.

12/8/03 - William Howard Moore's excellent monograph, "Two Foolish Men," can be downloaded in its entirety. Moore's book is the first in a series of shorter works on the case that readers will be able to download from this site.

11/5/03 - A new page, "The Hiss Case In the News," has been added to the site.

10/27/03 - Alger Hiss exposed the myths surrounding the Yalta conference in an article for The Pocket Book Magazine in 1955. Click here to read his analysis.

10/22/03 - Judge Eady's summation and decision in the libel suit filed by Alexander Vassiliev against John Lowenthal's publisher, Frank Cass & Co., can now be viewed.

10/9/03 - Our timeline has been updated to increase its interactivity with links throughout the site.

10/7/03 - Nine months before Whittaker Chambers made his first public charges that Alger Hiss had been, and perhaps still was, a Communist, Hiss wrote an influential article for The New York Times Sunday Magazine on behalf of the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Europe. Because the Soviets strongly opposed the plan, this article was presented at Hiss's second perjury trial as evidence of his clear anti-communist leanings. More than a half century later, the article provides insight into Hiss's political thinking and his strong humanitarianism. Click here to read the article and an introduction by the editors of this site.

10/2/03 - Longtime Hiss supporter John Lowenthal, an attorney and law professor who made the acclaimed documentary film, "The Trials of Alger Hiss," died in London on September 9 at the age of 78. For an appreciation of Lowenthal's life and his many contributions toward justice in the Hiss case (including links to his articles and work), click here.

9/12/03 - "Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism," a best-selling new book of political commentary by Ann Coulter, contains over 100 errors in its chapter on the Hiss case. Click here to read our report or here to download it as a pdf.

5/9/03 - On May 5, 2003, the U.S. Senate released transcripts of 161 executive session (or closed-door) hearings of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, during the two years it was chaired by Sen. Josephy R. McCarthy (R-WI). Although none of the released hearings, conducted in 1953 and 1954, directly relate to Alger Hiss, they clearly show, as historian Dr. Bruce Craig has pointed out that, under McCarthy's chairmanship, the Subcommittee "shifted emphasis from searching out waste and corruption in the executive branch to conducting sensational inquiries into allegations of communist subversion and espionage."

Associate Senate Historian Dr. Donald A. Ritchie noted that the 9,675 pages of hearing transcripts, recording the testimony of nearly 500 witnesses, demonstrate that "anybody who stood up to McCarthy in closed session, and did so articulately, tended not to get called up into the public session.... McCarthy was only interested in the people he could browbeat publicly." Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), who attended the public release of the documents, which had been kept sealed for 50 years, called them "chilling."

One witness in the Hiss case, Felix A. Inslerman, did testify in open session before McCarthy's Subcommittee as a reluctantly cooperative witness. McCarthy presents Inslerman as a witness who can corroborate Whittaker Chambers' testimony, even though Inslerman's testimony in fact frequently contradicts Chambers's assertions. (McCarthy, who in his remarks refers to Chambers as Whit, did not thereafter look further into the Hiss case.) To read Inslerman's testimony in part or in full, click here.

Some commentators have noted that the newly released Subcommittee testimony is revelatory in that, despite its encyclopedic length, it fails to disclose any evidence to support McCarthy's claim of a communist consipiracy to place spies in the highest levels of the American government. To download the newly available McCarthy Subcommitee material from the Government Printing Office's Web site, click here.

5/9/03 - Fred J. Cook, an investigative journalist who in the 1950s conducted the first independent examination of the Hiss case in 1957, died on April 4, 2003 at his home in Interlaken, New Jersey. He was 92.

At first glance, Cook seemed an unlikely choice for the assignment. He was a politically conservative crime reporter for The New York World-Telegram & the Sun, a politically conservative newspaper, when he was asked by Carey McWilliams, then editor of The Nation, to undertake an reexamination of the Hiss case for the magazine. Cook was initially reluctant, since he felt that Hiss's guilt had been proven on trial but, after more prodding from McWilliams, agreed to accept the assignment.

In an unprecedented move, The Nation devoted an entire issue to Cook's report, "New Perspectives On the Strangest Case Of Our Time," which appeared on September 21, 1957. By the time his article was published, Cook's ideas about the Hiss case had changed. His own in-depth reporting, he said, had convinced him that the evidence in the case clearly pointed toward Hiss's innocence. Cook later expanded the article into a book, "The Unfinished Story of Alger Hiss" (Morrow, 1958).

Cook's work on the Hiss case had an enormous impact on his professional career, eventually establishing him as one of America's foremost investigative journalists. He was the author of 45 books on a range of subjects, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("The FBI Nobody Knows"), big oil ("The Great Energy Scam"), the military-industrial complex ("The Warfare State").

The reaction to one of Cook's books, "Goldwater: Extremist on the Right," led to an historic Supreme Court decision, in Red Lion v. FCC. Billy James Hargis, a popular radio evangelist, had attacked Cook on his show. When Cook demanded free air time to respond under the Federal Communications Commission's fairness doctrine, WGCB of Red Lion, Pennsylvania, a radio station that carried Hargis's show, sued the FCC, claiming the fairness doctrine violated its First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court in 1969 upheld the constitutionality of the fairness doctrine.

In 2000, "The Alger Hiss Story" Web site's managing editor, Jeff Kisseloff, conducted an extensive interview with Fred J. Cook, who still maintained an active interest in the Hiss case; click here to read the interview. Several of Fred Cook's articles for The Nation about aspects of the case can also be found on "The Alger Hiss Story"'s site map.

1/6/03 - Links to a new Hiss-related Web site that describes the writing of "The View from Alger's Window," Tony Hiss's memoir of his father.  It offers extracts from the book and from Alger Hiss's letters home from prison; an update on the Hiss case; and Tony Hiss's national lecture schedule. Click here to link to the site.

8/12/02 - Alger Hiss writes about the evolution of his own political views in this recently discovered essay of major historical importance. The piece was originally intended to serve as the introduction to his book on the New Deal. Click here to read this remarkable article.

3/20/02 - Gil Green and William A. Reuben comment on a document found in Green's FBI file indicating that while the FBI was denying the possibility of forgery by typewriter, its laboratory was fully capable of carrying it out. Click here to read their story, which originally appeared in The Nation.

3/05/02 - On the site's new FOIA page, Fred J. Cook examines revelations in FBI documents about the government's surveillance of Alger Hiss. Click here to read Cook's article.

3/05/02 - Professor David Levin compares three firsthand accounts of the case: Richard Nixon's "Six Crises," Whittaker Chambers' "Witness," and Alger Hiss's "In the Court of Public Opinion." His piece originally appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review in 1976.

3/03/02 - Alger Hiss talks about his coram nobis suit in this 1978 interview in The Advocate, a newsletter published by the Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

3/01/02 - Click here to read Bruce Craig's detailed overview of the HUAC files released to the public in 2001.

7/27/01 - Click here to read a 1960 Esquire profile of Alger Hiss by Brock Brower - the first in-depth interview with Hiss after his release from prison.

4/17/01 - Alger Hiss's stepson Tim Hobson discusses his "truth serum" test, administered to reveal any memories he might have had about Whittaker Chambers. Click here for his recollections.






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