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Judgments

May 2024
1min read


Regarding Dr. Fawn M. Brodie’s article “I Think Hiss Is Lying” (August/ September 1981):

Indeed the Hiss-Chambers controversy does continue. Ultimately history will judge it; however, that judgment must derive from facts rather than assumptions, speculation, or innuendo. It would be well, then, to address and refute the following errors of fact in the Brodie piece:

That Hiss was exposed as a spy by Chambers—and as early as 1939.

Brodie says that Chambers “in 1939 had blown Hiss’s cover as an espionage agent by going to Adolph Berle with his story. …” But according to both FBI records and Berle’s own notes on that meeting, such an exposé never took place.

It was Elizabeth Terrill Bentley, another self-confessed Communist, who in November, 1945, spoke of a connection between Hiss and espionage. “It should be noted,” says an FBI report dated January 28, 1949, “that Miss Bentley’s allegations were the first indication received by the FBI that a Soviet espionage ring had existed in Washington.”

That Chambers had threatened to make his Hiss charges public as early as 1945.

According to Brodie, Chambers had “watched with increasing anxiety the rise of Alger Hiss in government … [and] told FBI men … that if Hiss was made temporary Secretary General of the United Nations” he would expose [Hiss] publicly.”

Not only had Chambers told the FBI he had not been following Hiss’s career, but a search of FBI records for 1945 nowhere indicates Chambers had threatened such an exposé.

Further, Chambers really did not want to “go public.” According to an FBI statement dated March 29, 1946, Chambers said he “would have no objection to testifying …hoped that if such an occasion arose, it would be a closed hearing as he wanted to protect his identity. ” Is this the position of a Don Quixote?

That after extensive FBI surveillance of Hiss, the State Department quietly eased him out of his job.

While many in the State Department were relieved to see Hiss leave, no evidence supports the assertion that he was eased out. In fact, according to a September 10, 1948, FBI memorandum, both Secretary of State James Byrnes and Dean Acheson were surprised to learn of his departure.

Although I disagree with many of Dr. Brodie’s conclusions, I have only challenged those assertions that are incorrect based on recently released FBI documents.

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