Fact or Fiction?

Haynes, John Earl; Klehr, Harvey and Vassiliev, Alexander, "Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America"; Yale University Press, New Haven: 2009

This review was written with considerable research assistance from the Moscow-based historian, Dr. Svetlana Chervonnaya. To see more of her work related to Soviet espionage during the Cold War, visit her Web site, DocumentsTalk.com.


"Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America" marks the sixth collaboration between John Earl Haynes, a historian in the Library of Congress's Manuscript Division, and Harvey Klehr, a professor of politics and history at Emory University. All six books examine the influence of the Communist movement in America, mostly by drawing on newly released intelligence files from the former Soviet Union. Their general conclusion is that available Soviet files support certain postwar contentions by American conservatives – namely, that Soviet intelligence had an extensive network of dedicated agents and sympathizers in America before, during and after World War II, many of whom were government officials. [1] Praised for their scholarship by many historians, Haynes and Klehr's work has in recent years come to be considered a "consensus" viewpoint.

Like several previous Haynes and Klehr books, "Spies" is published by the Yale University Press. It lists Alexander Vassiliev as its third co-author, and is based on the notes that Vassiliev, a former KGB agent, took on KGB files that were shown to him in the 1990s. This is the second go-round for these notes, which were also used a decade ago as the source material for "The Haunted Wood" (Random House, 1999), a book co-authored by Vassiliev and Allen Weinstein, who recently retired as Archivist of the United States. "Spies" purports to confirm the earlier book's conclusion that Alger Hiss and others accused of espionage during the McCarthy period were in fact guilty. Haynes and Klehr also claim that Vassiliev's notebooks contain a great deal of information that didn't appear in "The Haunted Wood" – information which confirms that Hiss was guilty as charged, and shows that the KGB net also ensnared such surprising figures as Ernest Hemingway and the journalist I. F. Stone.

The book has attracted a number of positive reviews from both conservatives and liberals – although, curiously, none of them treat it as a second look at previously covered ground. Nicholas Lemann, the Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, wrote in The New Yorker that while perhaps Haynes and Klehr set the bar a little too low for determining who is a spy, he accepts their basic thesis about Hiss. Writing in The New Republic, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Anne Applebaum says that Haynes and Klehr "have usually stuck to the documents, the evidence, the facts" in their historical works and do not write polemically. She adds that "Haynes, Klehr and Vassiliev are well within their rights in titling their chapter 'Alger Hiss: Case Closed.'"

On the other hand, critics of the authors' work have found their approach more ideological than historical and their tone polemical, vindictive, and prosecutorial. Historian Amy Knight, for example, debunked many of the authors' arguments in a review she wrote for the Times Literary Supplement in June 2009. "The main purpose of 'Spies,' it seems, is not to enlighten readers," she writes, "but to silence those who still voice doubts about the guilt of people like Alger Hiss, Harry Dexter White, I.F. Stone and others." [2]

In fact, the documents shown to Vassiliev are in no way definitive in their assertions about Alger Hiss, and the arguments based on them by Haynes and Klehr, when held up to the light of day, are no more convincing or compelling or final or airtight or unassailable than the anti-Hiss arguments previously advanced by Weinstein. Much of the evidence cited by Haynes and Klehr can actually be viewed from a totally different perspective, as exculpatory. Unfortunately, this fact will escape reviewers who aren't familiar with the details of the tangled arguments used against Hiss.

"Spies" has already provoked controversy of a different sort, relating to the diverging stories Vassiliev has told about his note-taking process and to the book's provenance. (The issue is not so much the authenticity of the documents shown to Vassiliev, but rather whether he was deliberately shown only certain files of a relatively routine, trivial and often gossipy nature.)This is a separate issue that will be dealt with elsewhere; [3] my focus here is on the accuracy of the conclusions that Haynes and Klehr draw.

Some of these issues were raised publicly in May when the authors were challenged by several attendees (including this writer) at a conference convened by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington D.C. (A separate dissection of Haynes and Klehr's allegations against I.F. Stone was the subject of a cover story in the May 25, 2009 issue of The Nation.)

Despite all these objections, "Spies" does have one great virtue: it carefully reassembles in a single chapter most, if not all, of the charges raised against Alger Hiss over the better part of the last quarter century (the so-called "new evidence"). It therefore provides a rare chance to see how comprehensively unconvincing the full case against Hiss actually is – both the original allegations and the second-generation accusations – and to show the flimsiness and illogicality of each individual piece of "evidence." By devoting considerable attention to "Spies," this site will draw attention both to the shortcomings of its general approach to scholarship and, more specifically, to the shockingly slipshod and at times almost amateurish nature of the case against Hiss.


This review will focus primarily on the first chapter of "Spies," in which the authors lay out their arguments for declaring the Hiss Case "closed." Due to the length of the review, I've found it useful to group together the chapter's major accusations against Hiss and to offer a brief response to each.

The major arguments made by the authors are:

1) Vassiliev's notes prove that Hiss talked to self-confessed former spy Hede Massing about recruiting their mutual friend, Noel Field, into the Communist underground. (Massing made this claim at Hiss's second perjury trial; Hiss denied it.)

2) The notes connect Hiss with another alleged Soviet agent, former Treasury Department official Harold Glasser. This link adds further weight to the accusation that Hiss was "Ales," a Soviet agent whose code-name first became public when Soviet wartime intelligence cables decrypted under the US government's top-secret Venona operation were released by the National Security Agency in 1995.

3) Hiss's name appears in Soviet files and in correspondence between Moscow and its agents in New York in a way that indicates that Hiss was an agent of Soviet military intelligence (the GRU).

At first glance, a number of the documents referenced in Vassiliev's notebooks and quoted by Haynes and Klehr would appear – if examined in isolation – to implicate Hiss. None of these allegations can be substantiated, however, once they are analyzed within a more comprehensive context that takes into account other already known and available sources of information. As the rest of this review sets forth:

1) Hiss could not have recruited Noel Field for the Communist underground when the documents said he did because Field wasn't even in the country at the time. This information, first gleaned from State Department files, has long been available to researchers – but is not even mentioned in "Spies." This is just one of many contradictions between what the Soviet files allege and the statements on record made by Hede Massing, Field himself and Field's wife. Since none of these discrepancies are explored or even acknowledged by the authors, most readers wouldn't know that they conflict with the public record. But, in fact, the conflicts are so numerous and so serious that, instead of confirming Massing's story, a more even-handed treatment would actually raise serious doubts about the account she gave to the FBI, her sworn testimony before the grand jury, at the Hiss trial, and before Congressional committees, and the narrative she put together for her autobiography, "This Deception." Yet Haynes and Klehr accept this narrative as an authoritative source, without so much as a second glance. [4]

2) In strikingly similar fashion, Haynes and Klehr's allegations about Harold Glasser also ignore published information that contradicts the documents shown to Vassiliev. The authors' claim, for instance, that Glasser was a member of Whittaker Chambers' Communist underground group was disputed both by Soviet intelligence agent Elizabeth Bentley and by Chambers himself. While both Glasser and Hiss told authorities that they knew each other, Haynes and Klehr exaggerate the extent of this relationship to prove that Hiss was "Ales" – an identification that the FBI itself ultimately doubted. This information comes from the FBI files and points up one of the basic flaws (and ironies) in the premise of "Spies": that anything the authors happen upon in Vassiliev's notes is somehow treated as more reliable than information coming from other sources – including the FBI. Because they are building a case rather than digging for the truth, Haynes and Klehr give more weight to the documents referenced in the notes solely because, on the surface, they seem damaging to Hiss. (This is made clear when they express doubts about the only KGB document mentioned in the book that suggests that Hiss was not a spy.)

Furthermore, by accepting at face value whatever was stated in some particular Soviet document, they presume that the writer of that document was simply a diligent Russian uniformed officer or civil servant with no ulterior motive – no axe to grind, no self-interest to promote. Moreover, they assume without even seeming to notice it that the writer of any chosen document invariably had firsthand knowledge of the person or subject he or she was writing about.
[5] These assumptions repeatedly fall apart when the content of the relevant documents is subjected to the kind of careful scrutiny it merits – instead of being given a free ride simply because, taken at face value, it might implicate Hiss. Again and again, more careful examination reveals deep discrepancies between these Soviet files and key American trial and Congressional testimony, or FBI interviews, or commonly accepted and undisputed facts in the Hiss Case. (The great irony here – it has to be repeated – is that by omitting what the FBI turned up, Haynes and Klehr seem to be implying that the FBI's findings can't be trusted. This point of view is uncommon, if not unheard-of, in conservative books.)

Herein lies the true danger of "Spies": Because the issues detailed here are never considered by the authors, readers unfamiliar with the minutiae of the Hiss Case (a large majority of readers) will have no idea from reading "Spies" that there are such numerous, frequently occurring and troublesome problems with the source material being relied on, as well as with the interpretations to which it is subjected.

3) Alger Hiss's name does appear in several Soviet intelligence documents referenced by Vassiliev, but so do the names of many people who were not Soviet agents. Most of the references to Hiss in the documents shown to Vassiliev relate to the allegations Hede Massing reported to her Soviet handler. And while the authors claim that a list of agents supplied to the Soviets by Victor Perlo, a government economist, implicates Hiss, that document actually supports the case for Hiss. It's particularly interesting to note that although Allen Weinstein, Vassiliev's collaborator on "The Haunted Wood" and a firm believer in Hiss's guilt, was given access to "the Perlo list" more than 10 years ago, he chose not to discuss it in his book.

Weinstein also abstained from citing another KGB document that Haynes and Klehr claim proves Hiss's guilt — a list of alleged American sources compiled by a KGB officer named Anatoly Gorsky. An analysis of "the Gorsky list" shows that, contrary to what is said in "Spies," the most compelling conclusion that can be drawn about Gorsky's inclusion of Alger Hiss in his hastily drawn-up, 1949 list of "failed" Soviet agents in the United States is this: that internal evidence shows the section of the list in which Hiss's name appears was largely culled not from firsthand KGB reports but from publicly available material – including 1948 and 1949 American newspaper accounts of the charges against Hiss. Haynes and Klehr's accounts of this information also ignore more recently disclosed and contradictory evidence from GRU files, information that was already in the public domain when they were writing their book.

Specifically, the newly disclosed GRU information undercuts much of Chambers's many stories about himself and about Hiss. Although Haynes and Klehr fail to incorporate what the GRU records say into "Spies," it's clear that this information too has come to their attention, because they used it – but got it wrong – at a 2007 Washington, D.C. Symposium on Cryptological History. At that forum, the authors stated that, based on GRU files, Hiss not only was "Ales" but was also a spy code-named "Doctor." (The same allegation was repeated this year by the late Eduard Mark at the Woodrow Wilson Center conference.) This is demonstrably false, and while not repeated in "Spies," it illustrates how eager and even reckless Haynes and Klehr can be whenever anything comes their way that either might make Hiss look bad or might add another name to the long list of people they accuse of having cooperated with Soviet intelligence. This hasty and irresponsible approach to scholarship is made abundantly clear by an allegation "Spies" both includes and trumpets: that career State Department official David Salmon was a paid Soviet agent. As with Hiss, the authors again choose to ignore directly contradictory, exculpatory evidence. [6]

The authors also downplay the importance of the vast amount of Soviet intelligence information that Vassiliev didn't get to see: the KGB personal files of key officials and agents mentioned in "Spies," for example, as well as any files at all from military intelligence. Yet despite the many discrepancies in the information put forward, and the mountains of information still missing from the picture, they blithely pronounce that Vassiliev's notes "unequivocally identify Hiss as a long-term espionage source" – and, with appalling overconfidence, declare the Hiss Case "closed."

