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Accused spy Alger Hiss released from prison

Accused spy Alger Hiss released from prison


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After 44 months in prison, former government official Alger Hiss is released and proclaims once again that he is innocent of the charges that led to his incarceration.

One of the most famous figures of the Cold War period, Hiss was convicted in 1950 of perjury for lying to a federal grand jury. Specifically, Hiss was judged to have lied about his complicity in passing secret government documents to Whittaker Chambers, who thereupon passed the papers along to agents of the Soviet Union.

Upon his release, Hiss immediately declared that he wished to “reassert my complete innocence of the charges that were brought against me by Whittaker Chambers.” He claimed that his conviction was the result of the “fear and hysteria of the times,” and stated that he was going to “resume my efforts to dispel the deception that has been foisted on the American people.” He was confident that such efforts would “vindicate my name.”

Some observers remained skeptical of Hiss’s protestations. Senator Karl Mundt felt that further investigation of the matter would probably be a waste of time, unless Hiss decided “to come clean and tell the whole story.” Chambers issued a brief statement in which he declared that the “saddest single factor about the Hiss case is that nobody can change the facts as they are known…They are there forever. That is the inherent tragedy of this case.”

The controversy over the facts in the Hiss case is also here forever. It remains a highly charged issue. His defenders argue that Hiss was a victim of the Red Scare that swept through the U.S. during the 1940s and 1950s. Others are equally adamant in maintaining his guilt, claiming that documents released from Soviet archives strongly support the case that Hiss was a spy for the Soviet Union.

READ MORE: 6 Cold War Spies


Alger Hiss

Alger Hiss (1904-1996) was a United States government employee who was convicted and jailed after being accused of spying for the Soviet Union.

Early life

Hiss was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His father was a sales executive who committed suicide when Hiss was just two years old. Hiss was educated at Baltimore High School and Johns Hopkins, before graduating from Harvard with a law degree in 1929.

Hiss worked for the US Justice Department before joining the State Department in 1936. In the mid-1940s, he worked for the Roosevelt and Truman administrations, mainly on international matters. He attended the Yalta conference in early 1945 as a member of the US delegation. In 1945-46 he was instrumental in organising the first sessions of the United Nations.

Named as a spy

In August 1948 a former communist named Whittaker Chambers named Hiss as a member of the Communist Party and accused him of passing secrets to Soviet agents. Hiss then became a target for communist hunters, particularly FBI director J Edgar Hoover and rising congressman Richard Nixon.

In the autumn of 1948, Hiss appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and under oath denied ever having been a communist. In 1949, Hiss went on trial for committing perjury before HUAC. This trial, in which the prosecution relied on typed documents, produced a hung jury. He was re-tried in January 1950 and was found guilty, based largely on testimony given by an Austrian-born actress who claimed to have met Hiss in the mid-1930s.

Hiss was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison, though many prominent figures – including Secretary of State Dean Acheson – believed he was innocent.

Hiss’ conviction came just two weeks before Joseph McCarthy’s famous speech in Wheeling and contributed to growing fears that communists had infiltrated the US government. The Hiss case also shone the public spotlight on Richard Nixon, allowing him to become a candidate for the vice presidency in 1952.

Hiss was released from prison in November 1954. Disbarred from the legal profession, he worked as a salesman while making occasional public appearances. He was readmitted to the bar in 1975 and continued to maintain his innocence until his death in November 1996.


From the archive, 29 November 1954: Suspected Communist spy Alger Hiss is freed from prison

Alger Hiss, the most celebrated symbol of treason in American history since Benedict Arnold, came out of prison yesterday.
Greyer and a little weightier at 50 years of age, he stood for a moment at the gates of the Federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and waved back at the barred windows. It was nine in the morning and the mist was still puffing along the Pennsylvania valleys. But the sun was out and so was a bristling mob of seventy-odd newsmen and press and newsreel photographers. They converged on the car of his two lawyers as he walked briskly towards it on the arm of his wife, with his thirteen-year-old son bobbing along behind. Hiss had expected this reception and welcomed it. He had no notes. He put on a confident smile and began, where he left off at his sentencing in January, 1950, to declare again his innocence. He said:

"This is not a press conference, though it looks very much like one. I am very glad to use this chance, the first I have had in nearly four years, to reassert my complete innocence of the charges that were brought against me by Whittaker Chambers and to answer the inventions that have been circulated about me. I have only one other thing I would like to say at this time. That is that I plan to renew my efforts to dispel the deception that has been foisted upon the American people. I shall renew those efforts with more enthusiasm because I am confident that the success not only will vindicate my name and relieve my family of harassment, but will assist in the allaying of the hysteria and fear of these days."

He nodded and smiled and greeted a newspaper veteran of his trials. Then the family and the lawyers got in the car and drove east to New York, where they arrived in the late afternoon. Another bivouac of newsmen and photographers was waiting outside the modest house on East Eighth Street where the Hisses have a small apartment. He had nothing to add to his morning statement, which was already in print under flaring headlines in the afternoon papers. He paused only long enough to grin again, with his head up and say: "This is my Thanksgiving."
Then the door closed on him and he was back again in the place from which, on a stewing August morning of 1948, he went to Washington to deny his accuser and any knowledge of his story, before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

At his first trial for perjury in 1949 the jury would not agree that eleven years before he had been guilty of turning over secret State Department documents to his accuser, Whittaker Chambers, then an active worker in the Communist underground. In the second trial he was found guilty, not of the act (which the Statute of Limitations put beyond the reach of prosecution), but of denying it to a grand jury in December, 1948. Good behaviour has saved Hiss sixteen months of his five-year sentence but until the full sentence is technically served he must report periodically to a probation officer in New York. He cannot leave New York without permission. He has been debarred as a lawyer from both the Federal and state courts. He may never vote, work for the Government, serve on a jury or receive a passport for travel abroad. To all intents he is otherwise a free man.

