The Mystery of Ales (Expanded Version)

The argument that Alger Hiss was a WWII-era Soviet asset is flawed. New evidence points to someone else


Nearly 60 years ago, Alger Hiss, a former high official in the U. S. State Department, was convicted of perjury and sentenced to prison on the grounds that he had lied about his role in a Soviet spy ring prior to World War II. The Hiss case became the most controversial spy story of the Cold War — and for good reason. As the distinguished historian Walter LaFeber once observed, “It was the Hiss trial, among other [events] that triggered the McCarthy era.”1 For many conservatives, the Hiss case confirmed the specter of Soviet infiltration at the highest levels of American government. The case also catapulted an obscure California congressman, Richard M. Nixon, onto the national scene. Nixon championed the allegations against Hiss and in 1950 was elected to the U.S. Senate, largely based on the notoriety he had acquired from the case.

Even today, the Hiss affair remains a painful metaphor for the marginalization of left-wing New Dealers by anti-Communist crusaders, the weakness of the American Left for the last half century, and the less-than-courageous performance of American liberals during two generations of conservative ascendancy.

Although Hiss insisted on his innocence until his death in 1996, many Cold War historians, and perhaps most notably Allen Weinstein in his 1978 book, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case, have firmly concluded that Hiss was part of a clandestine Communist cell from 1935 onward and that he passed information to the Soviet Union from late 1936 to early 1938 through an underground Communist courier named Whittaker Chambers. Most historians have conceded the argument to Weinstein (who is today the Archivist of the United States). They have done so, however, not because the evidence against Hiss is clear and definitive, but because the evidence box — filled as it is with a morass of circumstantial detail — leaves them the easy option of finding him guilty of some form of espionage activity during his murky relationship with Chambers.

To a few skeptics, however, this muddled spy case will remain an open question until the Russian archives disgorge incontrovertible proof that Hiss was or was not a conscious agent. Despite continuing claims that documents U.S. researchers obtained from the Russian archives in the early- tomid-1990s represent a “massive documentation of the guilt”2 of Alger Hiss, not a single document with his name or that of Whittaker Chambers has ever been produced from the publicly accessible Russian archives. To be sure, there are a few references to Hiss in Soviet-era documents that have been leaked to Allen Weinstein and his Russian co-author, Alexander Vassiliev. But in their book The Haunted Wood, Weinstein and Vassiliev leave the impression that Hiss is repeatedly mentioned in Soviet-era documents. But their narrative of Hiss’s espionage in the 1930s is heavily referenced to Weinstein’s Perjury. And when they quote from three 1945 KGB documents describing a Soviet source at the U.S. Department of State, they substitute Hiss’s name in brackets for “Ales,” the cover name for an American working for the Soviets. They do the same thing when quoting from a Soviet intelligence cable dated March 30, 1945, decrypted and released by the U.S. government under the National Security Agency’s Venona program. Weinstein and Vassiliev did get exclusive access to a crop of documents from the KGB archive. But references to Alger Hiss in those documents boil down to only five pages from a single SVR (Russian Foreign Intelligence Service) file.3

The Hiss case has also become a litmus test of what is considered to be legitimate Cold War historiography. Since the late 1970s, historians and journalists who remain agnostics on the question of Hiss’s guilt invite ridicule — or condemnation.4 The consensus historians — led by Weinstein — have largely succeeded in making Hiss’s guilt a piece of the conventional wisdom.

We do not propose to address the larger question of whether Hiss was guilty or innocent of espionage, but rather to explore whether he fits the profile of the Soviet asset hidden behind the cover name Ales (pronounced in Russian as A´-les).

Historians of the craft of intelligence recognize that assigning identities to code names more than 50 years after the fact is fraught with peril. It is difficult at best to translate from one language and culture to another, particularly when dealing with partially decrypted documents. Other imponderables include the ambiguities surrounding witting and unwitting sources and, most obviously, the incentives for intelligence officers to exaggerate the value of both their information and their sources. All of this is to say that we are aware that, like others before us, we tread on thin ice. Still, we have found evidence to suggest that Hiss could not have been Ales, and that an alternative candidate exists.


Until the mid-1990s, Weinstein and other historians accepted Chambers’s assertions that Hiss’s associations with the Soviets were confined to the period of 1934–38. But when the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) declassified the Venona documents, students of the case claimed that Hiss may have continued his presumed espionage into the World War II years. The documents are a collection of intercepted and fragmentary decrypted cables between Moscow and its overseas intelligence outposts (most prominently New York and Washington, D.C.) that produced hundreds of cryptonyms for agents, assets, contacts, or targets of Soviet intelligence. They also included many names of unsuspecting Americans whom Soviet intelligence operatives discussed, targeted, or merely mentioned. Alger Hiss’s name turned up in this second group.

In a fragment of a decrypted GRU5 (Russian military intelligence) New York-to-Moscow cable of September 28, 1943, a New York station chief of the Soviet military intelligence — GRU — (whom the Russians referred to as “rezident”) called “Molier”6 reported to his Moscow director that “the NEIGHBOR” (in this case, a resident or operative from the NKGB — as the KGB was then called — Foreign Intelligence) mentioned an official “from the State Department by the name of HISS [iv].”

Footnote iv to the cable comes from the NSA, which explains that by the time they gave up on trying to decrypt it in August of 1969, the FBI and NSA had only one candidate for “HISS.” Normally, these Russian-language cables use the Cyrillic alphabet, but here Hiss is spelled out in the Latin alphabet, perhaps indicating that the name was unfamiliar to the sender. At the time the cable was written, Alger Hiss was an assistant to Stanley Hornbeck, the State Department Political Advisor in Charge of Far Eastern Affairs.

Could a person openly named in such a message be an agent of that service at the time the message was written or at any previous time? Not according to Lt. Gen. Vitaly Pavlov, a former KGB foreign intelligence officer who had supervised intelligence operations focused on the United States beginning in late 1938. When interviewed in 2002, Pavlov firmly stated that no one openly named in the Venona cables could have been an agent.7 Why was he so sure? “Had he ever been an agent, the service would have his code name in the system.” Three years later, this opinion was upheld by another Russian intelligence professional, Maj. Gen. Julius Kobyakov.8 After reading the Sept. 28 Venona cable, Kobyakov told us that had Alger Hiss been an agent, “it would be very unusual to put a true name in a cable: speaking about one of their assets, normally, they would use a code name.”

This Venona message openly using the name Hiss has been lost in a heated, decade-long discussion of yet another Venona cable, N 1822, sent from Washington, D.C., to Moscow, originating from the NKGB intelligence station in the Soviet Embassy. Dated March 30, 1945, the cable describes a Soviet agent who had the code name Ales. The NSA released its English translation of the cable in 1996 with a footnote saying that Ales was “probably” Alger Hiss. Here is the full text of cable N 1822 as released in 1996:

From: Washington
To: Moscow
No. 1822

30 March 1945

Further to our telegram No. 283 [a]. As a result of “[D%A.’s]” [i] chat with “ALES,” [ii] the following has been ascertained:

1. ALES has been working with the NEIGHBORS [SOSEDI] [iii] continuously since 1935.

2. For some years past he has been the leader of a small group of the NEIGHBORS’ probationers [STAZhERY], for the most part consisting of his relations.

3. The group and ALES himself work on obtaining military information only. Materials on the “BANK” [iv] allegedly interest the NEIGHBORS very little and he does not produce them regularly.

4. All the last few years ALES has been working with “Pol’” [v] who also meets other members of the group occasionally.

5. Recently ALES and his whole group were awarded Soviet decorations.

6. After the YaLTA Conference, when he had gone on to MOSCOW, a Soviet personage in a very responsible position (ALES gave to understand that it was Comrade VYShINSKIJ) allegedly got in touch with ALES and at the behest of the Military NEIGHBORS passed on to him their gratitude and so on.

No. 431 Vadim [vi]9

NSA translators released the cable with the following notes:

Notes: [a] Not available.


[i]: “A.” seems the most likely garble here although “A.” has not been confirmed elsewhere in the WASHINGTON traffic.

[ii] ALES: Probably Alger HISS.

[iii] SOSEDI: Members of another Soviet Intelligence organization, here probably the GRU.

[iv] BANK: The U.S. State Department.

[v] POL’: i.e. “PAUL”, unidentified cover name.

[vi] VADIM: Aantolij Borisovich GROMOV, MGB resident in WASHINGTON. 8 August 1969


According to FBI historian John F. Fox,10 the identification of Ales as Alger Hiss in Venona 1822 dates back to a May 15, 1950, FBI memorandum from Alan Belmont, head of the FBI espionage section.11 “It would appear likely,” the 1950 memo surmised, “that this individual [Ales] is Alger Hiss in view of the fact that he was in the State Department and the information from Chambers indicated that his wife, Priscilla, was active in Soviet espionage and he also had a brother, Donald, in the State Department.”12 In Fox’s opinion, “Why Hiss is connected with this message is unsurprising. Each of these clues as well as the mention of ALES’s connection to the Yalta Conference and a trip to Moscow afterwards each fits what was known about Hiss.” However, Fox concedes that “Hiss, of course, had been convicted of perjury less than six months before,” and this fact would have immediately occurred to the FBI team working on the Venona project.13

Those officials privy to the Venona intercept seem to have conducted, at best, a cursory investigation of Ales’s identity. Hiss seemed to fill the bill. Even so, in the same May 15 memo, the FBI noted that “an attempt is being made by analysis of the available information to verify this identification.”14 Even three years after Hiss’s conviction in 1950, the FBI was still conducting interviews about Ales — suggesting that the bureau had doubts.

The bureau’s agents questioned Averell Harriman, George Kennan, and John F. Melby, all Moscow-stationed diplomats who were involved with a 1945 Moscow visit by Secretary of State Edward Stettinius and his party after the Yalta Conference. Years later Melby revealed: “I would get visits from the FBI asking me what Alger Hiss had been up to, and had he gone secretly to see so-and-so and so-and-so, in the Kremlin. All I’d say was, ‘As far as I know, he didn’t do anything differently from anybody else in the party.’ If he did see anybody, I was not aware of it, and actually, Alger was staying at Spaso15 with us, along with Stettinius and others. If he did see anybody, which I’ve always doubted very seriously, I didn’t know anything about it. So after a while the FBI got tired of coming and seeing me on that old chestnut.”16

Melby was clear that the FBI questioned him “after the trial and after he [Hiss] had been convicted.”17The timing of FBI visits with Melby and the particular questions they asked him indicate that the bureau had in mind the clues contained in Venona 1822. They had similar questions for Kennan on April 8, 1953. And on May 12, 1953, they interviewed Ambassador Harriman and his daughter, Mrs. Mortimer, who had also flown back to Moscow after the Yalta conference. None of those interviewed was able to tell the FBI anything definitive. Clearly, the bureau’s identification of Ales as Hiss was never more than tentative.

Yet almost half a century later, when the FBI’s May 15, 1950, memo was released to the U.S. Senate Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, no mention was made of the FBI’s initial and continuing doubts. Appendix A of what has become known as the Moynihan Commission Report18said that “a Soviet cable of March 30, 1945, identified an agent, code-name ALES, as having attended the Yalta Conference of February 1945. He had then journeyed to Moscow where, according to the cable, he and his colleagues were ‘awarded Soviet decorations.’ This could only be Alger Hiss, Deputy Director of the State Department’s Office of Special Political Affairs; the other three State Department officials in the delegation from Yalta to Moscow are beyond suspicion.” A footnote specified that “the three others from the State Department in the U.S. delegation were Edward R. Stettinius Jr., Secretary of State; H. Freeman Matthews, Director of the Office of European Affairs; and Wilder Foote, Assistant to the Secretary of State.”

Ever since, Ales’s identity as Alger Hiss has become a mantra for longtime believers in Hiss’s guilt. Today, NSA historian Robert L. Benson goes so far as to say that the word “probably” should be dropped in the NSA’s tentative identification of Ales.19 In his view, there can no longer be any question that Hiss engaged in wartime spying on behalf of the Soviet Union and that he is the Ales described in Venona 1822.

At first glance, this reasoning appears to be straightforward and logical. But a closer reading of Venona 1822 raises numerous questions:

• Ales had been working with the GRU since 1935; Chambers specifically said that Hiss had no GRU connections before 1937.
• Ales was the leader of a small group “mainly consisting of his relatives.” Hiss, his critics have assumed, in accordance with the FBI’s May 1950 memo, was “working” with his wife, Priscilla, and his brother Donald — although no one has ever lodged any espionage allegations against Donald, and the FBI itself said charges that he was a member of the Communist Party were unsubstantiated. Neither has any evidence surfaced that Priscilla was a Communist Party member.20
• Ales provided his Soviet handlers with “military information only.” Here the evidence pointing to Hiss is at best ambiguous, if not exculpatory. It would be illogical to use a State Department career diplomat with a legal background for obtaining information that would not normally come his way — and at the same time to underuse him for getting the diplomatic information he would encounter naturally. Attempts to prove that Hiss was Ales by pointing out that by 1944–45 he was privy to information on military matters seem to disregard this elementary logic of intelligence tradecraft.21
• Finally, and most important, Venona 1822 reports that “after the Yalta conference already in Moscow Ales was allegedly contacted by a very important Soviet official. (ALES gave to understand that it was Comrade Vyshinskij and on instruction of military neighbors passed onto him their gratitude and so on.”

Those who believe Hiss is Ales argue that this clue is the clincher: Ales attended the Yalta conference in February 1945 — and so did Hiss. Ales left Yalta and flew to Moscow where the Soviet Deputy People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs (NKID) Andrei Vyshinsky ostensibly conveyed “their gratitude and so on.” Like Ales, Hiss left the Yalta Conference and flew with Secretary of State Stettinius to Moscow, where he remained for two days. On the evening of February 13, 1945, Hiss accompanied Stettinius to a performance of Swan Lake at the Bolshoi; he and Stettinius’s party sat in the central box of the Bolshoi with Vyshinsky — who presumably seized this occasion, perhaps during an intermission, to take Hiss aside for a moment and express his “gratitude.” Case closed. Ales was Hiss.

But after months of digging in both the American and Russian archives, we have discovered new evidence that demonstrates conclusively the falsity of this damning scenario. Hiss was not Ales. The historians who have maintained that he was Ales turned an assumption and a few clues into a conclusion without bothering to determine if Hiss actually fit the profile of Ales — or asking whether a better candidate for Ales existed.


We have discovered that Hiss had a firm alibi. We know this from a relatively recent discovery, a Soviet-era cable that sheds new light on the clues to Ales’s identity given in Venona 1822. This new evidence surfaced during a libel suit filed in London by Vassiliev, Weinstein’s Russian collaborator on The Haunted Wood. In 2003, Vassiliev lost his suit against the publisher of the late lawyer and longtime Hiss defender John Lowenthal, but in the course of the trial, he introduced numerous notes he had taken on Soviet-era documents that he was allowed to read (but not copy) in the archives of the SVR.22 One of these documents was a March 5, 1945, cable signed “Vadim,” written to his colleagues in Moscow. Vadim is known to have been Anatoly Gorsky, the NKGB’s station chief in Washington, D.C., who operated under the cover name Anatoly Gromov and the cover position of the first secretary in the Soviet Embassy in Washington. Gorsky would also be the author, almost a month later, of Venona 1822.23

For historians, the discovery of the Russian text of a cable preceding the decryption of Venona 1822 opened a new field of opportunity: to crosscheck the Venona decryption and identification against a Russian clear text from the coded cable traffic from World War II.24 Such an occurrence is the dream of any espionage historian — and a nightmare for any espionage professional. Allen Weinstein had access to Vassiliev’s notes on the March 5, 1945, Gorsky cable, but he cited only a small portion of it in The Haunted Wood. Vassiliev’s notes on the cable, originally written in Russian, read:

C/c26 from Vadim, 5 March 45

Wants to be included into the Sov. delegation at San Francisco conference. However, can’t leave the outpost [tochka] on [in the care of] any other operative. He wants — on [to leave it in the care of] the “Son” (Garanin F.A., transferred from Cuba to Washington as Soviet Embassy attaché.27)

After the conference Vadim wants to come to Moscow to report in person.

