Ales: Hiss, Foote, Stettinius?
by John Earl Haynes
7 June 2007
There are two sources on information about the GRU agent Ales. First, Venona 1822, Vadim [Anatoly Gorsky] KGB Washington to KGB Moscow, 30 March 1945, that became public when the National Security Agency (NSA) released the deciphered Venona messages, 1995-1998. Second Alexander Vassiliev’s handwritten notes on a cipher telegram from Anatoly Gorsky, 5 March 1945, entered into the record in the 2002 British legal case of Alexander Vassiliev and Frank Cass & Co Ltd.
The text of Venona 1822 reads:
Addendum to our telegram no.28 as a result of a conversation of “Pya” with Ales, it turns out:
1. Ales has been continuously working with the neighbors since 1935.
2. For a few years now he has been the director of a small group of probationers of the neighbors, for the most part drawn from his relatives.
3. The group and Ales himself are working on obtaining only military information, materials about “the Bank” – the neighbors allegedly are not very interested and he doesn’t pass it regularly.
4. In recent years, Ales has been working with Pol repeat Pol who also meets with other members of the group on occasion.
5. Recently Ales and his whole group were awarded Soviet medals.
6. After the Yalta conference, back in Moscow, one very high-ranking Soviet worker allegedly had contact with Ales (Ales implied that it was Comrade Vyshinskii) and at the request of the military neighbors he conveyed to him their thanks, etc. Vadim
The text of Alexander Vassiliev’s notes on a cipher telegram from Vadim [Anatoly Gorsky], 5 March 1945, reads:
He [Gorsky] wants to be included in the Sov. delegation to the conference in San Francisco. However, he can’t leave his post to any of his collaborators. He wants to leave it to “Son” (F.A. Garanin, transferred from Cuba to Washington as an attaché of the Soviet embassy). After the conference, Vadim wants to come to Moscow to give a personal report.
Particular attention – to “Ales.” He was at the Yalta Conference, then went to Mexico City and hasn’t returned yet. Our only key to him – “Ruble.” “Ruble” is going on assignment himself (Italy). => it is difficult to oversee “Ales” through him.
“We spoke with ‘Ruble’ several times about ‘Ales’. As we have written already, ‘Ruble’ gives ‘Ales’ an exceptionally good political reference as a member of the Comparty. ‘Ruble’ reports that ‘Ales’ is strong and strong-willed, with a firm and decisive nature, completely aware that he is Communist in an illegal position, with all the ensuing consequences. Unfortunately, it seems that, like all local Communists, he has his own ideas about secrecy. As we already reported to you, ‘Ales’ and ‘Ruble’ used to work in ‘Karl’s’ informational group, which was affiliated with the neighbors. When the connection with ‘Karl’ was lost, ‘Ruble’ backed out, while ‘Ales’ entered into a connection with ‘Pol’. He told ‘Ruble’ about this himself a year and a half ago, when he asked the latter to meet with ‘Pol’ in order to continue work.”
“Ruble” could talk to “Ales” about recommencing work. If the latter doesn’t want to work with “Ruble,” he could do it with us.
There is an unclear situation: “About 6 months ago, ‘Ales’ told ‘Ruble’ that he had met a Russian (he didn’t give his name), who immediately asked him to write a brief report about a certain matter. ‘Ales’ asked ‘Ruble’s’ opinion as to what he should do. ‘Ruble’ evaded the question, saying that ‘Ales’ could do as he saw fit.
‘Ales’ should be approached by a Soviet representative. Either an employee of Center, or ‘Sergey,” or me, ‘Vadim’. The most convenient place - at the conference in San Francisco.
“After 2 or 3 meetings, depending on how ‘Ales’ conducts himself, we can get down to business, alluding either to the password, or to ‘Ruble’, or simply to ‘Ales’s’ progressive attitudes."
Who was Ales?
The NSA/FBI annotation of Venona 1822 said “probably Alger Hiss,” for reasons that will be clear in this essay once the characteristics attributed to Ales in Venona 1822 are compared with the very small pool of candidates for Ales. But first one should consider the question of the historical importance of Ales. If Ales were not Hiss, then identifying who Ales was would be a significant historical achievement because it would identify a hitherto unknown Soviet source high up in the U.S. State Department.
