Read Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America Online

Authors: Harvey Klehr;John Earl Haynes;Alexander Vassiliev

Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America


John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr, and Alexander Vassiliev

with translations by Philip Redko and Steven Shabad

To my beloved wife, Janette


To women of valor Susan Kline Klehr and Robin Klehr Avia


To my son, Ken Vassiliev





Conventions for Nomenclature, Citations, Quotations, Cover Names, and Transliteration

Introduction by ALEXANDER VASSILIEV: "How I Came to Write My Notebooks, Discover Alger Hiss, and Lose to His Lawyer

Alger Hiss: Case Closed

z: Enormous: The KGB Attack on the Anglo-American Atomic Project

The Journalist Spies

Infiltration of the U.S. Government

Infiltration of the Office of Strategic Services

The XY Line: Technical, Scientific, and Industrial Espionage

American Couriers and Support Personnel

Celebrities and Obsessions

g: The KGB in America: Strengths, Weaknesses, and Structural Problems





Is there anything new to be learned about Soviet espionage in America?
After more than a decade of fresh revelations, it may seem that we must
know most of the details and there is little left to uncover. But new information continues to emerge. In the fall of 2007, after Russian president
Vladimir Putin announced a posthumous award to a previously unknown
spy, George Koval, credited with enabling the USSR to steal vital atomic
secrets, the New York Times published a front-page article detailing the
remarkable story of his transition from an Iowa-born child of RussianJewish (and Communist-sympathizing) parents who moved in 1932 to
Birobidzhan, Stalin's artificial Jewish homeland in Siberia, and his transformation into a Soviet spy sent back to the United States who wound up
working at the secret Oak Ridge atomic facilities during World War 11.1

The Koval story illustrates some of the dilemmas faced by anyone attempting to write a factual account of Soviet espionage. The original story
relied on Russian claims about the value of the material Koval supplied.
Despite a number of clues pointing to his having a less significant role in
atomic espionage than the claims boasted, a credulous press inflated his
importance, inadvertently echoing his employer. Russian military intelligence, the GRU, has, in recent years, attempted to emulate the public relations offensive that its long-time sister agency and rival, the KGB,
embarked on in the 199os to convince the Russian public and government officials that it had a major role in the military and political successes achieved by the Soviet Union.

When the underlying documentation for a spy story is unavailable,
the bits and pieces of information released by governments to placate
public curiosity about espionage can be misleading. Official government
statements often have more to do with internal bureaucratic factionalism
or public relations than the truth. The spies themselves are rarely available to be interviewed and have good reasons to avoid being too specific
or entirely candid. And when they do speak through memoir literature
they are as prone as autobiographers in other walks of life to romanticize
their importance, minimize their mistakes, and pass over unpleasant
events with silence or misdirection. Frustratingly, archival information
regarding intelligence and counterintelligence activities from the 1930s
onward continues to be tightly held and parceled out in a miserly fashion.

For all these reasons, Alexander Vassiliev's notebooks provide a
uniquely rich insight into Soviet espionage during the 193os and 1940s. As
Vassiliev explains in his introduction, he had unprecedented access to the
archival record of KGB activities in America in that era. Contemporaneous documents, written at the time the events they describe were occurring or shortly afterwards, they also have the virtue of being a record of
how the very agency that conducted the spying understood its operations.
These official communications are neither the conclusions or guesses,
sometimes inspired, sometimes incorrect, of counterespionage organizations dedicated to uncovering the spies; nor the reluctant admissions of
suspects minimizing their involvement; nor statements from defectors who
may have a personal agenda. Instead, they are the contemporaneous accounts of the successes and failures of the KGB by the KGB itself. They
are not public "spin" offered by bureaucratic organizations and officials
anxious to demonstrate their value to a public or protect an organization's
self-image. Any archival historian knows that even contemporaneous documents can sometimes mislead because their author didn't correctly understand the events he was reporting for some reason, harbored prejudices
and assumptions that distorted what was reported, or for self-promotion
or self-protection distorted what actually happened. But that danger of
misleading is true of all archival records, no matter what the subject, and
it is why historians feel more confident when there are multiple documentary sources that corroborate one another and allow one to screen out
the misleading outlier. And given the several thousand KGB documents
transcribed, quoted, extracted, and summarized in their more than 1,115
pages, Vassiliev's notebooks provide researchers with an abundance of material that offers both internal corroboration and ample basis for corroboration with independent sources.

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