Let's now examine why they are wrong on both of these counts. …


According to Haynes and Klehr, the material in Vassiliev's notebooks "fully corroborates" the stories of Whittaker Chambers, Hede Massing and Noel Field. Massing and Field will be discussed in depth below, but the notebooks say nothing about any of the specific charges that Chambers leveled against Hiss.

Occasionally, the authors will refer to the evidence offered up at Hiss's 1949-1950 trials, but for the most part they use it simply to repackage their opinions on Chambers, and once again present them as established fact. [7] For example, they state as fact that Chambers "broke with Soviet intelligence in 1938," and that while "many people could discount Whittaker Chambers's testimony about his relationship with Hiss as delusional…they could not so easily dismiss the documents he produced."

But the evidence Haynes and Klehr leave unexamined shows that they're the ones who too easily dismiss doubts. There are several solid reasons for this, none of which are discussed in "Spies."

Regarding the date Chambers left the Party: From 1939 to 1948, Chambers stated for the record more than a dozen times that he left the Communist Party in 1937. Only in the summer of 1948 did he begin to hedge. The date is important, because the documents he claimed to have gotten from Hiss were all dated in the first four months of 1938. For the authors to accept Chambers's revised testimony as fact, without acknowledging any discrepancy in the totality of Chambers's stories, is simply dishonest reporting. In Hiss's motion for a new trial, the defense presented additional evidence to show that Chambers had originally been telling the truth when he said he left the Party in 1937. [8]

Chambers testified at both of Hiss's trials that on a regular basis between 1937 and 1938 he picked up State Department documents at Hiss's home; he claimed that these documents had either been retyped by Priscilla Hiss or were originals entrusted to Chambers, who would have them photographed before returning them to the Hisses the same night. Chambers's story was ridiculed by several experts on Soviet espionage, including Ladislas Farago, who wrote in 1969 that the story lacked credibility with him because of the "blatantly non-professional way" Chambers carried out his alleged assignments, which, he said, "violated a very important rule in the Soviet spy book."

There are other substantial reasons to question Chambers's story, [9] evidence that specifically concerns the documents Haynes and Klehr consider irrefutable. Here are just three brief examples not cited by Haynes and Klehr:

Exhibit 2: Among the documents that Chambers said he got from Hiss was this brief note in Hiss's handwriting. The note summarized a longer document that had come into Hiss's office. Chambers said such notes were written by Hiss specifically for him when Hiss needed to pass to Chambers important information from documents that could not be taken from the office. Hiss denied this, testifying that he regularly jotted down notes to brief his boss, Francis B. Sayre, on the scores of telexes and memoranda that arrived in his office each day. Hiss said that after meeting with Sayre, the notes were either thrown out, or clipped to the original documents to be filed, or sent for destruction.

In the note that became Exhibit 2 at both Hiss perjury trials, the following information was included in the original document but not in the note written by Hiss: "The Japanese may be preparing for a move against Russian maritime provinces." The writer then adds that the Japanese people have been whipped into such a fervor that a military move against Russia appears to be inevitable.

According to Soviet cables decrypted under the US government's top-secret Venona operation , an agent named "Ales" was supplying military information to the Soviets. If Hiss was "Ales," or any kind of Soviet agent, for that matter, this information would have been a vital part of his handwritten note.

Exhibit 13: This is a brief three-sentence note retyped from a State Department document and produced at trial as part of the Baltimore exhibits — the documents Chambers produced during depositions in Baltimore, Maryland in response to Hiss's libel suit. These were papers which Chambers said had been brought home by Alger Hiss and retyped by Priscilla. When the original document was introduced at trial, however, the routing stamp on it showed that it had not gone to Hiss's office.

Exhibit 36: This document goes to the very heart of the government's case against Hiss. The exhibit is a one-page, typed, single-spaced document that is a near-verbatim copy of a memorandum by Hiss's boss, Francis Sayre. State Department stamping showed the document had been circulated to five offices, while the original was retained permanently in Sayre's office. This distribution system rendered Chambers's story absurd. Instead of Priscilla laboriously retyping the document (which would have involved risk of disclosure due to the thin walls of the Hiss home), [10] Hiss could simply have brought the document home on the days that Chambers said he came by to pick up documents for photographing.

There are still unanswered questions about many of the other documents as well. For example, Exhibit 10 was typed on a Remington typewriter, a make never owned by the Hisses, and that document also never circulated to Hiss's office. Even the prosecution was mystified by Exhibit 10. For Haynes and Klehr to state that the documents as produced were somehow proof of Hiss's guilt remains highly debatable and, from an historical viewpoint, irresponsible. [11]

In fact, their opening summary of the evidence against Hiss is so chock-full of misstatements that a complete discussion of them would take up this entire review. The sampling presented here, drawn almost at random from the chapter, demonstrates all by itself that, contrary to the judgment by Applebaum cited above, Haynes and Klehr are not always so scrupulous. Indeed, their errors are so obvious and frequent that the positive reviews of "Spies" probably reveal more about the reviewers than they do about the book.

A few more instances: The authors say government investigators "uncovered documentary evidence supporting claims by Chambers" about his relationship with Hiss. This was only true in the vaguest sense, as FBI documents released in the 1970s and those that continue to be released today show that the government discovered and hid considerable information demonstrating that Chambers, though he had known Hiss, was lying on many key issues. The authors also state as fact that Hiss was a member of an alleged secret Communist cell dubbed "The Ware Group," ignoring statements from former members of the group, such as Lee Pressman, that Hiss was not associated with it.

While the authors claim that "Chambers's account of their friendship much more closely matched the documented facts than Hiss's story of a short-lived distant relationship," you can click here to read Chambers's original, unrevised account of his relationship with Hiss and decide for yourself whether Haynes and Klehr's characterization of their relationship is accurate and reliable.

Alger Hiss, Hede Massing and Noel Field

After their discussion of the evidence against Hiss, the authors move on to the information contained in Vassiliev's notes. They begin by saying that the notes support Hede Massing's testimony that Hiss was actively trying to recruit Noel Field into the underground.

The story Massing told at Hiss's second trial was this: As a member of the Soviet underground, it was her job to recruit new members. One of her targets was a State Department official named Noel Field. But after asking Field to work for her, he told her he was being recruited by another underground group leader. Massing asked to meet this person, and in the fall of 1935, Field introduced her to Alger Hiss at a cocktail party in his Washington, D.C. apartment. There the two verbally jousted over who would lay claim to Field's loyalty. Massing flirtatiously told Hiss that, as a woman, she had the advantage. The conversation concluded with one of them — she couldn't recall which — saying, "It doesn't matter since we both work for the same boss." [12]

Hiss testified that he had never met Massing. The defense also presented a witness, Henrikas Rabinavicius, who attended a party with Massing a few months before the trial, where, he said, she related a different and much more innocuous version of the story. Rabinavicius's account easily withstood prosecutor Thomas Murphy's cross examination.

But what the defense didn't know at that time was that Massing was testifying under pressure of being deported and with perjury charges hanging over her and her husband's heads for false statements both had previously made to government officials.

It is also clear from the several thousand pages of Hede Massing's file released by the FBI over the past few years that the Bureau didn't trust her story about Hiss. For good reason. The Massings had been confidential informants of the FBI for nearly two years before she told the Bureau her story about Hiss. She had also talked to State Department official Ray Murphy in 1946, telling the FBI afterward that "she had held nothing back" and had also testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in August 1948. Although given every opportunity in each instance, not once did she indicate she knew anything about Hiss.

It wasn't until three days after Whittaker Chambers handed over the Pumpkin films (the second batch of material evidence) to HUAC investigators on December 2,1948 that Massing revealed to the Bureau that she had something to add.

By not even acknowledging any of Massing's history with the FBI, Haynes and Klehr give the impression that they feel it is all irrelevant. The Soviet files Vassiliev saw, they point out, stem from the 1930s, the time of the incident, and this proves that Massing was telling the truth in her trial testimony. But all that the files Vassiliev saw really indicate is that she was telling yet another version of her story in the 1930s. Haynes and Klehr never consider that, as an agent in Washington, D.C. who was having little success in the tasks assigned to her, she may have felt pressure back then to make up a few triumphs to reassure her superiors.

The basic error that Haynes and Klehr make is failing to understanding that just because Massing said something, this doesn't — especially given her track record — make it true. Nothing in the Soviet files offers proof that she was telling the truth. (The authors say her account was corroborated by Field, but this will be discussed below.)

What is most interesting about Massing's stories is the fact that she never could reconcile the different versions of what was essentially a straightforward tale. The fact that she couldn't raises huge questions not only about Massing herself, but also about the charges against Hiss and how the government built its case against him. But while all of these questions are begging to be asked, Haynes and Klehr never grasp their significance – or choose not to.

In "Spies," the discussion about Hiss, Field and Massing involves two different stories. There is the one told by Massing – the topic of her trial testimony – about her alleged meeting with Hiss. But the Vassiliev notes also refer to a second story, in which Massing relates to a Soviet agent her account of Field's alleged conversation with Hiss and Hiss's efforts to recruit him.None of this was discussed by Massing at Hiss's trial, or mentioned by her to the FBI, or set down in her memoir, "This Deception," which was published shortly after Hiss's trial concluded. [13]

The first document cited by Haynes and Klehr in their chapter on Hiss is a third- or fourth-hand story from an April 1936 KGB report, relating to this alleged effort on Hiss's part to recruit Field. [14]
The authors say the attempt was made "early in 1936." According to the Vassiliev notes, Massing relates that Field said that a week before his departure from Washington for London (?), Hiss approached him and informed him that he was a Communist. He supposedly said he knew Field was a Communist too. Hiss also asked Field for information about the London disarmament conference which Field would be attending.

Had Haynes and Klehr checked this information against Massing's testimony and against her statements to the FBI (which were the result of many interviews), they would have turned up a host of discrepancies that should have made them more cautious about this Soviet document from which most of their subsequent charges are derived. Had they done their homework, they would have known that this document is actually a striking example of why the material brought forward by Vassiliev cannot simply be taken at face value.

Specifically, here's why:

* A meeting with Hiss could not have occurred in early 1936, because Field left the country for London in late November 1935, and didn't return until early April.

* According to the story Massing told the FBI and at Hiss's second perjury trial (the judge barred her testimony at the first trial), her meeting with Hiss at Field's house occurred after Hiss tried to recruit Field, and the dinner party at the Fields' occurred in mid-1935.

* In none of her interviews with the State Department, nor in her appearances before HUAC and the grand jury, nor in her numerous interviews with the FBI, did Massing ever allege that Hiss was looking for information about the London conference.

* In yet another apparent contradiction, Massing told the FBI in 1947 that contact with Field had been made by her husband, not by her, and she knew nothing about subsequent contact.