Special attention — to “Ales”. Was at Yalta conference, then left for Mexico-City [and] has not yet come back. Our only key to him –“Ruble’”28 “Ruble” himself travels on business (Italy) — [it is] difficult to run [supervise] ‘Ales’ through him.

29We have talked about ‘Ales’ with ‘Rubl’ several times.
As we have already written, ‘Rouble’ gives to ‘Ales’ an exceptionally good political reference as to the Communist Party30 member. ‘Ruble’ reports that ‘Ales’ [is] a strong, determined man with a firm and resolute character, [he] is fully aware that he is a Communist, [and] is underground — with all the resulting consequences. Unfortunately, he probably understands the rules of security [‘conspiratsiju’] in his own way as [do] all local Communists.

As we have already reported to you, ‘Ales’31

that was connected with the neighbors. After the loss of contact with ‘Carl’, ‘Ruble’’ declined [to come in contact], when ‘Ales’ came in contact with ‘Pol.’32 He [‘Ales’] himself told about this to ‘Ruble’’
a year and a half ago, when he was inviting the latter to meet with ‘Pol’ to continue the work.”

“Ruble” may talk to “Ales” about reestablishing the work. If he [e.g. ‘Ales’] would not like [working] with “Rouble”, it is possible [to work] with us.

p.89 There is one unclear circumstance. About six months ago, “Ales” told “Ruble” that he had met a Russian person (he did not give his name) who immediately asked him to write a small memo about one issue. “Ales” asked for “Ruble”’s opinion as to what he should do. “Ruble” declined from giving a direct answer, saying that “Ales” could act at his own discretion.

“Ales” should be approached by a Sov. [Soviet] representative. Either one of the Center’s operatives, or “Sergey”33, or me, “Vadim”. Most convenient — [to do this] at the conf-ce [conference] in S.-F. [San Francisco]. After 2–3 meetings, depending on how “Ales” behaves, we may be able to come down to business, referring to the password, or to “Ruble”, or [referring] just to the progressiveness of “Ales”.

The important clue here is Gorsky’s placing Ales at Yalta — and asserting that as of March 5 he was still in Mexico City attending the Inter-American Conference on the Problems of War and Peace. After flying from Yalta to Moscow, Alger Hiss had indeed accompanied Secretary Stettinius to the Mexico City conference, arriving on February 20.34 But Stettinius had asked Hiss to organize the San Francisco conference to found the United Nations. The conference was scheduled to open on April 25, and there was a lot of work to be done. So, less than two days after arriving in Mexico City, Hiss was ordered to fly home on the secretary’s airplane.35



Hiss arrived in Washington on Thursday, February 22, and went to his office to catch up on the backlog of preparations for the San Francisco conference.36 Almost immediately he fell ill with the flu.37 He spent the next five days — including the weekend — at home, going back to work on Wednesday, February 28. “Alger Hiss returned to the office yesterday afternoon for the first time,” wrote R. W. Hartley, one of his colleagues in the State Department’s Office of Special Political Affairs.38 Despite his bout of flu, Hiss stayed involved throughout that time — as he explained in a March 3 letter to Secretary Stettinius sent to Mexico with the evening pouch: “Although I missed several days at the office, I have had talks with Mr. Grew, Julius Holmes, Ed Wilson, Jack Ross and others, and I think that things are in fairly good shape.”39

Behind these words was a brewing international crisis, stemming from sudden French and Chinese demands concerning which countries would be the “inviting parties” to the upcoming San Francisco conference. This dispute had already pushed back the date on which official invitations to the conference would be sent. Originally the invitations were scheduled to go out on February 24 — which is why Hiss had to leave Mexico City to be back in Washington by February 22.40 The invitations to the San Francisco conference were unquestionably Hiss’s top priority at this time. In a phone conversation from Mexico City on February 22, Stettinius told another State Department official that Hiss would be dealing with the situation.75

The members of Stettinius’s secretariat fall into just this category.

The youngest of them, Graham, born in 1919, was only 16 in 1935 and a high school student in Philadelphia, and therefore far too young to have been the Ales who allegedly began “working” in 1935.

Blanchard, born in 1914, was 21 years old in 1935 and a university student in Arizona until 1937. From 1937 to 1940 he worked as secretary for a broadcasting company and from 1940 until 1944 he worked for manufacturing companies. He entered government service as “secretary to Under Secretary of State” in March 1944 and transferred to the UN on July 1, 1945.

Conn, born in 1913, graduated in 1934 from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. In 1934–35 he worked as an editorial clerk for a publishing firm, and from 1936 to 1941 he was an administrative assistant in a trade association. Neither occupation seems very lucrative for intelligence gathering. However, Conn joined government service in 1941 (with the Lend-Lease Administration — a known target of Soviet intelligence), transferring to the Department of State in 1944 and to the United Nations on July 1, 1945.76

The last person on our list of five, Wilder Foote, was 39 years old in 1945, and though he served as an “assistant to the Secretary for drafting,” he has always been lumped into the impossible-to-be-Ales category. In his 2003 essay on Ales, Air Force historian Eduard Mark briefly described Foote as “a more plausible suspect” than Stettinius’s other clerks. However, he decided that “it is unlikely that Foote was so engaged while he rusticated in the farther reaches of New England.”77

It makes sense to eliminate Graham because of his youth and Blanchard because he was in Arizona until 1937 and, more importantly, did not enter government service until 1944. That left us with just two candidates, George Conn and Wilder Foote, both of whom went into government service in 1941, worked for the Lend-Lease Administration, transferred to the Department of State in late 1944, and later worked at the United Nations. Admittedly, Conn seems on the young side to have been “working” in 1935, and nothing about his jobs before going into the government would make him of interest to the Soviets as a potential spy. But Foote, who had worked in Vermont until late 1941, also seemed unlikely to fit the Ales profile.

At this point in our research, a sudden piece of evidence turned up in Moscow.


Venona Cable 1822 reports that Ales was contacted in Moscow by a high-ranking Soviet official who “passed onto him their gratitude and so on.” Using both American and Russian archival papers, we have established the daily schedules of the members of Stettinius’s party during their two-day layover in Moscow. All of them stayed in Spaso House, the official Moscow residence of the American ambassador.78 Based on an hour-by-hour inspection of their whereabouts, the best opportunity any Soviet official would have had to convey his gratitude to Ales would have been on the evening of February 13, 1945, when the American delegation went to the Bolshoi Theater for a performance of Swan Lake.

A document from the Russian archives strongly suggests that it was on this occasion that Ales was thanked. The document is the working Soviet diplomatic protocol list of people invited to the Bolshoi central box on that evening.

According to the protocol list,79 11 Russians and 13 Americans were to sit together in the central box — a grand box right in the center of the house, nearly three tiers in height and draped in red brocade curtains. Once designed for the tsar’s family, it can seat two dozen or more officials in its four rows of heavy red plush-and-gilt armchairs. Moscow was still in blackout because of the war, and the glittering gold and purple of the Bolshoi with its sparkling crystal chandeliers was in stark contrast to the cold and darkness of the Moscow streets.

The American list included Stettinius, Harriman and his daughter, Generals D. Dean, Hill, Roberts, and Spaulding, Admiral Olsen, Matthews, Hiss, Page, Foote, and Kennan. It included neither Conn nor Blanchard — and hence eliminates them from our list of candidates for Ales.

The Russian list began with V. M. Molotov, whose name was obviously added in ink and numbered “No. 1a,” with Vyshinsky listed as “No. 1.” Molotov must have been added in order to upgrade the status of the Russian party. The list also included three of Molotov’s deputies, Vyshinsky, Dekanozov, and Litvinov; Ambassador Gromyko; Tsarapkin, the head of the U.S. department of the NKID (the foreign affairs commissariat); two other NKID officials, Chuvakhin and Fomin; and the chairman of the Moscow City Soviet, Popov. The only Russian in military uniform to match four U.S. generals and one admiral was Colonel-General Fyodor Kuznetsov — the director of the GRU of the General Staff of the Soviet Army from March 1943 to September 1947.

Tellingly, the Russian list has a handwritten addition at the bottom of a column explaining that Andrei Vyshinsky, the first Deputy of the People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs, had given last-minute instructions that someone named “Mil’sky” should be seated with the Americans.

Years of American scholarship have focused on the question of when and how Vyshinsky could have thanked Ales on behalf of the military. In fact, as a diplomat, Vyshinsky would never have agreed to decorate an intelligence source. According to interviews with retired KGB officers and diplomats, the GRU would have brought in its own operational officer to do this.80 And that is what happened. The GRU did the job all by itself, in a most elegant setting and in the presence of the GRU director himself. It was here that the “military NEIGHBORS,” as Venona No. 1822 describes the scene, “passed on to him their gratitude and so on.”

“Mil’sky” was the cover name for Colonel Mikhail Abramovich Milstein, age 44, who was without question one of the GRU’s most competent and sophisticated officers. Milstein would go down in the history of Soviet military intelligence as one of its best experts in agent intelligence. “Mil’sky” was the name he used from 1935 to 1938 as an operative and later as the “rezident” or station chief in New York City. Under the same alias, he had also visited Canada, the United States, and Mexico in the summer of 1944.81 In 1941 and 1942, as head of the Intelligence Department of the Red Army Western Front, he had organized intelligence operations against the advancing Nazis. By the time this experienced spymaster entered the Bolshoi central box, he was deputy head of GRU’s strategic intelligence directorate.82

Milstein had attended the Yalta conference. One of his colleagues at the Military Diplomatic Academy in Moscow later recalled, “I clearly remember that he went to Yalta and was continuously present in the meeting room, since he had on contact a highly valuable source of information. . . . For Yalta and soon after it Milstein was awarded — as far as I remember — with the Order of the Patriotic War.”83

Garrulous, articulate, and athletic, Milstein was a likable man, a great storyteller, and the heart of any party, where he could drink anyone under the table. After his retirement at the rank of lieutenant general, he had a long and successful academic career. (He died at the age of 82.) He was perfectly suited to convey the GRU’s commendation to Ales.

But whom did he thank?

With Conn not in the box, we were left with just a single candidate — Wilder Foote.

One more clue points to Foote. Soviet documents tellingly suggest that it was the Russians who got Foote’s name added to the list of those allowed into the Bolshoi’s central box.84 Foote later made a point of denying that he sat there. Part of his job throughout the Yalta trip had been to keep handwritten notes in a black, leather-bound diary, which has never been found. But when Stettinius wrote his 1949 memoir of Yalta — Roosevelt and the Russians: The Yalta Conference — Foote was evidently asked to consult his notes for colorful details. Foote obligingly dictated several long memos “from notes in his small black notebook.”85

Foote described their visit to the Bolshoi in one such memo, dictated in 1949: “There were four acts to the ballet and it was without doubt the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. . . . At one time I counted at least 60 dancers.” Foote then reported, “Mr. Stettinius, as the guest of honor, was in the center box in the rear of the theatre together with Molotov, Vyshinski, Litvinov, Dekanosov, Gromyko, Tsarapkin, Chuvakhin, General T. Hill, General Sidney Spaulding, head of the Supply Mission; Mrs. George Kennan, wife of the Minister; Miss Kathleen Harriman, Ambassador Harriman, Mrs. Edward Page, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Hiss, Major Tyson and General Kuznetsov.” Note that Foote’s list does not match the Soviet list: he adds three Americans (including Major Tyson, one of the original Ales possibilities) and omits three Russians (including Milstein). Most important, Foote omits his own presence in the central box: “The rest of us [the State Department team] sat in the orchestra surrounded by men and women in the uniform of the Red Army, and a few civilians.”86

If Foote had sat in the central box and had a conversation with “Mil’sky” — and if he was Ales — he would later have had every reason to obscure this fact when helping Stettinius put together his 1949 memoir. The working Soviet protocol list, a contemporary record, seems a more reliable guide to the occupants of the central box than the memo Foote assembled four years later, based on his 1945 notes. Of course, Foote might have sat in the central box for one or more acts (in those years Swan Lake had three intermissions) and then moved to the orchestra seating later in the performance. The important point is that the Soviets had him on the protocol list to sit in the central box, where he was likely to have encountered Milstein.87

Even if the two sat together, while GRU Director Kuznetsov sat up front, we still could not say with any certainty whether Wilder Foote was Ales. Confronted with the fact that our months-long research left us with just one candidate for Ales, we went back to the archives to learn more about Wilder Foote.




Henry Wilder Foote, born in 1905, came from a long line of New England theologians farmers, sea captains, and newspaper publishers. Nearly all American Footes trace their lineage back to one of three English ancestors: Nathaniel Foote of Colchester, who emigrated to Watertown, Massachusetts, in about 1630; Pasco Foote, who landed in Salem, Massachusetts, shortly after 1630; and Richard Foote, who left Cornwall at about the same time and settled in Virginia.

Wilder Foote, a descendant of Pasco Foote, was the product of a then nearly 300-year-old, and still undimmed, commitment among a number of old New England families to egalitarianism and social justice. With its roots in both Puritan opposition to imposed religion and strong support for the American Revolution, this tradition was within the Foote family strengthened by a long record of observant Unitarianism, and often manifested itself as support for idealistic and sometimes anti-establishment causes.88

Foote’s family still speaks with pride of Caleb Foote, a young Revolutionary War naval officer who escaped from a British prison ship off the coast of South Carolina only to die soon after of consumption. His grandson and namesake, Caleb Foote (1803–1894), was the son of a sea captain and rose to become owner and editor of the Salem Gazette and Mercury. His own grandson, Henry Wilder Foote II (1875–1964), a Unitarian minister, historian, and compiler of hymn books who was also father of Wilder Foote, the diplomat, wrote in his Harvard College “Fiftieth Anniversary Report,” in 1947: “In religion, politics, and the field of social reform, I am still an ‘unrepentant liberal,’ profoundly concerned that we may leave to our children and grandchildren a better world than the torn and distracted one we have known.89

Wilder Foote went to Harvard, like his father and many Footes before and after him, and graduated in 1927. That fall he went abroad to travel and study informally in Paris, Berlin, and Vienna. Late in 1928 Foote returned to America and on October 22 married Marcia Noyes Stevens, the daughter of a founding editor of The Christian Science Monitor. That autumn he got a job as a staff writer for the Associated Press in Boston. In 1931, he was still with AP, serving as a night editor. But sometime that year he quit and moved to Vermont, where he bought three weekly regional newspapers, which he edited and published for nearly 10 years.

