THE TERRIBLE SECRET Part VI
Review by Joseph T Major of
THE HAUNTED WOOD:
Soviet Espionage in America The Stalin Era
by Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev
(Random House; 1999; ISBN 0-679-45724-0; $30.00)
I could see that such a superb network was definitely going to be a problem.
Martyn Burke, The Commissar's Report, p. 91
When, through his usual alcoholic haze, Senator Joseph R. McCarthy (R-WI) spewed out "I have here in my hand a list of 205 members of the Communist Party in the State Department," perhaps the most embittered person to hear this must have been Sergei Savchenko, head of the MGB First Chief Directorate, then under the Committee of Information of the Council of Ministers. In a cable to foreign stations dated March 1, 1951, this organization admitted:
The Haunted Wood, p. 300
Allan Weinstein had had his own contact with this "superb network", ending when one of its leading agents turned away from him, whining, "You always believed I was guilty." As author of Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case (1978, 1997), Weinstein has already written an epochal work in the history of this long twilight struggle. Now, with Alexander Vassiliev, a former KGB agent and a journalist (living well out of it in Western Europe), Weinstein has set out to tell the greater context of that Case.
An eerie example of how far-flung the "superb network" was can be derived from the talent-spotting efforts of Soviet agents Noël Field (Agent ERNST) [pp. 5-8], and Michael Straight (Agent NIGEL) [pp. 79-80]. Each of them met a talented, rising young man who was on the way to a good career in the State Department, and was politically sympathetic. Their controllers even named this man in their messages home. Each of them was told "Hands off". For Alger Hiss (Agent LAWYER, later ALES) worked for the Neighbors, he was a GRU agent. (So much for "lack of evidence." Ha!)
Weinstein and Vassiliev have a fertile grounding for their story, as Now It Can Be Told the archives that were To Be Preserved Forever were opened to the researcher, if only for a short time, and the messages that unwittingly shrieked their secrets to the heavens, the VENONA decryptions, have been presented to the public. One wishes for the thrilling writing style of Herbert O. Yardley to limn this tale, to speak of flamboyant Hollywood producers and stodgy New York machine-shop owners, of quiet congressmen and loud-mouthed "Red Spy Queens". For it is a tale of intrigue and horror, of theft and betrayal. And it was for real.
The naïve and gullible poet, never having had to pay under the National Razor the price of a faction fight, burbled "Bliss it was then to be alive!" on the era of the French Revolution. His heirs, never having discovered that they were Trotskyist-Bukharinite-Zinovievite opportunist-deviationist terrorist wreckers in the pay of foreign intelligence services to be sentenced to the supreme measure of social self-defense death by shooting with confiscation of all personal property burbled so about the October Revolution. When the comparably millenarian New Deal began its programs in Washington, some of the bright young things who swarmed thence in order to make all old things new had rather extreme ways of going about the task.
It was this romantic view that motivated such people as Lawrence Duggan, an actual Communist in the State Department. Duggan was apparently talent-spotted early; Weinstein and Vassiliev describe a prolonged effort to bring him in, and through him, Noël Field. Duggan [Agent 19, FRANK, and PRINCE] began in 1936, providing information on American relations with European nations.
However, Duggan soon had a problem; he started believing Soviet propaganda! He feared that "such traitors as Yagoda [the former head of Soviet intelligence who was executed in the purges] and others could expose his cooperation" [p. 15] with the NKVD. But perhaps he was right in a way; as it happened, a defector did expose Duggan Whittaker Chambers. The FBI slowly followed up this and other tips, until Duggan resigned from the State Department, becoming head of the Institute of International Education, an organization that managed student and teacher exchanges, succeeding his father.
In 1948, simultaneously, Duggan was approached by the MGB, inquiring whether he would be interested in resuming his connections with them, and by the FBI, inquiring whether he would be interested in discussing those connections with them. Caught between two millstones, Duggan escaped the only way he knew how, dying after a fall from a sixteenth-floor window.