* The Soviet document Vassiliev saw says, "When A., whom as you recall, I met through E [Field' "E" refers to his code-name Ernst]." However, if Hiss had just recently revealed himself to have been a Communist in 1936, how would Massing have met him in 1935, as she told the FBI - especially since the whole purpose of her alleged 1935 meeting with Hiss was to determine who would win Field's loyalty. [15]

* The same document also says, based on Massing's account, that Hiss (who was then working for the Department of Justice) asked Field's help in getting him into the State Department, "which E. apparently did." This is completely contradicted, however, by testimony and statements of John Dickey, whom Hiss replaced, and Francis B. Sayre, who became Hiss's boss in the State Department. Sayre brought Hiss into the Department solely on Dickey's recommendation. Hiss required no help from Field, and Field never gave it. [16]

These are just a few of the discrepancies raised by this one, single Soviet document. Yet, amazingly, none of these questions are even raised in "Spies," much less discussed. And these documents are crucial to the case Haynes and Klehr are building, since many of their subsequent references to Hiss as an agent stem from the allegations by Massing. When the authors, for example, quote from a follow-up report by Massing's handler, Boris Bazarov, that also mentions Hiss, and call it further proof of Hiss's treachery, they overlook the simple fact that the report is merely a retelling of the earlier story, with Massing again as the primary source. They are, in effect, using Massing to confirm Massing, and then in turn using Massing redoubled to reconvict Hiss.

This situation also points up another problem with Vassiliev's notes: He was not given Hede Massing's personal file. Nor did he see Hiss's – if such a file even exists. [17] Such strictly limited access results in unconvincing and less than stellar evidence, as indicated by a document the authors cite on page 13, this one from Iskhak Akhmerov, a Soviet agent based in New York. Referring once again to the alleged meeting between Hiss and Massing, Akhmerov writes (most likely drawing from Massing's previous account) that Massing met with Hiss only once, "in the winter."

It all begins to sound like the old children's game of "telephone." Akhmerov's statement contradicts one more version of the story Massing told in "This Deception" – that the meeting with Hiss came a week after a sailing trip on Potomac that she took with Field and his wife, Herta. While Herta went for a swim, Massing said, she and Field spoke privately. The result of that conversation was the meeting with Hiss a week or so later. If the meeting occurred a week after a sailing trip in the middle of the winter, Herta must have had skin made of iron to take a dip in the icy Potomac.

And of course the authors never bother to compare either Akhmerov's document or the FBI files to the document they had already cited -- the one which states that Hiss revealed himself to Field in April. If he had done so, how could Akhmerov's account of a winter meeting have been accurate?

Nor did the authors bother to read Massing's trial testimony. The notes of the Akhmerov document say that Massing met with Hiss at the behest of Bazarov. Haynes and Klehr write that Massing testified to this at Hiss's perjury trial. They are wrong. There isn't a single mention of Bazarov in the trial transcript. Nor is there any reference to him in her first grand jury appearance.

And the going only gets worse for Haynes and Klehr. According to Vassiliev's notes, J. Peters (an alleged figure in the Communist underground) was not happy about Massing's meeting with Hiss and warned her to stay away from him. "You had better keep your hands off him," he warned her, according to the Vassiliev notes.

Compare that account with what Massing wrote about Peters in "This Deception" — that he "never as much as indicated that he knew of me and my activities." Again, in none of her earlier versions of her story did she ever mention any warning from Peters. Nonetheless, the authors don blinders and declare that Massing, Field and Chambers all provided "independent corroboration" of this incident.

Did they? At least as set forth in "Spies," Massing provides no independent corroboration of her own story. She just retells it. And Chambers? Haynes and Klehr write, "Whittaker Chambers also testified about the incident at the Hiss trials." This is false. While Chambers was asked about a statement he gave to State Department Security Officer Ray Murphy in 1945 in which he mentioned Massing, he said nothing about "the incident" at either trial. [18] The authors say Chambers wrote in his 1952 book, "Witness," that Hiss told him about it. But "Witness" was published two years after Massing's testimony at the second Hiss trial. How that could be considered "independent corroboration" is mystifying.

As for Field, the authors say that while imprisoned behind the Iron Curtain, Field provided "an uncoerced, accurate account of his activities," which included Hiss's attempts to recruit him. Let's look at that more closely. Field and his wife were living in Prague when they literally disappeared in the summer of 1949, not to be heard from again until their release from a Hungarian prison in November 1954. While in prison, Field gave numerous statements to Hungarian authorities. The transcripts of these interrogations seem on the surface to corroborate aspects of Massing's story about Hiss. But what do these interviews really reveal?

After his arrest, Field was held in solitary confinement and underwent extensive questioning and torture. It was during these sessions that he first mentioned Hiss. In 2003, this author interviewed Joseph Doob, Hermann Field's brother-in-law. (Hermann Field was Noel's brother, who had gone in search of the missing couple after their disappearance, leading to his own arrest. Like Noel and Herta, Hermann was also held in solitary for several years.) Doob confirmed that Noel and Herta were repeatedly tortured. "Noel told me many times that they would say anything they thought their interrogators wanted to hear in order to stop their torture," he said. [19]

Although Noel did respond to questions about Massing and Hiss and echoed aspects of the story Massing had told at Hiss's trial, he had already heard about her trial testimony story prior to his arrest, and the transcripts indicate he was repeating and echoing information that had been generally reported on by the press. While Haynes and Klehr correctly point out that there was no torture in Field's final interrogations by Hungarian authorities, the fact is that he was still being held in solitary at that time – and hadn't seen his wife for five years.

Nor were his comments, when your examine them, especially corroborative. For example, Field says that when Hiss tried to recruit him for espionage he (Field) was already involved himself. Yet the core of Massing's story was that she was recruiting him because he had not yet gotten involved. It's a subtle difference, but an important one.

In the summer of 1949, when it was thought that Massing might testify at Hiss's trial, the defense, at great expense – and it was hard-pressed for funds at that point – sent an intermediary to Prague to speak to the Fields. (Imagine their doing this if Hiss really had known Massing and had tried to recruit Field in 1935.)

Only Herta Field saw the intermediary, Walter Staeheim, as Field was out of the country. She told Staeheim that Massing's story wasn't true. According to Staeheim's account in a defense document:

She confirmed that both [the Hisses and the Massings] had been many times her and her husband's guests, but declared that they never were invited together. She said that she could remember this distinctly because her apartment was very small and therefore they had never large parties. They necessarily seldom included more than four to six persons.

…I then gave her details on this conversation on the basis of Mr. McLean's memorandum (without handing it to her of course). Mrs. Field shook her head several times during my explanations and denied violently, that such a conversation had ever taken place in her home and confirmed again that Alger Hiss and Mrs. Massing had never met there.

After the meeting, Herta Field composed a letter for the defense to use. The note, written in hand, states, in full:

"Dear Dr. Staeheim,
Thank you very much for acquainting me with the report Hede Massing made on a conversation she claims to have had with Alger Hiss in our apartment. I cannot remember our having invited Hede Massing and Alger Hiss together for dinner. I am sure this conversation never took place."
Herta H. Field

After his release from prison, Field wrote several letters to Hiss which contained specific allusions to what he said was Massing's "perjured" testimony. Haynes and Klehr dismiss Field's comments to Hiss out of hand as being "in accord with the Communist position on the subject," but a July 21,1957 letter specifically appears to be an attempt by Field to evade any Communist censorship by not mentioning Massing by name:

Your determination to let the facts speak for themselves and the absence of all special pleading are the more impressive when one bears in mind the ordeal of fighting false charges that has disrupted your life and brought pain to you and your family…Speaking of perjury, it was, of course, not until after I came out of jail that I learned of the part played in your second trial by false testimony of a perjured witness with regard to a purported meeting and a conversation, neither of which ever took place.

The "Perlo List," Harold Glasser, "Ales"

The "Perlo List"

Haynes and Klehr say that the Marxist economist Victor Perlo was the fourth participant in Soviet espionage, after Whittaker Chambers, Hede Massing and Noel Field, to identify Hiss as an agent. The "Perlo list" is a list of secret Soviet agents, most (but not all) in the US government, that was allegedly compiled for the Soviets by Perlo, who worked in the New Deal during the 1930s and was later named by Chambers as a member of the so-called Ware Group.

It should be pointed out that Vassiliev gave the "Perlo list," as it has come to be called, to Allen Weinstein when Weinstein was writing "The Haunted Wood." But while Weinstein – who has never been reticent about using less than convincing evidence to argue that Hiss was a spy (see the book review section on this site, for example) – referred in passing to the "Perlo list," he chose not to use it against Hiss. Why didn't Weinstein jump all over it, and why did Haynes and Klehr decide to do so?

The answers to both questions are obvious when you look at the "Perlo list" itself. But first, it's important to understand what, exactly, the list was. In "Spies," Haynes and Klehr quote a summary atop the list as saying that Perlo was asked to provide a list of persons not in his own apparatus but who, nonetheless, he had reason to believe "work with intelligence" (meaning work with Soviet intelligence) and had a present or past connection with a Soviet intelligence agency.

But this is not quite accurate, and while the difference between their description and what it actually says at the top of the list may appear to be unimportant, it isn't. According to the document itself, here is how Perlo summarized his list, in the language of Vassiliev's notes:

 A list of persons who according to Raid [Perlo] have been cooperating with the Soviet intelligence service apart from those he is working with regularly at present.

The second, more accurate and more literal description puts a less nefarious spin on the list, primarily because of its use of the word "cooperating." To the Soviets, cooperating could mean anything from being an actual agent to someone who simply shares information with an agent without even being aware that the Soviet individual receiving the information is connected with an espionage outfit. In fact, many sources of Soviet intelligence during this period were used "blind," as the Russians said. In other words, they weren't conscious of being part of an espionage group, but were, rather, approached for information, and because the request appeared to be on the level, they offered up their knowledge or observations. This was certainly the case with I. F. Stone, whom Haynes and Klehr also wrongly label an agent on the basis of several other Vassiliev notes.

In his HUAC testimony and in various statements to the FBI, Whittaker Chambers claimed that Perlo [20] and Hiss worked together as part of the Ware Group. Yet according to Perlo's list, under the column heading, "Did I ever work with?" Perlo directly contradicts Chambers by writing "No" in the box about Alger Hiss. Under the column, "Does he know I have a connection?" Perlo writes about Alger Hiss, "Don't know."

No wonder Weinstein chose not to use this material!

There's another problem with the list that Haynes and Klehr conveniently ignore. Perlo reports that one Herbert Schimmel had a present connection to Soviet intelligence "with Blumberg," a reference to Albert Blumberg, who was formerly head of the Communist Party in Maryland. But the "Perlo list" was prepared in March 1945.

Another Soviet document, which dates from July 1945, says that at that point there were plans afoot to approach Blumberg about cooperating [21] this would make Perlo's comment that Schimmel was working with Blumberg inaccurate, and should at least raise a few questions about the list in "Spies." But none are asked. So why do Haynes and Klehr say the list proves Hiss's guilt?

Simply because he's on it.

Harold Glasser

The alleged relationship between Hiss and Glasser is at the core of Haynes and Klehr's belief that Hiss was a spy. But here, too, the historical record reveals more questions than are acknowledged in "Spies."- because, in fact, none are acknowledged in "Spies".

In the first paragraph of a March 5, 1945 cable from Anatoly Gorsky, the KGB station chief in Washington, D.C. – first made public by Vassiliev at his London libel trial – there is a two-line statement that ignited a fierce 2007 controversy about the identity of the Soviet agent code-named "Ales". The statement reads, "Special attention - to '"Ales"' Was at Yalta conference, then went to Mexico City, hasn't returned yet. Our only key to him - 'Rouble.' 'Rouble' himself goes on business trips (Italy) - it is difficult to run '"Ales"" via him."