When Foote took control of his main weekly, the Middlebury Register, it was a self-described Republican newspaper. Foote soon changed its affiliation to Independent. Through the late 1930s, as the specter of fascism threatened Europe, Foote became active in organizations like the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA), a lobbying group chaired by William Allen White, the well-known Republican newspaper editor from Kansas.90 A Vermont chapter of the CDAAA formed in the summer of 1940. Foote’s membership in the group marked him as an ardent interventionist. According to his son, also named Wilder Foote, his father was a staunch admirer of Franklin Roosevelt. “My father was a lifelong Democrat of a liberal bent,” says the junior Foote. “He was a strong supporter of FDR and the New Deal. His international views were definitely of a worldly nature, as he had been a [retrospective] supporter of Wilson’s attempts to make the League of Nations a viable entity. He believed strongly that international recognition and cooperation was essential to world order instead of world chaos.”91

In early 1941 Foote weighed in on the controversial debate over Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease Bill. He vigorously defended the bill and attacked its critics for aligning themselves with American “money powers” that included the “appease Hitler element of big business.” Such a stance — after the Stalin-Hitler pact of 1939 and before the June 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union — indicates that Foote was not following the Communist Party line of the moment.

Foote’s language shows him to be a man of the democratic left. He wrote that “plain people” wanted peace, but they also wanted to continue the “unfinished work of democracy.” This could only happen by “facing unpleasant facts and acting to defend their rights and win their future from their enemies with promptness and resolution and the irresistible strength given to a people both united and free.”92

Recall that the Air Force historian Eduard Mark dismissed Foote as an unlikely candidate for Ales because, throughout the 1930s, “he rusticated in the farther reaches of New England.”93 However, Foote was a cosmopolitan, an intellectual, and an internationalist. In fact, a well-connected journalist like Foote might have been of interest to the Soviets — even in Vermont. Soviet intelligence placed a premium on the recruitment of journalists whose work and broad contacts made them natural conduits of both information and influence and could with time serve as an introduction into government service.94

In November 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, Foote moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as an information officer with the Office of Emergency Management. By then, Foote was well known in Vermont. When U.S. Senator Warren R. Austin of Vermont read in the newspapers of Foote’s departure, he wrote him a note welcoming him to Washington and telling him that “the latch string is out here” any time he cared to visit his Senate office.95 The president of Middlebury College wrote to Foote that everyone regarded “your impending departure as little short of a great set-back, almost a calamity for Middlebury.”96 Soon the college awarded him an honorary degree.

In 1942 Foote transferred to the Office of War Information (OWI), where he became its news bureau liaison officer. Among his other responsibilities, Foote was supposed to be in communication with William “Wild Bill” Donovan’s Office of the Coordinator of Information — the predecessor to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). A short time later, he was promoted to chief of the Lend-Lease and Combined Boards Section of the OWI. This job gave him access to information throughout the War and State Departments on lend-lease issues, a topic of prime interest to the Soviets, who were in desperate need of military supplies throughout much of the war.

By the end of 1943, Foote was promoted again, this time to head the foreign information programs (Lend-Lease). Though he maintained an office at OWI, he spent most of his time working for Edward Stettinius, who was running the Lend-Lease program. Stettinius took a liking to the affable Foote and valued his ability to draft speeches and memos. On February 14, 1944, Foote quit his position at the OWI to become a special assistant to Stettinius, who was now the Foreign Economic Administrator.

In the autumn of 1944, Secretary of State Cordell Hull sent Foote to Britain, France, Italy, and North Africa to gather “first-hand information on the part played by Lend-Lease and reverse Lend-Lease in allied war operations.”97 Secretary of War Henry Stimson armed him with a letter of introduction specifying that he was “authorized to obtain all types of classified as well as unrestricted information material in this field.”98 Throughout these assignments, Foote served as a high-level government reporter. As such, he had access to plenty of military secrets and sensitive diplomatic information.

When Stettinius was elevated to secretary of state, Foote once again followed his patron. On December 2, 1944, The New York Times reported that “Wilder Foote . . . will come into the [State] department with high rank.” On January 24, 1945, he was formally promoted to be an “Assistant to the Secretary of State.”

In many respects, Foote fits the profile of Ales better than Hiss does. Like Hiss, he followed the Ales itinerary from Yalta to Moscow to Mexico City and finally to the San Francisco conference.99 But unlike Hiss, he was still in Mexico City when the March 5 cable says that Ales was there. He had access to high-level information from the time he joined the government in 1941. The Soviets would have been particularly interested in an official whose expertise on Lend-Lease issues was of vital interest to their war effort — not to mention one who became an assistant to the Secretary of State in charge of drafting the secretary’s, and sometimes the president’s, speeches.100

Foote was present at many of the Yalta meetings, often sitting immediately behind President Roosevelt and Secretary Stettinius, who relied upon him to take handwritten notes in the black notebook. Foote was also the principal writer of the joint communiqué issued at the conclusion of the conference.101

In July 1945 Foote left the State Department to follow Stettinius to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. When Stettinius resigned in June 1946 from the UN job, Foote became an assistant to his successor, Warren Austin.102 In August 1947, Foote left to become director of the UN Secretariat’s Press and Publications Bureau. He was one of the top 15 Americans serving in the UN’s Secretariat. Throughout the 1950s, Foote continued to work as a top aide to both the Secretary Generals Trygve Lie and Dag Hammarskjöld, working out of the UN Secretariat offices on the 38th floor. He traveled widely with Secretary General Lie and became the United Nation’s public spokesman and ardent advocate. He wrote a friend that he regarded the UN as his “cause.”103

Foote retired from the United Nations in 1960 at the relatively young age of 55. He told friends that he was moving to Maine where he wished to write and fish. At his retirement party a French diplomat toasted him as “a very human person and very much liked by everyone.”104 Hammarskjöld wrote him a parting note that read, “You must regard yourself always as a member of the Secretariat family.”105 After Hammarskjöld’s death in an airplane crash in Rhodesia, Foote edited a collection of Hammarskjöld’s papers. By then Foote was friends with such prominent journalists as Walter Lippmann, C. L. Sulzberger, and Henry Brandon. He died in relative obscurity in 1975.

Still, could Wilder Foote be Ales? We have no unambiguous answer to that question, so we decline to do what others have done when they rushed to identify Hiss as Ales. Nevertheless, we have turned up a considerable amount of additional information that suggests Foote fits the Ales profile.


Foote, and not Hiss, fits the profile in one other critical way. In September 1945 — about five years before the NSA learned of the spy code-named Ales — Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, defected to Canadian authorities. In his initial debriefings by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Gouzenko claimed to know that “an assistant to an Assistant Secretary of State under Mr. Stettinius” was a Soviet spy. When he was interviewed by the FBI, the bureau’s agents reported this somewhat differently: “Gouzenko stated he did not know the man’s name but that he had been told that an Assistant to Stettinius was a Soviet spy.”106

If we accept Gouzenko’s information as accurate, the number of possible candidates is greatly reduced, since Stettinius had only a handful of direct assistants, whereas there were many assistants working for the six assistant secretaries in 1945.107 When Hiss joined the State Department in 1936, his job title was indeed “Assistant to the Assistant Secretary Francis B. Sayre.” But this job title ended in the summer of 1939, when Hiss switched to the Far Eastern Division, and in 1944–45 his title in the State Department was deputy director — and beginning in March 1945 he was listed as director of the Office of Special Political Affairs (SPA). Although he certainly interacted with the secretary, he would never be described as an assistant to Stettinius. Furthermore, nowhere in the Russian archives is Hiss described as an assistant; he is always referred to by his title of deputy director and then director of SPA and/or secretary general of the San Francisco conference.108 By contrast, Foote always appears in the U.S. archival records with the title “Assistant.” The Soviets also always described Foote in their Russian-language Yalta records and public releases as “Assistant to the Secretary of State.”109 Stettinius himself demonstrates the point in his 1949 book, which was already available to the FBI by the time of their early 1950 investigation of Ales’s identity. Stettinius listed “the State Department experts” who traveled with him to the Yalta conference as follows: “H. Freeman Matthews, Director of the Office of European Affairs, Alger Hiss, Deputy Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs, and Wilder Foote, Assistant to the Secretary of State.”110

A few documents of American origin do pop up in the Russian archives, suggesting that the Russians had a source or leak of some kind coming right out of the immediate office of Secretary of State Stettinius.

Russian files contain some evidence that there was substance to Gouzenko’s allegation that this “assistant” was passing information to the Soviets. On March 19, 1945, a memo from Stettinius titled “Preliminary Proposals on the Organization of the Conference in San Francisco” was “handed over” to Ambassador Gromyko. It looks as if whoever passed along the double-spaced memo typed on the bottom of its last page a single-spaced paragraph unrelated to the subject of the memo. This paragraph reads: “On the secret agreement between USA and Holland for providing the USA naval and aviation bases in the Dutch West Indies, Holland has received from the USA a loan of 175 million dollars, consisting of 100 million for Holland and 75 million for Dutch Indies.”111

The paragraph is consistent with Gouzenko’s allegation and also fits the description of Ales in Venona 1822 as someone who provided mostly military information. Moreover, on June 23, 1945, at the close of the San Francisco conference, Ambassador Gromyko received “Materials sent from the Office of Stettinius,” including a cover memo on the secretary of state’s letterhead dated June 23, 1945, and an “attached paper” titled “Notes for the Honorable Edward R. Stettinius Jr. at the meeting of the four presidents with the International Secretariat, Saturday, June 23, 12 Noon.” Together with these two documents, Gromyko obtained a one-page light copy of an untitled document typed on the same paper as the previous two but in obviously different typeface. In its upper-right corner, there is penciled in Russian the words: Draft of Stettinius’s statement at the meeting of the Governing Committee 23 – VI – 45. The draft addressed a topic of top concern to the Soviets: whether the Provisional Polish Government of National Unity would sign the UN Charter.112

Moreover, evidence from the Moscow archives demonstrates that the Soviets received leaked confidential reports from within the Office of War Information on the subject of lend-lease. A first secretary in the Soviet Embassy in Washington reported on March 9, 1943: “Recently I received a confidential report on [the data on U.S. public opinion] from the Intelligence Department of the Office of War Information. . . . This information was reported to me through an intermediary by an employee of the said Department.”113 And again, on July 14, 1943, Soviet Ambassador Gromyko cabled Moscow: “I can inform you about the opinion currently unofficially expressed in Washington government circles and, in particular, by some officials of [the] Lend-Lease Administration. . . . 1) The cost of US supplies to different countries . . . will never be reimbursed, and the United States won’t request this reimbursement, including from the Soviet Union. . . . 2) . . . there will be a differentiated approach to different countries, depending on the extent of their participation in the fight against the AXIS. . . . The Soviet Union would of course be the first among nations that should not reimburse the cost of the supplies received from the USA.”114 This information was of intense interest to Moscow — and it came from someone inside the Lend-Lease Administration. Foote had access to these reports and so might have been the source — whether or not he was in fact Ales.

Still more, the leads in Russian files continue into the early Cold War period. We now know from archival files in Moscow that the Soviets had a very good source (or sources) at the UN Secretariat and probably in Trygve Lie’s immediate circle.115 The so-called Molotov private-files collection, only recently declassified in Moscow, has produced a wealth of 1951 and 1952 reports flowing to Vyacheslav M. Molotov, Stalin’s longtime foreign minister, from the heads of all the Soviet intelligence services.116 In one of these reports, dated September 19, 1951, the head of the Soviet Committee of Information tells Molotov that six days earlier in New York there was a conference of the leading officers of the UN Secretariat, presided over by Lie, devoted to drafting new guidelines on the secretariat employees.117 This and similar reports could only have come from a source in Lie’s inner circle.118

The Soviet source in the Lie office is not named in any of the released Molotov personal-file documents, but we do know from an FBI report that Lie himself, describing the workings of his office, confirmed the existence of an inner circle. Lie met twice a week with “about 18 officials of the United Nations,” and more frequently than that with a smaller group he called his internal cabinet. Lie also told the FBI that Wilder Foote was one of these cabinet members, calling Foote “a very close advisor.”119

Even if on closer scrutiny one of these avenues led to Wilder Foote, would this take us any closer to matching Foote with Ales’s profile in Venona 1822 and the March 5 cable? Recall once again that Ales was someone who “since 1935 has been continuously working with the NEIGHBORS” and who, according to Ruble’s report in the March 5 cable, was “fully aware that he is a Communist, [and] is underground.” Recall, too, that “for some years past he has been the leader of a small group of the NEIGHBORS’ probationers, for the most part consisting of his relations [relatives].” To see if Foote might fit these parts of Ales’s profile, we went through dozens of Communist Party USA files from the late 1920s to the 1930s, as well as through U.S. government files to see if Foote appeared in any of the investigations of the early Cold War era.

As far as relatives are concerned, we can only say that we have no evidence of Foote “working” with any of his relatives. The family numbered in the thousands, some of whom were government officials and officers in the military.120 The family also had many in-laws, one of whom once visited Russia with Hal Ware, a communist agrarian expert who according to Whittaker Chambers allegedly organized a secret Communist Party cell in Washington, D.C., in 1933–1934. In 1936, Constantine Oumansky, then an official at the Soviet Embassy in the U.S. (and later an ambassador) described this in-law (then at the Resettlement Administration) as “our long-term friend, . . . Roosevelt’s ardent admirer, . . . who, however, possesses lots of useful contacts and has several times rendered me this type of services.” Oumansky specifically mentioned that this individual used to tell him “about his conversations with Hull [. . . ] and Moore” of the Department of State.121

Although — as with Hiss — we could not find any record that Foote had been a member of the Communist Party, we did learn that the Foote family’s long commitment to nonconformity, idealism, and social justice had led one Foote family blood relative who was a contemporary of Wilder Foote’s to an active interest in communism.

His second cousin, Richard Linn Edsall (1905–1967) became a Communist Party member in the early 1930s, during the Depression and the rise of European fascism. The son of David Linn Edsall, a famous physician and biomedical researcher who was dean of both the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health,122 Richard Edsall inherited his father’s strong democratic ideas. David Edsall criticized the lack of “intellectual freedom in the medical course,” as well as “in almost any other form of professional education in this country,” and advocated what he called “a spirit of independent interest.” In about 1935, Richard Edsall took a leave from his Boston advertising agency to organize office workers for the Congress of Industrial Organizations. He evidently also belonged to a number of Communist Party mass organizations.123

During World War II Richard Edsall took into his Cambridge, Massachusetts, house a European Communist family — Ernst and Corolla Bloch, who stayed with the Edsalls for several years. (Ernst Bloch was a prominent Marxist philosopher whose writings were a key influence on the development of the liberation theology movement of the 1960s.)124 After the war, Richard Edsall was one of many American participants in a number of Soviet-supported causes, such as the Independent Citizens Committee of Arts, Science and Professions (1946) and the Progressive Citizens of America (1947). In 1948 he was active in Henry Wallace’s Progressive Party.125

In 1952, Herbert Philbrick, an FBI informer later famous as the author of I Led Three Lives, a book that became both a movie and a television series, described Richard Edsall, in Congressional testimony that didn’t actually mention Edsall’s name, as an important member of a “pro-4” group in Boston. (“Pro” referred to cell whose members were “professionals.”) By that time, however, Edsall was beyond the grasp of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The year before, on June 4, 1951 — the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict in the trial of 11 Communist Party leaders convicted of conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government — Richard Edsall left the United States and permanently resettled in Canada.126

We found no mention of Wilder Foote in Communist Party USA files in Moscow, but did turn up information that even the state of Vermont, one of only two states so rock-ribbed in their conservatism that they voted against Roosevelt in 1936, was not devoid of Communists in the 1930s. Vermont had a local Communist Party section that by mid-1935 numbered more than 70 members, including three intellectuals.127

In American files we found that repeated investigations of Foote began in June 1941 — a full six months prior to his government employment128 — and that he had a thick FBI file. When we first saw this file, it was heavily redacted, but some months later, we discovered unredacted copies of many of the FBI reports in Foote’s Civil Service Commission (CSC) file at the National Archives.129 This is what we have learned from those files:

Accusations in Foote’s FBI file, collated in the early 1950s, suggest that some employees of his newspapers were Communists or associated with a “radical group at Middlebury” during the time they worked for him.130 The FBI reported that a former employee of Foote’s had been expelled from Middlebury College “for Communist Party tendencies.”131 We now know that this employee was Vonda Wolcott, the wife of Harold Bergman; in fact, it was he who had been expelled from Middlebury for his alleged Communist activities. Foote remained friends with Bergman and Wolcott long after he left for Washington. Indeed, after the war they socialized in Washington when Bergman worked for the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy.

