this your first stop!
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
"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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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
the people included in the list was Alger Hiss.
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
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
more information and to read the Russian document and the
about Alger on his 100th birthday, we remember him with admiration.
He spent the first half of his life fighting for his countryhelping
President Roosevelts 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
- 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.
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.
- Alger Hiss exposed the myths surrounding the Yalta conference
in an article for The Pocket Book Magazine in 1955.
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.
- Our timeline
has been updated to increase its interactivity with links
throughout the site.
- 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.
to read the article and an introduction by the editors of
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
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
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
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
- 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
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"
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
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
here to link to the site.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Click here to read Bruce
Craig's detailed overview of the HUAC files released to the
public in 2001.
- 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.