The conviction of Hiss galvanised the country into a bitter realisation of the native, and even well-bred, American types who might be dedicated to betrayal from within. It toughened the security watch in every Government department. It gave an obscure senator from Wisconsin the brilliant impulse to use vigilance as a political weapon merely. It sharpened the dozing suspicions of the Department of Justice, so that in the next four years, more than a hundred of the Communist party leaders in the United States had come to trial or gone to gaol, under the revived Smith Act of 1948, for advocating the overthrow of the American Government. It compelled the Truman Administration to rake the Executive branch for security risks, fire 560 persons, and allow nearly another seven thousand to resign. It added derogatory notes to the security files of 1,743 employees and applicants in the Eisenhower regime. It provoked the McCarran Act and eight new anti-subversive laws. It gave to future historians the right to call the period of Hiss's imprisonment the Age of Hiss.

[This is an edited extract. Click here to read the full version of this article]


A Byte Out of History

The jury returned from its deliberations on January 21, 1950󈠏 years ago this month. The verdict? Guilty on two counts of perjury.

Alger Hiss, a well-educated and well-connected former government lawyer and State Department official who helped create the United Nations in the aftermath of World War II, was headed to prison in Atlanta for lying to a federal grand jury.

The central issue of the trial was espionage. In August 1948, Whittaker Chambers—a senior editor at Time magazine—was called by the House Committee on Un-American Activities to corroborate the testimony of Elizabeth Bentley, a Soviet spy who had defected in 1945 and accused dozens of members of the U.S. government of espionage. One official she named as possibly connected to the Soviets was Alger Hiss.

The FBI immediately began probing her claims to ensure those who were credibly named—including Hiss—did not continue to have access to government secrets or power. As the investigation into Bentley and related matters deepened in 1946 and 1947, Congress became aware of and concerned about the case. Details leaked to the press, and the investigation became national news and embroiled in partisan politics in the run up to the 1948 presidential election.

Chambers, who had renounced the Communist Party in the late 1930s, testified reluctantly that hot summer day. He ultimately acknowledged he was part of the communist underground in the 1930s and that Hiss and others had been members of the group.

In later testimony, Hiss vehemently denied the accusation. After all, Chambers had offered no proof that Hiss had committed espionage or been previously connected to Bentley or the communist group.

View Soviet spy Elizabeth Bentley’s FBI file.

It could have ended there, but members of the committee—especially then-California Congressman Richard Nixon—prodded Chambers into disclosing information suggesting there was more to his story and his relationship with Hiss. In later testimony, Hiss admitted knowing Chambers in the 1930s, but he continued to deny any ties to communism and later filed a libel suit against his accuser.

The committee was torn. Who was telling the truth, Hiss or Chambers? And should either be charged with perjury?

A key turn of events came in November 1948, when Chambers produced documents showing both he and Hiss were committing espionage. Then, in early December, Chambers provided the committee with a package of microfilm and other information he had hidden inside a pumpkin on his Maryland farm. The two revelations, which became known as the “Pumpkin Papers,” contained images of State Department materials—including notes in Hiss’ own handwriting.

It was the smoking gun the Justice Department needed. Hiss was charged with perjury he could not be indicted for espionage because the statute of limitations had run out. An extensive FBI investigation helped develop a great deal of evidence verifying Chambers’ statements and revealing Hiss’ cover-ups.


THE REFLECTIONS OF TONY HISS Legacy: The son of accused spy Alger Hiss is forced by current events to look back at the turmoil of his youth. He does so without anger.

NEW YORK -- Tony Hiss' Greenwich Village apartment is furnished much as it was when his parents moved in nearly 50 years ago: the same ancient mahogany desk, upright piano, couch, settee. And the mirror Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes left to his young law clerk, Alger Hiss, the mirror that came from a house used by the British army during the

American Revolution. Holmes used to say he could sometimes see in the looking glass the face of British commander Lord William Howe.

"Can you see it, sonny?" he'd say to Tony's father, Alger Hiss. "Can you see it?"

The gilt-edged walnut mirror hangs above the desk on the third floor at East 8th Street, reflecting the daily life of Tony Hiss -- writer, husband, father, inheritor of the mirror and of a singular American legacy. He is the only biological son of Baltimore native Alger Hiss, the accused Communist spy whose postwar trials divided the country and tore young Tony's home apart.

He and his wife, Lois Metzger, and their 5-year-old son, Jacob, have been rendering whole what was rent on the old Hiss battleground, where the strain of his father's trials and imprisonment finally drove a wedge between Tony's parents, who separated in 1959.

Tony's stable life today is far from the turmoil he experienced in these quarters so long ago, although he suggests no profound motives lay behind his decision to move back into the place with his fiancee after his mother, Priscilla, died in 1984.

"It's a nice apartment," he says.

Don't expect Tony Hiss to dramatize himself. Perhaps life has been dramatic enough. Those who meet Tony Hiss expecting a man obsessed with ghosts in the mirror will be disappointed. Along with a tragic past, he seems to have inherited from his father a buoyant spirit and a reluctance to look back in anger.

"If you just stay angry, the person you ultimately damage is yourself," says Hiss, scholar in residence at New York University's Taub Urban Research Center. "You're cutting yourself off from the richness and the wonder of things. It's a very isolating experience."

At 55, Tony Hiss is interested in the richness and the wonder of things. In examining how we interact with our surroundings, his last book, "The Experience of Place," invited the reader's awakening to the emotional and sensory impact of the environment. He is now writing a sequel to it focusing on transportation. Tony Hiss appears avidly engaged in questions of the present and the future, despite the frequent tug of the past.

When she married Hiss in 1986, Metzger, who met the writer while both were working for the New Yorker, had no idea how much of a part of their lives the Alger Hiss case would be.

"I thought this was all something that had happened 40 years ago and had nothing to do with anything," says Metzger, 41, who will soon publish her third novel for teen-agers. "To me it was so shocking that it was so alive I just didn't think people cared about it so much. They care about it passionately."

Every so often another phone call would come. Somebody writing a docudrama. Somebody writing an article. New information from the Soviet KGB or the CIA or the NSA would surface and some reporter would want Tony's reaction. Alger Hiss' reputation seemed to rise and fall over the last 20 years on the tide of new information and the political fortunes of Richard M. Nixon, who rode the Hiss case to national prominence as a young California congressman in the late 1940s.

After enough time and telephone calls, Metzger understood this was normal life in the Hiss household.

When Alger Hiss died in a New York City hospital last month, four days after he turned 92, it was another occasion to revisit the passions aroused by the Hiss case. Tony Hiss did more interviews, talking about his father with affection.