Both the FBI and CSC investigations revolved around Wilder Foote’s various associations. This can be shaky ground, of course, but it can suggest how a particular person might have been introduced to certain ideas or activities. The history of Soviet espionage groups in the 1930s and ’40s (most notably the Cambridge Five) suggest the importance of college associations in introducing left-wing ideas that sometimes led to the world of Soviet espionage.

At Harvard, Foote made several lifelong friendships that are interesting in this context. During his time there, he was assistant managing editor of The Harvard Crimson. The managing editor of the paper was Frederick Vanderbilt Field, and a member of its editorial staff was Joseph Fels Barnes. The three young men became friends, and their friendships lasted through the 1930s and ’40s, when both Barnes and Field held strongly left-wing political views. Upon graduation, all three traveled to Europe. Field went to London for postgraduate study at the London School of Economics and returned to the United States in 1928. In London, Field’s life was “turned to the left.”132 Barnes also went to London to complete his education, then on to continental Europe — and later to the Soviet Union. Like many other young educated Americans of his generation in the late 1920s, Foote, as mentioned earlier, went to Paris, Berlin, and Vienna in the autumn of 1927. In those places at that time, many such expatriates, however apolitical their reasons for being there, were exposed to leftist ideas. Beginning in 1925 all three cities had important outposts of the Comintern Department of International Communication (known as OMS), which served as a kind of worldwide collective recruiter of supporters of Communist ideas; Russian intelligence operatives were particularly active in those cities.

In 1953 Foote was closely questioned about his European travels before a hearing of the International Organizations Employees Loyalty Board of the U.S. Civil Service Commission. (As we shall see, this loyalty board had opened a full-scale investigation of Foote.) Foote testified that he had spent the Christmas of 1927 with Barnes and his mother in London. He saw Barnes again in the spring of 1928 in Vienna, where Foote spent five weeks. Foote told the Loyalty Board that in Vienna their “associations were merely with the young Social Democrats of Austria, who were firm enemies of Communists as well as of the Fascists.”133 Foote explained that after this European sojourn, “their ways parted,” but he acknowledged that Barnes stopped by “once or twice” to see him in Vermont: “Barnes was driving through, stopping by for a half hour’s talk, for a cup of coffee, or something of that sort. I would say twice, that I can remember.”134 He also saw Barnes in London in late 1945 or early 1946, and again at the United Nations in the late 1940s.135

Similarly, Foote maintained his friendship with Field after leaving Harvard. In the late winter of 1928, while studying German, Foote met Field in Berlin. Later, he told the Loyalty Board hearing that he had seen Field “sometime during the 1930’s.” However, he downplayed the friendship, saying he just had an occasional “drink with him at the Harvard Club,” while “on a quick visit to New York from Vermont.” Despite these contacts, Foote denied being aware of Field’s political views: “I was not aware of any Communist sympathies or activities on the part of Field until some time after the Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939.” Foote also downplayed his encounter with Field at the 1945 San Francisco conference: “I went up and spoke to him, as I would do . . . with hundreds of correspondents . . . regardless of political differences.”136

Foote’s friendships with Barnes and Field were bound to make him suspect in the eyes of the FBI. Field himself claimed in his memoirs that he was a Party member — although Russian files describe him not as a member but as being only “very close.”137 Barnes is similarly described in a mid-1934 report to the head of the foreign intelligence arm of the Soviet security service, the OGPU, following Barnes’s three-month stay in the Soviet Union. The FBI believed that both men were in some contact with Soviet intelligence during the 1930s and ’40s. According to Russian files, Field was “generously donating money to several organizations close to” the Soviets.138Documents show that he was in contact with various Soviet representatives in the United States beginning in early 1935.139 Field had recorded contacts with Constantine Oumansky, a Soviet Embassy official and then ambassador, who from 1938 to 1940 doubled as an informal representative of both the NKGB and the GRU intelligence services; some of these interactions amounted to “active measures” on behalf of the Soviet Union.140 Still, what we know does not prove that Field was a full-blown Soviet agent.141

Barnes spent eight months in 1928 in the Soviet Union studying Russian. In early 1931, he returned to the Soviet Union, writing for The New York Herald Tribune; he said his intentions for going there were to master his Russian and “to see what was going on.”142 In late 1933 Barnes became secretary of the American branch of the Institute of Pacific Relations, and in this capacity he visited the Soviet Union in the spring of 1934 along with the institute’s general secretary, Edward Carter.143 The Soviets regarded both men as “highly left-wing” and reported the opportunity to Arthur Artuzov — then head of OGPU’s foreign intelligence and soon deputy head of the intelligence directorate of the Red Army General Staff — with a note that “this organization may be useful to us, and in particular may be useful in your work.144 In the late 1930s, Barnes returned to Moscow as the Herald Tribune bureau chief.145

From our reading of Foote’s FBI and CSC files, it looks likely that Barnes played some role in Foote’s getting into government service. In the fall of 1941, Foote wrote to Barnes “asking about the possibility of a job in the Overseas Office for the Coordinator of Information.” Foote knew that Barnes had been appointed to the New York office of this nascent, prewar intelligence organization headed by William Donovan. The New York Times had run a short news story on July 9, 1941, reporting Donovan’s appointment — and it is telling that the first federal government job Foote applied for was with a precursor to the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).1146 “[Barnes] sent me an interim reply,” Foote said, “indicating there might be something later. In the meantime, Robert Horton, then Director of Information for the Office of Emergency Management, and a Vermonter himself, called me to Washington, D.C., and offered me a job on his staff which I accepted.”147 Interestingly, Foote listed Barnes as one of his references.148 All of this explains why the FBI later investigated Foote’s relationship with Barnes and Field.149

However, a direct participant in Foote’s being hired by the government, Henry Paynter, told the FBI a different story: “I recruited Wilder Foote into government service on the recommendation of my dear friend John Milton Potter who became very attached to Foote at Harvard.”150

In 1942, NKGB foreign intelligence targeted Barnes for recruitment.151 But this must not have happened, since in October 1944, Barnes was named in a Venona cable as a good source of information for NKGB operative Vladimir Pravdin, “without signing him up.”152 By that time, Barnes had been forced to resign his position as chief of the International Press and Radio Bureau of OWI’s overseas branch, headquartered in New York.153 It is noteworthy that Barnes’s Soviet contact, Pravdin, was present at the San Francisco conference in a journalistic capacity.

That Foote had such a history of friendship with Harvard classmates like Barnes and Field should not, of course, be interpreted as evidence of guilt. Critics may charge that we are somehow convicting Foote with the same “guilt-by-association” tactics used throughout the McCarthy era. We can only respond that having identified an individual who matches the Ales itinerary, we are compelled by logic to assemble as full a biographical portrait as possible of him. What are the threads of this man’s life story? What were his politics? And yes, with whom did he associate? Do his associations convict him? No. But they help to answer the question of how plausible a candidate he may be for Ales. If Foote is Ales, readers will naturally ask if he knew men or women who viewed the Soviet Communist “experiment” with sympathy. Both Barnes and Field fit this description for at least part of their careers. Foote’s friendship with these men, dating back to student days and carried through for more than two decades, suggests that he was not merely “rusticating” up in Vermont, but that he had contacts who conceivably might have served to introduce him to the Soviets and who at a minimum would help bring him into government service in Washington.


One episode more recently associated with Alger Hiss seems to fit Foote better than it does Hiss. Allen Weinstein writes in The Haunted Wood of an encounter between Gorsky, the NKGB’s man in Washington, and Ruble on April 2, 1945. Citing his Russian collaborator Vassiliev’s notes from Soviet intelligence files, Weinstein reports that Ruble “summoned” Gorsky to come to his Treasury Department office. Weinstein assumes that Ruble is Harold Glasser. In the presence of another Treasury Department official, Ruble slips a note to Gorsky while shaking hands. Weinstein cites the note. It warned Gorsky that an FBI agent had recently observed that a bundle of documents had been brought to New York, photographed, and then returned to Washington within 24 hours. “Judging by the character of the documents, only three people had access to them. One of these people is ‘Ales.’ . . . According to Stettinius, the FBI agent told him such operations with documents had already gone on for 18 months, that in this manner ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of documents were withdrawn. Stettinius asked the FBI agent whether these documents were going to PM [the radical New York daily newspaper], to which the latter answered, ‘No, much lefter than this.’” (Presumably, this means more left-leaning than PM.) “Concluding his conversation with [Ales] about it, Stettinius told him, ‘I hope it is not you.’”154

Weinstein asserts that Ruble (Glasser to him) could only have heard this story directly from Ales, the man to whom Stettinius had in dismay said, “I hope it is not you.” Weinstein assumes that Hiss was Ales. But this ignores something Stettinius wrote in his 1949 book: “I never heard of any questioning of Mr. Hiss’s loyalty from anyone inside or outside of the State Department or from the FBI during my time of service in the Department.”155 Clearly, Stettinius seemed to think he had no reason to question Hiss’s integrity. Given what we know of Foote’s special relationship with Stettinius, the story now fits Foote better than it does Hiss.156

The timing of this April 2, 1945, conversation suggests that the bundle of leaked State Department documents may have been connected to the Amerasia case. In the spring of 1945 the FBI discovered through wiretaps that the offices of Amerasia magazine contained hundreds of classified State Department documents. Affiliated with the left-wing Institute of Pacific Relations (IPR), Amerasia was for a time financed by Frederick Field, Foote’s Harvard classmate. (In the 1930s, Foote’s other Harvard Crimson colleague, Joseph Barnes, was also affiliated with the IPR.157)

In early June 1945 the FBI arrested Amerasia’s editor, Philip Jaffe, and several of his colleagues. Eventually, Jaffe and a government employee, Emmanuel Larsen, pleaded guilty to unauthorized possession of government documents. They were fined $2,500 and $500 respectively.158

In connection to this case, the State Department had the FBI investigate 15 to 20 of its employees — including Alger Hiss.159 But Hiss was never implicated in the Amerasia leaks. Although Foote’s name was never associated in public with the case, he was investigated by the Security Division of the State Department in 1945, with an FBI follow-up.160 In the early 1950s the FBI reported that Foote had been associated with “a former State Department employee” who belonged to “the group who cooperated in obtaining information from the files of the Federal Government for the use of Russian agents.”161

It appears that this employee was John Stewart Service, who was arrested on June 6, 1945, with five other individuals associated with the Amerasia case. Service is usually referred to as “a prominent State Department China Hand.”162 He returned from China in mid-April 1945 when the suspects in the Amerasia case had already been under FBI surveillance for leaking confidential information. (Service was never indicted and after years of investigations was cleared with the help of the U.S. Supreme Court of any wrongdoing.) If Service was the person the FBI said had associated with Foote, it is interesting that Foote did not discontinue the relationship in the face of Service’s persecution. Foote’s name appears as a co-editor of Service’s book The Amerasia Papers: Some Problems in the History of US-China Relations.

Foote’s FBI file suggests that the bureau was wiretapping his phone while he was attending the May 1945 San Francisco conference on the founding of the United Nations. The wiretaps took place at the same time the bureau was investigating the suspects in the Amerasia case. (The FBI reported that Field, Foote’s Harvard classmate, had phoned with a request to interview him for an article in the Communist Party’s Daily Worker. Foote declined, saying he had the flu.)163

In 1947, when dozens of State Department employees were forced out under suspicion of being Communists — Foote transferred to a position in the secretariat of the United Nations, one FBI “reliable informer” reported that “there had been persistent rumors around the office to the effect that [Wilder Foote] was in grave danger of losing his position.”164 Beginning in 1949, right-wing political forces mounted a campaign to purge American employees at the UN Secretariat who were suspected of having left-wing backgrounds.

Eventually, the FBI also found a slender thread linking Foote to the “Perlo Group,” the alleged Communist “information” cell with members in a number of wartime agencies, which in late 1944–45 came under NKGB control. FBI agents told J. Edgar Hoover that “the files of this office also contain information from [excised] to the effect that an individual named Wilder whose last name was unknown but could perhaps have been Foote, contacted [excised], subject of the Silvermaster case, in June 1947, and discussed the divorce proceedings then going on between [excised.]”165 The divorce reference clearly applies to Victor Perlo, chief of the aviation section of the War Production Board. Perlo and Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, who also worked on that board, were both suspected by the FBI of passing information to the Soviets — and both are named in the Venona cables.166

In the mid-1940s the Perlos were going through a nasty divorce and child custody dispute. An angry and alienated Katherine Perlo wrote a letter in 1944 to the U.S. government, denouncing her ex-husband as a spy. If the “Wilder” mentioned in the above FBI memo is indeed Wilder Foote — and “Wilder” is an unusual name — the FBI must have been intrigued to learn that Foote could have known Silvermaster and Perlo. Foote was asked about the two, but he denied knowing either man.167 In any case, the FBI evidently found no wayllow up this tantalizing thread.

In 1945, after Gouzenko’s revelations in Canada, it appears that the FBI briefly suspected that the spy who was an “Assistant to the Secretary” might well be Foote. But the bureau later shifted its suspicions to Alger Hiss, because Whittaker Chambers was willing to testify against him. The FBI briefly investigated Foote again in 1948–49, but this time it was in connection with the case they were trying to build against Hiss.

In sum, Foote was the target of intermittent FBI investigations from 1941 through 1952. The Civil Service Commission’s Investigations Division called a number of witnesses to testify about Foote in 1944 at the International Organizations Employees Loyalty Board. Those who testified included Lauchlin Currie, a White House aide and then a major influence at the Foreign Economic Administration, and Abraham Feller, an OWI official. But in none of these investigations did the FBI find anyone who could testify to any wrongdoing by Foote. Even so, Foote would have to endure one more investigation.