In general, initial Soviet intelligence aims had been more in the field of economic intelligence, or directed at internal Soviet problems, i.e. tracking Trotskyist and monarchist organizations (cf. The Soviet World of American Communism by Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, and Kyrill M. Anderson (1998)). Soviet agents had penetrated Douglas and Marietta aviation, Eastman Kodak, and other companies, and had the cooperation of "progressive" businessmen such as Julius and Armand Hammer (see Edward Jay Epstein's Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer (1996) for more on this).
(One of those comments regarding this field of espionage may have greater repercussions. "[A] New York Post reporter code-named 'Blin,' volunteered information about [William Randolph Hearst], allegedly provided by a Hearst journalist." [p. 31] One of the more sensational claims put forth by Oleg Kalugin was that the journalist I. F. Stone was a Soviet agent code-named BLIN. According to his biography, he free-lanced for the New York Post in the thirties.)
At the beginning of the period covered by this book, marked by the diplomatic recognition by the U.S. of the Soviet Union, a new emphasis began, that of recruiting agents in the U.S. government. For example, one of the many unidentified Soviet agents worked for the Nye Committee, the Congressional investigation of the American defense industries. This individual, Agent ZERO, was perforce well placed to obtain sensitive materials, and did.
Other agents were not so hot. Valentin Markin (codenamed DAVIS, later HERBERT), the NKVD station chief in New York, had two valuable sources in the State Department codenamed WILLIE and DANIEL. Their material was so valuable that DANIEL got $500 a month and WILLIE got $15,000 a year. (Taking inflation into account, you can see the origin of the substantial sums that John Walker and Aldrich Ames were paid.) However, it turned out that the agent handling WILLIE and DANIEL, Agent LEO, was a con man WILLIE did not exist! The information was real, but LEO was ascribing material collected by DANIEL to a notional agent in order to get the agent's stipend.
In 1934 Markin received a real subordinate, Itzhak Akhmerov. Akhmerov would be assigned to poach on the Neighbors he was the "Bill" referred to by Whittaker Chambers in Witness. And "Bill" and another man mentioned by the Witness would have a prime set of sources. Comintern agent Joszef Peter, the "J. Peters" of Witness, was managing an underground Communist cell in the Federal Govermnent, mostly of employees of the New Deal agencies, the notorious Ware Group. (A number of other members of this organization had admitted that they were Communists and indeed CPUSA members.)
Tracing this group's efforts entails (again) describing the career paths of its most effective member, Alger Hiss, and his friend and betrayer, Whittaker Chambers. Indeed, Chambers seems to have been a substantial player in the espionage effort; for example, when Valentin Markin died Chambers was the only person who knew all his sources. His other breaches of spycraft (e.g., renting an apartment from his chief source), while useful to the historian and the prosecutors, illustrate how primitive the state of American counterintelligence was at the time.
Chambers was more realistic than Lawrence Duggan; he knew that the purge trials were not of traitors. When in July 1937 the Aquarium [GRU headquarters in Moscow] asked him to come there and give a lecture, he figured his number was up. A year later, NKVD chief Nikolai I. Yezhov would launch a major purge of the GRU, becoming its chief (briefly) after shooting his predecessor, Yan K. Berzin. Chambers bugged out in time, in April 1938. Until 1948, he would pursue a course of vain warnings of the scope of the secret world of American Communism (after which they became less vain).
Somehow, Presidential Agents Lanny Budd (cf. Upton Sinclair) and Pug Henry (cf. Herman Wouk) never quite entrapped one Soviet agent who was in their vicinity. The authors present the case of Martha Dodd Stern (Agent LIZA) as being an improbable sort of spy novel, never having read Presidential Agent or any of the other works in Sinclair's series. Martha was the daughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, William Dodd. Seeing the iron dream at first hand, she became nightmarishly revulsed, and fell into the conveniently available arms of a Soviet diplomat, Boris Vinogradov. Love makes one do strange things, and Martha romantically volunteered to do whatever she could. Like, for example, becoming not only a Soviet agent but a member of the Communist Party. (Most likely this was how the letter from Ambassador Dodd ended up in the Soviet archives [The Secret World of American Communism, Document 33, pp. 113-7].)