The historians Kai Byrd and Svetlana Chervonnaya pointed out in an article in The American Scholar(Summer 2007) that this document should exclude any possibility that Alger Hiss was "Ales," for the simple reason that, by March 5, 1945, Hiss had been back in Washington for over two weeks, and very publicly so, [22] as the designated organizer of the forthcoming UN San Francisco Conference. Yet this is the same time period when, according to Gorsky, "Ales" was still in Mexico City.

In response, Haynes and Klehr - who in the opening page of the chapter complain about the "convoluted" arguments of Hiss's defenders - concede that Hiss had returned home by this time. But they then concoct an explanation of how it was possible for Hiss to be a major presence in Washington, while his alleged handler remained unaware of that fact [23], that is full of so many twists and turns it should have been accompanied by a road map.

They then come up with an even more tenuous story that somehow places Hiss and Glasser in the same espionage group. A number of experts have said that "Ruble" was Harold Glasser, and he may have been, but having a codename and being an agent didn't always go hand in hand. Many US government officials who had legal contact with the Soviets – including President Roosevelt – were given codenames as a matter of course. Glasser testified to HUAC and the grand jury in the Hiss case that dealing with the Soviets on currency issues was part of his job description while at the Treasury.

Contrary to what is indicated by "Spies," there isn't at this point a clear-cut answer about whether Glasser was a Soviet agent. Nonetheless, Haynes and Klehr state, in their usual matter-of-fact way, that Glasser was "one of the most valuable members of Perlo's apparatus" (although Glasser, ironically, is not one of the names included in Perlo's list). And because they accept documents at face value whenever they appear to implicate someone like Hiss or Glasser as an agent (as opposed to the March 5, 1945 cable mentioned above, which they spend their energy explaining away, since it would seem to exonerate Hiss), they say that a 1944 KGB document referring to "Ruble" as a "former GRU source" is proof that he was one, simply because this document says so. (This assertion also fails to reflect the often crucial distinction between "source" and "agent," which, as we've already seen, frequently conveyed very different meanings.)

Glasser demonstrated his value to the Soviets, Haynes and Klehr say, at a moment in the 1930s when Whittaker Chambers needed help reigniting the zeal of Glasser's boss at the Treasury Department, Harry Dexter White, a man whom Chambers claimed as a source. [24] According to Chambers's story, his Soviet handler suggested that Glasser would be a suitable intermediary. Haynes and Klehr then quote Chambers as saying, in "Witness," that "Glasser soon convinced me that White was turning over everything of importance that came into his hands."

The authors say Chambers's account is in turn supported by an autobiography Glasser supplied to his Russian handlers. (Apologies in advance, but the story gets complicated again here.) According to Vassiliev's notes, Glasser wrote in the autobiography, "I first met 'Karl' in 1937, around May. He and I met on a more or less regular basis until the fall of 1939." That the "Karl" in question was Chambers, Haynes and Klehr say, is proved by several other documents, such as a report from the Moscow Center (which supervised espionage efforts) describing "Karl" as a former agent who had threatened to betray his contacts to American authorities (which they say conforms to Glasser's statement that after a while "Karl" disappeared), and by Chambers's own statements to the FBI and elsewhere that when he left Soviet espionage he had taken various precautions against his former bosses (in case they tried to retaliate against him or his family). Chambers himself also testified that "Karl" was one of the pseudonyms he used when he was in the Communist underground.

Haynes and Klehr further argue that Chambers's story is bolstered by a cable sent to Moscow from Washington in 1948, suggesting a plan to discredit "Karl," who had testified publicly about Alger Hiss before HUAC and the grand jury- a description that, of course, fits Chambers.

Then there is a 1949 report by Anatoly Gorsky, then the KGB's former Washington station chief, which lists more than a score of former agents and sources. The first group on the list is called "Karl's Group." Among the names in the group are Alger Hiss and Harold Glasser.

Now they move away from "Karl" and bring in
Venona. Haynes and Klehr say that the now-famous March 30, 1945 Venona cable implicating Hiss as "Ales" was written because Glasser's return from Europe had "refocused KGB attention on his one-time colleague from Chambers' 1936-1938 GRU apparatus."

The process began, they say, with a March 3, 1945 cable from General Pavel Fitin, the Soviet's chief of foreign intelligence, to the KGB's New York station, expressing the need for information about the upcoming San Francisco conference. Without explaining how, Haynes and Klehr – the avowed enemies of convolution, remember – say that Anatoly Gorsky, who was then still stationed in Washington, somehow saw the cable sent to New York and decided that (without mentioning him by name) Alger Hiss would be an excellent source for this information.

The March 30 "Ales" cable from Gorsky to Moscow is essentially a third-hand retelling of a conversation, in which Gorsky writes about a conversation he'd had with someone designated as "PYa" (the National Security Agency said the name was too garbled to identify), who in turn was passing on information he allegedly got from "Ales." The cable (which was never translated in its entirety) included six numbered items that described the history of "Ales"'s relationship with Soviet intelligence. [25] (More about all six items below.)

Number five, the item that concerns us at the moment, is the one Haynes and Klehr say confirms Glasser's and Hiss's underground connection. It reads: "Recently 'Ales' and his whole group were awarded Soviet medals." Glasser was not among the latter, they say. As proof, they cite an April 1945 memo from General Fitin, who wrote:
According to information received from 'Vadim' [Gorsky], the group of agents of the military 'neighbors' to which 'Ruble' [Glasser] had previously belonged was recently decorated by the USSR. 'Ruble' learned about this from his friend '"Ales",' who is the leader of this group.

In light of Ruble's committed work for the USSR over the course of 8 years and the fact that, because he was transferred to our station 'Ruble' was not decorated along with the oth. members of '"Ales"'s' group, I think it would be expedient to recommend him for the Order of the 'Red Star.' I ask for your approval.

Ok, how's this for convoluted?: Haynes and Klehr claim the Fitin memo not only confirms the March 30th cable's statement that "Ales" received an award from the Soviet Union (although Fitin is basing his information on what Gorsky says, and Gorsky had no firsthand knowledge that this actually happened), but also, more importantly, that it provides further proof that "Ales" was Hiss. How? Because of its claim that "Ruble" was working with "Ales"'s group, and then presumably ("presumably" because it's not very clear), because they are connecting Fitin's statement to Chambers's statements linking Glasser to his (and thus also Hiss's) group. [26]

For good measure, they toss another statement onto the pile that they say provides additional corroboration, this one by another self-confessed former Soviet agent, Elizabeth Bentley, from her November 1945 interviews with the FBI. Bentley helps complete the picture, they claim, by connecting the dots between Glasser, Perlo's group and Hiss. The way she told it, after Glasser returned from one of his trips to Europe, he wanted to rejoin Perlo's group. Bentley asked Perlo why Glasser had left in the first place, and she said Perlo told her that he and one other member were taken from the group by "some American" Perlo didn't know in another agency and turned over to a Russian. The one person who did know, she said, was Charles Kramer (who had worked in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration when Hiss was there, and was also named by Chambers as a member of the Ware group). Kramer told her, she said, that the person who took Glasser away was named Hiss and was in the State Department. This statement, according to the authors, "fits with the assertion in Fitin's message about Glasser's underground work."

This is the substance of their Hiss-Glasser "case." Taken together with the rest of the material they bring forward, by this point it's clear that what Haynes and Klehr are essentially doing when it comes to Glasser and Venona is tossing a mishmash of documents against a wall in the hope that something might stick. Does it? To answer that, one must do precisely what Haynes and Klehr don't do: actually take a close look at all the available evidence, put it in context and evaluate it. This is what historians are supposed to do, and this is where Haynes and Klehr fail – miserably and repeatedly.

To begin with, there are questions that Haynes and Klehr don't touch, questions that have to do with whether Glasser was a member of Chambers's group and whether he was even an agent at all. If he wasn't either, or both, that fact would call into question much of the Haynes and Klehr thesis about Hiss, which relies heavily on guilt by association, in this case association-with-Glasser.

Haynes and Klehr say that the personal relationship between Hiss and Glasser is "well-documented," (as if that would indicate a likelihood of espionage). But Glasser and Hiss in separate testimony essentially told the same story about this relationship: They had met only briefly while doing government committee work in 1938. No one has ever come forward with firsthand information suggesting the two had a closer relationship [27] And it wouldn't prove anything sinister if they had actually known each other well. [28] (Haynes and Klehr have gone on record as condemning McCarthyite tactics, but they seem content to adopt these casual proof-by-accusation tactics when it suits their arguments.) [29]

Glasser testified that he was associated with the Party, but before both HUAC and the grand jury he denied any involvement with espionage. He was never charged either with espionage or with perjury.

As to whether or not he was an agent of the GRU, perhaps the most damaging evidence in opposition to Haynes and Klehr's arguments was produced by their co-author Vassiliev. In his "The Sources in Washington," a draft chapter based on his notes that he turned over to Allen Weinstein (and is now among Weinstein's personal papers on deposit at the Hoover Institution in California), Vassiliev includes a report from May 4, 1944 of a meeting between the aforementioned Anatoly Gorsky and the head of the American department of the GRU, Colonel Muromtsev, who informed Gorsky that "John Abt, Kramer, Perlo, [Charles] Flato, Glazer [sic] and Edward Fitzgerald are not agents of GRU and never had been." In other words, the GRU itself is on record denying that Glasser was one of their agents.

Haynes and Klehr also ignore what Whittaker Chambers said about this very question, probably because Chambers – who rarely passed up an opportunity to inflate his Party connections – insisted more than once that Glasser had not been a member of his group.

Let's be specific – and along the way clear up the "Karl confusion" that Haynes and Klehr have introduced into the story: In the handwritten Glasser autobiography that Haynes and Klehr refer to in "Spies," Glasser says, as they report, that he met with a "Karl" on a regular basis through 1939. "Karl," Haynes and Klehr say, was Chambers. But on December 31, 1948, Chambers told the FBI that he and Glasser had only met "on two or three occasions." Chambers also told the Bureau that "Glasser had not been part of his apparatus and he had no knowledge of his underground activities." (Chambers's comments didn't help Elizabeth Bentley's credibility either, as the FBI report noted the discrepancy between his comments and what Bentley had told them: that Glasser had been stolen from the Perlo group by Alger Hiss.) [30]

Chambers maintained this story during his pre-trial interviews with the FBI, which occurred on a near-daily basis from January through May of 1949. In the 184-page statement produced as a result of those interviews (and concealed from the defense), Chambers wrote that he discontinued seeing Glasser "after one or two meetings."

Nor can Haynes and Klehr use the excuse that they were unaware of these discrepancies, because the very same paragraph that they cite in "Witness," about Chambers asking Glasser to act as an intermediary with White, concludes with this line: "Having established that fact, I simply broke off relations with Dr. Glasser." Considering their habit of pretending that information counter to their thesis simply doesn't exist, it is not surprising that Haynes and Klehr chose to trim that sentence from "Spies." But it is not an isolated sentence that can simply be scissored away, since its meaning is nearly identical to what Chambers repeatedly told the FBI: that Glasser was not in any way a part of his "group." And if you accept Chambers's story, the implication of Glasser not being in his group would be that he wouldn't have been in Hiss's group either.
But how can that situation be reconciled with Glasser's statement in his "autobiography" that he met "Karl" regularly? Was he lying? Was Chambers?

