Espionage has largely been a part of the way in which foreign affairs and foreign policy was conducted especially during the Cold War period. The double agents as well as intelligence spies were regarded as some of the smartest and at the same time dangerous people in history. The topic of this research is Alger Hiss, one of the most representative figures of American intelligence that would ultimately be accused of being a spy for the U.S.S.R. At the time in which the rivalry between the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. was at its peak, during the Cold War.
The resources used for this research are both academic as well as part of the actual trials that Hiss was subject to. More precisely, there are documents from the NSA Archives that are taken into account and analyzed as well as testimonies of the people that were part of the Alger Hiss case. Further, in order to set the historical background of the entire case, coverage of the situation in magazines such as Time is also important because it provides a closer yet less influential view on the background and situation.
The aim of the research is to reveal the controversy surrounding Alger Hiss precisely because he played a vital role in the history of American espionage not necessarily through the acts he committed but rather because it is one of the few cases in history that would eventually be indicated as that of a double spy or covered agent for the U.S.S.R.
The Cold War period represents one of the most important and at the same time intriguing period of recent history. This is largely due to the mystery that, to this day, surrounds some of the events that have taken place during that time. A crucial role in maintaining this mystery is played by the crucial role espionage played during this time. The spies that operated between the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. are some even legendary figures in the history of both countries. However, one of the most important cases that takes into account the way in which the American espionage came to being and the role spies, in every form and means, came to be trained, relates to the pre-second world war two period, the inter- war period and especially the 1930s. An example from this period is that of Alger Hiss, one of the most well-known American operatives that, even today, is a controversial figure both in the history of the U.S. As well as in the history of the judicial system of the United States.
The current research focuses on the way in which Alger Hiss, at his day, one of the most important people in the American intelligence, managed to shortcut the American judicial system and at the same time, accomplish his missions as his initial job description required. More precisely, the Alger Hiss case pointed out not only issues related to the American intelligence system but also to the means at the disposal of the Federal government in dealing with elements that, despite the fact that they were part of the system, were somewhat above the judicial law and order.
Christina Shelton's book "Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treson" plays an particularly important role in providing more information concerning the individual, the circumstances of his espionage activities, and his subsequent trials. One of the most intriguing things about Shelton's book is that in spite of the fact that she considers Hiss guilty she does not hesitate to acknowledge the series of positive concepts about this man. "By virtue of his intelligence and highly successful academic career at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School, as well as his distinctive charming manner, grace, good looks, and sophistication, he turned himself into an exemplar of the eastern upper-class liberal establishment."
Shelton actually wants her readers to understand how a great part of Hiss' behavior was meant to influence individuals around him and the media to appreciate his persona.
The Alger Hiss trial is part of the history of the American intelligence and espionage service. Despite this however, the famous trial that Hiss was subject to as a result of attacks to national interest was based on the idea that Hiss had engaged in activities that resulted in espionage for the URSS and against the American interests in the country.
In order to better understand the role played by Alger Hiss not only in the history of American espionage but also in that of the American system of justice, it is important to consider the historical background and context the activities Hiss undergone.
The historical setting relates to the already evolving confrontation between two ideologies: the democratic and the communist one. It must be pointed from the beginning that the Bolshevik revolution that took place in the former Russian Empire revealed a different side not only of the Russian people but also to the Russian leadership. The revolution that took place in 1918 paved the way for an authoritarian regime that aimed at re-instating Russia in its what was then considered to be its rightful place in history: the most important power in the world. Despite the fact that after the First World War, Russia, what was now the U.S.S.R. (Union of Socialist Soviet Republics), failed to take any economic or cultural advancements, the aim was to regroup and become an European and soon a global power again.
By comparison, the United States had decently withdrew from the peace of the Versailles Treaty and even abandoned the peace project that President Wilson himself proposed thru the 14 Points that led to the creation of the League of Nation and embarked in a plan for reconstruction and development, given its condition as a winning party in the First World War. Even so, the 1929-31 economic crisis affected the U.S. greatly as it did the entire world. Notwithstanding this setback, the U.S. was on its way to both recovery and fast development. The industry that had already been set in place during the pre-war years was running and providing the necessary backbone for a flourishing American traditional economy.
The difference between the U.S. And the U.S.S.R. however were obvious in terms of the way in which the two sides viewed economic development and post- war reconstruction. The U.S. saw it thru a social oriented approach, whereas the U.S.S.R. saw it socially thru a communist one. These two economic approaches however triggered differences in terms of political stands as well. More precisely, the U.S. was a functional democracy, with its ups and downs, whereas the U.S.S.R. was a traditional communist country, with considerations for extremist approaches such as the bad treatment of minorities (the Jews would later on be considered as plagues on the Russian territories, similar to the treatment offered by the Germans during Hitler's rule).
This difference in line of thought was considered at the time by the American administration to represent a threat to the well being of the American means of survival or development. It is not the scope of the current research to focus on the reasons for which this approach was considered to be a threat at the national security of the United States. Suffice to say however that there was a real concern at the highest level of the American Administrations that the communist line of thought, rule, and influence would not be expanded on the North American continent or South America. It was seen as a plague and, after the Second World War, further more impressive actions would be taken in order to ensure a limited influence of the communist ideology in the region and the world.
Given the considerations above, it was deemed necessary by the American administrations that action must be taken in order to secure a safe haven from the communist threat. In this sense, the U.S. Army's Signal Intelligence Service designed a secret program in February 1943. It was called the Venona project and it was "a highly restricted program whereby U.S. codebreakers were able to read some Soviet intelligence cables between New York and Moscow intercepted during World War II."
This program was particularly designed to gather the necessary information that would allow the American system to be one step in front of the Soviet line of tactics. Indeed, this program was created after the beginning of the Second World War and as a result of the massive disruptions that the U.S. saw the U.S.S.R. capable of. The rational behind the program was that the gathering of information can only benefit the U.S. As it would have at its disposal the necessary information to prevent any unfortunate event from the part of the U.S.S.R.
One aspect that must be pointed out is the fact that prior to the start of the Second World War, the United States, although vigilant, failed to consider the threat of the U.S.S.R. As being a serious concern at the address of national security. This is to say that, at that point in time,…