Skip to comments.We Told You So - Secret Venona Intercepts
Posted on 07/06/2002 9:31:56 AM PDT by First_Salute
For education and discussion purposes only.
We Told You So
By Stephen Goode
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, hard proof confirms that the Communist Party U.S.A. was active in espionage and clandestine activities. Liberals steadfastly claimed it wasn't true.
What amazes me is that it is far worse than I thought," Hoover In-stitution research fellow Arnold Beichman tells Insight, emphasizing every word. Beichman, author of books such as Anti-American Myths: Their Causes and Consequences, is talking about the amount of espionage and clandestine activity carried out by American members of the Communist Party in the United States from the time it was founded in 1919 and during the next seven decades. "It's worse than we ever expected -- the extent of it. No one knew."
. . . . Now we do, at least to some extent. In 1995 Emory University professor Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes of the Library of Congress and Russian archivist Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov published The Secret World of American Communism, a collection of 92 documents that Klehr, a political scientist, accidentally stumbled across on a visit to Russia.
. . . . Those 92 documents show beyond a doubt that the perception many Americans had in the 1950s that "American communism was a Soviet weapon in the Cold War" was well-founded and not a fantasy spawned by right-wing paranoia, as many on the left charged. Some of the documents show Communists clandestinely active in the federal government during the 1940s and 1950s, just as Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy said time and again. And other documents prove that Moscow regularly funded Communist Party activity in the United States.
. . . . Additional information about American communism has followed. Early in spring 1998, Klehr and Haynes will publish a second volume of documents and commentary titled The Soviet World of American Communism, Klehr tells Insight, and other volumes will follow covering topics such as the Communist Party's role in mainstream politics in America, the party's relationship to its many intellectual supporters and the activities of American Communists in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War.
. . . . New data are beginning to be gleaned, too, from the more than 2,000 so-called Venona intercepts (see sidebar), long held secret by the National Security Agency but recently declassified and made available to the public.
. . . . And investigators have been at work on other aspects of American Communist activity. Reporter Michael Chapman, writing this summer in the weekly conservative tabloid Human Events, outlined the Communist Party connections of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the "father of the atomic bomb." Chapman plans to turn the story into a book about the man who directed the Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II and later was chief adviser to the Atomic Energy Commission.
. . . . Among other discoveries, in June Chapman came across a photograph of Oppenheimer in an exhibit at the KGB museum in Moscow. The subject of the exhibit? Soviet memorabilia on "leading atomic espionage agents and espionage documents." Oppenheimer's image was displayed by KGB historians along with a photograph of another nuclear physicist, convicted Communist spy Klaus Fuchs, and a shot of a Manhattan Project laboratory site.
. . . . Thanks to the work of Klehr, Haynes, Chapman and others, it is clear that American Communists maintained a secret underground organization, a fact long denied by many historians of communism in America. It also is clear that American Communists actively assisted Soviet intelligence efforts in the United States and elsewhere, another fact long denied by many historians. And it is more clear than ever that Josef Stalin had his obedient American admirers.
. . . . Even with so much information now readily available, investigators such as Klehr tell Insight that what has come to light in recent years is "only the tip of the iceberg," and much, much more is to come.
. . . . The revelations are all the more surprising because of Communist secrecy and the desire of many party members to remain unknown. Whittaker Chambers, the former Communist Party member, wrote in his book Witness of the need to learn the truth about Communist activity: "Those who insist plaintively on evidence against a force whose first concern is that there shall be no evidence against it, must draw what inferences they please."
. . . . In Witness, Chambers warned against another aspect of American communism -- the protection it received from the "best" of society: academics, intellectuals, journalists and sundry others. "The forces of enlightenment" continually are at work "pooh-poohing the communist danger and calling every allusion to it a witch-hunt," wrote Chambers, who was himself the brunt of much left-wing mudslinging.
. . . . The standard myth about the American Communist Party, perpetrated by revisionist historians and much of the media, is that its members overwhelmingly were idealistic men and women who sought justice and an end to human suffering. The truth is otherwise. The Communist Party, USA, or CPUSA, had a sizable cadre of members whose chief loyalty was to the Soviet Union and its leadership and who acted according to those loyalties. As the Hoover Institution's Beichman notes: "We ultra-right, fascist and everything-else-they-called-us scoundrels were more right than anybody else."
. . . . So what do we now know?
. . . . * Emory University's Klehr, a longtime student of the CPUSA, says what amazed him most about the recent influx of data "was the extent to which the leadership was involved in espionage and covert activities." It's "breathtaking, the risks they took," says Klehr, speaking about men such as Earl Browder, Eugene Dennis and Gus Hall -- general secretaries of the American Communist Party who each (with the exception of Browder later in life) were completely subservient to Moscow.