Glasser says his meetings with "Karl" lasted well into 1939. The latest date at which Chambers placed his departure from the Communist Party was April 1938.

Haynes and Klehr try to explain away this discrepancy by saying that Glasser wasn't sure when he last saw "Karl," and while that's literally true they are again being misleading. Glasser said he could have been off in the date by a couple of months – but not by a year and a half, which would have to have been the case had "Karl" been Chambers.

Nonetheless, the authors state that "The only discrepancy is that Chambers dropped out of Soviet intelligence in April 1938… Chambers's account of his relationship with Glasser fits with Glasser's account of his relationship with 'Karl.'"

But as we saw a few paragraphs back, this assertion doesn't fit. It wasn't Chambers he'd had a relationship with. So if Glasser did meet with someone named "Karl," the only logical conclusion available is that the "Karl" he met wasn't Chambers. Haynes and Klehr go to great lengths to show that the "Karl" in the list supplied by Gorsky and in other memos is Chambers, and this might be the case, but it doesn't seem to occur to them that there could have been more than one "Karl" in the Communist underground, when – as anyone who spends time with Soviet intelligence materials discovers – "Karl" was a common pseudonym, not an exotic or unique one. Their assumption is akin to suggesting there is only one John Smith in all of Virginia.

And in citing the Bentley interview that even Chambers contradicted, there is a huge amount of background information that Haynes and Klehr omit. Bentley had already undergone five straight days of intensive questioning by the FBI before she mentioned Hiss, and his name came up only after a telex was sent to the New York office specifically asking them to develop "information regarding Hiss of the State Department."

Three days later, though, Bentley still hadn't come up with anything, but then, in a report from November 27 that summarized her interviews with the Bureau, this vague story that is retold in "Spies" appears for the first time. And, again, we see Haynes and Klehr presenting a document without paying any attention to either its content or its context. Would it make any sense that Victor Perlo, who Haynes and Klehr say worked with Hiss, wouldn't know Hiss's identity? Yet that appears to be the case in Bentley's statement. Also, Bentley says that Charles Kramer told her that the person who took Glasser away was named Hiss. Kramer worked with Hiss at the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and was allegedly one of Hiss's cohorts in the Ware group. One would think he would have known Hiss's first name. This is the background to the rest of the Bentley statement, the part not included in "Spies"-- the part in which she insists the Hiss she is referring to was not Alger but someone named "Gene" or "Eugene." [31] Despite pressure from the FBI, Bentley refused to change her story, and never identified "Eugene" as Alger Hiss.

Just as significant is another detail in her statement: She says that she kept an associate named "Jack" apprised of her dealings with Perlo and Kramer. Jack, in turn, filled her in on Glasser's activities. Bentley added that in the spring of 1945 Jack came to her, wanting to know who Hiss was. As it turns out, "Jack" was a Soviet agent named Joseph Katz, the intermediary between Bentley and station chief Gorsky. If Jack wanted to know who Hiss was, he was most likely asking the question on behalf of Gorsky. This begs the question, why on earth would Gorsky want to know who Hiss was if, as Haynes and Klehr so confidently allege, he already knew that Hiss was "Ales"?

Hiss as "Ales"

Haynes and Klehr state as a fact that Hiss was the spy code-named "Ales" in Gorsky's Venona cable. Without adding any new evidence to substantiate this charge, they are boldly taking the original identification of "Ales" further than the FBI was willing to in 1950, when, shortly after Hiss's perjury conviction, it said that "Ales" was "probably" Hiss -- primarily because no other candidate sprang to mind and Hiss's name was still dominating national newspaper headlines. In fact, the FBI was so unsure of the identification that two years later it was still unsuccessfully looking for evidence to establish that "Ales" was indeed Hiss.

The Gorsky March 30, 1945 cable contains six separate comments about "Ales," and Haynes and Klehr claim that all six fit Hiss. Therefore and ipso facto, Hiss was "Ales." They are consistent in this assertion – but even more consistent about continuing to cast a blind eye toward anything at all that might indicate Hiss was not "Ales." This unwavering consistency leads them to advance arguments that, all too often, become careless and even downright silly. Although they claim that "additional details" in Vassiliev's notebooks make the identification "certain," this turns out to be wishful thinking – another example of the authors treating speculation as fact when this suits their purposes.

As the longtime New York sportscaster Warner Wolf used to say, "Let's go to the videotape" and take a close look at each of the cable's six comments about "Ales." We'll begin each look with the comments themselves, quoted verbatim from the cable.

1) "Ales" worked continuously with the GRU since 1935. Haynes and Klehr write that the evidence supporting this first possible Hiss-"Ales" match is "overwhelming" – except that it isn't. According to Chambers's own story, Hiss never had any contact with military intelligence until early 1937, when Chambers allegedly introduced Hiss to his (Chambers's) new contact, Peter, who, Chambers would later learn from Walter Krivitsky, was actually Colonel Boris Bykov. Although Chambers claimed that Hiss had given him some original State Department documents in 1935, when Hiss was working for the Nye Committee, he also maintained that this had been a one-time event (and by his own account Chambers was himself not yet working for the GRU, but was at the time connected to the American Communist Party's informational underground). At Hiss's trials, the defense introduced a former State Department official named Joseph Green, who had been the liaison between State and the Nye Committee. He testified that the Nye Committee received no original documents from the department.

2) For a few years now he has been the head of a small group of probationers of the neighbors [the GRU], for the most part drawn from his relatives. Haynes and Klehr say this fits the description of Hiss because Whittaker Chambers claimed that Priscilla Hiss conspired with her husband to produce the State Department documents -- and that Hiss's brother Donald was also a member of the Ware group. However, as the FBI acknowledged in 1952, their investigation found that Chambers's core charge against Donald Hiss– that he was sent by the Party to help adjudicate proceedings against Harry Bridge [32] - could not have been true.

The authors write misleadingly that "technical examination by both prosecution and defense experts established that most [my italics] of the material was typed on a typewriter owned by the Hiss family in the mid-1930s." While this is true, it's important to point out that the prosecution did not say that Priscilla typed the Baltimore documents, and it was the defense's contention at the trials that that family typewriter might have been used to type the documents, but Priscilla couldn't have typed them because 1) she wasn't a capable enough typist to have done so and 2) the typewriter had been given away before the dates on the Baltimore documents.

In between the two Hiss perjury trials, the prosecution's FBI lab expert, Ramos Feehan, obtained an order to examine Woodstock #230099, the typewriter presented into evidence by the defense in the belief that it had been the Hiss family typewriter in the 1930s. Feehan examined the typewriter and in a secret report determined that it was the typewriter that had typed the Baltimore documents. While – like much of what Haynes and Klehr present in "Spies" – this seems damning to Hiss, in reality it helped bolster Hiss's story. Feehan never testified about his examination at the second trial, testimony which if given might well have destroyed any questions about Hiss's innocence. He didn't testify because the prosecution didn't believe his findings – and with good reason. The FBI had obtained considerable information showing that #230099 wasn't manufactured early enough to have been the Hiss's machine – a finding that badly undercut both Feehan's so-called expert opinion on the matter and, more generally, his expertise and qualifications to give an opinion.

Furthermore, when Hiss's defense team prepared its motion for a new trial, defense experts showed, contrary to what Haynes and Klehr write, that #230099 did not type the documents, and that whatever machine was used for typing the documents, it was not the machine used to type the Hiss standards (letters that the Hisses acknowledged had been typed on their machine in the 1930s). One expert also showed that there were indications of forgery on #230099. The prosecution offered no proof that Priscilla typed the documents, but in its motion for a new trial, the defense offered evidence that there was more than one typist involved. None, of this, of course, is mentioned in Haynes and Klehr's summary of the typewriter evidence.

As for Priscilla being a member of Hiss's group, the prosecution produced a Socialist Party card with her name on it from 1932, along with a voting register that showed she had registered with the Socialist Party. But a prosecutor in 1949 – when all leftist parties were being lumped together under a single, anti-American label – could easily overlook the fact that the Communist Party was a sworn enemy of Norman Thomas, the Socialist leader, to the extent that CP members physically attacked Thomas and his supporters during the 1932 presidential campaign.

Nor was there any indication that Priscilla Hiss had actually joined the Socialist Party. The card produced by the prosecution was unsigned, and while she registered to vote Socialist in 1932, if she did end up casting her vote for Thomas that year, she joined nearly 900,000 other Americans who did so.

Finally, in their line about the Baltimore documents being typed by the same machine, Haynes and Klehr drop in the word "most" quite casually. Chambers said "all" the documents came from the same source and at trial admitted that if that was not the case, it could call into question the authenticity of all the documents. That's why Baltimore Exhibit 10 created such discomfort for the prosecution and the FBI, as even they acknowledged that, not only had the document not been typed on a Woodstock, but it had also not been routed to Hiss's office. So who typed it? Where did Chambers get the document? Who was his other confederate? Could he have typed the other documents? Understandably, neither the prosecution nor the FBI delved into these important questions, and for the same reasons neither do Haynes and Klehr; doing so would raise too many issues that those who are convinced of Hiss's guilt do not want to acknowledge.

3) The group and "Ales" himself are working on obtaining only military information about "the Bank" [the State Department] – the neighbors allegedly are not very interested and he doesn't pass it regularly. To support their argument that "Ales" was Hiss, Haynes and Klehr say that in 1945, when Hiss was still in the State Department, he made an "extraordinary proposal" that a new "special assistant for military affairs" be linked to the Office of Special Political Affairs, the department he then headed. Their suggestion is that through this new office, Hiss could funnel military secrets to the Russians. Haynes and Klehr also say that in 1946 "security officers" said Hiss had obtained top secret reports "'on atomic energy … and other matters relating to military intelligence that were outside the scope of his Office of Special Political Affairs."

This is one of a number of sections in the Hiss chapter in which Vassiliev's notes fall silent, and, rather than have nothing to say, Haynes and Klehr return to their roots as recyclers of anti-Hiss accusations leveled by others. Their one original contribution to this particular discussion is to call Hiss's actions, regarded as routine by his State Department superiors, liberal and conservative alike, as "extraordinary" and thus potentially subversive. Hiss, a key player in the creation of the United Nations, used the information he received about US military preparedness to evaluate the chances of getting UN assistance to further the US goal of avoiding future nuclear wars. Hiss's personal State Department files, for instance, contain the background materials and drafts of a major address he researched and delivered in 1946 about the future of nuclear power and nuclear weapons. The speech was entitled "The Prospects for Peace."

As for the critical memos by "security officers" – which were first reported in two influential anti-Hiss books ("Perjury" by Allen Weinstein and "Whittaker Chambers," by Sam Tanenhaus), they came from two State Department officials, Samuel Klaus and Joseph Anthony Panuch. How reliable did other government officials consider information forwarded by Klaus and Panuch? As the FBI learned, Panuch thought almost anyone in the upper echelons of the federal government was a spy. Here's an excerpt from an FBI report on Panuch's opinions:

Mr. Joseph A. Panuch, deputy to Assistant Secretary of State Russell, has reported to the Bureau that Alger Hiss together with Dean Acheson, Under Secretary of State; Herbert Marks, Assistant to the Under Secretary of State; John J. McCloy, former Assistant Secretary of War; Assistant Secretary of War Howard Peterson; Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Commerce; Paul A. Appleby and George Schwartzwalder of the Budget Bureau; Dr. Edward U. Condon of the Bureau of Standards and the US Committee on Atomic Energy; James Newman of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion and also an advisor on the Committee of Atomic Energy and Abe Fuller of the Budget Bureau and UNO are operating as an enormous espionage ring in Washington with the ultimate objective of obtaining all information concerning atomic energy, ... for the purpose of making such information available to the Soviet Union.

