Ross Douthat Claims That the Press Didn't Pull Its Punches on George W. Buh
links for 2007-04-10

Kai Bird Thinks That Alger Hiss Wasn't the "Ales" Mentioned in VENONA

It's the wrong headline. The evidence--if correctly interpreted--points to somebody else rather than Alger Hiss being "Ales":

Author suggests Hiss wasn't a spy: [N]ew evidence suggests another U.S. diplomat, not Alger Hiss, was the Soviet agent who fed U.S. secrets to Moscow. The claim was presented Thursday at a daylong symposium, "Alger Hiss & History," at New York University....

Kai Bird said there was new evidence to suggest that... Wilder Foote... [was] feeding secrets to the Soviet military intelligence agency GRU under the code name Ales. Bird said he and co-researcher Svetlana A. Chervonnaya had identified nine possible suspects among U.S. State Department officials present at the U.S.-Soviet Yalta conference in 1945. A process of elimination based on their subsequent travels to Moscow and Mexico City excluded eight of them, including Hiss, he said. "It left only one man standing: Wilder Foote," Bird said.

Foote, a member of a well-known Boston family, died in 1974 after a career as a diplomat and owner of a string of newspapers. During World War II he was involved with U.S. lend-lease operations supplying the Soviets.... The key...was that Ales' contact at the Soviet embassy in Washington would have known that Hiss... had returned from Mexico City, whereas Ales was known to have remained there.... Bird said that more research would be required to prove that Foote was Ales but that "he fits the itinerary in every way, and Hiss simply does not."...

Also Thursday, Timothy Hobson, an 80-year-old retired surgeon who was Hiss' stepson and grew up in the family home in Washington, D.C., said Whittaker Chambers... had lied about his personal relationship with Hiss and had never visited the Hiss home as he claimed. Hobson said that during the time Chambers claimed to have visited the home, he was recuperating from a broken leg and met every person who came calling.... "It is my conviction that he was in love with Alger Hiss, that he was rejected by Alger Hiss and he took that rejection in a vindictive way," Hobson said...

My view: Would Richard Nixon and company have forged evidence against Alger Hiss if they had had the opportunity? Yes, at the drop of a hat. Did they have the opportunity? Probably not. Was Alger Hiss at some time a spy for the Soviet Union? Probably. Is there a reasonable doubt? I have doubts, and I am not sure that my doubts are unreasonable.