But if Ales was Hiss, as NSA/FBI concluded, Venona 1822 as well as the 5 March 1945 telegram remain of significant interest but only as codicils to the Hiss-Chambers case. Harvey Klehr and I wrote in 1999 in Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America: "The evidence at the trial and that which has appeared subsequently from Russian archives firmly establishes Hiss's espionage on behalf of the Soviet Union in the 1930s. But what was until recently left open was whether Hiss's betrayal of the United States continued beyond the 1930s." To this latter point chiefly is the Ales message relevant. Similarly our 2003 In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage we wrote "it is worth noting that it [the Ales message] plays only a minor role in the argument for Hiss having cooperated with Soviet intelligence. Even if . . . were able to demonstrate that the message had nothing to do with Hiss, all the other evidence against him would retain its force. Much of the message's historical significance stems from its 1945 date, speaking to the issue of whether Hiss’s cooperation with Soviet espionage continued past the 1930s." Indeed, the argument that Ales was Hiss depends heavily on the facts established about Hiss’s activity in the mid-1930s, not the other way around. It is our knowledge of Hiss’s espionage in the 1930s and of facts brought out in the Hiss trials and in subsequent historical investigation of the Hiss-Chambers case that lead to the conclusion that Hiss and only Hiss matches the characteristics of Ales.
Ales was a U.S. Department of State (DOS) official who was at the Yalta conference, 4-11 February 1945, then went briefly to Moscow, and was back in Washington in March.
(But first a side issue thrown up by the Hiss defense. In “Venona and Alger Hiss,” a 2000 article of mendacity and distortion, John Lowenthal, one of Hiss’s lawyers, argued that grammatical ambiguities in the original NSA translation of Venona 1822 could be read to mean that Vyshinskii, but not Ales, went from Yalta to Moscow. He then asserted this vindicated Hiss who had, after all, gone to Moscow after Yalta. Already discredited by Eduard Mark’s 2003 “Who Was ‘Venona’s ‘Ales’? Cryptanalysis and the Hiss Case, John Schindler’s obtaining of the original Russian text (grammatically unambiguous that Ales went to Moscow) and its publication in 2005 demolished Lowenthal’s tendentious reading.)
The bulk of the American delegation at Yalta, including President Roosevelt, left Yalta for the U.S. via Iran. A contingent from the American embassy in Moscow returned to Moscow, but stayed there and did not go on to the U.S. Only a small party led by Secretary of State Edward Stettinius went from Yalta to Moscow (to finish a few details of the conference) and then traveled on to the U.S. by March. Aside from support staff (and Ales is not plausibly someone of that status), the Stettinius party had only four DOS personnel who fit the geographic movement profile: Edward Stettinius, Freeman Mathews, Alger Hiss, and Wilder Foote. The documentation of the pool of candidates is meticulously set out in Mark’s 2003 essay where he compared the four candidates with the characteristics of Ales in Venona 1822 and concluded that Ales was Alger Hiss.
Meanwhile former KGB officer Alexander Vassiliev’s handwritten notes on the 5 March 1945 Gorsky cable were entered into the record in a civil law suite in Britain in 2002 but did not reach the U.S. and get translated until 2006. This cable noted that Ales had been at Yalta, when briefly to Moscow, then back to the U.S. but then immediately went to Mexico City for an inter-American conference of foreign ministers, known as the Chapultepec Conference (21 February 8 March 1945). Stettinius, Hiss, Mathews, and Foote went to Mexico City.
John Lowenthal’s distorted reading of Venona 1822 having been discredited, Hiss defenders proclaimed that the 5 March Gorsky cable vindicated Hiss, an argument set forth in 2007 by Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya at a conference devoted to the defense of Alger Hiss at New York University and published later in The American Scholar. They argued that the 5 March cable provided information demonstrating that Ales as not Alger Hiss and probably was Wilder Foote.
The logic of of the Bird Chervonnaya argument made Foote and Stettinius equally possible candidates for Ales, but the likelihood that no one would take seriously an argument at the American Secretary of State was a long time Soviet agent, they quietly put Stettinius aside, although the evidence in both cases was equally strong (i.e., equally weak). Since the logic of Hiss defenders is that someone, anyone, other than Hiss must be Ales, Wilder Foote was thrown under the truck to save Hiss. Actually, the Vassiliev’s notes on the 5 March cable, while containing one ambiguous item, increased the evidence that Ales was Hiss.