The days and nights of Martha Dodd sound more like a romance novel than a spy novel, as she wrote passionate letters to her Soviet paramour, but seems to have been more interested in seducing important potential sources in Germany. (You don't think H. Beam Piper used this as the model for his spy-romance novel in Uller Uprising?) After her return to the U.S., Martha proceeded to fall in love with (and marry) another man, Alfred Stern, a financial contributor to the German Communist Party, and an open supporter of the CPUSA, therefore unsuitable for espionage. Anyone looking for evidence that the Soviet espionage system had its demented moments need look no farther than the cover business that the Sterns operated on the behalf of the chekists: a music publisher (more on their partner later). But in the end Martha and Alfred found themselves distrusted by their government and thrown on the ash-heap of history by their masters.
Not to mention Martha's brother William, who ran for Congress in 1938 on the Democratic ticket, with the help of $1000 in contributions from the chekists. He lost, and the purchase of a newspaper in Virginia with $5000 in Soviet money was equally futile. Eventually they got tired of throwing good money after bad and cut him loose.
The Secret World of American Communism discusses the liason with Josephine Truslow Adams, who claimed to have a back-channel liaison with Roosevelt. One wonders why they didn't check it with their other back-channel. Michael Straight might well be styled the Sixth Man, as he was recruited at Cambridge by Guy Burgess (appropriately, Agent MÄDCHEN) at the best of his then controller, Theodore Mally (Agent MAN). Burgess groomed Straight (Agent NIGEL) for his new role as a progressive willing to work for a New America.
Straight shed his radical past and went to work in the State Department. In a comic note, both he and Hiss evidently tried to recruit each other; Straight's controller used Hiss's name, not his code name (which he didn't know) in a message reporting this. But Straight was in a by-way of the State Department bureaucracy, and then he suffered a crisis of belief. Unlike (apparently) every other Communist, fellow-traveler, Innocents' Club member, progressive, and so on (except Fred Pohl), he was revulsed by the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, and quit both the Soviet spy networks and the State Department.
Breaches in tradecraft seem to have been a highlight of the Soviets' spy networks in the U.S. But not always consistently. Jacob Golos (Agent SOUND, later JOHN) did well at persuading his sources that they were working for the Comintern, not the chekists. For some reason that seemed to make a difference. Golos had been an Old Bolshevik, having been sent to Siberia for printing Bolshevik materials, and escaped to America. After a rising career in the Party both abroad and in the Motherland, he settled down running a Comintern-owned travel agency. This enabled him to get false passports for people, such as Donald Maclean's courier-mistress. And he himself picked up a woman.
Elizabeth Bentley was a descendant of Declaration of Independence signer Roger Sherman, a Vassar grad, a theater groupie, and a member of the Party since 1935. She was therefore just what the spy networks needed (Agent MISS WISE, later MYRNA) for credibility. She was also, in a different sense, what Golos needed, and she became his mistress as well as his assistant.
The poor man needed some emotional reassurance. Like apparently every other Old Bolshevik, he was well known to be a Trotskyist anti-Soviet conspirator. (For example, one Ilya Durmashkin confessed to having been an agent for the Okhrana, the Mensheviks, the Trotskyists, and the Nazis [p. 90]).) However, they couldn't quite get Golos to come home and face vyshaya mera like a man. At the same time, they were depending on him more and more, particularly as Earl Browder had been sent to prison and he was running Browder's agents as well as his own. All in all it was quite a strain and perhaps it wasn't all that surprising that he died of a heart attack in 1943.
Bentley had been more than even mistress; she had been Golos's assistant, and in 1944 she took up running his agents. Moreover, Browder assigned her new ones. Quickly she became very important.