. . . . Humorless as the Reds tended to be, some of these revelations are hilarious. Documents reveal that when Browder, who headed the CPUSA from 1929 to 1945, traveled to China once in the 1930s to meet Chinese Communists, he was greeted with signs welcoming "the Earl of Browder."
. . . . * The new documents show that American journalists such as John J. Spivak, Pulitzer Prize-winner Edmund Stevens and Agnes Smedley were active in communist affairs -- a fact suspected but never so fully verified as now. The case of Smedley is especially interesting because as recently as 1988 a biography, Agnes Smedley, Life and Times of an American Radical, described her as a "freelance revolutionary" unconnected with the Communist Party, to which she most certainly was connected.
. . . . * The new documents "lend support," in Klehr's words, to the already substantial evidence that shows the presence of Communists in a number of New Deal Washington government agencies. Revisionist historians have described this Communist presence as nothing more than "Marxist study groups." The new evidence, however, doesn't permit such a benign interpretation. Of particular interest are the Ware cell in the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and several advisers to Wisconsin Sen. Robert LaFollette's Civil Liberties subcommittee of the Senate Education and Labor Committee.
. . . . * Revisionist historians and the left long have denounced such figures as Benjamin Gitlow and Louis Budenz as dishonest and unreliable when it came to testimony both men gave after they left the party about their activities as CPUSA members. But far from unreliable and dishonest, the new documents show that both Gitlow and Budenz told the truth about CPUSA activity in the United States.
. . . . This is true, too, of the testimony of Elizabeth Bentley, who turned herself in to the FBI in 1945 and in 1948 confessed before a Senate committee to Communist Party membership and being a Soviet spy. Bentley cited 40 people by name -- Communists all and federal employees, Bentley said -- with whom she had worked in Washington as a party activist.
. . . . The media quickly portrayed her as flaky and unreliable. Newsweek dismissed her as a "New England spinster ... wearing slinky black silk." (The parallels with Clinton accuser Paula Corbin Jones are striking. The press used Bentley's dowdiness to render her flaky in the public eye. Jones' "big hair" has been joked about, as has her alleged residence in a trailer park, which evidently makes her flakiness an indisputable fact.)
. . . . Nonetheless, the new evidence --and particularly the very recent release of the Venona intercepts -- makes it clear that Bentley, too, was telling the truth, says Klehr.
. . . . * And what of Oppenheimer, the "father of the atomic bomb"? As Chapman notes in Human Events, when the Atomic Energy Commission, or AEC, revoked Oppenheimer's security clearance in 1954, Oppenheimer's supporters cried foul and accused the AEC of "McCarthyism."
. . . . The AEC charged that there was "substantial evidence of Dr. Oppenheimer's association with communists, communist functionaries and communists who did engage in espionage." His defenders denied the charges.
. . . . But Chapman says that former KGB official Yuri Kolesnikov told him in Moscow this summer that "Oppenheimer and other top scientists cooperated with us." They weren't Soviet agents, Kolesnikov said. But they "gave us information about the atom bomb," first because they were fearful that Hitler might defeat the Soviet Union in World War II and later because Oppenheimer and the other scientists wanted to create a balance of power between the United States, which had the bomb, and the USSR, which didn't.
. . . . Interestingly, as recently as Sept. 14, Theodore Hall, now 71 but in 1944 a 19-year-old physicist at Los Alamos, explained to the Associated Press that his motives in contacting a Soviet agent near the end of World War II was that he "was worried about the dangers of an American monopoly of atomic weapons." Hall's activities are discussed in Bombshell, a book on atomic-spy conspirators to be published in October.
. . . . Chapman argues that evidence shows Oppenheimer's close association with Communists from the mid-1930s on, from Oppenheimer's wife Kitty and younger brother Frank to figures such as Steve Nelson, a Yugoslav-born and naturalized American who was a central figure in clandestine Communist Party activity in the U.S.
. . . . It is of interest that Emory University's Klehr believes his discovery of the American Communist Party documents in Russia was fortuitous and might not have happened. "I don't think the officials knew what was in the archive where I found the documents," he says, noting that official Russia now knows about the archive and, as a result, "a number of the documents have been reclassified and are no longer available."
. . . . Asked to what extent the Communist underground network influenced American policy, Klehr responds with one of history's great "what if's." In this case, it's what if Henry Wallace had become president of the United States, which he would have had FDR died a year earlier. Wallace served as vice president during FDR's third term and later ran for president on the Progressive ticket in 1948 with Communist Party support.