When Hiss left the State Department two years later, he received outstanding commendations from the likes of Francis Sayre, Stanley Hornbeck, Leo Pasvolsky, James Byrnes, Dean Acheson and Edward Stettinius, all men with solidly anti-Communist views. Hiss worked especially closely with Sayre and Hornbeck, and neither ever expressed any concern about Hiss's actions or views while he worked for them. [33]

Nor did any of Hiss's superiors in the department, which was rife with internecine conflicts, [34]
raise any issues about Hiss's requests. But any internal allegations regarding Hiss cannot be examined without taking into account the department's political battles. Needless to say, Haynes and Klehr don't.

4) In recent years, "Ales" has been working with Pol' repeat Pol' who also meets with other members of the group on occasion. According to Haynes and Klehr, Pol' was the literary agent Maxim Lieber, a man who met with Glasser after "Karl" disappeared. Lieber, they say, also knew Hiss.

This item raises four basic questions: 1) Was Lieber "Pol'"? 2) Was he involved in espionage? 3) What was his relationship with Hiss? and 4)What connections, if any, did their relationship have with the Communist underground movement?

In typical fashion, Haynes and Klehr are very selective when assembling their allegations about Lieber and espionage. In "Witness," Chambers recalled giving Lieber the name "Paul," a recollection confirmed by Lieber in his interviews with the FBI and with Allen Weinstein in 1975. "Paul," however, was nothing more than a nickname. It was not a name that the Soviets would have used as a code name. In fact, "Pol'," in Russian, is actually pronounced "Pavel," and that wasn't a name that anyone ever associated with Lieber.

In his "autobiography," Glasser says that after he lost contact with Chambers in 1939, he had a single meeting with someone named "Paul." Haynes and Klehr say this was Lieber, who was taking over Chambers's group (forgetting Chambers's statement, noted above, that Glasser was not a member of his group).

Here's where the story, once again, gets a little complicated. Evidence that has emerged from the files of the former Soviet Union in the last few years (evidence that Haynes and Klehr are on record as being aware of, though it is not mentioned in "Spies") indicates that one of the most successful Soviet rings operating in the United States in the late 1930s -- so successful that information about it is only now being uncovered -- was run by an agent named Arthur Adams until he was recalled to Moscow in 1938. This information, which is continuing to be developed, not only casts doubt on Haynes and Klehr's arguments but goes even further to be suggestive of Hiss's innocence.

In 1939, the Moscow Center decided to resume its work in the United States. A physician codenamed "Doctor" was relocated to Washington from England along with a nurse who later became his wife. His assignment was to establish communication with possible sources. This is the same "Doctor" who Haynes and Klehr declared was Hiss at the 2007 Symposium on Cryptological History. According to Soviet sources, however, "Doctor" was a middle-aged Bessarabian Jew who was educated in Vienna, a description that obviously does not fit either Hiss or Lieber. "Doctor," however, would have been the logical person to have met with Glasser, if only to see whether he would be interested in cooperating with the new group.

Despite what is alleged in "Spies," the government never suggested that Alger Hiss had a relationship with Lieber. The only suggested connection between Lieber and the Hisses came from Whittaker Chambers, who testified that he rented a cottage from Lieber in the summer of 1935 and claimed that Priscilla Hiss had been a house guest there for 10 days. Priscilla and Alger Hiss denied the story, and so did a witness named Boucot, who owned the cottage the Chamberses rented and who lived next door. Boucot testified that he never saw Priscilla Hiss there.

But Haynes and Klehr in this argument do more than just omit uncomfortable truths; they also irresponsibly stretch and distort the meaning of the information they choose to pass on. Specifically, they write that after a Hiss defense attorney met with Lieber in 1948, the lawyer was told that "Lieber does know Hiss but does not propose to admit it."

One only has to read through the defense account of the approaches it was making to Lieber to realize that he was only saying he knew Hiss because he did not want to appear in court under any circumstances, fearing that doing so would place his own freedom at risk. Let me explain.

This is the story that is obviously too subtle for Haynes and Klehr: The first time the defense approached Lieber was in 1948. Lieber knew that if he testified for the defense he would leave himself wide open for a perjury charge. He wasn't imagining things. FBI documents show conclusively that the government was threatening to bring charges against many witnesses who had denied Chambers's accusations. Under those circumstances, it was a smart tactic to plead the Fifth Amendment to avoid jail, and one can understand why Lieber tried to shoo away the defense by claiming he did know the Hisses. When told that he might still be called by the defense, Lieber expressed his extreme unhappiness at being dragged into the case.

When Harold Rosenwald, one of Hiss's attorneys, went to see Lieber again a couple of weeks later, and again warned Lieber that he might be subpoenaed, according to Rosenwald's memo Lieber responded that "he would be very vulnerable to attack and that he would be hostile to us." When Rosenwald asked him if he had ever been convicted of a crime, Lieber perked up. "He seemed quite delighted with the possibility of getting out of testifying and said that he had been arrested."

At one point, however, Harold Rosenwald quotes Lieber as saying, "I wouldn't know Mrs. Hiss if she were to come in this office and spit in my tea."

As it turned out, Lieber was not called by the defense or the prosecution. He did talk to the FBI, though, telling them he was not involved in espionage and did not know the Hisses. Lieber stuck to this story when he saw Weinstein in 1975.

According to a recording of Weinstein's second interview with Lieber (available at the Hoover Institution), Lieber denied several times knowing the Hisses and also denied participating in espionage. Of course, Haynes and Klehr felt that none of his denials were worthy of inclusion in "Spies." [35]

One final point about Lieber and Hiss: Haynes and Klehr never ask why the defense (whose efforts were being followed by the FBI) would have invested considerable time and effort to approach Lieber to convince him to voluntarily testify on their behalf, if Hiss and Lieber had been cohorts in the Communist underground. It's a logical question that, like many others, seems to have escaped them.

5) Recently "Ales" and his whole group were awarded Soviet medals. This is the item Haynes and Klehr say ties Glasser to Hiss, and has been covered previously.

6) After the Yalta conference, when he had gone to Moscow, a Soviet personage in a very responsible position ("Ales" gave to understand that it was Comrade VYShINKIJ) allegedly got in touch with "Ales" at the behest of the Military NEIGHBORS and passed on to him their gratitude and so on. Haynes and Klehr rely here on the research of Eduard Mark in an effort to prove that this was Hiss. Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya have demonstrated in their article why they think it was not Hiss.

The Gorsky List

The authors say a list compiled by Anatoly Gorsky entitled "Failures in the USA (1938-1948)" is further evidence of Hiss's guilt because the third name under the first heading in the report, "Karl's Group," is "Leonard—Alger Hiss."

At the risk of sounding like a tape loop, this list seems extremely damaging to Hiss – on its surface – but once examined more deeply, which the authors, you will perhaps not be surprised to hear, again decline to do, it is obvious that much of this list, rather than reflecting firsthand knowledge or extensive archival access, was simply compiled from multiple – including public – sources.

As to the list itself, Vassiliev's notes say it was compiled in December 1948, but the heading on the actual list shows that it was dated December 1949 (a fact that took some time to establish because, when Vassiliev's transcription was originally scanned, the top lines where the date appears were accidentally cut off, a fact reported here in 2006). This is important and not a quibble because the short-lived formal unification of Gorsky's KGB and the GRU (the two groups were in fact competitors, and did not actually share archival information) had ceased by February 1, 1949. Therefore, a supposition that Haynes and Klehr are relying heavily on here – that Gorsky wrote his report solely using GRU records – was after that date chronologically impossible as well as operationally unattainable. While Gorsky did obtain some information (most notably the numeric codenames) from the GRU, at the same time it's clear that most of the information related to "Karl's Group" [36] did not come from information from any records being held by the "neighbors" (the GRU). Instead, he was likely relying on names that had been mentioned in American press reports the Soviets were monitoring and other sources. This seems clear from the many internal contradictions in the report, which are discussed at length elsewhere on this site. Typically, Haynes and Klehr do no such analysis.

There are also obvious questions about the pseudonyms on the list – especially the use of "Leonard" for Hiss. If Hiss was "Ales", and this was known to Gorsky when he sent the 1945 Venona cable from Washington, why would he call him "Leonard" four years later when he was back home in Moscow? The answer is that the name "Leonard" was assigned to Hiss only after Chambers's charges appeared in the newspapers, at a point when the Soviets needed a pseudonym for him in their correspondence about the investigations.

On the "Karl's group" part of the Gorsky List are 10 numbered cryptonyms, beginning with "101st." (For example, Henry Julian Wadleigh is "104th," while Franklin Victor Reno is "118th.") These numbers, according to Soviet documents not cited by Haynes and Klehr, do indeed look like actual cryptonyms used in the operational correspondence between Moscow and the US for their sources of information. (Wadleigh, for example, admitted giving Chambers documents from the State Department, where he was employed at the time.) Importantly, though, neither Hiss nor his brother Donald are assigned numerals by the list.

The real reason why this list is in fact fascinating and important – something that has entirely escaped Haynes and Klehr – is that the number "100th," the logical "first number" in such a sequence, is missing from the list. That's because, according to another Soviet document (also not cited in "Spies"), "100th" was an operational code name assigned in the 1930s to Whittaker Chambers. This information comes from a recent history of some of the GRU's operations, published at this point only in Russia. The book, entitled "The Intelligence Officers Who Changed the World," is a collection of essays by a Russian military journalist, Mikhail Boltunov.

One of the American recruits Boltunov describes fits Chambers's description, and, according to Boltunov, Chambers's operational pseudonym was not "Karl" but "Sotyi" – which, means "100th" in English. "Sotyi," according to Boltunov's history, was connected with group run by the aforementioned Arthur Adams. If this is true, then it would demonstrate that this list was not entirely accurate and was culled together from multiple sources. And taken together with the new information about Adams and his group, it would also be a further indication that the agent who tried to meet with Glasser was not Lieber. If that is true, it would sever one of the crucial links that Haynes and Klehr try to establish between Glasser and Hiss. Much of this information [37] was available to Haynes and Klehr during their research for "Spies," but since it presents data that might exculpate Hiss, they offer no indication of having even heard about it, let alone giving it due weight. But it is part of the newly emerging information that will come to dominate the next stage of this still wide-open debate. In their rush to close the door, they clearly only got their foot stuck in it.


In the early 1970s, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller was faced with a political revolt by thousands of commuters to New York City fed up with the filthy cars of the Long Island Railroad, which also had one of the worst on-time records in the nation. Rockefeller's solution was to set a deadline for improving the railroad. By the time the deadline came, nothing much had changed. But much to the bewilderment of everyone who used the railroad, Rocky simply declared the Long Island Railroad now to be the best in the nation.

In much the same way, Haynes and Klehr have borrowed this magical technique to declare the case against Alger Hiss closed. To do that, they have had to ignore exculpatory evidence [38] and avoid any information – and there is a wealth of it – that runs counter to their theory. This is a one-dimensional methodology unworthy of responsible historians. The primary victim of their efforts, of course, is the reputation of Alger Hiss, but to the extent that they have continually steered others away from the facts, another victim is also in jeopardy - history itself.