Moscow Center had been having its suspicions, but they were appalled to hear the news from Kim Philby (Agent SÖNCHEN) that Bentley had defected. Page 106 has an NKGB memorandum directing the severing of relationships with a dozen agents, and Philby eventually reported that Bentley had blown (in the spy sense) forty-one of them. (Thus, as described in Wilderness of Mirrors pp. 29-35 (1980), the attempt to track them down failed.) This was the end of the "superb network", though others (e.g., the atom-bomb spies) survived.
From high drama the story segues to low comedy, and given the connection of Boris Morros (Agent FROST, later JOHN (after Jacob Golos's death)) with the movie industry, that is not inappropriate. Morros was the longest-serving Soviet spy, recruited in 1934 and not defecting until 1957. And here you thought he was only the producer of Laurel & Hardy's Flying Deuces [likely due to a retranslation from French, referred to as "Flying Duo" on Page 117]. Somehow, "Well, Stanley, here's another fine mess you've gotten us into" [nitpicker's note: it was really "nice mess" but "fine mess" is the most commonly quoted version; it's like "gilding the lily"] gets a certain morbid tang when considered to be being said in the basement of the Lubyanka.
Morros was one for getting into fine financial messes himself, having blown $130,000 of Alfred Stern's money in his record company. The NKGB hoped to be able to send out agents as employees of Morros's company, but not so much as to bail him out. However, in spite of his constant spin-doctoring and bragging, they kept him on. For such reports as the one about what Margaret Truman said to him after a dinner at which the Trumans tried to get her a part in one of Moros's productions. When Agent JOHN reported how, according to this most informed source, the President was being urged by Eisenhower and Bernard Baruch to take on a more concilatory tone with the Soviets, they obviously thought it worthwhile. What the FBI thought of this disinformation by their double agent isn't recorded, but one presumes they had a good laugh. (A preview for Operation SOLO.)
The FBI's COINTELPRO program began as a means of disrupting the Klan, and received the hosannas of every progressive organization for its contribution to civil liberties. Similarly, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) began as an investigation of Fascist and Nazi activities, with like approbation. Particularly by the Congressman who had been assistant chairman of the previous, ad hoc, committee doing such investigations in 1934-5, Samuel Dickstein (D-NY) also known to the NKVD as Agent CROOK.
Dickstein seems to have had as his motivation that the Communists were the only people doing anything to oppose fascism, so any sincere anti-fascist should join with them. The professional chekists did not find him that sincere, but put him on a retainer of $1250 a month. This was not enough, it seemed, and the career of Agent CROOK seems to have been one of unending demands for money to fulfill unachieved goals. Of course, since Dickstein had failed to be named to HUAC, he wasn't quite what they wanted anymore.
He even stayed with them after the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, and they were the ones who cut him off. Perhaps not unexpectedly, he then turned against the Soviets.
Reading about Dickstein and William Dodd makes comprehensible one of Hugh Hambleton's claims. Professor Hambleton claimed that he had been solicited to stand for the Canadian Parliament. Since the offer came from Yuri V. Andropov, Chairman of the KGB, one can presume that this was not your usual political solicitation. (See KGB Today: The Hidden Hand by John Barron, page 404.)
The Yezhovshchina disrupted spy activities too, even more than most. Many agents and operatives were returned home, unmasked as anti-Soviet conspirators (they had been providing all that valuable intelligence in order to cover up their conspiracies, see), and shot. One survivor was Itzak Akhmerov, Agent BILL, who returned to the U.S. in 1941 and set up a business, a furrier's shop. (All this makes Dimitri's little Yagoda Enterprises in The Commissar's Report all the more plausible.) Akhmerov was assigned after Jacob Golos's death (and over Elizabeth Bentley's objections) to manage the Silvermaster ring.