In the autumn of 1952, Sen. Alexander Wiley (R-Wisc.) complained to Secretary of State Dean Acheson of what he called “a continued heavy infiltration of members and ex-members of the Communist Party and other subversive American individuals in the Secretariat of the United Nations.”168 Soon afterward Republican senators charged that someone in the State Department had helped a number of purged department officials find sinecures in the newly established United Nations bureaucracy. Early in 1953 the Eisenhower administration appointed Scott McLeod, a former FBI agent, as the State Department’s new security chief. That spring McLeod told a congressional committee that he was vigorously investigating “whether there was any evidence to show that these subversive Americans on the staff of the Secretary General of the United Nations had gotten their jobs as a result of complicity on the part of subversive Americans.”169 A grand jury was convened to investigate the charges.

The FBI opened an investigation of 21 U.S. citizens employed by the UN Secretariat — including Wilder Foote.170 (A dozen of these people in the secretariat would eventually lose their jobs.) A source “advised that [Foote] appeared before the Federal Grand Jury, Southern District of New York, on 10/6/52 and 10/7/52, at which time he denied Communist Party membership.” In the course of the investigation, Foote acknowledged that he was friendly with Alger Hiss, but he said that it was hard for him to believe that Hiss was guilty.171

The FBI was particularly interested to learn that Wilder Foote and Alger Hiss were good friends; they had first met in 1944 when Foote joined the State Department. Foote’s son remembers that Alger and Priscilla Hiss “were guests in our house on several occasions. My parents were distressed about what happened to them — and I do not think they ever accepted the guilty verdict as justified.”172

On one occasion, Wilder Foote told the FBI that, after he moved his family to New York to work for the UN, he stayed at the Hiss home while on a visit to Washington. He described Hiss as a man of firm character and found him to be totally reliable. It was Foote’s impression that Hiss was completely loyal in carrying out the administration’s foreign policy. Foote stated that he did not consider Hiss pro-Russian, nor did he believe Hiss attempted to influence pro-Russian policies. Foote stated that he was shocked at the allegations made against Hiss. He described Priscilla Hiss as “a very sensitive and idealistic person and believed she would be the last person to be sympathetic toward Communism because of her very nature.”173

Even after Hiss’s first trial, Foote did nothing to hide their friendship. One unnamed source told the FBI, “Wilder Foote is known by me to be a very intimate and very loyal friend of Alger Hiss. About two weeks before [blank] I observed Wilder Foote in close consultation with [Alger Hiss] in the Press Bar at Lake Success. I was flabbergasted at the brazen public display of friendship shown by Wilder Foote for a man who was almost convicted by one jury and was about to be tried by another.”174

Although the FBI redacted the name of this source in Foote’s FBI file, we found the name in an unredacted version of the same FBI reports in the National Archives. The source was Anne Triano, who had been a secretary at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations from May 1946 until 1949. Before that, Triano had worked “for eight years and a half” in the Criminal Investigations Division of the Internal Revenue Service. The strange and inconsistent story she gave of reporting to the FBI suggests a greater involvement with the bureau than she acknowledged.

Triano willingly testified against Foote at his 1953 Loyalty Board hearing, explaining that she had “felt that things were very wrong in the State Department and in the United Nations” for many years. However, after hearing Sen. Joseph McCarthy give a speech in early 1950, she “felt that it was really my duty to come forward and say something and let people who knew more about it, check into it and do something about it. . . . So along about February or March [1950], I sat down at home and typed out this memorandum. I gave it to a man that I knew would put it in the right hands. . . . He took my memorandum and turned it over to the proper authorities, and a copy went into the hands of the F.B.I., and they, in turn, started an investigation and found me.”

When talking to the FBI, Triano named people she considered to be “Communists or Communist sympathizers,” and added that “Wilder Foote has a reputation at the United States Mission and the United Nations of being pro-Communist or at least a very radical pro-Soviet left-winger.”175

But Triano, unlike Whittaker Chambers, produced no documents to substantiate her allegations. And since Triano was the only witness testifying against Foote at his Loyalty Board hearing, it became a case of one woman’s word against Foote’s.176 On questioning, Triano’s testimony turned so obviously flimsy that one wonders if the FBI hoped she might provoke Foote into making some kind of damaging admission. But Foote appeared unrattled. “I have no memory whatsoever of what she is talking about,” he testified. “The rumors around the office, a new Loyalty Program coming into force. . . . I have not the faintest recollection of any such thing.”

In Foote’s FBI file, the bureau noted that he had been “emotionally involved” and angry about the suicide at age 47 of Abraham Feller, an old friend he had first met at the OWI. Feller had later become general counsel to the UN, and when he was called before the McCarran Committee, he was aggressively questioned about his left-wing views. Shortly afterward, in late November 1952, Feller threw himself out of the window of his 12th-floor apartment overlooking Central Park. Foote had the courage and plain decency to openly blame the McCarran Committee for Feller’s death.177 A friend had died tragically, and he was unafraid to blame the politicians who were then inciting the witch-hunt.

By late spring of 1953, the FBI had uncovered information from abroad indicating that Foote might have some kind of Communist sympathies.178 Cables went out to U.S. embassies in various western European capitals asking for information about Foote. FBI requests for information continued well into 1954. In August 1953 in Paris, the FBI interviewed Lee B. Blanchard, who had served Stettinius in his secretariat and who had traveled with Foote from Yalta to Moscow to Mexico City and on to San Francisco. By 1953, Blanchard was a General Services Officer in the U.S. Embassy in Paris. He described Foote “as being somewhat aggressive, cynical and extremely active in his position as special press relations adviser to Mr. Stettinius.” Blanchard added that when Foote moved to the UN Secretariat in 1947, he “was even more critical and outspoken in his opposition to many of the U.S. policies.”179

Foote was outspoken and held passionate beliefs. In the autumn of 1945, he wrote a long letter to Hiss complaining about Washington’s decision to postpone the inaugural session of the UN General Assembly. He wanted Hiss to know “how profoundly shocked I am at the suggestion that the United States might stall, or allow matters to drift in such a way as to put off the first meeting of the Assembly until January 15th. I feel that such a policy would be a denial of everything we have stood for, publicly and privately. . . . It would be damaging to the future of the United Nations and to the reputation and career of ERS [Stettinius] himself. It would also be dishonest.”180

All of these threads provide a glimpse of a man who appears to have been energetic, intelligent, and downright courageous, particularly given the growing anti-left political atmosphere of the late 1940s. Like many other civil servants, Foote had to cope with the stress associated with the anti-subversive investigations conducted by federal, state, and municipal agencies during the early 1950s, a period dominated by Senator McCarthy’s headline-making searches for hidden Soviet agents. Foote’s continuing outspokenness must only have heightened the FBI’s suspicions about him. But in the end, the bureau’s investigators were unable to find anything that could cause Foote to be dismissed, let alone indicted. As a result, Foote was not among those who lost their jobs in the UN Secretariat. “McCarthyism was a problem for both my father and me,” says Foote’s son. “My father was on McCarthy’s ‘list’ but was never called to testify.”181

Available American and Soviet files cannot resolve the issue of whether Wilder Foote was Ales, and the archival portrait we have of Foote simply does not paint a garish, McCarthy- era-like picture of a hardened Stalinist spy. The possibility exists that his interactions with the Soviets were sanctioned by his patron, Edward Stettinius, or by some other American government authority. But even without official sanction, Ales might not have thought of himself as a spy. After all, the Soviet Union was a wartime ally and many otherwise patriotic Americans thought that their government should be doing everything possible to help the Russians in their war against the Nazis. Still, it is hard to imagine that the GRU would bother to place Milstein in the Bolshoi central box to commend a “blind” source and not an important asset.

A veteran GRU colonel, asked who Milstein met with at the Yalta conference, replied: “I emphasize: not an agent but a source of information, probably, a confidential contact at the Department of State who . . . had played a highly positive role in the development of Soviet-American relations.” When asked, if that source was Alger Hiss, the GRU colonel became visibly irritated and insisted, “I have never heard of Hiss as an agent of [the] Kremlin from anybody.”182 In a November 18, 2003, letter replying to a query from Alger Hiss’s son, Tony, the Russian Ministry of Defense stated that it “hasn’t got any data of an agent under the pseudonym ‘Ales,’ who supposedly worked for any of our military intelligence units at that time,” assuring the younger Hiss “that the condition of the archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation allows to consider these conclusions as reliable and final.” The letter deplored the “unfounded reckoning” of “Alger Heess [sic] in agents of Soviet military intelligence during the World War II.”183

Wilder Foote’s patron and champion, Edward Stettinius, who was not only secretary of state but also a former chairman of U. S. Steel, considered Foote to be a man of sound political judgment. Foote’s actions show him to have been a person of strong character. Friends described him as gracious, resolute, patient, hardworking, and modest in demeanor. He clearly believed himself to be a man of impeccable integrity, an idealist who dedicated most of his career as an international civil servant to building up the United Nations as a bulwark of world peace. If he was also a gentleman spy, he was excellent at his craft.

But it is important to remember that a decade ago a host of historians and intelligence officers rushed to proclaim the identity of Ales. It is clear to us now that they were premature. With this in mind, we must all be agnostics when it comes to Wilder Foote until the Russian archives open up. In the meantime, Wilder Foote’s son insists, “I am confident that the actions of my father will ultimately be proven to be above reproach.”184

Research for this article was supported by The Nation Institute.


1 Walter LaFeber, The Washington Post, 12/7/1996.

2 John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr. In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage. Encounter Books, San Francisco, 2003, p. 141.

3 pp. 23, 22, 24, 25, 51 in the order they appear in the book of SVR file 36857, vol. 1.

4 For a full-blown polemical attack along these lines, see John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Op.Cit.

5 Russian abbreviation standing for the Glavnoe Razvedyvatel’noe Upravlenie — Chief Intelligence Directorate.

6 Molier [MOL’ER] was the code name of Pavel Melkishev, GRU resident in 1941–45 who operated under the cover of New York Vice Consul and later Acting Consul General Pavel Mikhailov.

7 Interview with Lt. Gen. Vitaly G. Pavlov, Moscow, May 7, 2002. (Interview conducted in Russian)

8 Interview with Maj. Gen. Julius Kobyakov, Washington, D.C., March, 2005 (Interview conducted in English.)

9 In October 2005, the NSA reluctantly released its Russian language decrypt of this cable, thus allowing scholars to parse the translation of this critical document from the Russian into English. (It is important to understand that due to the uncertainties of the decrypt process it is quite possible that inaccuracies have crept into the language. Here is a description of the encoding-encryption process: 1) the plain text is encoded with the current code book; 2) the encoded result is then encrypted with the use of one-time pads—resulting in groups of 5-digit numbers; 3) before sending the cable, these groups are transformed into 5-letter groups, using the Telegraph Table. On the receiving side, the decoding-decryption process would be reversed, with a possibility of differences and shades in meaning cropping up between Russian texts as composed by Russian operatives and Russian decrypts in the Venona files.) The released Russian decrypt differed in several respects from the English translation released in 1996. First, showed that the initial decrypt had no “A” for an unidentified individual who provided details on the “Ales” background, for in place of “[D%A.’s]” the Russian decrypt displayed [p ya]—two letters of the Cyrillic alphabet with “ya” designate the last letter of the Cyrillic alphabet transcribed with two sounds, when “A” is the first letter transcribed as [a]. Second, the Russian decrypt has left no grounds for any speculations that “Paul” in the 1996 translation might be Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, who was identified by the Venona translators as the NKGB group leader “Pal.” Moreover, the French-style spelling of “Paul” as “Pol’” suggests that “Pol’” was someone on the military intelligence line, due to the Venona pattern of using French cover names during that period (Molier, Ruan, Orlean, Leon, among others). Third, the release of the Russian transcript put an end to any linguistic controversies around the word “relations,” which in Russian turned out to be rodstvenniki–that is, blood relatives; as well as to who in fact went to Moscow after the Yalta conference (Ales or Deputy People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs Andrei Vyshinsky, since it was clear that Ales “had gone to Moscow” “after the Yalta Conference.” Fourth, the Russian decrypt described the Soviet who “thanked” Ales as “ochen’ otvetstvennyi rabotnik” (a very responsible worker), which in Soviet jargon stood for a “very important employee” or “official” who might be taken as high as Vyshinsky, and it might designate a person of a lower rank, since in the Soviet hierarchy a designation of otvetstvennyi rabotnik was rather encompassing.

10 John F. Fox, Jr., FBI Historian, >In the Enemy’s House: Venona and the Maturation of American Counterintelligence. Presented at the 2005 Symposium on Cryptologic History 10/27/2005.0

11 Belmont to Ladd, Subject: Espionage, May 15, 1950. FBI FOIA. In fact, according to John F. Fox, the memo was written by Robert Lamphere who had been the FBI man on Venona project since spring 1948.

12 FBI, Mr. Belmont to Mr. Ladd, May 15, 1950, Subject: Espionage.

13 John F. Fox, Jr., Op. Cit. presentation at the 2005 Symposium on Cryptologic History, 10/27/2005.

14 Belmont to Ladd, Op. Cit.

15 Spaso House, Moscow official residence of U.S. ambassadors.

16 ACCINELLI: But when did the FBI question you about his activities?
MELBY: Oh, long after. It was after the trial and after he had been convicted.
ACCINELLI: Oh, really?
MELBY: They didn’t come see me about him really before the trial or anything like that, no. [See Oral History Interview with John F. Melby, U.S. Foreign Service Officer, 1937-55, November 14, 1986, by Robert Accinelli, Harry S. Truman Library.]

17 Oral History Interview with John F. Melby, Op. Cit.

18 Report of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy, 1997, Senate Document 105-2, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, New York, Chairman.

19 Kai Bird interview with Robert Benson, 10/27/2005.

20 A FBI report to J. E. Hoover in January 1952 characterized “the unsubstantiated allegations of Whittaker Chambers that the subject [Donald Hiss] was a member of the Communist Party underground unit” as “the preeminent charges.” “There are no specific allegations regarding the subject’s Communist Party membership and no specific indications that he has been active since the period encompassing CHAMBER’s allegations. There has been no allegation of espionage at any time. <…> no additional security investigation is contemplated at this time.” [SAC, WFO to Director, FBI. Subject Donald Hiss, 29/1/52. Subject Donald Hiss, File #101-4300, p. 40, FBI FOIA] As to Priscilla Hiss, there has been no independent evidence to support Chambers’ allegations.

21 Eduard Mark, “Who Was ‘Venona’s’ ‘Ales’? Cryptanalysis and the Hiss Case,” Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 18, No. 3, Autumn, 2003, p. 50.

22 Russian abbreviation for Foreign Intelligence Service [Sluzhba vneshnei razvedki], formerly KGB foreign intelligence.

23 Conceivably, the March 5, 1945, Gorsky cable is the elusive “cable no. 283” referred to at the beginning of Venona No. 1822

24 A third Gorksy cable about “Ales,’”dated April 2, 1945, is also known to exist, although so far only in an excerpted English translation. It offers less precisely dated—and thus more indirect—information about “Ales” than Gorsky’s March 5, 1945, cable, and is discussed on a later page of this essay.

25 Vassiliev’s pagination from the source file.

26 Coded cable.

27 According to the Russian Foreign Ministry’s records, as of June 1945 Garanin was Head of the Consular Department of Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C. [AVPR, Fund 192, description 12, Por. 88, file 32, p. 129; also in descr. 12, Por. 84, file 1, pp. 66, 87].

28 “Ruble” [“Rubl’”] cryptonym appearing in Venona decrypted cable traffic; tentatively identified by Venona decryptors as probably Harry Glasser, Keynsian economist and Department of Treasury official.

