The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in AmericaThe Stalin Era.
by Rorin M. Platt
|WAS THE GOVERNMENT infested with Communists and Soviet agents during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt? Was the Communist menace a real threat or a Red Scare? Was State Department official Alger Hiss a Soviet spy or an innocent victim of anti-Communist hysteria designed to discredit New Deal liberalism?|
For decades, these contentious questions formed the fault line of American politics. Yet, for all the sound and the fury, the debate over these issues reflected opinion rather than fact, ideology rather than evidence, because the pertinent documents remained classified. With the end of the Cold War, scholars have been able to examine recently declassified documents from American and Communist archives, which reveal that a significant number of those accused of Communist affiliations and espionage were indeed members of an American Communist Party subsidized by Moscow and recruited into its network of agents and sources. More than a few of them penetrated the top echelons of the U.S. government, including high-level positions in the departments of State and Treasury, Office of Strategic Services, White House, Congress and Manhattan (atomic bomb) Project.
The most recent, albeit not definitive, scholarly contribution to the new Cold War historiography was based on an unprecedented arrangement between Russias Foreign Intelligence Service and Random House. The latter agreed to pay the association of retired KGB officers for American historian Allen Weinstein (author of the definitive Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case) and former KGB officer-turned-journalist Alexander Vassilievs exclusive access to thousands of previously classified documents from the operational files of the KGB and its precursors during the Stalinist era.
In The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America The Stalin Era, the authors provide a more complete and accurate account of Soviet intelligence
[operations] than the one found in the existing literature of both countries. Much of this inside history was corroborated by another recently declassified sourcethe VENONA files, thousands of intercepted telegrams American-based Soviet agents sent to Moscow during World War II.
This detailed, carefully documented and convincing story describesfor the first timeMoscows own account of how its primarily ideologically motivated American agents were able to procure a prodigious amount of invaluable scientific, economic, political, military and diplomatic information between 1933 and 1945. Soviet intelligence was especially interested in: American industries scientific and economic secrets that would benefit the industrialization of the USSR; policy documents concerning German and Japanese military threats against Russia; information on Trotskyites and (czarist) Whites living in the United States; data on American industrial, military and atomic weapon production; information on pro-Nazi groups in the United States; and documents concerning American foreign policy in Europe and the Far East.
A disproportionate number of Stalins agents were Jews of Eastern European descent who embraced Communism as the most effective weapon against Nazi Germany. For many idealistic American anti-fascists eager to gain élite status in the Communist underground, scientific socialism was an attractive alternative to Depression-era capitalism. Few of these true believers accepted payment for their services. Even after the Moscow purge trials and Nazi-Soviet Pact, only a handful defected, renounced Communism, or confessed their treachery.
The Haunted Wood is more than a significant piece of scholarship. It is also a dramatic, intrigue-laced narrative that describes the often eccentric personalities and motives of those who betrayed their country. Those agents who made this the golden age of Soviet espionage in America included Communist romantics who were troubled by Stalins bloody purges and 1939 pact with Hitler: They included:
Not all of Stalins spies were so selfless:
Weinstein and Vassiliev validate the guilt of the more infamous Cold War traitors such as Alger Hiss, who gave Soviet military intelligence State Department documents concerning German-American trade negotiations, Washingtons response to the Sino-Japanese War, and diplomatic cables, including Ambassador Bullitts despatches to Hull regarding German and Japanese threats to American and Soviet interests in Europe and the Far East. The authors also confirm that Klaus Fuchs, Theodore Hall, and Julius Rosenbergwith the knowledge of his wife, Ethelsupplied Moscow with information on the atomic bombs design and assembly which accelerated production of Stalins nuclear arsenal. While the evidence reveals that Manhattan Project chief J. Robert Oppenheimer was probably a secret member of the Communist Party, there is no conclusive evidence that Soviet efforts to recruit him were successful.