Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Venona Secrets -- treacherous Americans led by USSR espionage agents Review

via Verne Strickland 

Some historians and journalists are starting to regard the cold-war-era American Communist Party as nothing more than a quaint club of polite if misguided ideologues. In The Venona Secrets, Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel intend to create a new impression of treacherous Americans "who willfully gave their primary allegiance to a foreign power, the USSR.... For Communists, true patriotism meant helping to make the world a better place by advancing the interests of the Soviet Union in any way possible." By using the now-celebrated Venona documents--top-secret Soviet cables sent between Moscow and Washington, D.C., in the 1940s--Romerstein and Breindel tell a frightening story of how deeply spies penetrated the U.S. government. There was the famous case of Alger Hiss, whose guilt as a Soviet spy is now beyond doubt thanks to Venona. Less well known, but still important, were the roles of Harry Hopkins in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's White House and Harry Dexter White in the Treasury Department.Romerstein, a veteran cold warrior, and Breindel, the former editorial-page editor of The New York Post (he died before the book's publication, at the age of 42), are not the first to discuss the Venona papers in depth--readers of The Haunted Wood, by Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, and Whittaker Chambers, by Sam Tanenhaus, will know much of the story. Yet this may its most aggressive telling. Romerstein and Breindel include necessary chapters on the Hiss-Chambers dispute, the Elizabeth Bentley spy ring, and the charges against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. They are particularly forceful in arguing that journalist I.F. Stone and atomic scientist Robert Oppenheimer were Soviet spies. Another target--and a provocative one--is Albert Einstein, whom they describe as "tainted" by his indirect ties to Soviet intelligence. The Venona Secrets will make heads turn, and it will show that the debates over the cold war and its meaning can be as hot now as they were then. --John J. Miller


The VENONA Secrets offers further analysis of the worldwide WWII KGB/GRU espionage operations described in the encrypted telegrams (called VENONA) decoded after the war by US Army and British codebreakers and made public only in 1995 by NSA. These once top secret messages led to the arrest and conviction of the Rosenbergs and Klaus Fuchs, while providing the basis for shutting down many of the Soviet wartime espionage netowrks. They also documented the charges of Soviet espionage in America made by former Communist agents Whitticker Chambers, Elizabeth Bentley and a number of others. This book, as opposed the the several others written on the topic, supplies new material in at least three areas. First, author Roemrstein's long experience in the field has allowed him to add documented perspective on the US Communist Party relationship to the Soviet secret services. In at least one case, that of Ruth Olsen, mentioned but unidentified in the VENONA material released, he provides the missing links. He also adds new details obtained from the so-called MAST decrypts that discussed mainly administrative matters between Soviets overseas and Moscow. Second, the authors apply their experience to three cases about which other authors have been more cautious: Harry Dexter White, Robert Oppenheimer, and Harry Hopkins, while discussing new materail on Albert Einstein and his tryst with a Soviet agent. Many liberal academics and others who continue to make the argument 'that the Rosenbergs and Hiss were innocent victims of lies told by Chambers, Bentley and the FBI', will scramble to find alternative explanations for the analysis that convinces Romerstein and Breindel that White was a cooperating communist agent before WWII started for America, and that Oppenheimer was the same during the war. It doesn't stop there. Perhaps most controversial of all conclusions is that Harry Hopkins (FDR's principal personal advisor) was a Communist before and VENONA's Agent 19 serving the Soviets during the war. Few will challenge the validity of evidence presented, though there is likely to be heartburn and skepticism with regard to the authors' analysis and conclusions. The judgment as to who is right is one for the reader. Third, while the focus of the book is mainly on America, the anti-semetic policies of the Soviet Union generally get a chapter based on new material. There are also chapters on the KGB use of jouralists as agents, the extensive KGB penetration of the OSS (America's wartime national intellignece service), and an appendix with selected VENONA documents to give the reader an idea of the raw evidence. For the scholar, intellignece historian, and the reader who has long sought to learn the truth and make some sense of the Communist activities in the USA during the period 1920 - 1950, The VENONA Secrets is a postive contribution that should be studied carefully. --By A Customer -

Over the years there has been a vast array of books about Soviet espionage and its American helpers: Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, Harry Dexter White, Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, and so many more. No matter the evidence, some members of the US press and intelligentsia refused to come to grips with the truth and admit that some of their great liberal heroes were actually agents of Stalin. Herbert Romerstein's book proves once and for all that they were all guilty as charged. During the Second World War the United States intercepted and decoded secret soviet radio transmissions from Moscow to their agents in America. Using these documents, and materials from Soviet archives, Romerstein narrates the incredible story of just how deeply KGB agents penetrated the American government to its highest levels. Romerstein's encyclopedic knowledge of the subject, based on years of research and study, puts the entire tragic story into historical pespective and makes fascination reading. If you are going to buy just one book of history this year, this is it! --By A Customer