The Characteristic of Ales in Venona 1822 compared to Foote, Stettinius, and Hiss
Venona 1822, the 30 March cable, makes a number of observations about Ales.
Item 1. “Ales has been continuously working with the neighbors since 1935.” (“Neighbors” was KGB terminology for the GRU, Soviet Military Intelligence.)
Foote and item 1. In the 1930s, indeed until 1941, Wilder Foote lived in Vermont editing and publishing local newspapers. There is no evidence whatsoever that GRU had any operations in Vermont in the 1930s (a very rural state in the 1930s) or had any interest in Vermont. Nor is there even a plausible target for Soviet military intelligence in Vermont in the 1930s. Foote does not fit this characterization of Ales.
Stettinius and item 1. Edward Stettinius was a vice-president of General Motors, briefly a National Recovery Administration official working on unemployment problems, and then a senior administrator of U.S. Steel. GRU conducted significant industrial espionage in the 1930s, and theoretically Stettinius would have been a person of interest to them, but there is not an iota of evidence of any contact between the successful businessman-capitalist Stettinius (albeit one who believed private business had social responsibilities) and GRU.
Hiss and item 1. Whittaker Chambers testified in 1948 that Hiss entered the CPUSA underground in Washington in 1934, that J. Peters, the chief of the CPUSA covert arm was eager to connect some of the well-placed underground Washington Communists to Soviet intelligence and this was achieved when in early 1936 Chambers and Hiss became part of a GRU espionage apparatus. Hede Massing, a former GRU agent who had transferred to KGB, also testified that she knew Hiss as a GRU source in early 1936. The two most thorough books on the Hiss-Chambers case, Allen Weinstein’s Perjury and Sam Tanenhaus’s Whittaker Chambers, pile up the evidence supporting the veracity of Chambers’ and Massings’ accounts. A well-documented article by the Hungarian historian Maria Schmidt discusses material in Hungarian Communist security service archives that corroborates Massing’s testimony about Hiss and in which Hiss is identified by name as a Soviet intelligence source.
Likely someone will make something of the difference between 1935 in Venona 1822 and 1936 in Chambers’ account, but minor discrepancies in remembered chronology (Ales remembering in 1945 when he entered into a GRU connection, Chambers remembering in 1948 when he and Hiss connected to GRU) are common, and most research historians know not to regard a date someone remembers ten or fifteen years after the fact as precise (close, probably, but not precise).
Evaluation of item 1. There is convincing evidence linking Hiss to GRU in the mid-1930s. There is no evidence linking Wilder Foote or Edward Stettinius to GRU in the 1930s.
Item 2. “ For a few years now he has been the director of a small group of probationers of the neighbors, for the most part drawn from his relatives.” (“Probationers” was standard KGB terminology for its active sources, i.e. spies.)
Foote and item 2. There is no evidence linking any of Wilder Foote’s family to Soviet espionage.
Stettinius and item 2. There is no evidence linking any of Edward Stettinius’ family to Soviet espionage.
Hiss and item 2. According to Chambers, Priscilla Hiss, Alger’s wife, typed many of the documents her husband stole from the State Department. In 1948 Chambers produced typed and handwritten material he had hidden in 1938 from his final months before he dropped out of Soviet espionage. The material summarized sixty-eight different State Department documents that went through Hiss's office. Technical examination, by both prosecution and defense experts, established that the typed material was typed on the Hiss family typewriter of the mid-1930s. Indeed, one of the typed document specialists hired by the Hiss defense went further than the prosecution, advising that on the basis of the strong and weak hits of the typing pattern, the documents had been typed by Priscilla and not Alger. (The defense experts had far more samples of Hiss family typed material to examine than did the prosecution experts. For obvious reasons, the defense did not bring this up at the trial.)
Chambers said of Hiss’s brother: “Donald Hiss never at any time procured any documents. Nevertheless, he was a member of the apparatus which I headed.” Donald Hiss transferred to the State Department from the Department of Labor in November 1937, shortly before Chambers dropped out of Soviet espionage, and remained there to the end of WWII.
