Magazine article Insight on the News

Embarrassment Aided and Abetted the Top Soviet Spy

Magazine article Insight on the News

Embarrassment Aided and Abetted the Top Soviet Spy

Article excerpt

Cold War historian Toledano cites newly revealed evidence that a U.S. president and other officials who covered up for Soviet agents feared exposure would result in calamity for the liberals and Democratic Party.

The death of Alger Hiss gave his liberal and media supporters one more chance to claim that the most notorious Communist spy of the last four decades was innocent of the charges against him. They ignored the Venora intercepts -- messages from Soviet spies in the United States to KGB headquarters in Moscow released last year by the National Security Agency. And they ignored the disclosures of former KGB spymasters Pavel Sudoplatov and Oleg Gordievsky that made further defense of Hiss impossible to do with a straight face.

But even these confirmations of Hiss' guilt as a Soviet agent ignore the far more important history of the years when it seemed to conservatives that most of the U.S. government and the postwar liberal establishment that ran it were determined to hide the facts of Soviet espionage and influence on U.S. policy and to silence those attempting to expose it. That this effort was headed by a president of the United States, now shown by official reports to have been aware of the espionage activities of Hiss, as well as those of Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Harry Dexter White and others high in government, makes the perceived historical blackout doubly troubling.

The media may bear their share of the responsibility for ignoring later disclosures that a "controlled agent" in the White House was one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's assistants on intelligence matters -- or that Harry Hopkins, perhaps FDR's closest aide, was in fact a Soviet agent of influence, as the opening of secret Soviet files confirms. For much of the media and for many high in the U.S. government, all of this had been dismissed at the time as witch-hunts and right-wing propaganda. When it turned out to be true it naturally was embarrassing.

Little wonder, say conservatives, that the media and liberal establishment continue to gloss over the acts and the motivation of those who, though aware of this infiltration and espionage, hid the facts about Soviet influence at high levels of the US. government from Congress and the American people. The evidence shows that the most important of these was Harry S Truman, forthright and principled in so many matters, who nonetheless deliberately deceived the country for political reasons. Had Truman leveled with the country in 1948 and afterward, his party might or might not have suffered defeat at the polls, but the takeover of China by the Communists almost certainly would have been averted -- just as the GOP contended in its 1952 presidential campaign.

Here are some of the more important suppressed or ignored facts that should be recalled, all summarized from the record.

On May 17, 1935, U.S. Ambassador William C. Bullitt was in Warsaw to attend the funeral of Marshal Jozsef Pilsudski. While there, he gave confidential assurances to the Polish government that the United States would support the Poles if they resisted Nazi aggression to the point of war. To be doubly sure of his ground he then formally reported to the State Department that he had made these assurances. As a rising star in the department, Hiss was privy to this highly classified information and passed it on to the NKVD (later the KGB). The Soviet secret police, which since Lenin's day had maintained liaison with German intelligence -- and after the rise of Hitler, with the Gestapo -- transmitted the information to the Nazis. It was used with great effectiveness by Joseph Goebbels to depict FDR and the United States as warmongers.

In 1938, as U.S. Ambassador to France, Bullitt was told by Premier Edourd Daladier that two brothers named Hiss, both in the US. government, were Soviet agents. This, too, was passed on by Bullitt to U.S. security.

On Aug. …

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