This week, Tony joined the speakers at Saint George's Episcopal Church in lower Manhattan in a memorial service for the former diplomat who played a role in determining the shape of post-War Europe and in the founding of the United Nations. Before a gathering of about 800 people, Tony spoke about his father's qualities as a man and a friend, and described him as victim of anti-Communist fervor, the object of attacks that continue to this day as the merits of the case against him are bitterly debated.

After Alger Hiss died on Nov. 15, several columnists took the opportunity to open fire on him for insisting his entire life that he was innocent of espionage, a crime for which he was never tried because the statute of limitations precluded it. George Will wrote that Hiss had spent 44 months in federal prison after being convicted of perjury and "42 years in the dungeon of his grotesque fidelity to the fiction of his innocence."

Tony Hiss says he "only glanced" at the critical columns.

"I just find it very interesting that this phenomenon continues," he says. "They're trying to hang him all over again and try him posthumously. I think it's unfortunate. I think people are stuck and they don't know it."

George Will would say that Tony Hiss is stuck in the dungeon of denial with his father. Tony considers his father a devoted public servant who fell victim to a campaign conducted by a man Tony Hiss considers a pathological liar -- Whittaker Chambers -- and another he considers an unscrupulous, ambitious politician -- Nixon.

"I wasn't believing in my father because I had some mystical sense of his decency," he says. "I did have a very direct sense of his decency, but that wasn't why I couldn't bring myself to move beyond some kind of childish denial."

What convinces him of his father's innocence, he says, are the facts of the case. He has found particularly compelling his conversations with his older half-brother, Timothy Hobson, his mother's son from a prior marriage. Unlike Tony, Hobson was alive during the 1930s when Alger Hiss allegedly met with Chambers at the Hiss home in Georgetown. It was there that Hiss supposedly had confidential papers retyped by his wife, nicknamed Prossy, and passed them to Chambers, then a member of the Communist Party. In August 1948, Chambers first accused Hiss of espionage in hearings before the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Tony says that Hobson, "who is just the kind of person who if he had seen something would come forward and say it, always used to tell me, 'Hey, I was in the house. This guy wasn't coming over every couple of weeks. Alger wasn't bringing home papers. Prossy wasn't staying up at night typing them. This is all moonshine.' He's an eyewitness I could trust. If my brother told me that, that was the end of it."

Hobson, 70, was 22 years old and already living on his own in Manhattan by the time the Hiss case began unfolding. He recalls that Tony was "carefully protected in some ways all the way through the turmoil" through the attention of a psychiatrist and family friends.

Still, of the two brothers, Tony was closer to the impact of the scandal that enveloped the family.

As Tony Hiss recalls, he didn't see his father so much even before the case began, shortly after Alger Hiss moved his family to New York from Washington to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Tony can hardly forget the day his father first appeared before the House Committee on Un-American Activities to deny Chambers' charges: Aug. 5, 1948, Tony's seventh birthday. Four months later, Alger Hiss appeared before a New York grand jury and was indicted for perjury.

His two trials -- the first ended in a hung jury -- lasted nearly a year during 1949 and 1950. During most of that time, Tony lived with friends of the family on the Upper East Side while attending the private Dalton School. His third-grade teacher, Carla Bigelow, recalls a "very quietly intelligent child" who seemed "rather bewildered by what was going on."

Tony was 9 when his father began serving a 5-year sentence at the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa.

"What I remember is the trip down to see Al was not supposed to be fun," he wrote of his prison visits in his 1977 book about his LTC father, "Laughing Last." He recalled that he was "angry at Al for leaving me to live with a lot of men "

He stayed angry for a while. Also shaken into what he calls an emotional "suspended animation state because it's very scary to a little kid to think that people are ganging up on your dad and are coming to take him away. And you sort of freeze."

He and his father never were estranged, but they saw each other infrequently after Alger Hiss was released from prison in 1954. Tony was away at high school in Putney, Vt., then he went on to Harvard.

After graduating from college in 1963, Tony, who had worked on the Harvard Crimson, immediately landed a job as a staff writer on the New Yorker.

He had already decided not to follow his father's example and become a lawyer, having no interest in "the whole idea of adversarial litigation . From an intellectual point of view you don't settle matters by just presenting arguments on both sides. That hadn't settled the history" of the Hiss case.

His relationship with his father grew closer as the years went on, as Tony Hiss established his own career and his own family. They talked often, meeting at each other's homes or at a favorite Italian restaurant. As Alger Hiss' eyesight failed in the last 10 years, Tony spent many hours reading to him, as law clerk Alger Hiss had done for Oliver Wendell Holmes in 1929. By the time Tony and Lois moved into the 8th Street apartment, the ghosts were easily exorcised.

"I was concerned we'd feel haunted," says Tony. But, "Lois reversed the position of the bookcase and the desk." Somehow that fixed it, he says.

In the last 20 years, Tony has written one book and four articles about his father.

In a 1992 piece for the New Yorker, he wrote that living through the Hiss case has been "like living inside a fairy tale, with a curse that couldn't be lifted."

And now? Now that his father is gone, has it been lifted?

"In some ways it certainly has," says Tony. "It's been very touching, moving, even overwhelming, the incredible outpouring of affection and sympathy that has been flooding in. Calls and letters That's really been very healing to hear."


1954: Alger Hiss released from prison on this day in history

Was Hiss a victim of Red Scare that swept through U.S. during 1940s and 1950s?

On this 27th day of November in 1954, after 44 months in prison, former government official Alger Hiss is released and proclaims once again that he is innocent of the charges that led to his incarceration.

One of the most famous figures of the Cold War period, Hiss was convicted in 1950 of perjury for lying to a federal grand jury.

Specifically, Hiss was judged to have lied about his complicity in passing secret government documents to Whittaker Chambers, who thereupon passed the papers along to agents of the Soviet Union.

Upon his release, Hiss immediately declared that he wished to “reassert my complete innocence of the charges that were brought against me by Whittaker Chambers.”

He claimed that his conviction was the result of the “fear and hysteria of the times,” and stated that he was going to “resume my efforts to dispel the deception that has been foisted on the American people.” He was confident that such efforts would “vindicate my name.” Some observers remained skeptical of Hiss’s protestations.

Senator Karl Mundt felt that further investigation of the matter would probably be a waste of time, unless Hiss decided “to come clean and tell the whole story.” Chambers issued a brief statement in which he declared that the “saddest single factor about the Hiss case is that nobody can change the facts as they are known…They are there forever.