Evaluation of item 2. There is evidence that Hiss’s relations (wife and brother), assisted his espionage but none for Foote or Stettinius’ relations.
Item 3. “The group and Ales himself are working on obtaining only military information, materials about “the Bank” – the neighbors allegedly are not very interested and he doesn’t pass it regularly.” (Bank” was the KGB cover name for the U.S. Department of State.)
When the GRU dominated Soviet foreign intelligence operations in the 1920s and 1930s, its networks sought political and strategic information as well as more narrowly defined military intelligence. But as the KGB established its supremacy in foreign intelligence in the late 1930s, the GRU’s jurisdiction was steadily narrowed. It had to get its agents to produce more strictly military information clearly within its jurisdiction or risk losing them to the KGB
Foote and item 3. While Foote worked for the DOS as Stettinius’s press assistant, there is no evidence of his having any special interest in military information.
Stettinius and item 3. While Stettinius was Under Secretary and then Secretary of State, there is no evidence of his having any special interest in military information.
Hiss and item 3. Just six months after Venona 1822 was sent, Alger Hiss made an extraordinary proposal that the State Department create a new “special assistant for military affairs” linked to his Office of Special Political Affairs. Moreover, when security officers belatedly began to look closely at Hiss in 1946 they discovered that he had used his authority to obtain top secret reports “on atomic energy . . . and other matters relating to military intelligence” that were outside the scope of his Office of Special Political Affairs, which dealt largely with United Nations diplomacy.
Evaluation of item 3. There is evidence that Hiss tried to extend his jurisdiction in DOS to include more access to military-related information. There is no evidence that Wilder Foote or Edward Stettinius attempted any similar access.
Characteristics of Ales in Telegram, 5 March 1945, compared to Foote, Stettinius, and Hiss
In addition to reducing the pool of candidates for Ales from four to three, the cipher telegram of Vadim (Anatoly Gorsky) to Moscow KGB headquarters, adds additional attributes to those identified in Venona 1822.
Ales was a GRU agent, not KGB, and at this point no KGB officer had had direct contact with Ales. Anatoly Gorsky, chief of KGB operations in the U.S. reminded Moscow:
“Our only key to him [Ales] – “Ruble.” “Ruble” is going on assignment himself (Italy). => it is difficult to oversee “Ales” through him. We spoke with ‘Ruble’ several times about ‘Ales’. ”
Ruble was the cover name of an active KGB agent, Harold Glasser. Glasser was a senior Treasury Department official in 1945 but he had secretly joined the Communist Party in the early 1930s as a young economist and remained active in the secret underground Washington party organization of federal government employees were members of the Communist Party, USA (CPUSA). He was identified as a Soviet intelligence source in 1945 by Elizabeth Bentley, a defector from KGB operations. Bentley described to the FBI her role as liaison between two large espionage networks (the Perlo group and the Silvermaster group) of secret Communists who had provided information to the Soviets first via the CPUSA but then directly to the KGB. She identified Glasser as a member of the Perlo group. Glasser under the cover name Ruble also occurs in eleven deciphered Venona messages as an active Soviet source and member of the apparatus Bentley titled the Perlo group.
Item 4. Regarding Ruble/Glasser and Ales, Gorsky went on to state:
As we already reported to you, ‘Ales’ and ‘Ruble’ used to work in ‘Karl’s’ informational group, which was affiliated with the neighbors. When the connection with ‘Karl’ was lost, ‘Ruble’ backed out, while ‘Ales’ entered into a connection with ‘Pol’. He told ‘Ruble’ about this himself a year and a half ago, when he asked the latter to meet with ‘Pol’ in order to continue work.”
Who was Karl that used to work with a GRU (“neighbors”) group, who also worked with Ales and Ruble/Glasser, and then the connection was lost? In Chambers in his autobiography Witness noted that his cover name in the underground was “Carl.” The English names Carl and Karl are spelled identically in Russian, and under all Russian Cyrillic to Latin English transliteration system, is transliterated as “Karl.” One can also see Chambers identified as “Karl” in a December 1948 KGB memo written by Anatoly Gorsky (the same author of the 5 March 1945 cable) at < http://www.johnearlhaynes.org/page44.html > Chambers also wrote of how Harold Glasser had worked for his espionage network in the mid-1930s. And, of course, Chambers dropped out of espionage in 1938 and, as the 5 March cable says, “the connection with ‘Karl’ was lost.”
