Magazine article The Nation

Was Shcharansky a Spy?

Magazine article The Nation

Was Shcharansky a Spy?

Article excerpt

Was Schcharansky a Spy?

The suffocating piety with which the Schcharansky affair has been treated in the press was at least temporarily disturbed by an interesting Valentine's Day column by Lars-Erik Nelson, Washington bureau chief of the New York Daily News. Now that Anatoly Sccharansky has been released, Nelson wrote, we can "dry our eyes" and concede that "by some standards of evidence--certainly by Soviet standards--he was guilty" of spying for the United States, for which activity he got a fifteen-year sentence in 1978.

As one of the most energetic "refuseniks" of the mid-1970s, the English-speaking Shcharansky had particularly close contact with Robert Toth, at that time Moscow correspondent for the Los Angeles Times. Eager to demonstrate that the Russians were denying exit visas to Russian Jews in civilian jobs on the false ground that they possessed military secrets, Shcharansky furnished Toth with lists of names and workplaces of those who had been refused permission to emigrate. Toth subsequently reported in the Times: "Jews who worked on three 'oceanographic research vessels' . . . had been denied permission to emigrate on the grounds that they 'learned their secrets at their former workplaces.' This suggested that the research vessels were actually spy ships." As Nelson writes: "Unfortunately for Shcharansky--and for Toth--this speculation was absolutely correct. 'What Shcharansky did, in effect, was give Toth a list of secret defense plants,' a U. …

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