Buy on Amazon.com – Alger Hiss: Framed is necessary and timely, telling soberly the tale of a nation in the grip of paranoid fear and the man who took most advantage of this fear.

That is the inherent tragedy of this case.”The controversy over the facts in the Hiss case is also here forever. It remains a highly charged issue.

His defenders argue that Hiss was a victim of the Red Scare that swept through the U.S. during the 1940s and 1950s.

Others are equally adamant in maintaining his guilt, claiming that documents recently released from Soviet archives strongly support the case that Hiss was a spy for the Soviet Union.


What were Alger Hiss and the Rosenbergs accused of and what happened to them?

Alger Hiss (November 11, 1904 &ndash November 15, 1996) was an American government official who was accused of spying for the Soviet Union in 1948, but statutes of limitations had expired for espionage. He was convicted of perjury in connection with this charge in 1950.

Furthermore, what did the Rosenbergs do and what was their punishment? On March 29, 1951, the Rosenbergs were convicted of espionage. In imposing the death penalty, Kaufman noted that he held the Rosenbergs responsible not only for espionage but also for American deaths in the Korean War: "I consider your crime worse than murder

Likewise, people ask, when did Alger Hiss die?

What did Chambers accuse hiss of doing?

Chambers had accused Hiss of being an undercover agent for the Kremlin. Committee investigators subsequently turned up additional evidence against Hiss, and a federal grand jury indicted him on two counts of perjury. In 1950, a trial jury convicted Hiss and he was sentenced to five years in prison.


Was Washington official Alger Hiss a Communist Spy?

U.S. diplomat Alger Hiss found himself in the crosshairs of a former Communist Party member determined to expose him as a Soviet spy, an accusation Hiss denied for the remainder of his life.

James Thomas Gay
June 1997

Fifty years later people still ask the question about Alger Hiss: Was he or wasn’t he a Communist spy?

Statesman Alger Hiss gives his testimony to the House of Un-American Activities in 1950 after being accused of having communist sympathies. (Library of Congress)

The headline blared from the front page of the New York Times on August 4, 1948: “RED ‘UNDERGROUND’ IN FEDERAL POSTS ALLEGED BY EDITOR,” it read. “IN NEW DEAL ERA. Ex-Communist Names Alger Hiss, Then In State Department.”

The ex-Communist was Whittaker Chambers, a rumpled, rotund editor at Time magazine. In testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) on August 3, Chambers said Hiss—the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a former member of Franklin Roosevelt’s State Department—had been part of the United States Communist Party’s underground.

Chambers’ accusation reverberated like a bombshell in the Cold War atmosphere of 1948. “The case was the Rashomon drama of the Cold War,” said David Remnick in a profile of Hiss that he wrote for the Washington Post in 1986. “One’s interpretation of the evidence and characters involved became a litmus test of one’s politics, character, and loyalties. Sympathy with either Hiss or Chambers was more an article of faith than a determination of fact.” On the left was liberal New Dealism, represented by Hiss on the right were conservative, anti-Roosevelt and Truman forces personified by Chambers.

Depending on one’s politics, the idea that someone like Alger Hiss could be a Communist was either chilling or absurd. Erudite and patrician, Hiss had graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School. He had been a protégé of Felix Frankfurter (a future Supreme Court justice) and later a clerk for Associate Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. In 1933, he joined Roosevelt’s administration and worked in several areas, including the Agricultural Adjustment Administration, the Nye Committee (which investigated the munitions industry), the Justice Department, and, starting in 1936, the State Department.

In the summer of 1944 he was a staff member at the Dumbarton Oaks Conference, which created the blueprint for the organization that became the United Nations. The next year Hiss traveled to Yalta as part of the American delegation for the meeting of Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill. Later, he participated in the founding of the United Nations as temporary secretary general. In 1947, John Foster Dulles, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, asked Hiss to become that organization’s president.

Hiss’s accuser seemed to be his polar opposite. Whittaker Chambers was the product of a stormy and difficult marriage, and he grew up to be a loner. While at Columbia University, he showed literary talent but was forced to leave after writing a “blasphemous” play. He soon lost his job at the New York Public Library when he was accused of stealing books. Chambers joined the Communist Party in 1925, later claiming he thought that Communism would save a dying world. He worked briefly for the communist newspaper Daily Worker and then the New Masses, a communist literary monthly. In 1932 Chambers entered the communist underground and began gathering information for his Soviet bosses. A growing disenchantment with the Communist Party following news of the purge trials in Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union caused Chambers to leave the underground. In the late 1930s, he abandoned Communism and became a fervent Christian and anti-Communist. He started working at Time in 1939 and eventually became one of the magazine’s senior editors.

Chambers had accused Hiss of being a Communist before his 1948 HUAC appearance. Following the signing of the non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the USSR in August of 1939—a disillusioning event for American Communists, who believed the Soviet Union would remain a sworn enemy of Hitler’s regime—Chambers approached Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle and told him about “fellow travelers” in the government, including Hiss. Chambers recounted his Communist activities to the FBI in several interviews during the early 1940s, but little happened. The Soviet Union, after all, was then an ally in the war against Nazi Germany.

By the summer of 1948 the global picture had changed. As the Cold War chilled, Communist infiltration of the government—real or imagined—became a serious issue for both Republicans and Democrats. The Justice Department had been investigating Communist infiltration since 1947, but its grand jury had not returned any indictments. Republicans, eager to gain control of the White House in the fall election, had been bashing the Democrats for being “soft on communism.”

On Capitol Hill, HUAC, dominated by Republicans and conservative Democrats, was looking into possible Communist penetration of the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Committee members, particularly an ambitious freshman congressman from California named Richard Nixon, knew what was at stake. HUAC was a controversial body under fire for its heavy-handed tactics. If Chambers’ story proved false, HUAC’s reputation would suffer a potentially fatal blow.

Hiss learned about Chambers’ testimony from newspaper reporters and immediately demanded an opportunity to respond. On August 5 he appeared before the committee and read from a prepared statement. “I am not and have never been a member of the Communist Party,” he said. Hiss also denied knowing Whittaker Chambers. “So far as I know, I have never laid eyes on him, and I should like the opportunity to do so.” Shown a picture of Chambers, Hiss responded: “If this is a picture of Mr. Chambers, he is not particularly unusual looking. He looks like a lot of people. I might even mistake him for the chairman of this committee.”