Foote and item 4. Wilder Foote was in Vermont in the 1930s and had no known or even suspected connection with Whittaker Chambers and his CPUSA/GRU espionage network in Washington, DC.
Stettinius and item 4. Edward Stettinius was briefly in Washington as a NRA administrator early in FDR’s first term, but for the period when Chambers’ apparatus was active, he had left the city for a senior administrative post with U.S. Steel. He had had no known or suspected connection with Chambers and his CPUSA/GRU espionage network in Washington, DC.
Hiss and item 4. Hiss’s role in Chambers’ CPUSA/GRU espionage network in Washington was the main issue of the Hiss-Chambers case, Hiss was convicted of perjury for statements denying his role, a participation confirmed by Allen Weinstein’s Perjury and Sam Tanenhaus’s Whittaker Chambers.
Evaluation of item 4. The specifications of item 4 fit Hiss and do not fit Foote or Stettinius.
Items 5 and 6: Gorsky states of the close relationship of Ruble/Glasser with Ales and of Ales’s status as a firm Communist:
“We spoke with ‘Ruble’ several times about ‘Ales’. As we have written already, ‘Ruble’ gives ‘Ales’ an exceptionally good political reference as a member of the Comparty. ‘Ruble’ reports that ‘Ales’ is strong and strong-willed, with a firm and decisive nature, completely aware that he is Communist in an illegal position, with all the ensuing consequences.”
Foote and items 5 and 6. There is no credible evidence that Wilder Foote was a member of the Communist Party. He does not show up in memoir literature of party veterans, in records of the party that are accessible in archives, or as a subject of interest of various congressional investigating committees. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in particular gave strong scrutiny to Americans working for the United Nations in the late 1940s and early 1950s who had party backgrounds and subpoenaed them. (It’s information was based on FBI investigatory information made available to the committee on an informal basis.) Most invoked the fifth amendment to avoid testifying and Secretary General Trygve Lie either fired them, forced their resignation, or failed to renew their contracts. Wilder Foote was a very prominent American working for the UN (Lie’s chief press aide) and was never a subject of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee probe because he did not have a party background.
Nor did Foote have a known relationship with Harold Glasser. Wilder Foote did not arrive in Washington from Vermont until some time in 1941. There is no evidence of Glasser and Foote having any sustained interaction or even any interaction. Glasser, one should note, while in Washington from the early 1930s until 1940, was on a two year Treasury assignment in Ecuador from 1940 to 1942, was back for some months then off to North Africa in 1943, and, after another return, on several trips back and forth to Italy in 1944 and 1945 assisting with Treasury work with American and Allied armed forces. Even the opportunity was lacking for Glasser to develop the confidence to give Ales, if he were Foote, the strong endorsement that is in the 5 March 1945 cable.
Stettinius and items 5 and 6. There is no credible evidence that Stettinius was a member of the Communist Party in party records or congressional or FBI investigations. Nor is there any known relationship with Harold Glasser.
Hiss and items 5 and 6. In addition of his 1948 testimony of his personal knowledge that Alger Hiss was a secret Communist, Chambers had furnished the same information to Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle in September 1939 as documented by Berle’s notes on the meeting. Chambers also said that during his relationship with Hiss, Hiss had insisted that an old automobile of his be given to the CPUSA. Hiss denied this, but government investigators turned up a notarized transfer of ownership of the car by Hiss to a used car dealership that the same day transferred ownership to a man who fronted for the CPUSA in sham transactions of that sort. In 1953 Nathaniel Weyl, publicly stated that he had been a Communist along with Alger Hiss in the club of government employees, known as the Ware Group, who were secret Communists, a statement he reaffirmed in his 2004 autobiography.