Nathan Gregory Silvermaster (Agent PAL, later ROBERT) committed a definitely risqué breach of tradecraft; one of his agents, William Ludwig Ullman (Agent POLO) was the live-in lover of Helen Silvermaser (Agent DORA), a dubious rationale on which to operate an espionage ring.
The agents of the Silvermaster Ring operated primarily in the Treasury department; the leading one was Harry Dexter White (Agent LAWYER, later RICHARD and REED), but presidential aide Lauchlin Currie (Agent PAGE) was a close second. Ullman was another Treasury Department economist, for example. With such well-placed operatives, it was not surprising that the Silvermaster Ring provided valuable intelligence and was well regarded in Moscow Center.
But all good things must end, and the death of FDR meant government reshuffles which moved most of his sources out of their jobs. Moreover, in spite of having such a close relationship with one of his sources, Silvermaster did not do well in the man-management field. Several of his agents disliked his bossiness. All the same, he managed to survive several investigations, albeit one did get him fired from his job at Treasury. As with other groups, it was not any error of theirs that led to the dissolution of the ring, but the defection of Elizabeth Bentley that caused the MGB to break contact with them.
A parallel activity was focused on a different sort of field of endeavor. The "XY Line" conducted technical and scientific espionage. Its principal officer was Semyon "Sam" Semyonov (Agent TWEN). In 1942 Jacob Golos handed over to the XY Line a technical source, a radio engineer who headed up a party cell of other technical sources, collecting both dues and data. This man was code-named ANTENNA and in the great code-name shift of 1944, caused by the discovery of FBI wiretaps, he was given the new code-name of LIBERAL. His name was Julius Rosenberg.
The XY Line began enormous efforts to penetrate this rumored nuclear weapons program, code-named ENORMOUS (ENORMOZ). For a while they believed they could recruit J. Robert Oppenheimer (code-name CHESTER), because he was a "secret member of the compatriot organization" [p. 184], the CPUSA. Whether he was or wasn't, their efforts apparently didn't work. But they had other sources for information on ENORMOZ.
German refugee Emil Klaus Julius Fuchs (Agent REST, later CHARLES (CHARL'Z) and BRAS) had been recruited by the GRU. When he went to the U.S. as part of the TUBE ALLOYS program, he was handed over to Semyonov; his courier was Harry Gold [Agent GOOSE, later RAYMOND], who would later identify him to others.
A second agent was a walk-in, albeit a member of a compatriot organization Theodore Alvin "Teddy" Hall (Agent MLAD), whose career has been chronicled in Bombshell by Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel (1997). But according to NKGB reports, Hall's attitude was far more extreme than Albright & Kunstel reported: "There is no country except for the Soviet Union that could be entrusted with such a thing" [p. 196], he said regarding the atom bomb to NKGB agent Sergei Kurnakov (Agent BECK). And he knew what he was doing: "There are few doubts that the U.S. is ahead of the rest" [loc. cit.] and he provided a detailed report showing how.
Then, in 1944, Agent ANTENNA reported that his brother-in-law could now provide information on ENORMOZ. Enter David Greenglass (Agent BUMBLEBEE, later CALIBER (KALIBR)), Ethel Rosenberg's brother, and his wife Ruth Greenglass (Agent WASP). With CHARL'Z, KALIBR, MLAD, and other agents in ENORMOZ, even if they couldn't get CHESTER, Sam Semyonov could count himself a successful spy. Even if MLAD had taken a course from CHARL'Z at Los Alamos U. (Bombshell, p. 164).
One of the ongoing controversies in this history has been the identity of one of those other agents, Agent PERSIAN, originally FOGEL. In an interview in the 1990's, Morris Cohen (Agent VOLUNTEER) volunteered that he had handled an agent code-named PERSEUS who had been a spy and scientific whiz. This provoked a storm of controversy. You would think it would be possible to identify PERSIAN, who was "a young U.S. engineer and Communist Party member whose father was a close friend of Earl Browder's" [p. 190]. Another unidentified agent was called ERIC, a British Communist scientist. Also in Britain was Agent TINA, a long-time agent who had access to metallurgical data for ENORMOZ/TUBE ALLOYS.