It appeared that Hiss had cleared his name. But Nixon—who had been told of suspicions about Hiss long before Chambers’ HUAC appearance—wasn’t satisfied. He argued that even if the committee could not prove Hiss was a Communist, it should investigate whether he ever knew Chambers. Nixon persuaded the other members to appoint him head of a subcommittee to investigate further.

At a session in New York City on August 7, Chambers provided more information. He said that Hiss’s wife, Priscilla, was also a Communist and that the Hisses knew him as “Carl,” one of the many names he used while working for the underground. He described the homes the Hisses occupied and the old Ford roadster and Plymouth they had owned. Hiss, Chambers said, insisted on donating the Ford for the use of the Communist Party despite the security risk.

Chambers’ information wasn’t completely accurate. He said the Hisses did not drink, but they did he described Hiss as shorter than he actually was he wrongly maintained that Hiss was deaf in one ear. However, he also provided information that indicated he knew them rather well. For instance, he reported that the Hisses were “amateur ornithologists” and had been much excited about observing a “prothonotary warbler” near the Potomac River.

On August 16 the committee summoned Hiss to appear in a secret session. This time Hiss conceded that a picture of Whittaker Chambers had “a certain familiarity,” but he was not prepared to identify the man without seeing him in person. He then described a man he had known in the 1930s and to whom he had briefly sublet his apartment. He hadn’t known him as “Carl,” but as “George Crosley.” Hiss described Crosley as a frumpish deadbeat with bad teeth who made ends meet by borrowing money and writing an occasional magazine article. When asked about the Ford, Hiss claimed he had given it to Crosley. Hiss also said Crosley had once given him an oriental rug in lieu of payment of rent. Chambers would later claim the rug was one of four he had given to “friends” of the Soviet people.

John McDowall, a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania, addressed Hiss. “Have you ever seen a prothonotary warbler?” he asked.

“I have, right here on the Potomac,” Hiss replied.

Nixon now wanted Chambers and Hiss to meet face to face. A meeting had been set up for August 25, but instead Nixon arranged to surprise Hiss with Chambers eight days ahead of schedule. In that tense and hostile meeting at New York City’s Commodore Hotel, Hiss asked Chambers to speak, looked at his teeth, and finally identified him as the man he knew as George Crosley. Hiss issued a challenge to his accuser. “I would like to invite Mr. Whittaker Chambers to make those same statements out of the presence of this committee without their being privileged for suit for libel. I challenge you to do it, and I hope you will do it damned quickly.”

The next confrontation was public, held on August 25 in a congressional hearing room in Washington. Public interest in the case gave it a circus atmosphere. The packed conference room was jammed with spectators, radio broadcasters, film cameramen and even hookups for live television. At this point Nixon and HUAC appeared openly hostile to Hiss. “You are a remarkable and agile young man, Mr. Hiss,” said one member of the committee after Hiss answered evasively about the fate of his Ford automobile.

Two days later Chambers appeared on the radio program “Meet the Press” and declared, “Alger Hiss was a Communist and may be now.” A month later Hiss filed suit for damages. “I welcome Alger Hiss’s daring suit,” Chambers said. “I do not minimize the ferocity or the ingenuity of the forces that are working through him.”

As Hiss’s suit prepared to go to trial, the case took a new, even more serious turn. It changed the main issue from whether Alger Hiss was a Communist to whether he was a spy.

In his earlier statements before HUAC, Chambers denied being involved with espionage. His contacts in Washington acted only to influence government policy, not to subvert it, he had said. It was the same story he later told the Justice Department grand jury. But when facing pretrial examinations for the libel suit, Chambers changed his story. He told his lawyers that he could produce evidence that Hiss had given him government materials. When he had broken with the Communist Party 10 years earlier, Chambers said, he had saved some documents in case he needed to protect himself from retribution. He sealed the documents in an envelope and gave them to his wife’s nephew, Nathan Levine. Levine hid the envelope in his parents’ Brooklyn home.

Retrieved from a dusty dumbwaiter shaft, the materials turned out to include 65 pages of typewritten copies of confidential documents (all except one from the State Department), four scraps of paper with Hiss’s handwritten notes on them, two strips of developed microfilm of State Department documents, three rolls of undeveloped microfilm, and several pages of handwritten notes. All dated from the early months of 1938. Chambers turned over most of the evidence but initially held the microfilm back in reserve. Fearing the federal grand jury would indict him for perjury, Chambers finally handed over the microfilm to HUAC. With a flourish of cloak-and-dagger dramatics, he had hidden it in a hollowed out pumpkin on his Maryland farm.

The so-called “pumpkin papers” ratcheted interest in the case up another level. Nixon immediately flew home from a vacation cruise in the Caribbean and posed for newspaper photographs showing him peering intently through a magnifying glass at the microfilm strips. The next day Nixon received a shock when an official at Eastman Kodak said the film stock dated from 1945—meaning Chambers had lied when he said he had hidden the film in 1938. Shaken, Nixon phoned Chambers and angrily demanded an explanation. It turned out that none was needed. The Eastman Kodak source called back and corrected himself. The film stock dated from 1937.

Hiss, who also testified before the grand jury, claimed the materials were either fakes or had come from someone else. The grand jury thought otherwise and on December 15, 1948, it indicted Hiss for perjury, accusing him of lying when he said he had never given State Department or other government documents to Chambers and that he had had no contact with Chambers after January 1, 1937. Espionage charges were not possible because the three-year statute of limitations had expired.

The trial began at the Federal Building on Foley Square in New York City, on May 31, 1949, and lasted for six weeks. The prosecution emphasized its “three solid witnesses”—a Woodstock typewriter once owned by Alger and Patricia Hiss, the typed copies, and the State Department originals—as “uncontradicted facts.” According to Chambers, Hiss took documents home from his office so his wife could type copies on the Woodstock. Hiss then returned the originals to his office and gave Chambers the copies. Chambers had the copies photographed for his Soviet handlers.

The typewriting would prove central to the case. The Hisses had once owned a Woodstock, and a comparison of the State Department copies with letters typed in the 1930s by the Hisses on their Woodstock indicated that they came from the same machine.