29 Hereinafter quotation marks in the beginning and at the end of paragraphs were probably used by Vassiliev to show that he was quoting verbatim from the files.

30 In Venona cables, Communist Party membership appears under the cover word of “zemlyak” (plural: “zemlyaki”; feminine: “zemlyachka”), which was translated by the NSA as “fellowcountryman,” although a better translation would be “compatriot.” This open use of “Communist Party” is very unusual, for Communist Party membership was indicated by a cover word even in Soviet diplomatic and party correspondence of the 1930s to 1950s.

31 This is the end of the page designated since the London libel trial as Jury Bundle, p.309C. There is a gap between “Ales” on p. 309C and the first word on p. 309B— “that.” Most probably, this gap is due to improper scanning of page 309C. It is noteworthy that in the Russian notes “that” is written in the feminine gender suggesting that a missing noun might be “group,” which in Russian is also feminine.

32 Unidentified code name. Also referred to in Venona March 30, 1945 cable; not identified by Venona decryptors. Another appearance of “Pol’” is in GRU Stockholm to Moscow #4052, 25 Dec. 1944.

33 Code name of Vladimir Sergeevich Pravdin, NKVD station chief and operative in NYC.

34 “I telephoned Mr. Alger Hiss at Mexico City.…” Memorandum of Conversation, Mr. Alger Hiss, Mr. Grew, Mr. Stettinius, Feb. 20, 1945, Folder: “Memos of Conversation,” NARA, RG 59, Alger Hiss Files 1940–1946, Subject Files OSPA, Box 8, NA, College Park, MD.

35 “Mr. Hiss’ return to Washington in the Secretary’s plane now makes it feasible for Miss Maylot to go when the plane returns.…” State Dept. memo from Mr. Sandifer to Mr. Watson, Feb. 24, 1945, RG 59, Decimal Files, 710 Conference W and PW/2-2445, FIS.

36 On that same day, the files have recorded a memo from Mr. Sandifer, SPA to Mr. Alger Hiss, SPA, about a need for a direct wire to San Francisco for the Conference. In fact, the question was raised some time prior to Alger Hiss’s return, but Sandifer had been waiting for Hiss to “discuss the matter with him”—which he did on February 22, thus designating Hiss’s arrival day. [“Mr. Witt of the Telegraph Room called me to inquire whether we would have need for a direct wire to San Francisco for the Conference. […] I told him that I would discuss the matter with you on your return and that we would let him know what should be done.” SPA— Mr. Sandifer to SPA— Mr. Hiss, Feb. 22, 1945. RG 59, Alger Hiss files, Subject Files of the Office of Special Political Affairs, 1940–46, Box 6 (Grace Jeff Kisseloff), NA, College Park, MD.

“I was sick for about a week or ten days after getting back,” Hiss recalled later that spring for a group of his State Department colleagues, “because we worked pretty hard at Yalta and on the way back I picked up a flu-bug.”— Consultants Meeting (transcript), May 30, 1945, 5:00 p.m., Folder “Special Political Affairs Staff Meetings”, RG 59, Alger Hiss files, Box 26, NA, College Park, MD.

38. “He looks a little shaky and has a rather bad cough.…I have only had the opportunity to talk with him very briefly about his experiences at Yalta. He is down at the office again today [Thursday, March 1, 1945].” R. W. Hartley to Mr. Leo Pasvolsky, March 1, 1945, Folder: “Security-folder 3,” RG 59, Alger Hiss files, Box 16.

39. Alger Hiss to The Honorable Edward R. Stettinius, Care of the American Embassy, Mexico, March 3, 1945. RG 59, Alger Hiss files, Subject Files of the Office of Special Political Affairs, 1940–46, Box 6 (Grace Jeff Kisseloff), NA, College Park, MD.

40. On February 16, 1945, while Alger Hiss was en route to Mexico City, in Washington, D.C., his Office [of Special Political Affairs] in its weekly Summary of Urgent Questions put the issue of “Invitations to the United Nations Conference” on top of its weekly agenda. This document was obviously prepared with Alger Hiss in view, for we see “Mr. Hiss” penciled in its upper right corner. —RG 59, Alger Hiss Files, Box 2, NA, College Park, MD.

41. Telephone conversation, February 22, 1945, Stettinius in Mexico City to State Department. —RG 59, Alger Hiss Files, Box 8, “Memorandums of Conversations”, NA, College Park, MD.

Two days earlier, Acting Secretary of State Joseph Grew telephoned to Alger Hiss in Mexico to say “that with regard to the question of issuing invitations to the United Nations for the forthcoming conference in San Francisco, . . . I told Mr. Hiss when he inquired if we could get an answer by February 22 that I did not think we would be able to get an agreement from London and Moscow by that date….” —RG 59, Alger Hiss Files, Box 8, “Memorandums of Conversations”, NA, College Park, MD.

42. FRUS, Diplomatic Papers 1945, v.1, General, The United Nations, Washington, 1967;
From Vyshinsky’s Diary: Reception of Ambassador Harriman, 26 February 1945 [original in Russian]— Archive of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation [hereinafter AVP RF], fund 0129, description 29, Por. 166, file 4, pp. 5–9; Sovetskii Sojuz na mezhdunarodnyh konferentsiyah perioda Velikoii Otechestvennoii Voiny 1941–45 gg. t. v, Konferentsiya Ob’edinennyh Natsii v San Francisco (25.04–26.06.1945g.), Sbornik dokumentov. Politizdat, 1980 [The Soviet Union at International Conferences of the Great Patriotic War Period 1941–45, vol. V, The United Nations Conference at San Francisco (April 25– June 26, 1945). Compilation of documents. Politizdat, 1980], Nos. 3– 12, February 26– March 5, 1945, pp. 54–61; AVP RF, fund 0129, descr. 29, folder 172, file 45.

43. The Soviet Union at International Conferences, Op. Cit., p. 57.

44. February 8 and 9, 1945, AVP RF, fund 06, descr. 7a, Por. 58, file 12, “Crimean Conference 1945”, pp. 16-17, Molotov Secretariat files at AVP RF. In the upper left hand corner of the February 8th draft document we see penciled in: “Hiss handed over to A. A. Gromyko 8 February 1945”; the text of the next (February 9th) draft has the typed notation: “Mr. Hiss (U.S. Department) handed over to A. A. Gromyko 9 February 1945.”

45. R. W. Hartley to Mr. Leo Pasvolsky, March 3, 1945. —RG 59, Alger Hiss files, Box 16, Folder: “Security-folder 3,” NA, College Park, MD.

46. Molotov to Harriman, 5 March 1945 in: The United Nations Conference at San Francisco, Op. cit, document 9, pp. 58–59; document 10, p. 60; Harriman to Molotov, 5 March 1945. Ibid., document 11, p. 61.

47. Department of State Press Release No. 199, March 3, 1945, Confidential Release for Publication at 7:00 p.m. RG 43, Box 6, Folder: International Organizations Voting,” NA, College Park, MD.

48. The Sunday Star, March 4, 1945; The New York Times, March 4, 1945.

49. Ibidem.

50. According to the intelligence historian Anthony Cave Brown, Philby thought Gorsky was “a bright little cracker.” [Brown, A.C., Treason in the Blood: H. St. John Philby, Kim Philby and the Spy Case of the Century. New York, Houghton Mifflin, 1994, p. 200-201.] Gorsky was station chief (resident) of NKGB intelligence in Washington, D.C. September 15, 1944–December 7, 1945. Gorsky operated in Washington under the name of Anatoli Borisovitch Gromov. His cover was First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy. For his work in the U.S. he was promoted into the rank of a Colonel and decorated with the Patriotic War Order. In 1946–1950, Gorsky was head of the 1st department of MGB Foreign Intelligence Directorate.

51. A complete text of Gorsky’s “diaries” of press clips (for July 10–31, 1945) was discovered in the files of All-Union Society for Cultural Contacts (hereinafter VOKS) at the State Archive of the Russian Federation [hereinafter GARF]: GARF, Fund 5283, description 14, file 184, pp. 23–54. Some of Gorsky’s 1945 press clips were discovered at the Russian Archive of Foreign Policy [AVP RF], fund 0192, description 12, folder 88, file 30.]

52. The New York Times reported on February 20th, 1945, that Hiss had been appointed Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs, replacing Edwin C. Wilson in that post.

53. Department of State. Memorandum of the Press and Radio News Conference, Monday, March 5, 1945. —RG 59, Records of the Office of News and Its Predecessors. Memorandums of Press Conferences. Vol. 11, 1945, NA. College Park, MD.

54. Ibidem.

55. Memorandum of Conversation, Grew-Gromyko, 3/5/45. —RG 59, Decimal Files, 500.CC/3-5-45, NA, College Park, RG.

56. Gromov to Liberson, Lists for pouch sent to VOKS, Moscow on March 5, 1945. —GARF, fund 5283, descr.14, file 306, pp. 51–56.

57. New York to Moscow, No 1195, 21 July 1943; New York to Moscow, No 1206, 22 July 1943; New York to Moscow No 79, 18 January 1945; Moscow to New York, Nos.179–184, 25 February 1945; Washington to Moscow, No.1759, 28 March 1945; Washington to Moscow No 3598, 21 June 1945; Washington to Moscow No. 3600, 21 June 45; Washington to Moscow, No.3645, 23 June 1945; Washington to Moscow, No. 3688, 28 June 1945.

58. This tentative identification occurs in five cables (January 18, February 25, March 28, June 21, 1945 NN. 3598 and 3600.)

59. In four cables: Venona 1206, July 22, 1943; Venona 1195, July 21; and Venona 3645, June 23, 1945. Moreover, the latter additionally suggested that even this “probable” identification may be “incorrect.”

60. R. H. Brand letter to Morgenthau, 3/5/45, RG 56, entry 67A1804, Box 15, folder “Italy Directives,” NA, College Park, MD. Brand was a British official with the United Kingdom Treasury Delegation and he was writing to Morgenthau about his regret that Glasser could not be spared for a trip to Italy. Obviously, the decision must have been made many days prior to March 5, 1945.

61. One of the three Venona firm identifications of ‘Ruble’ as Glasser happen in a decrypted fragment of New York to Moscow cable No. 1206, July 22, 1943 where ‘Ruble’ “advises” something about “SZhIN DENIS,” “on whose behalf one could get in touch.”

62. There was a slim chance for the Soviets to meet ‘Ruble’ in Algiers where by that time NKGB had its residence and where in August 1943 they dispatched their weathered operative Ivan Aghayants from Tehran to establish a back channel to General De Gaulle. Aghayants was fluent in several languages, including English; had he been assigned to also meet “Ruble,” July 22, 1943, decrypt might be a fragment of a password. Still, this chance is an undocumented probability. [For Aghayants see, Essays on the History of Russian Foreign Intelligence, vol. 4, 1941–1945. Moscow: International Relations, 2003, pp. 298–300.]

63. Venona cable, New York to Moscow, May 30, 1944, # 769,771.

64. Still, we should add that in December 1949, Anatoly Gorsky, while preparing a report on the Soviet intelligence failures in 1938–48, listed ‘Ruble’ as last (No. 21) on “Carl’s group”— and identified him as Harold Glasser. However, Gorsky was obviously not that sure of Glasser’s affiliation, for against his name he put in brackets: (Dept of Justice?) Even less was Gorsky sure of “Ruble”’s background, for below Glasser’s name we see “aka “Moris”— written and then crossed out. To add to the confusion, a “Maurice” had reportedly been pre–WWII OGPU asset at the Department of Justice. Gorsky’s list of intelligence failures was compiled in late 1949, after the first Hiss trial, and at a time when many of the names listed were publicly named in various HUAC hearings or from grand jury hearings available at the time of his writing. In other words, Gorsky could easily be ‘claiming’ as agents people he merely knew from the American press as being named or investigated as Soviet agents.

65. Victor Perlo appears in this memo as “Eck,” a code name identified by Venona as Victor Perlo, and also seen on Gorsky’s “failures list” in his December 23, 1949, report to General S. R. Savchenko; it was an earlier code name for “Raid,” also identified by Venona as Victor Perlo, who during World War II was an employee of the War Production Board. For a discussion of various documents also produced by Vassiliev at his London libel trial, see the Alger Hiss Web site,

66. [“Rulevoj”], NKGB cover name for Earl Browder, the leader of the American Communist Party.

67. “Storm” was one of the party cover names of Joseph Peters [J. Peters, Peter] whom Chambers described as the Communist Party contact “to the Soviet espionage apparatus in Washington.” [Whittaker Chambers. Witness (1952), p. 32.]

68. Translation of Alexander Vassiliev’s notes of Vassily Zarubine’s report to Vsevolod Merkulov, references to SVR File 35112, vol.9, pp.412–413. [Grace the late John Lowenthal.]

69. On June 4, 1944, Vassily Zarubin reported from Washington: “According to data, passed in his time by ‘Sound’ [“Zvuk,” code name of longtime U.S.-based OGPU-NKGB agent Jacob Golos], ‘Lawyer’ [the code name which according to Venona was used in NKGB correspondence for H. D. White until September 2, 1944] was not a neighbor’s [GRU] agent. The case was different: ‘Lawyer’ has a relative . . . , who in the past was connected with the neighbors. That doctor was allegedly getting data from ‘Lawyer’ and passed them to neighbors. ‘Lawyer’ knew that the doctor was a compatriot and supposed that data, provided by him, were going exactly to compatriots. Once the doctor hinted that he was working for us and would like to get ‘Lawyer’’s help. After this ‘Lawyer’ turned the doctor out and prohibited him to appear in his house. . . . If this information was not got in time, ‘our man— one of official representatives’ would have found himself in a situation the doctor-relative had been in.” (Referenced by Vassiliev to SVR File 70548, p.52; the quotation is from an English translation of Vassiliev’s Russian transcription of SVR documents.) Zarubin is clearly referring to the plans described in his earlier report of arranging a meeting between White and one of the Soviet “official representatives,” obviously a participant in Bretton Woods Conference (July 1–23, 1944).

70. “Glasnost’,” a Russian word meaning openness, became well known in the English-speaking world during the Gorbachev era.

71. AVP RF, fund 057, Description 25, Por. 123, file 8, “The Visits of officials and government delegations to the USSR,” F.F. Molochkov to V.G. Dekanozov, February 11, 1945, p. 1.

72. Messersmith (Mexico City) to Nelson (State Department) 2/19/45, RG 59, Decimal File 1940–45, 111.11 Stettinius, Box 0430, NA, College Park, MD.

73. Reference of Stephen E. Novak, Head, Archives and Special Collections, Augustus C. Long Health Sciences Library, Columbia University, 701 West 168th Street, New York, NY 10032 (Grace Jeff Kisseloff).

74. See, for example, Eduard Mark, “Who Was ‘Venona’s ‘Ales’? Cryptanalysis and the Hiss Case,” Intelligence and National Security 18, no. 3 (Autumn 2003).

75. Interview with Lt.-Gen. Vitaly Pavlov, April 22, 2002, Moscow.

76. 1945 State Department Biographical Register.

77. Eduard Mark, Op. Cit.

78. Robert Meiklejohn, unpublished World War II Diary, “At London and Moscow,” March 10, 1941–Feb. 14, 1946, Vol. II, p. 631. In Averell Harriman Papers, Box 211, LOC; “Stettinius Stay in Moscow,” 14 Feb.– 15 Feb. 1945, in AVP RF, fund 06, descr. 7, Por. 44, file 688; “The Visits of Officials and Government Delegations to the USSR” – AVP RF, fund 057, descr. 25, Por. 123, file 8, pp. 1–4.