. . . . Klehr notes that Wallace once mentioned that if he'd been president he would have made Laurence Duggan, a State Department specialist on Latin America, his secretary of state and, for his treasury secretary, Wallace said he would have chosen Harry Dexter White, a highly placed treasury official influential in deciding post-World War II American economic policy.
. . . . Both Duggan and White were communists whose politics long were suspected or known but about whose party activities more is being learned, says Klehr. Duggan and White's elevation to a Wallace Cabinet never happened, of course. But that their names were bandied by a former U.S. vice president as possibilities for top posts underlines their closeness to power and the role secret Communists had come to play in Washington affairs.
. . . . Will the recent revelations about the CPUSA change minds? Probably not everyone's, the experts say. Some still believe in Alger Hiss' innocence, for example, even though the evidence is overwhelming that Hiss was guilty. There even are staunch defenders of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who say the couple wrongly was executed for atomic espionage.
. . . . And American academics seem particularly prone to harbor notions of the basic rightness of communism. Just last year, Miami University of Ohio historian Robert W. Thurston published Life and Terror in Stalin's Russia, 1934-41, which purported to prove that Stalin's terror wasn't so very terrible after all -- that far fewer people than originally believed had been arrested and far fewer put to death.
. . . . The argument was, of course, vulnerable to ridicule and was devastatingly attacked by a fellow historian, Adam Hochschild, in an op-ed piece in the New York Times. Among the book's many defects to which Hochschild pointed, none was more telling than a map in Thurston's book of the infamous Kolyma district of Siberia where historians have located more than 120 Soviet "labor" camps. Thurston locates only one such camp on his map of Kolyma. Thus continues the effort to make communism palatable, despite substantial evidence to the contrary.
. . . . There's another side to the recent revelations about Communist activity in America, beyond its impressive size and variety. Beichman captures this side when he notes that other than the numbers and extent, what strikes him is "the mediocrity of people involved. What small-minded types they were." Even Arthur Koestler didn't tell it all in his classic anti-Communist novel Darkness At Noon, Beichman says. "All those lives totally wasted."
SECRET VENONA INTERCEPTS
By Tiffany Danitz
. . . . Unsealed in l995, the Venona intercepts are a testament to the lives and times of U.S. Army cryptanalysts who relentlessly pursued ways to break the Soviets' secret codes during World War II and the Cold War.
. . . . Like any type of investigative work, deciphering the messages darting between Moscow and the Soviet missions in Washington and New York was grueling, repetitive work with rare "hits," according to Cecil Phillips, 72, who was responsible for a break that led to unraveling numerous KGB messages.
. . . . The top-secret decoding work that eventually indicted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the husband-and-wife spies who were convicted of passing atomic secrets to the Soviets, occurred in the "Russian room" at Arlington Hall, a wartime Washington spy tank.
. . . . The atmosphere during the early 1940s was charged with secrecy. "Even others at Arlington Hall did not know that we were working on the Russian problem," explains Phillips. "We locked up the dictionaries at night and no one ever spoke of what we were doing."
. . . . There has been criticism of the Venona project because the United States was tracking Russian messages at a time when the countries were allies. But Phillips says he and his colleagues believed that their work had extreme significance.
. . . . Phillips, then a 19-year-old cryptanalyst, had just arrived in Washington after a long train ride from Asheville, N.C., when he began working at Arlington Hall in 1943. The young man had been recruited by the Army as a result of a brilliant performance on an IQ test. The recruitment officer asked, "How would you like to go to Washington to be a cryptologer?" Phillips jumped at the offer. It was May Day 1944 when he made the discovery that enabled the United States to decode KGB communications.
. . . . KGB agents worked with onetime-use code pads. Each message they received had an indicator at the start which told the agent where to go in the code pad to begin decoding the message. Then Phillips noted an unusual pattern of the number six -- which proved to be the first case in which a code-pad key had been reused. This opened a door for linguist Meredith Gardner to reconstruct the KGB code.
. . . . It was an important breakthrough. A Dec. 20 message contained the list of leading scientists working on the Manhattan Project. The FBI was contacted and it sent Agent Robert Lamphere in autumn 1948 to work with Gardner. From that point on the Soviet espionage rings began to reveal themselves.
. . . . Although the analysts had no idea they were working with espionage at the time, Phillips says that eventually he figured they were snooping on a spy network. "I realized the Rosenbergs were arrested and that part of the information came from us. There was a feeling among some in government that [Sen. Joseph] Mc-Carthy was right, but for the wrong reasons. There was a lot of suspicion that McCarthy and others were trying to get people they didn't like by accusing them of being Communists," he says.