Hiss’s defense focused on his reputation—his character witnesses included a university president several notable diplomats and judges, including Supreme Court Justices Felix Frankfurter and Stanley M. Reed and Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. In contrast, the defense portrayed Chambers as a psychopathic liar and “moral leper” who could have acquired the microfilmed documents through many different channels. As for the handwritten notes, someone could have stolen them from Hiss’s office or trash basket.

After a long search, the defense team tracked down the Woodstock typewriter. The Hisses had given it to a maid, Claudia Catlett. The defense hoped to prove that the Catletts received the typewriter sometime before the spring of 1938, but neither Catlett nor her sons could substantiate the giveaway date, weakening the defense considerably.

The first trial ended in a hung jury, with eight of the twelve jurors voting to convict Hiss. The Justice Department quickly announced it would seek another trial.

The second trial began on November 17, 1949, and lasted three weeks longer than the first one. This time the jury found Hiss guilty. He would serve 44 months in the federal penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

The Cold War turned even colder in the years following Chambers’ first testimony and Hiss’s conviction, and continued to intensify after Hiss entered prison. China fell to the Communists in 1949, and the Soviet Union successfully tested an atomic bomb that same year. The following February, a little-known senator from Wisconsin, Joseph R. McCarthy, announced at a speech in West Virginia that he had a list of 205 “card-carrying members of the Communist Party” who were employed by the State Department. His sensational and unfounded charges launched a red-baiting career that would make his name forever synonymous with witch-hunting demagoguery. As historian Allen Weinstein later wrote, “Alger Hiss’s conviction gave McCarthy and his supporters the essential touch of credibility, making their charges of Communist involvement against other officials headline copy instead of back-page filler.”

Richard Nixon benefited as well. His role in the Hiss case helped him secure a senate seat over Helen Gahagan Douglas, a liberal Nixon labeled “the Pink Lady.” Two years later Nixon became Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice president. Nixon would always consider the Hiss case a defining moment in his career and included it as the first of the “six crises” he described in his political memoir of the same name.

Chambers, who published his account of the case in Witness, a 799-page bestseller published in 1952, died in 1961 of a heart attack, a hero of the American right. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded Chambers a posthumous Medal of Freedom. Four years later, the Reagan Administration designated Chambers’ Maryland “pumpkin farm” as a national historic landmark.

Hiss, who published In the Court of Public Opinion in 1957 to present his side of the story, never stopped fighting to clear his name. “I’ve spent a great deal of time on the issue of ‘Why me?’ ” Hiss told writer David Remnick in 1986. “I came to the conclusion that it’s largely accident, that I was well down the list of those who were selected in order to bring about a change in American politics.” Hiss said that he wasn’t the real target he was merely a means “to break the hull of liberalism.”

Fortune began looking up for Hiss in 1972 when the Watergate scandal forced Nixon to resign the presidency. Nixon’s fall gave some credence to a wide spectrum of conspiracy theories involving fake typewriters, phony microfilm, and various collusions among the FBI, Nixon, HUAC, the CIA, the radical right, and the KGB. Hiss even theorized that Chambers, who had engaged in homosexual activity before his marriage, had a “deep attachment” to him, an unrequited passion that may have led Chambers to seek revenge. Hiss would return to that theme in a second book, Recollections of a Life, published in 1988.

Hiss’s prospects suffered a reverse in 1978 when Allen Weinstein published Perjury. Weinstein had set out to write an account sympathetic to Hiss. Using the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to previously classified materials from the State Department, Justice Department, and FBI, Weinstein finally concluded that Hiss was guilty. In Newsweek, columnist George Will wrote that with Weinstein’s book, “the myth of Hiss’s innocence suffers the death of a thousand cuts, delicate destruction by a scholar’s scalpel.”

Over the years, Hiss attempted to have his case appealed. In 1978, using the newly acquired government documents, he petitioned the Supreme Court for a third time, declaring gross unfairness (a writ of error – coram nobis). On October 11, 1983, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear his case.

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, Hiss requested information from Soviet sources to clear his name. After extensive research, General Dimitri Volkogonov, head of the Russian military intelligence archives, declared, “Not a single document substantiates the allegation that Mr. Hiss collaborated with the intelligence services of the Soviet Union. You can tell Alger Hiss that the heavy weight should be lifted from his heart.” But questions from suspicious conservatives forced Volkogonov to admit he hadn’t searched the complex and confusing archives in great depth and that many of the files had been destroyed after Stalin’s death in 1953.

In 1993, a Hungarian historian, Maria Schmidt, divulged material from Communist Hungarian secret police files that seemed to suggest Hiss’s guilt. In 1949 Noel Field, an American suspected of being a Communist spy, had been imprisoned in Hungary as a suspected American spy. Under interrogation he had incriminated Hiss, in a confession Schmidt found in Field’s dossier. Field, however, had recanted after his release, and Hiss defenders considered the Hungarian documents to be tarnished evidence.

Another piece of evidence came to light in 1996 when the CIA and National Security Agency made public several thousand documents of decoded cables exchanged between Moscow and its American agents from 1939 to 1957. These materials were part of a secret intelligence project called “Venona.” A single document, dated March 30, 1945, referred to an agent code-named “Ales,” a State Department official who had flown from the Yalta Conference to Moscow. An anonymous footnote, dated more than 20 years later, suggested “Ales” was “probably Alger Hiss.” Hiss, one of only four men who had flown from Yalta to Moscow, issued a statement denying he was “Ales.” He went to Moscow merely to see the subway system, he said.

Alger Hiss died on November 15, 1996, at the age of 92. Was he one of the century’s greatest liars or one of its longest-suffering victims? “I know he was innocent,” says John Lowenthall, a friend and legal representative who made a documentary, “The Trials of Alger Hiss,” in 1978. “For most people it’s not a matter of fact, it’s a matter of ideology and emotion. Most of the people who take the stand that Hiss was guilty built their careers on it.”

Yet while the preponderance of evidence does weigh heavily against Hiss, his unrelenting insistence of innocence will keep the door of doubt ever so slightly ajar. David Oshinsky wrote in the Chronicle of Higher Education that the question of Hiss’s guilt or innocence has become, “like the case itself, part of our history. For intellectuals, left and right, it still taps the deepest personal values and political beliefs, raising questions about liberalism’s romance with Communism, and conservatism’s assault on civil liberties, years after the Cold War ended.”