As for Hiss’s relationship with Harold Glasser, Glasser, like Hiss, had been an active member of the Washington Communist underground in the 1930s, would have been qualified to give this evaluation of Hiss. Moreover, there is evidence directly linking Glasser and Hiss in common participation in espionage. Elizabeth Bentley in a lengthy deposition of 30 November 1945 provided FBI with a thorough account of her work in Soviet espionage. Included in this 1945 statement is this passage about the espionage network she called the “Perlo group, Bentley said:
Referring again to Harold Glasser, I recall that after his return from his assignment in Europe, probably in Italy, for the United States Treasury Department, Victor Perlo told me that Glasser had asked him if he would be able to get back in with the Perlo group. I asked Perlo how Glasser happened to leave the group and he explained that Glasser and one or two others had been taken sometime before by some American in some governmental agency in Washington, and that this unidentified American turned Glasser and the others over to some Russian. Perlo declared he did not know the identity of this American, and said that Charley Kramer, so far as he knew, was the only person who had this information. Sometime later I was talking with Kramer in New York City, and brought up this matter to him. At this time Kramer told me that the person who had originally taken Glasser away from Perlo’s group was named Hiss and that he was in the U.S. State Department.
Evaluation of items 5 and 6. Neither fits Foote or Stettinius while both fit Hiss.
Item 7. Alexander Vassiliev’s notes on the Gorsky 5 March cable state:
Particular attention – to “Ales.” He was at the Yalta Conference, then went to Mexico City and hasn’t returned yet.
Foote and item 7. Foote was still in Mexico City at this date.
Stettinius and item 7. Stettinius was still in Mexico City at this date.
Hiss and item 7. Hiss had been with Stettinius at Mexico City but returned to Washington early in part due to an illness. This item is the only one of the seven that tends to exculpate Hiss, but it is weak evidence. What the statement says is that Anatoly Gorsky thought Hiss was still in Mexico City as part of the American delegation. Looking at the totality of the evidence, the most sensible conclusion is that Gorsky simply did not know that Hiss had returned early.
As the historian Eduard Mark has pointed out, relevant here is a 3 March 1945 (Saturday) cable from KGB headquarters in Moscow (Venona 195 Moscow to New York KGB). The KGB New York station received on Saturday 3 March a cable signed by the chief of KGB foreign intelligence, General Fitin, an urgent order that the KGB’s chief illegal officer, Iskhak Akhmerov, be tasked to:
take all requisite steps to obtain in good time and pass on to us information about the composition of the delegation to the forthcoming conference which is in Babylon... what tactics the delegation intends to adopt, whom it is counting on for support, what blocs have been prepared already and formed, how far there will be a united line for the representatives of the Anglo-Saxon world and so on. As the information comes in pass on to the Center by telegraph without delay.
Babylon was the standard KGB cover name for San Francisco, so the upcoming UN conference was the subject. Akhmerov was an “illegal” officer, meaning he and the agents he supervised were not part of a Soviet diplomatic office such as the embassy in Washington or the consulates in New York and San Francisco. They operated under false identities and his no diplomatic protection if apprehended. Most KGB officers were “legal” officers who had diplomatic status and held cover posts at the Soviet embassy or other authorized Soviet government agency in the United States. Gorsky, overall head of KGB in the U.S. and nominally a senior diplomat at the Soviet embassy, received all cables send to his subordinates. His 5 March (Monday) cable to Moscow appears to be a quick response to Moscow’s Saturday order, showing that the U.S. station was on top of the matter and had active leads to follow on the UN question, namely Ales. Hiss’s Office of Special Political Affairs was supervising preparations for the UN conference, so he was in a perfect position to satisfy Moscow’s tasking. Given Iskhak Akhmerov’s illegal status, it would likely take several days or even weeks for Moscow message to reach him in as much as the message could only be delivered via covert couriers.
Gorsky told Moscow that he couldn’t follow up immediately because Ales was still in Mexico City, where Stettinius and his chief aides were meeting with Latin American foreign ministers. It is certainly true, as Bird and Chervonnaya state, that Hiss had already returned from Mexico City. And it is true that Gorsky could have known that Hiss had returned. He had spoken on a public affairs radio program and a newspaper story on the program mentioned him. But that Gorsky “could have” known is not the same as assuredly he would have known. Hiss was not a prominent figure. Hiss was not Secretary of State, Under Secretary of State, or one of the several Assistant Secretaries of State, he was not an ambassador or even hold ambassadorial rank. He was a senior DOS official, but of the third or fourth level of the hierarchy and as yet little known to the press or public. Not until he presided over the opening sessions of the United Nations founding conference in San Francisco a few months later did he make an impression on the national media.
For Gorsky to assume that Hiss was still in Mexico City would have been an easy mistake to make. Hiss had been in Mexico City as a senior aide to Stettinius, Stettinius was still there, ergo, Hiss was still there. We do not know precisely when Gorsky saw Venona 195 with its order that information on the upcoming UN conference be send to Moscow “without delay,” but the earliest was Saturday with Sunday more likely (cables do have to be deciphered), and then Gorsky had to compose his reply and get it ciphered and on the way on Monday. Bird and Chervonnaya attribute an all-knowing efficiency to Gorsky that simply doesn’t exist in the real world of a U.S. KGB station chief in wartime balancing the time demands of his cover job as a senior embassy diplomat with his other job overseeing the KGB stations operating out of Soviet diplomatic offices in Washington, New York, and San Francisco as well as the illegal station headed by Iskhak Akhmerov.
In view of the six characteristics of Ales that fit Hiss (and do not fit Foote or Stettinius), the sensible view is that item 7 is simply a matter of Gorsky not realizing that Hiss was back early from Mexico City.
Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya are certainly correct that Ales must be Hiss, Foote, or Stettinius. They are wrong that Wilder Foote is the most likely candidate for Ales. He fits only one of the seven attributes of Ales, and Stettinius has the same score. Indeed, so completely do Foote and Stettinius not fit the attributes of Ales, that one can confidently exclude both. Hiss, however, fits six of the seven with remarkable tightness, and fails on the seventh most likely due to Gorsky simply not knowing that Hiss returned early from Mexico City.
On should also return to the basis question of Hiss’s participation on Soviet espionage in the mid-1930s as well set out by Weinstein and Tanenhaus. Two witnesses stated personal knowledge that Alger Hiss was a spy: Whittaker Chambers and Hede Massing, both former liaisons between various sources and Soviet intelligence agencies. Now John Lowenthal in his 2000 essay in Intelligence and National Security maintained that Chambers made it all up, that Chambers was never a spy. But Julian Wadleigh, a State Department official, confessed to having been part of Chambers' espionage apparatus and delivering documents to him. A mathematician at the Army's Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Vincent Reno, confessed that he had furnished government documents to Chambers’ apparatus. Felix Inslerman stated under oath that he had been sent to the USSR, trained in photography, and sent back to the U.S. were he worked for the GRU, and specifically functioned as a photographer of stolen government documents for Chambers. William Crane, a California Communist, confirmed contact with Boris Bykov of the GRU and that he had also photographed Treasury and State Department documents for Chambers and carried out courier missions. Nadya Ulanovski, formerly of the GRU, confirmed that Chambers had been part of the espionage network that she and her husband supervised in the early 1930s. Meanwhile, Massing story has been corroborated by material in Hungarian and Czechoslovak archives from Noel Field’s post-Stalin rehabilitation debriefings. In that material Field confirms that Hiss attempted to recruit him as a source, unaware that Massing had already done so. Additionally Weinstein’s 1997 edition of Perjury as well as his and Vassiliev’s more recent The Haunted Wood cite KGB documents about this incident, documents where Hiss is identified as a Soviet source for the GRU in clear text.
In 1948 Chambers also produced typed and handwritten material he had hidden in 1938 from his final months before he dropped out of Soviet espionage. The material summarized sixty-eight different State Department documents that went through Hiss's office. Handwriting examiners for both the prosecution and the defense agreed that the handwritten material was in Hiss's own hand. Technical examination, again by both prosecution and defense experts, established that the typed material was typed on the Hiss family typewriter of the mid-1930s. In addition to the typed and handwritten material, Chambers also produced microfilm made by his espionage network of documents that Hiss had given him in early 1938. Three of the documents on the film had Hiss's handwritten initials on them and the stamp from the small State Department office where Hiss worked.
One could go on listing other evidence regarding the Hiss matter, but the point ought to be clear that the Ales messages, as interesting as they are, are but a few stones on a large rock pile of evidence.