. . . . But Venona revealed hundreds of deliberate espionage operatives. "The government was riddled with Communist spies," Phillips says, adding, "They were everywhere: in defense, Treasury and every part of the government. They had access to everything, to top American technology ... there wasn't anything they didn't know."
. . . . In fact, the Russians even were in Arlington Hall. Venona's chief Russian linguist, William Weisband, was a Soviet agent, according to Phillips. "I don't think there was any question that he was a KGB spy. I knew him very well. He had carte blanche to move around and full access to everything we were doing. He managed to cultivate the senior officers and was in an extremely good position to collect information," says Phillips.
. . . . Arlington Hall, where proof was obtained confirming Soviet infiltration of the American government, no longer exists. Today, the old headquarters building houses classes for American diplomats, and a portion of the land was given to the National Guard to coordinate state and federal administration.
Copyright © 1997 News World Communications, Inc.
The webpage failed to also list his book, Caviar and Commissars, which is the item that I believe may interest you, based upon your remarks about your father.
Your observation is astute. IMO, the Rosetta Stone to the 20th century is the carnage that was WW1, when European civilization came very close to committing suicide. By the time the slaughter was over, there Europe's bestest and brightest was imperished, and our economy would seen bankruptcies of keiretsu type lead banks in the event of devaluation of repudiation of debts resulting from that war. In my opinion, there was absolutely no excuse for the war not being ended as soon as it became evident that it would only be a bloodbath.
So the band played on; as that noted conspiracy peddler Alan Greenspan has averred, a significant part of the Great Depression was due to the Fed's tightening the money supply when a loosening was needed, at the behest of special interests. The Fed wouldn't even dream of doing this today, because the ensuing riots would completely destabilize the country. Back in those days, the majority was rural, and Model Ts luxuries. Country bumpkins can't riot; what are they going to do, burn their own home down?
Anyone who went throught the War, not to mention the Great Depression cannot but have come out of it with a cynical view of the world, deeply mistrustful of the established order and ideologies, and with good reason. Seeking answers that promised that these would not happen recur is understandable, even laudable, even if the answers proved themselves foolish. Selling out to foreign countries, however, treason.
Conservatives would never have had these problems with "Lefties", had we policed our own, and not allowed parasites to pollute our shiboleths.
Some of the Commies like Philby were deviants who chanelled their hostility against society into treason; others however, were born to privilige, but could not go along with the "dignum et decorum est pro patria mori" crowd.
One of the more interesting "What if's" of that time's history would have been how much treason we'd have seen if the Left had been able to organize openly, and not been driven underground by the "Red-hunting" Justice Department, which stifled debate with arrests and repression - the emphasis was on silencing and intimidating opponents to the that illustrious Klan member Woodrow Wilson's way of seeing things, in a way that, once again, would not be thinkable in today's America.
"... the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover decided to take his case to the Republican Congress. His testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee in March 1947 was the opening salvo in an offensive against domestic communism."
If Herman doesn't know or use the "correct" name, it's unlikely many others will. I'm not sure what the bone of your objection is, but it sounds to me like you're tilting at windmills.
Hiss was assigned at Yalta to make the deal with the Soviets for aid in the Pacific War...which gave the USSR claim to a great deal of territory.
My grandfather, who died before I was born, was a former Secret Service agent who had been on the White House detail during the time of Taft, Teddy Roosevelt, and Wilson. He used to say that this country would curse the day that FDR was elected President. I think examples like these show that the idea that FDR was universally loved is a myth. I couldn't believe a recent news item I heard that said he was recently voted the greatest president ever by a group of historians.
They sure as heck are.I got this book last christmas,and while it is a serious read,(I had to start making a list of the names,so I didn't have to go back again and again and re-check myself and what I read a month ago,you see)it is stunning to know how far into the USA the Russian Communists had penetrated our Gov't and our wide open society. What disturbs me, is that after all these years,I'm sure the Chinese have infiltrated us in similar ways.When I'm through with this book ,I'd like to post a list of facts I've been marking in yellow from this remarkable book.It's too bad people don't read like they used to when I was growing up in the early 70's.That fact alone assures me that my Chinese comment is probably true.I have Liberal acquaintances who still think McCarthy was a bad man and wrong.I've brought this book to lunches before and they still 'Hem and Haw'.(The Rosenbergs were innocent in their eyes.)Some people can never be helped you know .