A half-century after it started, the Hiss case remains a political dividing line.

James T. Gay is a professor of Hhistory at State University of West Georgia in Carrollton. This article was published in the May/June 1998 issue of American History. Subscribe here.


Out in the Cold Spy or 'saint'? Alger Hiss, now 91, has spent half his life trying to clear his name. He has not been alone. However, the latest evidence does not help the cause.

The once dashing figure is frail now and nearly blind, exiled in a sunny fifth-floor apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

At 91, Alger Hiss is still patiently waiting for his reputation to be restored, hoping to be remembered as a loyal public servant rather than a spy.

"The full truth is bound to vindicate him," says his son Tony, a New York writer. "I think he's always hoped in his life it would be resolved. He's certain it will be. He's never wavered in that."

For nearly half a century, Mr. Hiss has been the center of a fierce controversy his story remains one of the last, great mysteries of the Cold War. Convicted in 1950 of perjury -- the statute of limitations had run out on espionage -- he spent 44 months in a federal prison.

But the question remains: Was the urbane, Baltimore-born lawyer and rising State Department official actually a Soviet agent?

Most historians are convinced of his guilt, though they agree there is no definitive proof. This week, a secret 1945 Soviet telegram, released by the National Security Agency, provided another piece to the puzzle. The message concerned a State Department official code-named "Ales" who passed U.S. military information to the Kremlin and was decorated by his Russian handlers.

A simple footnote was added to the message by federal investigators: "Ales: Probably Alger Hiss."

"I'm not sure I'd call it a smoking gun, but there's some smoke there," says John E. Haynes, historian at the Library of Congress and author of "The Secret World of American Communism." "I would say it adds to the evidence."

But Mr. Hiss' tight circle of supporters, who over the years have ranged from Secretary of State Dean Acheson to Victor Navasky, editor of the Nation, came to his defense. "Some government flunky in his footnote was wrong when he says Alger Hiss," says John Lowenthal, a lawyer and filmmaker who made a 1980

documentary "The Trials of Alger Hiss."

Nearly a half century later, the Hiss case still resonates, debated on the pages of national magazines and stuck somewhere in the nether world between history and myth. Today at the box office, Alger Hiss shows up as a victim in Oliver Stone's movie "Nixon."

The charges against Mr. Hiss came in the midst of troubling times. He was denounced by Republicans as the Benedict Arnold of the 20th century even his name had a sinister, Dickensian ring. Democrats bitterly dismissed his chief accuser, Whittaker Chambers, as a pathological liar out to destroy an innocent man as well as New Deal policies.

The spy charges struck a chord with an American public perplexed by an increasingly hostile postwar world: Russia had being swept under Soviet control. Communists were victorious in China.

"If the U.S. emerged as the most powerful nation after World War II, why is it we seemed to be losing to our enemies?" asks Sam Tanenhaus, biographer of Mr. Chambers, repeating a common question of the time. "It must be there are traitors inside the gate."

"Hiss was the very symbol for his adversaries of the New Deal and cooperation with the Russians during the Second World War," says Allen Weinstein, author of "Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case." "Hiss knew everybody and everybody

For the afternoon of Aug. 3, 1948, the House Committee on Un-American Activities switched to a larger hearing room in preparation for a "mystery witness." Reporters were quickly summoned.

Seated before the committee was a portly, 47-year-old man in a )) wrinkled suit. Whittaker Chambers was a former reporter for the Communist newspaper the New Masses and a free-lance translator. In the early 1930s, Mr. Chambers became a Communist underground agent, but grew disillusioned with the party and left in 1938.

Reading from a prepared statement in a bored monotone, Mr. Chambers told of a cell of Communists who operated in Washington. Then he read a list of former, mid-level government officials, ending with the name Alger Hiss.

Mr. Hiss had left the State Department two years earlier to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. During his 11 years with the department, he accompanied President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Yalta to discuss the postwar world with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill and served as a key American organizer of the United Nations.

Tall, elegant and impeccably tailored, Mr. Hiss was every inch the patrician diplomat.

He grew up in Bolton Hill, attended City College and graduated from the Johns Hopkins University in 1926, where he excelled in debating and was chosen the "best hand shaker" in his class. "He moved with a casual grace suggestive of Baltimore Cotillions or Gibson Island tennis matches, at both of which he was a familiar figure," wrote historian William Manchester. At Harvard Law School he became a protege of Felix Frankfurter, then clerked for Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.

It was unthinkable that such a man could be a Communist -- or even associate with someone like Mr. Chambers. Two Supreme Court justices, Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson and future Secretary of State John Foster Dulles were prepared to vouch for his character.

"I am not and never have been a member of the Communist Party," Mr. Hiss told a packed House hearing two days later, adding that he did not know Mr. Chambers. "So far as I know, I have never laid eyes on him."

But Mr. Chambers returned to a closed-door session of the committee and offered a near encyclopedic knowledge of Mr. Hiss and his family. When the two appeared before the committee, Mr. Hiss identified his accuser as a man named "George Crosley," a free-lance journalist he had met years earlier. Yet Mr. Hiss could provide no one else who knew Mr.

Despite harsh questioning from then-Rep. Richard Nixon, the committee couldn't decide who was telling the truth. An angry Mr. Hiss filed a defamation suit against Mr. Chambers in federal court in Baltimore.

But during a pre-trial deposition with Mr. Hiss' Baltimore lawyer, William P. Marbury, Mr. Chambers produced 65 documents and four handwritten notes he said came from Mr. Hiss. Later, Mr. Chambers led investigators to his farm outside Westminster, where he pulled two strips of film and three canisters of film from a hollowed-out pumpkin. They would forever be known as "the Pumpkin Papers."

Mr. Hiss' defenders downplayed the documents as worthless or inconsequential trade and diplomatic papers that many government employees could have had. Supporters argued that the evidence was concocted by right-wing enemies, including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

But the papers included sensitive information on U.S. Far East policy, Justice Department officials realized. Some of the material was too secret to release in 1948 to the public.

More importantly, all the messages had been transmitted in Code D, the department's most secret cipher. That left open the possibility that the code had been cracked and the Russians were reading other sensitive government messages.

