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x-post H-DIPLO Subject: Hiss, Haynes and Marks [Knight] 25 February 2004 From: amy knight <firstname.lastname@example.org> Before responding to the recent messages from Haynes and Mark, I would like to let those who may not know that the FBI now has its reading room files on CD ROMs. I visited the FBI reading room last week and was pleased to find out that most of the materials I needed were available for the reasonable price of $15 per CD. They burn the CDs on request. In response to the Haynes and Mark messages, I fully appreciate the serious research that both authors have done in regard to the Venona cables. But the tone of their recent postings on H-Diplo detracts from what is meant to be a scholarly debate. By that I mean labelling someone who misses something they know as an "unwary" reader [Haynes] or "ignorant of a basic fact" and lacking "a grasp of Russian" [Marks]. (I must admit that I forgot the "miakii znak" [soft sign] at the end of the name Pol' in my last posting, but I would hope that does not call into question my knowledge of Russian.) In fact, I mentioned Weinstein's suggestion that the Pol' in the famous Ales cable 1822 was Silvermaster simply to illustrate the confusion around code names among historians (in this case Weinstein). And I still remain puzzled by the fact that Pol' is said to be working with the GRU's Ales in cable 1822, when he is mentioned in other cables as an agent of the NKGB/NKVD. Similarly, I am puzzled by the appearance of MER in the cables in ways that contradict the standard interpretation that MER was the early Akhmerov (up to the autumn of 1944). The Haynes posting explains this by saying that there were three different MERs: 1) early Akhmerov 2) a MER who worked for the GRU at the same time that Akhmerov was MER and was recalled in 1944 and 3) a new MER, who sprang up in Oct. 1944. Referring to MER no. 3, the Haynes posting observes that "anyone reading the footnote to the message will see the NSA/FBI recognized this as a new MER and the footnote [to the cable] says this MER is an unidentified cover name and not Akhmerov." In fact, the NSA footnotes often left codenames unidentified in the notes to the cables, even when the same codenames were identified by the NSA in other cable notes. ALBERT (said to be Akhmerov's subsequent codename) appears unidentified in several cables, for example and yet is identified as Akhmerov in others. This does not mean that the NSA/FBI thought that there were several different people operating under the code name ALBERT. If one looks at the very useful index of codenames the NSA compiled as a supplement to the cables, one sees only one MER, identified as Akhmerov (and a reference saying "see ALBERT") with all the cables in which MER is mentioned listed beneath the name. The same is true with ALBERT, identified as Akhmerov, and also for POL', who is not identified. Perhaps I am misguided, but the impression is that the NSA thought there was one person behind the code name MER, not three as the Haynes posting suggests. (I would also add that the GRU and the NKVD/NKGB were cooperating closely on matters of military espionage by this time, with Beria presumably receiving all the important cables. I find it unlikely that the same, quite unusual, code name would be chosen for three different intelligence agents.) The people at the NSA who worked on Venona were aware that their efforts to assign real names to code names were often guess work, which is why they used the word "probably" so often and why they often left the code names unidentified. The sense of assuredness about who the code names represented has emerged in the Western literature published in the wake of Venona. The Haynes post dismisses the arguments against the theory that ALES was Alger Hiss in Venona cable 1822 by saying that this cable was only tangential to the case against Hiss. The Haynes post reads: "A solitary message cannot carry too much weight and should be treated as a supplement to other more weighty evidence." Yet, Haynes, in the book he co-authored with Harvey Klehr, VENONA: DECODING SOVIET ESPIONAGE IN AMERICA, devotes ten pages to cable 1822. In fact cable 1822 is the only evidence we have about Hiss's alleged espionage during World War II, which is why scholars have focussed so much on it. (And why Eduard Mark has written an entire article on this cable.) In their book VENONA, Haynes and Klehr wrote that a number of persons who spied for the Communists during the 1930s deserted the Communist cause after the Nazi-Soviet Pact in 1939, seeing that their faith in the Soviets was misplaced. But, according to Haynes and Klehr, Hiss continued to spy throughout World War ll. Their evidence consisted of three points: 1- "a onetime KGB officer Oleg Gordievsky, stated that Hiss had continued to work for the Soviets in the 1940s " (p. 170 of Venona). In fact, Gordievsky had no knowledge to impart about Hiss. If one consults the Andrews- Gordievsky book cited by Haynes and Klehr, one sees that the documentation about Hiss being a spy is from secondary western sources (Thomas Powers in the NYReview of Books, and Allen Weinstein). The only thing Gordievsky has to offer is that thirty years before he defected he heard a lecture by Akhmerov, who "mentioned Hiss only briefly." (When I reviewed the Andrews-Gordievsky book for the Times Literary Supplement in 1990 my criticism was that so much of it came from secondary western sources and so little represented revelations by the defector, Gordievsky. Yet it has been cited for years as an authoritative source on Soviet espionage.) 2- Venona cable 1579: "Hiss is named openly in one message, a 1943 GRU cable noting that a KGB report about the State Department mentioned Hiss. The remainder of message was undeciphered and the significance of the cable unknown." (Haynes and Klehr, VENONA, p. 170). In fact, the cable does not suggest that Hiss was a spy, but just the opposite, because the GRU chief in North America, Mikhailov, had never heard of Hiss (allegedly a top GRU spy). 3. Venona cable 1822, in which a spy named Ales is discussed. Yet the Haynes posting now dismisses this cable as "codicil" to the case. A problem that I see in the arguments of both Haynes and Marks is that they do not put the "evidence" in historical context. Thus Mark's posting argues that Mikhailov's open mention of someone named Hiss from the State Department was probably a question to the GRU director as to which Hiss the NKGB was referring to. But it is highly improbable that Mikhailov would be asking his GRU boss in Moscow to intreprete something someone from a different agency, the NKGB, in Washington/New York said about Hiss. That simply is not the way the Soviet intelligence agencies worked. As for the Ales cable 1822, we all have a lot to learn from Julius Kobyakov, not only a native Russian speaker, but a former Russian intelligence officer. Thus, in his Feb. 2 posting, Kobyakov points out that the original Russian word for the "relations" (as opposed to relatives) of Ales was not "rodstvenniki," which means people related by blood. Rather, it was "svyazi," a frequently used Russian operational term meaning professional or social contacts. This leads Kobyakov to conclude, and I would agree, that there was no spy family as far as ALES was concerned. And, after all the debate over Vyshinsky, Kobyakov's perspective is highly valuable and worth quoting: "If ALES was a top flight long time GRU agent, why did that service have to go through deputy foreign minister Vyshinsky to express its gratitude for his work? That would run contrary to all rules of agent security and trade craft. All the more so, since it is noted in paragraph 3 that ALES concentrated on military matters and rarely provided materials on the State Department. Why would the GRU want to involve in this very sensitive operation a civilian who was not an expert on military or intelligence matters? At that time important intelligence reports were sent to three top Soviet leaders: Stalin, Molotov and Beria. Vyshinsky was never on that list. Besides, in 1945 Russian Red Army was riding so high it needed no assistance in such matters, especially, from people like Vyshinsky." I am curious as to why the postings of Haynes and Marks do not address Kobyakov's important observations. Amy Knight Independent Scholar, Basel, Switzerland e-mail: email@example.com