79. AVP RF, fund 057, descr. 28-v, Por. 458-a, file 1, p. 72; “Stettinius Stay in Moscow”, Op. Cit.

80. AVP RF, fund 057, descr. 28-v, Por. 458-a, file 1, p. 72; “Stettinius Stay in Moscow”, Op. Cit.

81. Amy Knight, How the Cold War Began: The Igor Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies. Carrol and Graff Publishers, New York, 2006, p. 22.

82. V. M. Lurie, V. Ya. Kochick. GRU: People and Deeds. OLMA-Press: 2003, pp. 164–165. Unfortunately, the lists of individuals who received decorations from the Soviet military intelligence are still restricted, which is why it is impossible to find documentation substantiating the claim in Venona No. 1822 that “Recently Ales and his whole group were awarded Soviet decorations.”

83. Interviews with a former GRU operative in Great Britain and the USA in 1942–1960 (now deceased) who asked to stay anonymous, February 23 and March 7, 2003. “He [Milstein] operated in close contact with Vyshinsky, the then Deputy Commissar of Foreign Affairs and had an official card of a member of the Soviet delegation’s work group signed by [another] Deputy Commissar of the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs Dekanozov.”

84. That morning Vyshinsky hosted a breakfast for Stettinius’s delegation. In preparation, the American Embassy sent the Russians a list of the Americans who would attend. Foote’s name was not on this typed list. But the Russians tentatively added his name (along with the name of a U.S. Embassy official), first in pencil and then outlining it in ink, suggesting that Foote was somehow added to the list at the last moment. Once on the breakfast list, one might speculate that Foote also made it onto the Bolshoi central box list.

85. “Toasts at Moscow Luncheon, February 13, 1945, dictated by Wilder Foote, from notes in his small black notebook, February 4, 1949.” Folder “Tuesday, Feb. 13, 1945 (Moscow),” Stettinius Papers, University of Virginia, # 2723, Box 279. [Courtesy of Bruce Craig.]

86. “Notes on our visit to Moscow, Tuesday, February 13, 1945,” a ten-page memo with no author identified. But the memo is contained in the same folder with other memos dictated by Wilder Foote in February 1949. [# 2723, Box 279, Folder, “Tuesday Feb. 13, 1945 (Moscow),” Stettinius Papers, University of Virginia. [Courtesy of Bruce Craig.]

87. It is noteworthy that the official report on the Bolshoi Theater event in “Izvestia” daily did not name Wilder Foote among those present in the central box. It goes without saying that Mil’sky also remained unreported. Izvestia, February 15, 1945.

88. See, for example, Mary Wilder Tileston, editor, Caleb and Mary Wilder Foote, Reminiscences and Letters (Boston, 1918); Tileston, Mary Wilder (Foote), Amelia Peabody Tileston and her canteens for the Serbs (Boston, The Atlantic Monthly Press, [c1920]. Amelia Tileston, the daughter of John Boies Tileston and Mary Wilder Foote Tileston, was a tireless worker for the relief of the poor and unfortunate of Serbia during and following World War I, until ill health ended her life in 1920. In more recent times, another member of the Foote clan, Dr. Wilder Tileston (a physician and a grandson of Caleb Foote and Mary Wilder Foote) was an active proponent of contraception and figured in a Supreme Court case upon which the landmark 1965 Griswold decision, in part, depended. (Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).

89. “Notable American Unitarians: Henry Wilder Foote, Minister, Scholar, Hymnologist.” See also

90. Waldo H. Heinrichs Jr., “Waldo H. Heinrichs, George D. Aiken and the Lend Lease Debate of 1941,” Vermont History, 69, Summer/Fall 2001, p. 274.

91. Wilder Foote II e-mail to Kai Bird, 11/16/2005.

92. Waldo H. Heinrichs Jr., Op. Cit., pp. 277–278.

93. Eduard Mark, Op. Cit.

94. One widely known example is Kim Philby. Recruited in London in 1934, he at the time was unemployed, but in the eyes of his Soviet recruiters he had the assets of an “impeccable bourgeois family” background (as Philby himself later expressed it) and a degree from Trinity College, Cambridge. In the summer of 1935, Philby was hired by the Times of London, a job that in 1940 led to recruitment by the Secret Intelligence Service.

95. Sen. Warren R. Austin ltr. to Wilder Foote, 12/1/41. Wilder Foote private papers.

96. Paul D. Moody ltr. to Foote, 11/13/41. Wilder Foote private papers.

97. Cordell Hull ltr. to Wilder Foote, Sept. 8, 1944. —RG 59, Decimal File 1940–44, 103.916902/9–844 Box 115, NA, College Park, MD.

98. Henry Stimson ltr. to Wilder Foote, undated, circa September 1944. Folder: Correspondence with Wilder Foote, Oscar Cox Papers, Franklin Roosevelt Presidential Library; Box 2009; Wilder Foote’s “Assignment of Special Mission to London” indicated in Name Card Index, State Department Decimal Files 1945–49, Box 2009; however, the document (500.CC (PC)/8-2545) is missing.

99. Wilder Foote accompanied Stettinius throughout his early 1945 trip abroad: They left the U.S. on January 25, 1945, attended the Yalta conference from Feb. 3–11, flew to Moscow on Feb. 12, flew to Cairo on Feb 14, and then spent February 20–March 8, 1945, in Mexico. Stettinius and his party—minus Hiss and Matthews—were in Havana, Cuba on March 9, 1945 and arrived back in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 1945. Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., ITINERARY, December 1, 1944– June 27, 1945. The Bureau of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of State (Web site).

100. April 8–14, 1945: “Wednesday afternoon Mr. Foote asked if he could “send the draft of the President’s message for Saturday night to the White House….” “Thursday night (April 19) I asked Mr. Foote, my Assistant for Drafting, to take copies of the President’s speech and my own two speeches to the White House for approval. . . . Dr. Bowman . . . thought the draft for the President was first-rate and President Truman would be pleased with it.” RG 59, Record of Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Entry 667, Box 01, NA, College Park, MD.

101. Edward Stettinius, Roosevelt and the Russians: The Yalta Conference, Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1949, pp. 103 & 279.

102. Oral History interview of Joseph E. Johnson, in 1944–47 Acting Chief and Chief, Division of International Security Affairs of the Department of State. Truman Memorial Library.

103. Wilder Foote ltr. to Andrew W. Cordier, 12/16/60, Wilder Foote private papers.

104. “Translation of excerpt from French intervention in A.M. meeting in Fifth Committee,” 11/3/60, Foote private papers.

105. Dag Hammarskjöld to Wilder Foote, 12/15/60, Foote private papers.

106. “Guzenko was questioned carefully regarding the possible identity of the individual in the Department of State under Stettinius who is a Soviet spy. Guzenko stated he did not know the man’s name but that he had been told that an Assistant to Stettinius was a Soviet spy. This information came to him in the following manner: After the arrival of Kulakov in Ottawa in the Summer of 1945, . . . Kulakov informed Guzenko . . . that he had learned in Moscow that an assistant to Stettinius, then the United States Secretary of State, was a Soviet spy. Guzenko pointed out that this information would necessarily come to Kulakov’s attention prior to May 17, 1945, because Kulakov left Moscow for the United States and Canada on that date. He stated that he did not ask for the name of this individual because Kulakov would have suspected his motives, since it involved an individual who was not being run by Colonel Zabotin.” Amy Knight, How the Cold War Began: The Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies, McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 2005, p.61

107. Amy Knight, How the Cold War Began, p. 3.

108. Krymskaia konferentsia rukovoditelei treh soyuznyh derzhav— SSSR, SShA i Velikobritanii. 4–11 fevralya 1945 g. Politizdat, 1979. [The Crimean Conference of the Heads of Three Allied Powers—USSR, USA and Great Britain. 4–11 February 1945.]; Konferentsia Ob’edinennyh Natsii v San Frantsisko (25.04–26.06 1945 g.) Sbornik dokumentov. Politizdat, 1980. [The Conference of the United Nations at San Francisco (25 April–26 June, 1945.) Compilation of Documents. Politizdat, 1980.]; AVP RF, fund 0129, descry. 30b, Por. 335, file 2, vol.2, pp. 65, 66 and in other 1944–45 files.

109. AVP RF, fund 057, descr. 28v, Por. 458-a, file 1, p. 63; Ibid., fund 06, descr. 7, Por. 44, file 688, p.8; Pravda, 15 February 1945.

110. E. R. Stettinius. Op. Cit., p.30.

111. Stettinius’s memo ends with the sentence, “Stettinius stated that it may be advisable to create here, in Washington, an unofficial governing committee of the representatives of the Great Powers with the purpose of drafting the questions relating to the conference’s procedures and organization prior to the conference’s opening.” AVP RF, fund 0129, descr. 29, Por. 172, file 45, pp. 96–98.

112. AVP RF, fund 0192, descr.12, Por. 88, file 32, pp. 114–117.

113. V. Bazykin, VOKS representative and First Secretary, SU Embassy, Washington D.C., to V.S. Kemenov, VOKS chairman, Moscow, 9 March 1943, No 26/s. GARF, fund 5283 [VOKS collection, secret file keeping (“spetsial’naja chast”)], description 2a, file 12, pp. 143–149.

114. Andrey Gromyko, Soviet Minister Plenipotentiary in U.S. to Dmitry Chuvakhin, Deputy Head, U.S. Department, NKID, 14 July 1943, p. 34–35. AVP RF, fund 0129, descr. 27, folder 149, file 9, pp. 32–35.

115. RGASPI, fund 82, descr. 2, file 1041 [This and the following cited files are titled: “Concise reports (Russian “raportichki” is diminutive of “reports,” that is little reports) on the issues incoming to the MID USSR in the name of V. M. Molotov with his notes.” This file is vol. 2 (last), July–December 1951, pp.133–283; p. 193, Zorin/KI, 19/IX/51.]

116. “Concise reports (Russian “raportichki,” that is “little reports”) on the issues incoming to the MID USSR in the name of V.M. Molotov with his notes” in: RGASPI, fund 82, descr. 2, files 1041, 1042, 1043.

117. The report went on, “At the UN Secretariat they believe that the new draft has become a result of Austin’s letter to Trygve Lie which emphasized the need to purge the UN apparatus from left elements. The UN Secretariat has already prepared about 1,000 cases of UN employees with doubts in their loyalty to the USA. On Trygve Lie’s assignment, the UN Secretariat has also drafted the General Assembly’s decision which would allow the General Assembly to admit new members without recommendations of the Security Council.” RGASPI, fund 82, descr. 2, file 1041, p. 193.

118. The reports continue into 1952, including July 23 and 24, September 14 and 20, 1952. RGASPI, fund 82, descr. 2, file 1043, pp. 261, 262, 333.

119. FBI Wilder Foote file, NY 3/25/06 report, Results of Investigation, pp. 12- 14.

120. Footes who were serving in the military during the 1930s and 1940s include: a Robert G. Foote in 1944 was apparently posted to Moscow: “Requests to advise that he [Foote] has been assigned to duty in the office of the Senior Naval Member, Military Mission in the Soviet Union.” [Confidential Name File, Oct. 14, 1944, 102.502/10-1944 and “authorization is granted…” Dec. 30, 1944, 102.5/12-2144, RG 59, State Department Decimal Files, NA]; Walter A. Foote, who according to Name File card July 3, 1942, 119.259/1a 177 “1 set of Brown Code number 529 being entrusted to Walter A. Foote. . . . Also certain alphabet strips and key tables; C-1 Code Book Number 259 and C-1 Cipher Tables numbers . . . entrusted to Walter A. Foote.” On October 6, 1939, Lt. Commander Ovid Clemmons Foote, Medical Corps was married in Washington, D.C. The Washington Star noted that Ovid Foote’s brother, Rear Admiral Percy W. Foote “was his brother’s best man.” [Washington Star, October 6, 1939] Lt. Commander Ovid Foote was a medical doctor and he died in a car crash in Philadelphia in October 1940. Ovid Foote had two sons: Ensign Ovid C. Foote Jr., U.S. Navy Reserves, and Edward Potter Foote, a cadet at West Point. [Washington Star, Oct. 20, 1940] All these Footes were probably distantly related to Wilder Foote, but there is no evidence that they knew each other.

121. Oumansky to the People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs Maxim Litvinov, AVP RF, fund 0129, description 19, Por. 133, file 1 (381), p.60.

122. “Pioneer in Modern Medicine: David Linn Edsall of Harvard,” Aub, M. D., Joseph C. and Ruth K. Hapgood.

123. Richard Edsall’s involvement with left-wing activities followed his disengagement from formal religious life (he had become an Anglican monk after graduating from Harvard in 1926).

124. See Encyclopaedia Britannica , Bloch, Ernst: German Marxist philosopher, author of Philosophie der Hoffnung (“The Philosophy of Hope”).

125. The activities of these organizations are discussed at great length in Soviet VOKS files, including memos of meetings with Richard Edsall’s associate in these causes, Harvard astronomer Professor Harlow Shapley. [For example, GARF, fund 5283, descr. 22s, file 83.]

126. Kai Bird phone interview with Richard Edsall’s son, Tom Edsall, April 12, 2007. In Canada, Edsall married another Communist Party member named Agatha Chapman, a Canadian economist also from a Patrician background. Agatha Chapman was born in 1907 in England to a Canadian mother and a father who spent many years as a Judge of the High Court of India. Her great-grandfather was Sir Charles Tupper, sixth prime minister of Canada, and one of her great-uncles was a lieutenant governor of Manitoba. (See “Agatha Chapman (1907–1963),” by Judith A. Alexander. (Copyright Board of Canada; posted 2/1/96.) In 1946, Chapman, who belonged to a Marxist study group, was implicated in the Igor Gouzenko affair by the testimony by one Kathleen Wilsher, who claimed that Chapman had been a secret GRU contact; this led to her arrest and trial. Although eventually acquitted, Chapman lost her job and felt compelled to leave Canada for Great Britain. (She married Edsall upon her return to Canada.) The Gouzenko affair deeply impacted her life, and arguably contributed to her early death (she died in the sixties in a fall from her apartment window, an apparent suicide). See also Amy Knight, Op. Cit., p. 184.

127. Jack Wilgus, Vermont Section Organizer, to CC CP USA, July 5, 1935. Russian State Archive of Social and Political History [RGASPI], fund 515 (CPA), descr. 1, file 3201, pp. 40-42. Jack Wilgus, the Vermont section’s very active organizer, was himself the member of a prominent family; Wilgus made special efforts to reach out to middle-class Vermonters, often appearing at Rotary Club lunches around the state as a speaker. Since Foote in his Vermont life had himself, as he told the FBI, been a Rotarian, this sets up the intriguing possibility that Foote’s and Wilgus’s paths may have crossed during the 1930s.

128. United States Civil Service Commission, Investigations Division, Report of Investigation, July 14, 1944, provides details of Foote’s being “investigated at Middlebury, Vermont, June 27, 1941. RG 478, Records of the Office of Personnel Management Civil Service Commission/Office of Federal Investigations Oversize Personnel Security Investigation Files, 1928–82, FOOTE, Wilder (1944–1953), NA, College Park, MD.

