No doubt, another letter to another editor of another journal about another knock-out game on American Betrayal is just the thing for the summertime hammock, particularly since this one, bonus, also manhandles Stalin's Secret Agents by the late M. Stanton Evans and the late Herbert Romerstein.
This time around, I am writing to the academic journal Intelligence and National Security(hence, the academic style and European punctuation). In fall of 2014, the journal published an essay by Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes -- well known to readers of this website, for example, as the well-regarded but numbers-challenged intelligence scholars who see espionage as the theft of secrets, but not policy-manipulation. In other words, information goes out, but nothing -- such as subversion, deception or influence -- ever, ever comes in. This is one reason history should not be left to historians.
What follows is self-explanatory, except for the fact that I should have posted it when the weather was good for fireside reading but, well, I forgot.
One more thing: As is usually the case with my rebuttals, the editors of Intelligence & National Security journal turned my response down.
Readers of `Harry Hopkins and Soviet Espionage’ by Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes and an earlier version of this essay published in 2013 at Frontpagemag.com titled `Was Harry Hopkins a Soviet Spy?’ may be forgiven for thinking that my book American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character (2013) is substantially the story of how it was that the late historian Eduard Mark concluded `virtually to the point of certainty’ that Harry Hopkins, FDR’s top aide during World War II, was Soviet source `19’ in the partly decrypted cable known as Venona 812, which was signed by the legendary Soviet `illegal’ Akhmerov.
Given the wide and quite ambitious scope of my book, Klehr and Haynes’ focus on this one, in fact, extraneous detail may seem odd, but I will undertake to respond as briefly as possible.
Klehr and Haynes discuss at length the secret treason of Laurence Duggan, a State Department official and Soviet agent, who, incidentally, is mentioned only in passing in my book. Citing frequent coded references to Duggan as 19 in the Vassiliev notebooks -- the set of documents copied from assorted KGB records released by Russian intelligence to former KGB officer Alexander Vassiliev and on which Haynes and Klehr and Vassiliev based their book Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (2009) -- they declare that Vassiliev’s notebooks `definitively ended the mystery of “19” ’.
In our view the issue of the identity of source `19’ in Venona 812 was emphatically settled by the weight of the evidence of Vassliev’s notebooks and the mutual corroboration between the notebooks and the decrypted Venona messages. Consequently, we were puzzled that two books, M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein’s, Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government (2012) and Diana West’s American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation’s Character (2013), appeared subsequent to our Spies and to the public availability of the Vassiliev notebooks and failed to acknowledge the existence of, much less refute, the evidence that `19’ in Venona 812 was Laurence Duggan. Instead both books asserted without qualification that `19’ was Harry Hopkins. Both books treat Mark’s 1998 article identifying `19’ as Hopkins as definitive, but drop Mark’s uncertainty about whether `19’/Hopkins was a spy or was engaging in back-channel diplomacy. … Despite the fervor of West and Romerstein, and Evans’ (and their passionate followers’) conviction that Hopkins was source `19’, Vassiliev’s notebooks show that this simply was not true.
The inference in this critique is that Spies, the 2009 tome based on the Vassiliev notebooks, makes the case that 19 in Venona 812 was Duggan, not Hopkins, and that my fellow offending authors – Romerstein, a towering expert on Soviet subversion, now deceased, and Evans, a renowned journalist and author and leading expert on Sen. Joseph McCarthy [also now deceased] -- and I failed to take this into consideration in our two recent books.
But Spies does not mention Venona 812. Nor does Spies mention, let alone lodge objection to, the Hopkins/19 thesis as advanced by Mark in 1998. This makes Klehr and Haynes’ professed puzzlement itself puzzling. Since Spies fails to make the case that 19 in Venona 812 was Duggan, not Hopkins, and since their book makes no mention of the Hopkins/19 argument, the authors are taking Romerstein and Evans and me to task for failing to acknowledge or refute an argument they themselves did not make.