The XY Line was fortunate in that it had broken ties with Jacob Golos; the defection of Elizabeth Bentley left them unhampered. Nevertheless they shut down contacts in the aftermath of this revelation. Reestablishing them when espionage operations were resumed in 1948 was not easy. Hall was an open member of the Communist Party now, and Julius Rosenberg was meeting with sources in his apartment. They were looking for trouble. (See Bombshell, and The Rosenberg File by Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton (1997) for more on this. Curiously, the subsequent (consequent?) blacklisting of Radosh by progressive university organizations, which has deprived him of lectureships and grants, for some reason is never mentioned.)
While new agents infiltrated ENORMOZ, older ones re-emerged in Washington. Some other agents who reported to KARL (Whittaker Chambers) had perforce dropped out of touch in the late thirties. With the post-Yezhovshchina resumption of activity, and particularly after the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, these people were sought out by Jacob Golos and Earl Browder. After Golos's death, the ring was taken over by Itzak Akhmerov, and later by NKGB Washington station chief Anatoly Gorsky (Agent VADIM).
Although the best-known of its members was John Abt (whose decision to take a vacation the weekend before Thanksgiving 1963 would deprive him of a famous client), this ring is known as the Perlo Group, after economist Victor Perlo (Agent ECK, later RAID). Perlo, like most of his people, was in the War Production Board, but the most important member was Donald Wheeler (Agent IZRA), an analyst for the OSS. (See The Secret World of American Communism, Document 90, pp. 312-5 for a request from Fitin for information on some people named by Bentley including Wheeler, Charles Kramer (Agent MOLE), Edward Fitzgerald (Agent TED), Harold Glasser (Agent RUBLE), and Perlo.)
If you thought the Silvermasters had domestic problems, consider the Perlos; Victor's ex-wife Katherine had an even better trump card than child molestation in their divorce negotiations. She had written to the government about her husband's spying. And in general the Perlo Group was pretty sloppy about security, but then U.S. security was even sloppier. They were all acquaintances if not friends and would get together at each others' houses to type up their reports.
And speaking of friends, there was an old friend reporting to VADIM as well; Agent HOMER. Thinking he was CICERO (Elyeza Bazna), he passed along private correspondence from the British Ambassador to the U.S., Edward Wood, Viscount Halifax. Whether Gorsky was worried about HOMER meeting with ALES, Donald Maclean meeting with Alger Hiss (see The Cambridge Spies by Verne W. Newton (1991), pp. 127-143), is not mentioned here.
In December 27, 1943, the chief of the OSS met with his opposite number. General William "Wild Bill" Donovan had a relationship of mutual distrust with J. Edgar Hoover. Had the FBI Director known who one of the assistants of NKGB First Chief Directorate (external intelligence) chief Pavel Fitin, in on the meetings with Donovan no less, really was, he would have hit the roof. "Donovan . . . met a man who was described as the chief of the external intelligence service, General P. N. Fitin, and the official said to be responsible for special operations in enemy territory, General A. P. Ossipov. Both officers received Donovan 'cordially,' and he spent some time describing the structure, functions, and policy of the OSS." [Anthony Cave Brown, The Last Hero: Wild Bill Donovan, p. 422 (1982)] General Alexander P. Ossipov had had a bad experience with the FBI in 1941. Under his real name of Gaik B. Ovakimyan, he had been New York station chief, and had been arrested then.
The chekists soon had confirmation that General Donovan and "General Ossipov" had hit it off well. "Donovan . . . asserts that he made no effort to deceive the Russians he spoke with total frankness to them" [quoted p. 242], said Donovan's aide Duncan Lee (Agent KOKH); you can see that there was a certain problem. And Lee wasn't the only double agent in those oh-so-social ranks. In fact, he passed along a list of suspects that the OSS internal security division had prepared, and in some cases they were even right.