The charges against Mr. Hiss were serious -- and not unique.

Mr. Chambers first named Mr. Hiss as a Communist in 1939 to Assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle. Allegations swirled around him throughout the 1940s, from French intelligence and investigations by the FBI and State Department.

Mr. Tanenhaus, biographer of Mr. Chambers, is convinced that Mr. Hiss spied. He believes Mr. Hiss, like many other left-wing intellectuals in the 1930s, saw the Soviet Union and communism as an answer to Depression misery and approaching fascism abroad.

The documents supplied by Mr. Chambers led to the convening of a grand jury two weeks later in New York. Mr. Hiss was indicted on two counts of perjury -- lying about his connections with Mr. Chambers.

Throughout the country, the case sparked heated arguments. In Baltimore, "there was always a degree of uncertainty about his guilt," recalls Dr. Thomas Turner, 94, former dean of Hopkins Medical School. Over lunch in the city's social clubs, the debate raged over the case. "One club acquitted him," he remembers, "the other convicted him."

Jurors were similarly torn Mr. Hiss' first trial ended in July 1949 in a hung jury. A second jury convicted him in January 1950.

Sent to a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., he spent the next four years teaching inmates to read, offering legal advice to Mafia dons and writing tender letters to his young son, Tony. "Three years in jail," he later told his son, "is a good corrective to three years at Harvard."

When he emerged from prison, Mr. Hiss embarked on a decades-long effort to clear his name and overturn his perjury conviction. He moved to New York, where he ended up selling stationery. TC Mr. Nixon's resignation led the pro-Hiss forces to raise new doubts about the president's prosecutorial debut. Mr. Hiss was cheered on college campuses by a new generation. He was readmitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1975. An academic chair was endowed in his honor at Bard College in New York.

But in 1983, he abandoned efforts to get his conviction overturned after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the case. He ** told reporters he hoped for a "broader vindication" from historians and perhaps a presidential commission.

That was not to come from the White House of the 1980s. It was Whittaker Chambers' turn. Ronald Reagan awarded Mr. Chambers posthumously the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom. His Carroll County farm was declared a National Historic Landmark.

With the end of the Cold War, Mr. Hiss' hopes rested on the opening of the archives of the Soviet Union and its satellite states.

His long-awaited exoneration appeared to come Oct. 14, 1992, when Russian Gen. Dmitri Volkogonov, director of the Soviet Military Archives, declared the charges against Mr. Hiss were "completely groundless." There was no information that he spied. "Tell Mr. Alger Hiss," the general said, "that a heavy weight should be lifted from his heart."

"The recent information from Russia provide the vindication I have sought for so long," Mr. Hiss wrote in a letter to The Sun the next month.

But under pressure from Sovietologists and Hiss case experts, General Volkogonov soon retreated. His statement was premature, he said, since he had not seen all the archives and important files had probably been destroyed during the Stalinist era.

Then in 1993, Hungarian historian Maria Schmidt found a 1954 interrogation of former American diplomat and self-confessed spy Noel Field, who told Hungarian secret police that Alger Hiss was his most-trusted accomplice in Washington's Communist underground.

Seized by the anti-Hiss forces as the "smoking gun" in the case, Mr. Hiss' defenders said the testimony likely was coerced.

The charges and countercharges of the Hiss case resurfaced with the death of Nixon in 1994. "There are a lot of things in that man's life that were un-atoned for," Mr. Hiss said at the time, "and one of those was certainly his attitude toward me."

Now only the accused spy remains, a relic of another age. In the crowded bookcases of his apartment are the complete works of his friend, writer A. J. Liebling. On one wall is a framed photo of his former boss, Justice Holmes, the "Great Dissenter." Friends drop by and read him the newspapers or poetry or the classics.

"He assumes he'll be seen for what he did," says Tony Hiss. "He's proud of having served in the New Deal and getting the United Nations on its feet."

Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, says Mr. Hiss is an honorable man who was sacrificed by his country. "This man is a saint. Justice was not done," he says.

"We have rehabilitated Nixon," Mr. Botstein says. "On a moral scale, I'll take Alger Hiss any day."


John Anthony Walker

John Walker was a United States Navy Chief Warrant Officer who served in Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines where he had access to highly classified communications data in the 1960s. While stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, Walker opened a bar on the road to nearby Summerville, which he named the Bamboo Shack. After waiting several weeks for his license to sell alcohol he was losing money and when he did finally obtain the needed licenses the losses continued to mount.

Soon, financial pressures and, what Walker claimed was his wife&rsquos drinking problems (she later said that Walker was the one with the drinking problem), led him to sell classified information to the Soviet Union. Walker promised additional materials to the radio ciphers he provided initially, and negotiated a salary with the Soviets for his continuing services. One month after Walker sold the first material to the Soviets the North Koreans seized the US Navy surveillance ship USS Pueblo &ndash an event some analysts later alleged occurred in part to verify the information Walker had provided.

Walker recruited Jerry Whitworth, an eventual Chief Sonarman with access to additional classified materials, to support his spying activities as well as his son Michael and his older brother Arthur. He also occasionally used his wife to drop materials to the Soviets before their divorce. After retiring from the Navy he worked as a private investigator and continued, through his son and older brother, a defense contractor, to obtain and sell classified data to the Soviets. After their divorce, Walker&rsquos former wife Barbara made several attempts to contact the FBI but was too intoxicated to be coherent when talking to FBI agents on the phone. In 1984, she finally managed to convince the FBI of her ex-husband&rsquos spying activities, unaware at the time that her son was a participant in the espionage. The FBI arrested the members of the ring Barbara Walker was granted immunity because of her co-operation.

The Walker spy ring seriously compromised the US Navy&rsquos ability to communicate securely with its own submarines and its ability to track Soviet submarines during the height of the Cold War. Arthur Walker was sentenced to three life sentences plus 40 years for espionage. Michael Walker turned state&rsquos evidence in order to receive a lighter sentence, he was released from prison in 2000. Jerry Whitworth was sentenced to 365 years in prison, where he remains.

John Walker was given a life sentence after he co-operated with federal officials in order to obtain a lighter sentence for his son. He died in prison in 2014, six weeks after the death of his brother Arthur. Walker is believed to have obtained over $1,000,000 from the Soviets in exchange for classified materials over the years.



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