VENONA by John Earl Haynes

VENONA

Decoding Soviet Espionage in America
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KIRKUS REVIEW

This first comprehensive analysis of the 3,000 telegrams between Soviet spies in the US and their superiors in Moscow, decoded shortly after WWII, may well, as the authors believe, “change the way we think about twentieth-century American history.” The Venona transcripts, while revealed in part to the Soviets by agents like Kim Philby, were one of the most closely guarded US secrets, since the US didn—t want the Soviets to understand the full extent of the damage they had sustained. In one of the extraordinary revelations of this book, the authors, Haynes (History/Library of Congress) and Klehr (Politics and History/Emory Univ.) note that Army Chief of Staff Omar Bradley denied President Truman direct knowledge of the project for fear of a leak, while informing him of the substance of the messages. Moreover, the information could not be used in prosecutions of those guilty of espionage. The consequence was the growth of the widespread belief that the very existence of the charges were evidence of anti-Communist paranoia. The authors, who have previously written seminal analyses of Soviet activity in the US (The Soviet World of American Communism, 1998, etc.), use the decrypts to show how extensive Soviet espionage actually was. In addition to the nuclear spies and top agents like Alger Hiss, who presided at the first session of the United Nations, and Harry Dexter White, the number two at the Treasury, the transcripts identify 349 US citizens and other residents who had a covert relationship with Soviet intelligence. There were 11 well-placed spies in the Treasury, 15 in OSS, many in other key departments. In fact, the authors have changed their view of the Communist Party of the US, which they conclude “was indeed a fifth column working inside and against the United States in the Cold War.” The reverberations from this cool, balanced, and devastating appraisal will be heard for many years to come. (30 illustrations)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-300-07771-8
Page count: 487pp
Publisher: Yale Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1999




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