One of them was the above-mentioned Donald Wheeler. He obtained documents on European politics, internal OSS plans, reports on the occupation of Germany, and information on the Middle East. He also branched out to provide information on German missiles and other military technology. Small wonder that atom-bomb espionage chief Leonid Kvasnikov was to say, "The material is of interest." [p. 255]
Not that all was harmony with the other side during this time. The famous incident of the Soviet codebook that the Finns offered took place at the end of 1944 and beginning of 1945 [pp. 246-7]. While some VENONA messages had already been broken, this was a great step forward in understanding the system.
In 1945 a new and valuable agent of the Perlo Group, Harold Glasser, reported that the FBI had learned someone was borrowing State Department documents and photographing them, and that they had three suspects in mind, one being Alger Hiss. His source for this apparently was Hiss himself. Hiss began reporting to Glasser's controller, Soviet consul Anatoly Gromov, who was really NKGB officer Anatoly Gorsky. Sudoplatov said that Hiss wouldn't work through the Silvermaster group [Special Tasks, pp. 227-9]; apparently the Perlo group was more congenial.
Gorsky was to send the famous cable that said, "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 Vishinsky) allegedly got in touch with ALES and at the behest of the Military passed on to him their gratitude and so on." [Gorsky to Moscow, March 30, 1945, VENONA files No. 1822, quoted p. 269f]. Through this it was possible to identify ALES as Alger Hiss, whose activities after the Yalta Conference corresponded to this.
Glasser did more than open hailing frequencies. For much of 1945 he delivered vast amounts of documents to Gorsky, providing the Soviets with telling insights into American policy. They had high hopes of his even becoming MacArthur's top economic advisor.
But it was about this time that cracks began appearing in the structure of the "superb network." One of the subordinates of the new New York NKGB station chief Vassily Zarubin (Agent MAXIM) sent in an anonymous denunciation of his boss. Unusually, he sent it to the FBI. And then Elizabeth Bentley defected. . .
Progressive thinkers in the administration realized that a conflict between the Soviet Union and the U.S. would be catastrophic, and realizing that the demise of Roosevelt had created opportunities for reactionary forces to assume leadership positions, attempted to forestall this conflict. On October 24, 1945, former Vice-President, now Secretary of Commerce, Henry A. Wallace met with a Soviet Embassy official to communicate his concerns. Wallace wanted to encourage sharing of nuclear weapons knowledge by having a team of Soviet scientists tour American facilities. He wished also that the Soviet Union would do more to support pro-Soviet forces in America. NKGB station chief Gorsky, Wallace's breakfast partner, took all this down and sent it to Moscow.
Gorsky just then had other things on his mind, such as the defection of Igor Gouzenko, which in turn was to be overwhelmed by the defection of Elizabeth Bentley. Under these considerations, the NKGB ordered a general severing of contacts with its American agents. One of whom had become embarassingly important.
In March of 1946, Gorsky was relieved, on the grounds that he might have been compromised by Bentley. Before he left, he was informed of another blow; the Americans had broken the Soviet codes! In 1945, the Army Security Agency codebreaking center had added to its ranks one William Weisband, an expert in Russian. Since he was NKGB Agent ZHORA, he was more expert than they thought, and he had been reporting regularly on his new job.
It was therefore a high-priority project to resume contact with Weisband when the stand-down ended, and throughout 1948 Weisband passed more information on the VENONA project to the MGB. In 1949 he complained that they had changed codes so abruptly that it well might have been suspected that there was a spy in the codebreakers' ranks. (Shades of Aldrich Ames and the speedy rolling-up of the U.S. agents in the Soviet Union he exposed.)
While this collapse went on, an incident took place showing a lack of concordance between the Party and the State Security. Earl Browder had been both Chairman of the CPUSA and recruiter for the NKGB/NKVD (Agent HELMSMAN). He was expelled from the leadership of the Communists when Soviet policy shifted (see The Soviet World of American Communism pp. 91-106), but the NKGB thought his services worth keeping, and they succeeded in covertly financing him, by setting him up as a representative of Soviet publishers. Even then, that didn't work, as Browder was dropped after violating the Party Line again in favor of Titoism.