Having studied Spies and drawn upon its contents to clinch some of my own arguments in American Betrayal, I was mindful of Klehr and Haynes’ silence on the Hopkins/19 thesis as set forth by Mark. Indeed, in the pages of American Betrayal, I actually lament the fact that these two intelligence document experts chose not to weigh in on the topic following their single published statement, one of suspended judgment, that appeared in an endnote in their book Venona (1999). There they wrote: `While impressed by Mark’s analysis, we view the evidence as too slim to enable us to reach a judgment about Source No. 19’s identity’.
In American Betrayal, I wrote:
In 1998, the late U.S. Air Force historian Eduard Mark published a breakthrough in the Hopkins analysis, a meticulous examination of what appears to be the first damning document to emerge from the Venona record against Hopkins: specifically, a partly decrypted Venona cable, believed to have been authored by our friend Akhmerov, in which a very senior Roosevelt administration official, code-named “Source 19,” conveys the contents of a private, top secret conversation between FDR and Churchill in late May 1943 about the invasion of Normandy, which at that time was still a year off. By process of painstaking elimination, Mark determines that it is “probable virtually to the point of certainty” that “Source 19” is Harry Hopkins. I read it (and recommend that others do the same), and I buy his meticulously marshaled logic. Far more important, of course, experts Romerstein and Breindel buy it, too, and both Christopher Andrew and Vasily Mitrokhin buy it, at least in endnotes, calling Mark’s study “detailed, meticulous and persuasive.” Haynes and Klehr, however, remain agnostic, which has the unfortunate effect of eliminating the story, even the suggestion of the story, from their influential works. For example, their 650- page compendium Spies doesn’t even footnote it. True, Vassiliev found little about Hopkins in the finite number of KGB files he was allowed to view and copy—although given the controversy, even that might merit a footnote. Leaving all Hopkins analysis out of the research has the unfortunate effect of both suspending what should be an ongoing investigation and retarding curiosity.
This single paragraph (above) and several passing references comprise the entirety of my discussion of Mark’s Hopkins/19 thesis in American Betrayal, a book of 403 pages that includes nearly 1,000 endnotes.
I will note that Evans and Romerstein’s Stalin’s Secret Agents refers even more briefly to the 19 identification, and without mentioning Mark. `Scholars dealing with Venona concluded that this contact was 19’, Evans and Romerstein write, citing The Venona Secrets (2001), an earlier work by Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, both deceased. `More definite than surmises about No. 19 was the revelation of KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky that Hopkins had been named in Russia as a Soviet intelligence agent’.
I submit that neither my discussion of Mark’s 19 thesis, nor Evans and Romerstein’s `surmises about No. 19’ meets the expectations set by Klehr and Haynes’ `[assertion] without qualification’ and `fervor’.
This being the second time such complaints have been lodged by Klehr and Haynes, I find myself baffled by their continued emphasis on this single and, I must again underscore, non-essential data-point to the exclusion of the wide and rich dossier on Harry Hopkins amassed from disparate sources in American Betrayal. Such sources include, besides intelligence records, memoirs, newspaper and journals, letters, State Department records, congressional records, FBI records, and histories and biographies.
Klehr and Haynes first (to my knowledge) published their findings regarding 19 in Venona 812 at Frontpagemag.com in 2013, several months after my book came out, and four years after Spies. For the record, I remain non-convinced. Notably, even in 1998, Mark was aware of and acknowledged that the Soviets used 19 to identify Duggan in the 1930s, and explained his reasons for ruling out Duggan as 19 in Venona 812 in endnote 57 of his paper. Using conference logs, appointment books and other materials, Mark had winnowed down his list of candidates for 19 according to a logical process that is in no way altered even by multiple references to Duggan/19 in the 1940s in the Vassiliev notebooks –- certainly not to the degree of certainty that Klehr and Haynes impart with such phrases as `emphatically settled’ and `definitively ended the mystery’.
Indeed, it is this rock-solid certainty, this call for settled silence that is most curious. `Case closed’, Haynes and Klehr declared in the Frontpagemag.com version of this essay. No nagging doubts about historical context and logistical access allowed. But is such DNA-match-confidence warranted? I have to wonder as I peruse the most comprehensive glossary to date of codenames gleaned from NKVD and GRU communications published in 2012 by Nigel West. This list includes two ANTONs, two BERGs, two BOBs, two BUMBLEBEEs, two DICKs, and two GNOMEs.