The search for the truth continues.


1. Their books have a generally conservative and anti-Communist tone. For example, in a book entitled "Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today" (1989), Harvey Klehr connects the nuclear freeze movement, the Rainbow Coalition, and the work of the civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy to the Communist Party and its activities. [Return to article]

2. Knight's review dated June 26, can be found at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/.[Return to article]

3. This is not to imply that questions shouldn't be asked about Vassiliev's note-taking. In his New Yorker review, Lemann quotes I. F. Stone's biographer D. D. Guttenplan as saying that, to call Hiss innocent, one would have to believe that Vassiliev faked his notes. Questions about Vassiliev's note-taking were raised recently in a paper prepared by Moscow-based researcher Svetlana Chervonnaya. In that paper (which was prepared for distribution at the Wilson Center Conference and can be downloaded here), Dr. Chervonnaya demonstrated that there were substantial differences between Vassiliev's notes from an important document and the full text of the document itself, a 1942 orientation memo prepared by then-KGB Captain Vitaly Pavlov about Soviet agents and the Roosevelt White House. The full memo indicated that Soviet efforts to penetrate FDR's inner circle had so far been unsuccessful, a disclosure blurred by the notes. If accurate, the memo would call into question allegations by Haynes and Klehr and Allen Weinstein about Lauchlin Currie, Roosevelt's World War II economic advisor, among others. [Return to article]

4. Even Massing acknowledged to the FBI, which vetted her book, that she had changed certain facts to hide embarrassing incidents. [Return to article]

5. For example, in her book, "How the Cold War Began," historian Amy Knight writes that GRU agents stationed in the west were so eager to enjoy the good life that their output was often exaggerated and low-grade information was presented as being much more significant than it actually was. [Return to article]

6. The Salmon story is revelatory for two reasons. It sheds light on the methodology of Haynes and Klehr while also suggesting a tantalizing possibility about how the State Department documents in the Hiss case may have been faked. Briefly, the authors say that Salmon was an agent code-named "Willy," a valued and well-paid source being handled by a mercenary Soviet agent-group leader named Ludwig Lore. According to a chapter in an official history of the KGB's foreign intelligence ["The Paper Mill," by J. N. Kobyakov, in "Essays on the History of Russian Foreign Intelligence, vol. 3, 1933-1941," Moscow: "International Relations, 2003," pp. 191-199.] based on Lore's file (a file which Vassiliev did not have access to), however, the Soviets had serious doubts about Lore's claim both that Salmon was working for him and that "Willy" was real in any way. These doubts were heightened after the KGB began round-the-clock surveillance of Lore's New York home and found out that he was there when he claimed to be in Washington meeting with Willy. They then demanded that Lore produce Willy. He did, but the Soviets had in the meantime also been monitoring Salmon's home, and the man Lore produced looked nothing like Salmon. The man Lore introduced them to was about 40 and spoke English with a German accent. Salmon was much older – he was born in 1879, and in Connecticut. The KGB also concluded from its surveillance of Lore's home that he was personally pocketing the money he claimed he was paying Willy.

How is any of this relevant to the Hiss case? The KGB operatives staking out Lore's house reported to Moscow that they had seen a document-typing operation in his home involving his wife and family. Lore was friendly with Whittaker Chambers, who was at the time a frequent visitor to Lore's house.

In 1948, after Chambers turned over copies of State Department documents to Hiss's lawyers claiming they were typed in Hiss's home and that he, Chambers, had then secretly stored these copies in a Brooklyn apartment belonging to his wife's nephew (keeping them, he said, instead of passing them on so that he would have a "life preserver" in case the Soviets wanted to harm his family after he left the Communist Party).

According to FBI documents released in the 1970s, however, Mrs. Lore told the FBI that in the 1930s the envelope had actually been stored for a year or so in a Brooklyn bank vault that Lore had rented for Chambers. Chambers later testified that when he had his wife's nephew retrieve the envelope for him in 1948 and he opened it, he was surprised to find the papers inside. He said he had just hoped to find some handwriting samples inside.

Was he lying? Could the typed documents inside the envelope have been produced by Lore and his family and not by Priscilla Hiss as Chambers claimed, and then placed in the envelope by either Lore or Chambers? If so, this would jibe with the findings of typing experts hired by the Hiss defense, who asserted after examining the papers that not only did Priscilla Hiss not type them, but that more than one typist had been involved in the operation. Could it have been Lore and his family, perhaps along with Esther Chambers who typed them?

As for the Salmon/"Willy" story, this author confronted Haynes and Klehr about it at the Wilson Center conference in Washington. Haynes responded that the Russian historian who had written about Lore's manipulations was biased and therefore could not be trusted. Why, then, had Haynes and Klehr not summarized the report and added their reasons for discounting it? Haynes said that if they included all the information that ran counter to their stated thesis, their book would have been too long. [Return to article]

7. This is a constant throughout the chapter. Other examples include, "Despite massive [author's italics] evidence to the contrary, some have insisted on Hiss's innocence and that Chambers was a fantasist who invented his own work." If there were "massive" evidence, the authors wouldn't have to keep restating the same case, an indication, too, that more than "some" people continue to forcibly insist that Hiss was innocent (see Bookshelf). As for Chambers being a fantasist, neither Vassiliev nor anyone else for that matter has ever turned up a single document in Soviet files that was directly sourced to Whittaker Chambers's alleged espionage ring.

The chapter is filled with similar statements that are coded to indicate the authors' polemical stance. The assertions that John Lowenthal, for instance, briefly "persuaded" Dmitri Volkogonov to issue a statement affirming Hiss's innocence (not true) and that Volkogonov then "quickly retracted" the statement (again untrue) are among their general mischaracterizations of what Volkogonov did say. In another place the authors write that "supporting witnesses testified to Chambers's activities as a courier," a non sequitur, since these witnesses didn't necessarily implicate Hiss, nor did their evidence or stories hold up under scrutiny.[Return to article]

8. Hiss's motion for a new trial presented considerable evidence that the 1937 date was more accurate. According to Chambers's original story, he quit the Communist Party and then obtained a translation job from the Oxford University Press (OUP). Documents found by the defense showed that he had to have been working on the translation in late 1937. In response, Chambers changed his story to say that he was still working for the Party when he got the OUP translation job, but documents revealed by a Freedom of Information Act release in the 1970s included an FBI interview with Chambers's friend Meyer Schapiro, who told the FBI that he was the one who helped Chambers get the translation job, and that he didn't do so until after Chambers had left the Party. [Return to article]

9. Haynes and Klehr also claim that the FBI uncovered additional information supporting one of the most contentious questions in the dispute between Hiss and Chambers that arose at the 1948 HUAC hearings: Chambers's claim "about the used Ford car Hiss secretly donated to the Communist Party and financial transactions between him and Hiss." This is untrue. Chambers claimed that Hiss donated the car to a poor party organizer through what he called a "Communist-owned service station or car lot." In truth, both the FBI and HUAC learned that the car was turned over to Washington D.C.'s largest Ford dealership, and that the signature of a former Party member named William Rosen on the title transfer certificate had been forged.

Regarding the "financial transactions," only one was alleged (this is an example of Haynes and Klehr's tendency to pluralize single allegations or arguments), and information that emerged in the 1970s, contained in FBI files obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, indicated that Chambers changed his story about money he allegedly received from Hiss – and that his final, revised claim that Hiss loaned him $400 was made only after the Bureau obtained Hiss's bank records, which indicated that this sum had been withdrawn from the account. (The Hisses said the money was used to furnish a new home.) [Return to article]

10. Living next door to the Hisses at this time was a couple named Geoffrey and Elizabeth May. Mr. May testified that the walls between their homes were so thin they could hear Hiss when he was in his bathroom. They never heard Priscilla typing, but said that after the Hisses moved, a sportswriter took over the place, and his incessant typing was an extreme annoyance. In an interview in 2001, Elizabeth May still recalled the thin walls and reaffirmed her husband's testimony. In a visit to the house in 2007, this author met the gentleman living in what had been the May's home, who said the noise was so bad from next door that he had had a special wall built to soundproof his home. [Return to article]

11. As an indication of Hiss's alleged treachery, the authors point out that Hiss's initials appear on other documents (actually two). They never ask why Hiss would have handed over an initialed document that would have directly tied him to an alleged espionage operation -- an especially strange suggestion, since Hiss could have had Chambers photograph the document and return it, and then initialled it himself before sending it on within the State Department. [Return to article]

12. Even that statement would be a stretch, since according to Chambers, Hiss was working for the Communist Party in 1935, while Massing was with the NKVD (the KGB's predecessor agency, but for the sake of convenience this article will refer to it as the KGB). Haynes and Klehr say Hiss was working with the GRU, and if they were correct, he certainly would not have worked for Hede's KGB boss. [Return to article]

13. Getting a well-paying publishing contract was a key to her motive for testifying, as the FBI documents show. Within weeks of her conversation with the Bureau, she was negotiating a book deal and became nearly hysterical when it almost fell through. The book was published within weeks after the end of the second trial, having first been thoroughly vetted by the FBI. Massing also told the Bureau that she fudged on her facts at times to improve her story-telling, and omitted the story of one key meeting with the FBI because she didn't want the book to reflect badly on the FBI, from which she was hoping to obtain more work as a paid informant. [Return to article]

14. Haynes and Klehr's allegations about Hiss and Field are a perfect example of how they simply invent facts to cover over discrepancies between the documents cited in Vassiliev's notes and the known record. To bring their story into accord with the Vassiliev notes, Haynes and Klehr write that Hiss tried to recruit Field into his "GRU-linked apparatus." Elsewhere in the chapter, the authors write that Chambers worked with J. Peters "on various assignments for both the GRU and the KGB." The problem with writing this – aside from the fact that it is restating speculation as fact – is that Whittaker Chambers only connected Hiss to military intelligence after, at least according to Chambers, Hiss was introduced to a Col. Boris Bykov in early 1937. If that was true, how then would Hiss be recruiting Field into the GRU in 1936? Also, according to Chambers, he himself wasn't associated with military intelligence until after Peters handed him over to Bykov, so if Chambers was telling the truth about that aspect of his story, how could he have been working for the GRU and Peters at the same time?

The authors' footnote in support of their statement that Hiss was "part of a Washington network of sources recruited via the CPUSA…" cites Nathaniel Weyl as one of their sources (Whittaker Chambers is the other). Their reliance on such a questionable source as Weyl (Chambers's credibility is dealt with elsewhere in this review and on the Hiss Web site) reveals a great deal about Haynes and Klehr's credibility. Weyl generated headlines in 1952, two years after Hiss's conviction, when he stepped forward to declare before a Congressional committee that he, too, had been a member of the Ware group and had attended group meetings with Hiss, and had even seen Hiss pay his Communist Party dues. In "Perjury," Allen Weinstein wrote that Weyl helps "confirm Chambers's story about the cell." But Weyl didn't "confirm" anything. This is yet another case of Hiss's detractors essentially conceding the implausibility of Chambers's story by clinging to anyone who claims to have information backing it up – even someone who made as little sense as Weyl.