In the midst of this wreckage one spy group had stood alone untouched, the atom-bomb spies. They had dispersed with the winding-up of the Manhattan Engineering District to their several purposes; Hall to finish his degree, Greenglass to work in a machine shop, and Fuchs to the British nuclear-weapons research station at Harwell. The latter actively sought out his old friends again and soon was reporting to the MGB staff out of London. However, because of his known ties to the Soviets, he was dismissed. But then, the Security Service (MI-5) had been handed a document which gave the background on Agent CHARL'Z. (The best analysis of Fuchs's dialectical duplicity can be found in Dame Rebecca West's The New Meaning of Treason she seems to have been more perspacious about those people than her son Anthony's father H. G. Wells (Obligatory SF Reference).)
The threads of spying unraveled from there. Fuchs led to Harry Gold, and Harry Gold to David Greenglass and thence to Julius Rosenberg. By this time, "Emil R. Goldfus", William Fisher, had come to New York and was running the spies; see Special Tasks pp. 216-7 and Bombshell pp. 197-252. Reportedly he even would have dinner with the Rosenbergs. After some of the same surveillance that Sudoplatov scorned as ludicrously inept and unprofessional, the unraveling finally reached its end. Sudoplatov's argument seems to have been that further, more careful, surveillance would have unmasked Fisher, Hall, and some of the unnamed people in the VOLUNTEER ring. Like the Germans disbelieving the possibility of their impregnable code being broken, he ascribed the revelations to the presence of a mole in the MGB. (It should be noted that the VENONA decrypts tail off after Weisband's revelation of them in 1948 [pp. 291-2].)
The MGB (referred to erroneously as the NKGB [p. 334]) had conceded their impotence. The authors cite a plan put forward by the New York station to stress how "the mother of two children is sentenced to execution in the electric chair . . . by the slanderous denunciation of her scoundrel-brother" [p. 333] (aside from the description of David Greenglass, that was pretty much how J. Edgar Hoover saw it) and note a proposed poison-pen whispering campaign.
This shows the impotence of the Soviet spy network in the U.S. When McCarthy kicked off David Caute's "Great Fear", the actual spies had all but vanished. As Martyn Burke put it so succinctly:
Martyn Burke, The Commissar's Report, p. 148
Information on LIBERAL's [Julius Rosenberg's] wife. Surname that of her husband, first name Ethel, 29 years old. Married five years. Finished secondary school. A FELLOWCOUNTRYMAN [member of the Communist Party] since 1938. Sufficiently well developed politically. Knows about her husband's work and the role of METR [Joel Barr] and NIL [unidentified]. In view of delicate health does not work. Is characterized positively and as a devoted person.
Kvasnikov to Fitin, November 27, 1944, No. 1657, VENONA files
[Quoted in part in The FBI-KGB War by Robert J. Lamphere, p. 98,
and in full with code names replaced in The Haunted Wood, p. 333f]
Why, then, stir up these old memories? The whole truth has not yet been uncovered; many of the known code-names have not been identified with anyone. Four unidentified people worked with Hall under Fisher, to take one example. The degree to which these people influenced not only Soviet capabilities but American policy cannot but be guessed; but going by the known ones, may be a dire one.
"In the end, the enduring legacy of those Americans who sacrificed country for cause in 'the haunted wood' remains one of inglorious constancy to a cruel and discredited faith." [p. 344]
In such wise and by such a sudden vengeance did the Lord Gro most miserably end his life-days. Who, being a philosopher and a man of peace, careless of particular things of earth, had followed and observed all his days steadfastly one heavenly star; yet now in the bloody battle before Carcë died in the common opinion of men a manifold perjured traitor, that had at length gotten the guerdon of his guile.
E. R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros