History to Baltimore Sun Scribe: Alger Hiss is Guilty

Last week, Baltimore Sun columnist Jacques Kelly wrote a piece about the historical ties of his Baltimore neighborhood to the Alger Hiss-Whittaker Chambers controversy.

But what about Baltimore’s other spy controversy? There was a time when Baltimoreans would argue the guilt and innocence of Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers. To this day, the question remains: Did Hiss, the Baltimore-born graduate of City College and the Johns Hopkins University, willingly hand over classified documents to the Soviet Union in the 1930s? To his death, Hiss professed innocence. The Chambers-Hiss spy case broke in the late 1940s and has been contested ever since.

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Contrary to Kelly, on this day and for many of days of the preceding decade there has indeed been no question about the guilt of Alger Hiss. The only people contesting the Hiss case are those in denial.

Documentary evidence has corroborated Chambers’ claims, made at Hiss’ trials that he did indeed spy for Soviet intelligence. The most damning piece of evidence comes from the Venona Project, a cryptanalysis program begun in 1943 by the U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Service, to decode Soviet diplomatic communications. American policy makers were worried about Stalin signing a separate peace with Hitler, leaving the Allies to fight the Nazi’s alone. Instead, Venona cryptanalysts found a massive penetration of all levels of the United States government by Soviet intelligence agencies assisted by members of the Communist Party of the United States of America.

Message 1822 a cable from Anatoly Gorsky, the KGB’s resident agent in Washington, to Moscow dated March 30, 1945 helped establish the evidence trail that Hiss was the Soviet spy codenamed “ALES.” As historian John Earl Haynes, co–author with Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America wrote:

More contested was whether Hiss’s spying continued. Some Americans cooperated with Soviet espionage until disillusioned by the Purge trials and the Terror; one example being Whittaker Chambers. Others dropped out after the Nazi-Soviet Pact in the fall of 1939.

Haynes argues that the 1945 date of message 1822 indicates Hiss continued to spy for the Soviets through the Yalta Conference.

If lingering Baltimore spy mysteries fascinate Kelly he should investigate whether or not J. Peters, the liaison between Chambers and Soviet intelligence was working with members of the Maryland branch of the CPUSA, specifically Albert Blumberg the very visible head of District 34 the Maryland branch of the CPUSA. Records of District 34 meetings stored in Moscow, strongly suggest Peters attended Baltimore party meetings.

Venona and the release of official Soviet era documents proved that the CPUSA did indeed offer valuable assistance to Soviet intelligence in the 1930s and 1940s. These facts demolish the myth created by the American left that anti-communism—a pillar of American conservatism—unleashed the dark night of fascism upon the United States during the McCarthy era. In fact, much of the contemporary left’s mythmaking only serves to reinforce the inconvenient truth that many of their ideological forebears either knowingly aided or were apologists a Soviet regime responsible for the murder of millions of tens of millions of its own people.

The historical controversy of the Hiss-Chambers case like that of other early Cold War spies like the Rosenbergs remain important because they still affect our politics. The left regularly uses this myth against conservatives. Witness MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who just last month clumsily used the myth to slander Fox News host Mike Huckabee, only to trip over her own ignorance that Senator Joseph McCarthy had nothing to do with the House Un-American Activities Committee.

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