. High Court of Justice Queen's Bench Division.
. The text used here is the John Schindler’s 2002 translation. John R. Schindler, “Hiss in VENONA: The Continuing Controversy,” paper presented at 2005 Symposium on Cryptologic History (Laural, Maryland, 2005), < http://www.johnearlhaynes.org/page61.html >.
. The original copy of this text provided by David Lowenthal from court records in the U.K. missed copying a line, producing a garble in the text. A more accurate copy was obtained by independent means, the missing line restored (containing the text "and ‘Ruble’ used to work in ‘Karl’s’ informational group,") and that is the text used here.
. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press [Nota Bene], 2000), 170.
. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, In Denial: Historians, Communism, and Espionage (San Francisco, CA: Encounter Books, 2003), 153.
. John Lowenthal, “Venona and Alger Hiss,” Intelligence and National Security 15, no. 3 (Autumn 2000): 98–130; Eduard Mark, “Who Was ‘Venona’s ‘Ales’? Cryptanalysis and the Hiss Case,” Intelligence and National Security 18, no. 3 (Autumn 2003); John R. Schindler, “Hiss in VENONA: The Continuing Controversy,” paper presented at 2005 Symposium on Cryptologic History (Laural, Maryland, 2005); David Lowenthal and Roger Sandilands, “Eduard Mark on Venona’s ‘Ales’: A Note,” Intelligence and National Security 20, no. 3 (September 2005); Eduard Mark, “Letter from Eduard Mark,” Intelligence and National Security 21, no. 1 (February 2006).
. The 5 March cable further destroyed the Lowenthal thesis by its corroboration of the conventional reading of Venona 1822 that Ales when from Yalta to Moscow and then to the U.S. Hiss defenders, however, still hold Lowenthal in high regard, because although he got the historical facts wrong, he got the politics right. Kai Bird and Svetlana Chervonnaya, “The Mystery of Ales,” American Scholar, Summer 2007.
. Mária Schmidt, “Noel Field -- The American Communist at the Center of Stalin’s East European Purge: From the Hungarian Archives,” American Communist History 3, no. 2 (December 2004).
. Allen Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case (New York: Random House, 1997), 154.
. Sam Tanenhaus, Whittaker Chambers: A Biography (New York: Random House, 1997), 519; Weinstein, Perjury , 321–22.
. Whittaker Chambers, Witness (New York: Random House, 1952), 336, 430.
. Transcriptions of the notes can be found in Chambers, Witness, 466–69 and U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, Interlocking Subversion in Government Departments [Hearings] (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1953), part 6, 329–30. Also on the web at: < http://www.johnearlhaynes.org/page100.html >
. Weyl had been a secret Communist while a federal employee, but left government service in the late 1930s and he and his wife became open CPUSA activists and officials. Both left the party after the Nazi-Soviet Pact of August 1939. Nathaniel Weyl, “I Was in a Communist Unit with Hiss,” U.S. News and World Report, 9 January 1953; Nathaniel Weyl, Encounters With Communism (Philadelphia, PA: Xlibris, 2004).
. Elizabeth Bentley, “Elizabeth Bentley FBI Deposition, 30 November 19045, FBI File 65–14603” (1945).
. The fulsome praise for Gorsky’s efficiency is also puzzling in view of Chervonnaya’s furious assault in 2005 on Gorsky’s 1948 memo referenced above. Outraged that Gorsky identified Hiss as a Soviet source that had been compromised by Chambers’ defection, she asserted that the memo can’t be trusted because Gorsky was incompetently passing off information from the American press (i,e, the Hiss-Chambers case) as having come from KGB files. Svetlana Chervonnaya, “The ‘Gorsky List’: Anatoly Gorsky’s Report to S.R. Savchenko, 23 December 1949,” manuscript (2005). Chervonnaya also insists that the memo is from 1949, not 1948 as it is dated. The motive for Gorsky, then a senior KGB official in Moscow, for falsely identifying Hiss as a compromised agent in an internal KGB document is not explained. She also questioned the reliability of Alexander Vassiliev notes on the 1948 Gorsky memo, but the same Vassiliev notes are the source of the 5 March 1945 cipher telegram that she and Bird maintain exculpate Hiss.