129. Ibid.

130. Wilder Foote FBI file, 3/4/53 SAC New Haven to FBI Albany.

131. Wilder Foote FBI file, “Results of Investigation,” 3/10/53, Albany FBI Bureau.

132. From Right to Left. An Autobiography. By Frederick Vanderbilt Field. Westport, Connecticult, 1983—reviewed in The New York Times, October 16, 1983: “. . . postgraduate year at the London School of Economics. There, touched by the famous goad, Harold Laski, his life turned, as had many others under the same influence, to the left.” Back in the United States by Presidential Elections 1928, Field “moved to the Socialist Party.”

133. Ibid., Fourth U.S. Civil Service Regional Office, Washington, D.C., “Interrogatory,” Mr. Wilder Foote.

134. Ibidem.

135. An Informer who served at the U.S. Mission at the UN gave a written statement to the FBI, which said of Foote: “Another close friend of his was [Joseph Barnes] who was formerly with the OWI and who was a classmate of [Wilder Foote] at Harvard University. [Barnes] to my knowledge, was not employed by the U.S. Mission, however, he spent considerable time at the Mission and had numerous conversations with [Wilder Foote]. I have heard from persons at the Mission . . . that [Barnes] was a member of the Communist Party. [FBI New York report, 3/ 25, 1953, p. 3, in Wilder Foote FBI file, Op. Cit.]. In 1953 an un-named source told the FBI: “Another close friend of [Foote’s] was [Barnes] who was formerly with the Office of War Information and who was a classmate of Wilder Foote at Harvard University. . . . I have heard from persons at the Mission, whose names I cannot recall, that [Barnes] was a member of the Communist Party.” [New York FBI report, 3/25/53, Foote’s FBI file.]

136. FOOTE, Wilder (1944–1953) Civil Service Commission file, Op. Cit., “Interrogatory”, NA, College Park, MD.

137. In a December 20, 1940, letter filed by Comintern Marti Secretariat, Field is listed among “prominent Americans (non-Communists) who would write effective brochures explaining and defending the peace policy of the Soviet Union.” RGASPI, fund 495, descr. 14, file137, pp. 75–76. F.V. Field was discussed by a Soviet operative as “one of the people close to the [Communist] Party” as late as August 1950. From V. Makarov’s diary, 24 August, 1950, No. 470: Record of conversation with Jessica Smith, 16 August 1950. GARF, fund 5283, descr. 22s, file 205, p. 113.

138. Constantine Oumansky, Washington to Smirnov (VOKS, Moscow), 28 Sept. 1937. GARF, fund 5283, descr.1a, file 325, p. 31. The latest discovered record of Field’s generous donation to Soviet causes is dated May 5 1951. From the diary of Olifirenko, 5 May 1951, GARF, fund 5283, descr. 22s, file 268, pp. 95–96.

139. The earliest discovered record is reference of M. G. Galkovich, SU Consul General in San Francisco, on the Japanese–American relations, 25 May 1935. AVP RF, fund 0129, descr. 18, Por. 131, file 367, pp. 45–54.

140. For instance, Ambassador Oumansky to Deputy People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs S. Lozovsky, 4 May 1940, describing Oumansky’s reliance on Edward Carter and F. V. Field in exposing a New York Times “fraud” used to expose Soviet plans Re China. AVP RF, fund 06, descr. 2, Por. 23, file 292, pp. 64–70.

141. Theoretically, Field could have served as his college friend’s intermediary to the Soviets some time in mid-1930s— in a similar way that he once allegedly approached his other Harvard classmate Laurence Duggan. According to the FBI records, on December 10, 1948, Duggan told FBI agents that in 1930s he was approached by F. V. Field “to assist the USSR or the Comintern— precisely which, Duggan could not recall.” [McLean, Memorandum re Laurence Duggan, Op. Cit. Sam Tanenheus, Whittaker Chambers. A Biography. The Modern Library, 1997, p. 329.] F. V. Field would vehemently deny the occasion.

142. Joseph Barnes, Oral History Interview, Columbia University. [Grace Jeff Kisseloff]

143. Soviet contacts with the Institute of Pacific Affairs date back to the late 1920s. According to Russian files, in 1929, Vladimir Romm attended, as unofficial observer, the I.P.R. conference in Kioto (Japan). On his return to Moscow, he made an official report on his impressions. Romm had been a long-term operative of Soviet military intelligence; in September 1927–July 1930, he operated under the cover of TASS correspondent in Tokyo. GARF, fund 5283, descr.1a, file 291, pp. 4–6, 14; AVP RF, fund 0129, descr. 17, Por. 129, file 344, pp. 22–23, 24–28.

144. A. Ya. Arosev to the Member of OGPU Collegium Comrade Artuzov, 17 June 1934. GARF, fund 5283, descr.1a, file 254, pp. 23–24.

145. Edward C. Carter to the Hon. Sumner Welles, State Dep., Wash., D.C., Aug 13, 1941 (Copy for the Soviet Ambassador C. Oumansky): “At the suggestion of Charles C. Burlingham, Judge Thomas D. Thacher, Joseph Barnes, Dr. Henry B. Sigerist and others, I have accepted the chairmanship of a preparatory committee to organize an American Committee for Medical Aid to Russia. . . . ” AVP RF, fund 0192, descr. 8, Por. 57, file 11, p.140.

146. Barnes later moved to the OWI but was forced to resign in January 1944. See Thomas E. Troy, Donovan and the CIA, Op. Cit., p. 208. In 1948/49 Joseph Barnes would become P.M. co-owner and editor [NY FBI cable to FBI HQ, 5/12/53, Foote FBI file.]

147. RG 478, Records of the Office of Personnel Management, Civil Service Commission/Office of Federal Investigations. Oversize Personnel Security Investigation Files, 1928–82. FOOTE, Wilder (1944–1953), “Interrogatory.” NA, College Park, MD.

148. Wilder Foote Personal History Statement, November 3, 1941, NARA RG 478, Records of the Office of Personnel Management, Civil Service Commission/Office of Federal Investigations. Oversize Personnel Security Investigation Files, 1928–82. FOOTE, Wilder (1944–1953), “Interrogatory.”

149. Barnes later became foreign editor of the New York Herald Tribune, and when accused of being a Soviet agent, he denied it under oath. An April 1942 Soviet document indicates that Barnes was vetted for recruitment, but this apparently never happened. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, two scholars who have written extensively about the Venona cables, have concluded that Barnes—although he was the kind of left-wing journalist who viewed the Soviet political experiment sympathetically—was probably not a knowing agent of the Soviet Union. [John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, p. 241.]

150. Paynter was a journalist, formerly of the Associated Press/NYC; in 1940 he authored a series of articles in PM Magazine linking James D. Mooney to Nazi propaganda in America. JEH to Chief, Investigative Division, U.S. Civil Service Comm-ion, 5/19/53,pp. 1-2; NY FBI cable to FBI HQ, 5/12/53, in Foote FBI and CSC files, Op. Cit.

151. In an April 1942 NKGB “orientation” we read: “In her recent report, the source ‘Lira’ mentioned among the radio commentators she knew the name of Joseph Barnes who has been appointed by the President to work as a radio commentator at the ‘Ratsiya’ committee. Our source ‘President’ is also familiar with Joseph Barnes, so we got down to his detailed vetting in view of his possible use.” SVR document declassified in 1994 for release to Alexander Vassiliev, Allen Weinstein’s co-author.

152. Venona 1433–1435 NKGB New York to Moscow, 10 October 1944.

153. Thomas F. Troy, Donovan and the CIA: A History of the Establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency, Aletheia Books, University Publications of America, Inc., 1981, p. 208.

154. Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood. Random House, 1999, pp. 267-268.155. Edward. R. Stettinius, Jr., Roosevelt and the Russians, p. 31.

156. Neither Weinstein nor any other scholar has found any documentary record in the U.S. National Archives to verify this April 2, 1945, meeting between Gorsky’s alias “Anatoly Gromov” and a Treasury Department official “Ruble,” whom Weinstein identified as Harold Glasser. Our thorough research in the Treasury Department files has also turned negative. Moreover, there are no records of any meetings, memos or conversations of Glasser on March 28–April 4.

157. “Q. Did you know that Barnes was active in the Institute of Pacific Relations?

Foote: Oh, yes, I knew that very well; I knew that….” – Exhibit “A.” Official Report of Proceedings before the International Organizations Employees Loyalty Board of the U.S. Civil Service Commission. Hearings Concerning the loyalty of WILDER FOOTE, Employee, pages 1 to 164, New York City, NY, Friday, September 11, 1953. In WILDER FOOTE Oversize Personnel Security Investigation Files, Op. Cit.

158. Harvey Klehr and Ronald Radosh, The Amerasia Spy Case: Prelude to McCarthyism, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1996. Klehr and Radosh do not mention Foote in their book.

159. Ibid., p. 139.

160. Director and SACS New York and St. Louis to FBI Wash Field, p.3; Director and SAC Albany to FBI Wash Field, 3/3/53, p. 1–2.

161. FBI Washington D.C. report, Feb. 16, 1951.

162. As, for instance, in John Earl Haynes and Harvey Kleher, Early Cold War Spies. The Espionage Trials That Shaped American Politics. Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 25. See also E. J. Kahn’s The China Hands, Penguin Press, New York, 1976.

163. On May 30, 1945 “Confidential Informer of the San Francisco Office advised that [Frederick Vanderbilt] Field, who was in San Francisco for the purpose of covering UN Conference [for] the “Daily Worker,” called [Wilder Foote] at the Fairmount Hotel. Foote advised Field that he could not see him on that date inasmuch as he was ill with the flu. [FBI, Wilder Foote, April 10, 1951, p. 2, sourced to (64-5001-257; Source SF 1460 is a technical).

164. According to an FBI Informer who in “approximately May 1946 to July 1947” served as a secretary at the U.S. Mission at the United Nations, “there had been persistent rumors around the office to the effect that Foote was in grave danger of losing his position. It was at about that time that the President’s Loyalty Program was put into effect. […] for some months before his announced resignation, Wilder Foote had had numerous telephonic and personal discussions at the office and at the United Nations with [ ] in connection with the appointment in that organization. FBI New York Field Office Report, 3/25/53, pp. 1-2.

165. SAC, WFO to Director, March 13, 1953, Wilder Foote FBI file.

166. Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood, p. 227.

167. “Q. Did you know Harry Dexter White?

A. Yes, I met Harry Dexter White. I did not know him. I was introduced to him. He was higher ranking than I was, but he was in Treasury, had a lot to do with Lend-Lease.

Q. You had no close association with him?

A. No.

Q. How about Laughlin Currie?

A. Yes, I met him. He was also very active on the Chinese Aid, Lend-Lease Program. . . .

[Ibid., Hearing, p. 100.]

[other names]

Q. Did you know Gregory Silvermaster?

A. Not to my knowledge, I don’t remember ever meeting him.

Q. Or Victor Perlo?

A. No.

Q. . . . Harold Ware?

A. No

Q. Henry Collins?

A. No.

[Exhibit “A”. Official report of Proceedings before the International Organizations Employees Loyalty Board of the U.S. Civil Service Commission. Docket No. In the matter of: Hearings Concerning the loyalty of WILDER FOOTE, Employee. Pages 1 to 164, New York City, NY, September 11, 1953, pp. 98–99.]

168. Senator Alexander Wiley ltr. to Dean Acheson, September 25, 1952. – NA, RG 59, Reading Files of Samuel Boykin, 1931–53, Box 6, Folder “Loyalty UN”, NA., College Park, MD.

169. Scott McLeod “Statement to the Keating Committee on American Employees at the U.N.,” March 27, 1953. – RG 59, Box 48, Folder “FBI-UN Investigation”, NA, College Park, MD. In 1949 the United Nations Secretariat agreed to enter into a “secret arrangement” whereby the U.S. State Department funneled security information to the Secretariat about its American employees. The State Department eventually “commented adversely” on 40 American citizens employed in the Secretariat and 25 of these individuals were fired by 1952. (Wilder Foote was not on this list.) [Mr. Ingram to Mr. Hickerson, May 8, 1953, “Status Priority Cases: Executive Order 10422.” RG 59, Records of the Assistant Secretary of State for U.N. Affairs, Box 1, Folder “Reports on Individual Cases,” NA, College Park, MD.]

170. Samuel D. Boykin ltr. to J. Edgar Hoover, Feb. 2, 1953, RG 59, Box 6, Reading Files of Samuel Boykin 1931–53, Folder “Loyalty UN,” NA, College Park, MD.

171. Foote FBI file, 2/20/53 from SAC New York to Director, FBI.

172. Wilder Foote II e-mail to Kai Bird, 11/16/2005.

173. Wilder Foote FBI file, “Results of Investigation,” 3/13/53.

174. Wilder Foote FBI file, FBI memo, 3/25/53.

175. Wilder Foote FBI file, FBI memo, 3/25/53. The FBI also thought it significant that Foote’s wife Marcia was a friend of Mrs. Paul Robeson, and had given Mrs. Robeson a private tour of the United Nations. [Wilder Foote FBI file, A. H. Belmont to D. M. Ladd, FBI memo 12/3/53.]

176. Official Report of Proceedings before the International Organizations Employees Loyalty Board of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, Op. Cit.

177. Wilder Foote FBI file, A. H. Belmont to D. M. Ladd of FBI, memo dated Dec. 3, 1953

178. Mr. Ingram to Mr. Ylitalo and Mr. Ford, State Department memo on “Meeting with Mr. Meloy, Civil Service Commission,” June 9, 1953. —RG 59, Decimal Files 1953–60, Box 46, Folder “Civil Service Commission, 1953,” National Archives. This memo reports on whether “interim information on W. Foote should be forwarded to the Secretary General of the United Nations” and whether the transmittal of this information would involve a “disclosure of security information.” It was agreed that such information, including “substantially conclusive information pointing to Communist membership or definite Communist activities” should be given to the Secretary General.”

179. Neil McManus, Regional Security Officer, 8/28/53, American Embassy, Paris, a two-page memo on Henry Wilder Foote, Investigation, E.O. 10422, obtained by FOIA request by Kai Bird, released Feb. 5, 2007. The memo went on to tell, “Although there was almost constant daily contact over this period of years, Mr. Blanchard felt that he did not really know the Subject well nor did he ever hear him express his political convictions. . . . Mr. Blanchard stated that he never received any indication that the subject might possess communist or leftist political opinions.”

180. Wilder Foote to Alger Hiss, 10/24/45. RG 59, Alger Hiss Files, Subject Files of the Office of Special Political Affairs, 1940–46, Box 20, folder “Informational Letters” (2), NA, College Park, MD.

181. Wilder Foote II e-mail to Kai Bird, 11/16/2005.

182. 2003 interviews with a GRU veteran, Op. Cit.

183. Maj.-Gen. V. Fedorov, Chief of Main International Relations Directorate of Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation, to Tony Heess [sic], November 18, 2002; original in English (Grace Tony Hiss.)

184. Wilder Foote (the son) e-mail to Kai Bird, 3/23/07.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya are co-authors of this article. Bird is the co-author with Martin J. Sherwin of American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, which won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Biography. Chervonnaya is a historian and TV documentary writer and producer with a special interest in the history of Cold War espionage.


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