Here's how reliable Weyl was as a witness. Weyl was an economist who joined the Agricultural Adjustment Administration's consumer division (Hiss worked in another section of the AAA) in 1933. Despite having been given every opportunity to do so, Weyl had said nothing about Hiss until his 1952 testimony. The first opportunity came in 1943, when he was called to testify before HUAC. He told the Congressmen nothing about being a member of an underground Communist group or about knowing Alger Hiss. In a book published in 1950 on the history of treasonable activities in the United States, Weyl discussed the accusations against Hiss but claimed no personal knowledge of them. Finally, in 1952, with Hiss convicted and in prison, Weyl appeared before the McCarran Committee to claim for the first time that he, too, had been a member of the Ware Group. He expanded on this testimony in an 18-page interview that took up much of the January 9, 1953 issue of US News & World Report. Weyl told the magazine that about three months after he joined the AAA, he was approached by Harold Ware and was asked to join the group. Already, Weyl said, Lee Pressman, John Abt, Alger Hiss, Charles Kramer, Henry Collins, Nat Witt and Victor Perlo were members. But this story was hardly credible. For example, although he claimed that he had attended some 35 or 40 meetings with Hiss, he couldn't remember anything about the nature of Hiss's interests or any specific ideas Hiss offered in their discussions.

Weyl claimed that Abt and Hiss were already members when he joined the group in 1933, but Abt wrote that he didn't even meet Ware until June 1934, around the same time that Weyl claimed to have been leaving the group.

In his book "Looking Glass Wars," G. Edward White uses Weyl's testimony to prop up his theory that Hiss, frustrated with the slow progress of the New Deal reforms, decided to join the Communist Party and Ware's group. Weinstein made much the same argument, suggesting that, based on Weyl's statements, "Hiss was a member of the Ware Group as early as the summer of 1933." But neither Weinstein and White nor Haynes and Klehr bother to consider the assumptions underlying Weyl's allegation. Hiss entered the New Deal in May 1933, which, if one accepts Weinstein's and White's theory, would mean that the ink had barely dried on Hiss's first memorandum before he became so fed up with the slow pace of New Deal legislation that he joined the Communist Party. [Return to article]

15. Another document referenced in Vassiliev's notes stems from April 1936, and says that Massing met Hiss "more than two months ago," which would put the meeting sometime in February, when Field was out of the country. [Return to article]

16. In hearings before HUAC in 1948, this equally false allegation would be turned on its head; the charge that then emerged was that Hiss tried to have Field hired as Sayre's assistant when he (Hiss) moved on to another State Department job. Although Allen Weinstein later tried to resurrect this particular chestnut when he wrote "Perjury" in 1978, the allegation was also without substance. State Department documents show that Hiss actually recommended someone else for the job. [Return to article]

17. In 2005, this author interviewed Soviet General Julius Kobyakov, formerly head of the American department of the KGB foreign intelligence. Kobyakov had himself examined both Massing's and Field's personal files, and said nothing in them indicated that Hiss had been an agent. [Return to article]

18. Even if Chambers had mentioned "the incident" at trial, he could just as easily have been relating a story he had heard from somewhere else. As the FBI said about its first interview with him in May 1942, his information was "either history, hypothesis or deduction." [Return to article]

19. Nor can we be certain from the transcripts about what Field actually told his interrogators. Erica Wallach, Noel Field's foster daughter, was arrested by Communist authorities in East Germany in 1949 and not released until 1955. She, too, was beaten and abused while in captivity. Shortly before her death in 1994, Wallach read about the transcripts surfacing and commented on them in a letter to her literary agent:

"As you know, I was able to see my own Stasi (East German State Security) file of 1950-51. Since I remember extremely well my nightly interrogations and sometimes day and night – from August 1950 to March 1951 (the last entry in that file but by no means my last interrogations which lasted 'til December 1952), I am amazed at what it contains or what it does not contain.

"Apart from several pages in my handwriting, there are only 7 interrogations for the entire period of over 6 months. The answers as well as the questions were written by the interrogator in his language and his interpretation. It has nothing to do with what I had said which should not really surprise me: whenever I tried to rectify their imaginations and lies, I was told that they would not write down lies. It is impossible to convey to anyone who has not been in that situation the impossibility of the prisoner to defend himself, and no historian will ever be able to learn the truth from those files." [Return to article]

20. Although in his 1945 interview with the FBI, Chambers apparently referred to him as "Nathan Perlow," (an identification he repeated in a subsequent interview with Raymond Murphy of the State Department), casting doubt on the true extent of their relationship. [Return to article]

21. In addition, when Vassiliev prepared his manuscript for Weinstein, he added a footnote, saying that Schimmel and Blumberg had nothing to do with Soviet intelligence. This would also contradict the heading that Haynes and Klehr have affixed to the list. [Return to article]

22. This included a well-publicized appearance on the radio. [Return to article]

23. Assuming Hiss was a spy, his important post in the State Department would have made him one of the most valuable sources for the Soviets. For the KGB station chief at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D. C. not to know where this key source was for more than a week, would be the equivalent of the Secret Service not knowing that Barak Obama was in Oval Office. [Return to article]

24. White denied it. His forceful testimony on August 13, 1948 no doubt caused his death three days later of a heart attack, at the age of 55. Vitaly Pavlov's book "Operation Snow," about the KGB's failed attempt to recruit White, can be found here. [Return to article]

25. This is the telegram, which is essentially a third-hand description of a conversation, that was originally released by the National Security Agency in 1996, as part of a publicity campaign celebrating its previously secret Venona program, which intercepted and translated hundreds of cables between Moscow and its agents in the United States in the 1940s. [Return to article]

26. The memo by Fitin is a good example of why taking the Soviet files at face value can be dangerous. According to the April 25, 1945 memo, Glasser deserved an award "in light of 'Ruble's' committed work for the USSR over the course of 8 years."

Let's take a brief look at that. According to Chambers's statement, he only met once or twice with Glasser in 1937. That was the extent of Glasser's involvement with the group. In fact, US Communist Party papers indicate that Glasser was a member of an informational group -- not an espionage group -- between 1937 and 1938, and only for those two years.

Then, as his travel schedule shows, Glasser was often out of the country, first from the beginning of 1940 to May 1942. He left Washington again on a special assignment to North Africa in February 1943 and remained there until September. In 1944, he was in Italy for three months. It appears, then, that for most of the eight years Fitin was referring to, Glasser was out of touch with either his former group or the Party. Despite what the record shows to have been Fitin's inflation of Glasser's connection, the authors insist that Fitin's medal request helps confirm Glasser's participation (as well as Hiss's) in espionage. [Return to article]

27. Hiss's wiretap records were released by the FBI in the 1970s. Although they cover the period from 1945 to 1947 when he presumably would have been in contact with Glasser, the latter's name does not appear anywhere in the transcripts. Additionally, according to Vassiliev's notes, Glasser submitted to the Soviets a list of his acquaintances. Both Alger and Donald Hiss were on the second part of the list, as former acquaintances with whom he didn't meet at the present time. [Return to article]

28. In his grand jury testimony of February 8 and 9, 1949, Glasser essentially repeated what he told the FBI, saying he met Hiss in 1937 or 1938 at a committee meeting. He refused to go into any more detail. He told the FBI he first met Hiss in 1938. Hiss was asked about Glasser in his grand jury testimony on March 16, 1948, and he told the panel that he had met Glasser through work and that they had no personal relationship. [Return to article]

29. This is not a new charge. In a 1999 Nation review of Haynes and Klehr’s book, "Venona," Walter and Miriam Schneir, experts on the Rosenberg case who over the years gradually came to the conclusion that Julius, but not Ethel, Rosenberg had worked with Russian intelligence write, "It is ironic and unseemly that a book that purports to cast new light on McCarthyism, should itself partake of some of the worst characteristics of that sorry period." [Return to Article]

30. Actually, that's not quite what Bentley said, although Haynes and Klehr repeat the allegation as if it were exactly what Bentley told the FBI. See the discussion about what she in fact did say elsewhere in this review. [Return to article]

31. According to Bentley, Victor Perlo told an associate of hers that "Gene" could "lay down the law" to the men who were arguing over this issue. Although Bentley didn't say so, the reference was most likely not to Hiss but to Gene Dennis, a high Communist Party official, who was stationed in Washington at the time. [Return to Article]

32. The Justice Department was trying to deport Bridges, an Austrialian national who was a radical West Coast union leader and a friend (but not a member) of the Communist Party. [Return to article]

33. In a 1993 letter to the Wall Street Journal, Hiss denied Klaus's allegations, referring to his "overheated suspicions," while adding, "My office, Special Political Affairs, was expressly responsible for our country's relations with the UN, including the topic of trusteeships and international control of atomic energy. Such information therefore came to me as a matter of course. In addition, my office, like many other State Department offices, received a wide array of other political information. Neither Klaus nor Mr. Tanenhaus was or is justified in finding anything improper about the materials in my office." [Return to article]

34. Klaus and then Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson, an ally of Hiss's in the State Department, were engaged in a dispute about what role the Department would play in overseeing the newly created Central Intelligence Agency. The disagreement quickly turned very nasty, with Klaus leveling McCarthyite charges against Acheson and his supporters. [Return to article]

35. A recent paper by the late Eduard Mark illuminates even more clearly Haynes and Klehr's lack of interest in checking out the evidence they cite against Hiss. According to Mark, an article posted on the Web is further proof that Hiss was lying, because, according to the article's author, Lieber's children had told him their father had had a long-term relationship with Hiss. At the May 2009 conference on "Spies" at the Woodrow Wilson Center, I asked Mark if he had checked out the claim before assuming that the article could be relied on as additional proof that Hiss had lied. "No, I didn't," he said. "Harvey did."

Klehr then nodded that he had done so, which I pointed out sounded strange to me since just two days before I had spoken to Lieber's children, allegedly the source of the story. They said the article was false, that there was no relationship with Hiss except that Lieber's daughter had met him once in 1993 at a fundraiser for a summer camp, and that afterward Hiss had merely sent them a copy of his recently published book, "Reflections of a Life." Klehr had no further comment. [Return to article]

36. "Karl" was only one of many pseudonyms that Chambers used? was given? during his association with the Communist Party, according to his own testimony. [Return to article]

37. The authors add one final reference to their arguments against Hiss. This concerns a 1950 document which, according to Vassiliev's notes, mentions the trial of "Leonard," a reference they say was to Alger Hiss. Leonard was only an operational code name for Hiss, coined in 1949 to give him a reference name when discussing reports about his case. It is not proof that he was in any way associated with the Soviets. Mostly like, this seems to be another example of information gathered from public sources; the trial of Alger Hiss for perjury had come to a close that January. Oddly, the same document is cited in "The Haunted Wood" (p. 297), but in Weinstein's citation of this document, there is no mention of "Leonard." [Return to article]

38. In the final sentence of their chapter on Hiss, the authors write that several of Hiss's fellow agents identified him as an agent. Among this group they cite Harold Glasser, who specifically denied any connection with Hiss or knowledge of his activities, and Charles Kramer, who was mentioned in only a secondhand way by Elizabeth Bentley. Despite what Haynes and Klehr say, there is no proof that Kramer ever identified Hiss as a member of any apparatus (he never said so to the FBI). The authors are simply relying on a note that Vassiliev put on a document. In the file Vassiliev saw, there is a comment, saying, "M knows A." While "M" may have been a reference to Kramer, who was apparently codenamed "Mole," the authors are relying on a Vassiliev notation in the margin, saying that "A" was Hiss, nothing more. "Ales certainly wasn't the only source in Washington whose codename began with the letter "A" [ Return to article]


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