The bottom line, however, is that the answer doesn’t matter one iota to American Betrayal, which assembles a dossier of far more substantive Hopkins exhibits. The Klehr and Haynes article goes on to dismiss several of these more consequential pieces of evidence. (Not all of them are discussed in Stalin’s Secret Agents.) What is most unusual about this section of the paper is that Klehr and Haynes fail to connect these exhibits in any way, including a footnote, to their context in my book. I find such treatment nothing short of bizarre.
For example, take the case of Army Maj. George Racey Jordan, a top expediter of Lend Lease shipments to the USSR. Jordan receives two or three hundred words in a footnote by Haynes and Klehr that makes no mention of Jordan’s lengthy consideration in American Betrayal. (Jordan is treated more briefly in Stalin’s Secret Agents.) I weigh not only Jordan’s extraordinary statements and testimonies about, among other things (including the insertion of scores of `undocumented’ Soviet agents into this country), how Harry Hopkins’ Lend Lease administration secretly flouted the military embargo on the wartime export of uranium placed by the Manhattan Project’s Gen. Leslie Groves, but also Jordan’s credibility as a witness. This, I learned, was extremely strong, beginning with the fact that congressional investigators were able to document four out of five claims Jordan made under oath regarding the transfer of atomic materials including uranium and heavy water to the Soviet Union during World War II (the fifth claim pertained to a personal telephone conversation with Hopkins). Certain other aspects of Jordan’s story were variously corroborated, including by former US military personnel, even famed Soviet defector Victor Kravchenko.
Looking back, what intrigued me most was how Jordan, a demonstrably credible witness, could have disappeared from the historical record. In part, the answer lies is a painful story of character assassination, which began as soon as the man spoke out in 1949. Today, Haynes and Klehr’s dismiss Jordan with talk of what Jordan `claimed,’ in `charges’ that `included hints and innuendo of espionage’.
Interested readers may consult American Betrayal for documented details on what was and was not confirmed in Jordan’s story.
There is something else unique about Jordan’s evidence. Key examples of what is suspicious about Hopkins came to light only accidentally through Russian sources including ex-KGB colonel Oleg Gordievsky and the Mitrokhin Archive. Jordan, who testified that Hopkins asked him in a phone call to speed a uranium shipment from Canada (thus flouting the US embargo, as confirmed) to Moscow on the Q.T., remains the only American to step forward so publicly as a witness.
According to Haynes and Kleher, there are apparently only two possible ways to explain Hopkins: He was a `spy,’ or he was `engaging in back-channel diplomacy’. American Betrayal alleges neither. I specifically scoured the historical record for evidence of whether Hopkins served as an agent of influence. This, as I explain at length in American Betrayal, is something else entirely.
One final point. I am grateful for the wise words of the late Herbert Romerstein, who set the Vassiliev notebooks into their proper context. Speaking at a 2009 conference devoted to their findings at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C., Romerstein said: `They are not the last word. They are an extremely valuable window on the KGB and its functions, but just a window’. (Additionally, they are a window made available by the Russian government -- another point, always in the case of government releases, to be mindful of.) In other words, there remain vast tranches of Russian (and American and British) archives beyond the reach of researchers. Vasilliev, for example, as Romerstein explained, wasn’t provided with any GRU (military intelligence) files to copy, only KGB files as released by Russian intelligence. He saw only one atomic file. He didn’t see any of the 2,500 documents and photostats that the `illegal’ spymaster Akhmerov sent from the United States to Moscow contained in a file known as `Jung’.
For these and other reasons – some things are just never written down, as one experienced counterintelligence professional told me – it is clear that the full story of the secret Soviet war on the West as waged inside the West is far from known. After researching and writing American Betrayal, after reading Stalin’s Secret Agents, I am convinced that what ultimately emerges will bear little resemblance to the narrative consensus-historians now defend.