Friday, December 12, 2014

Haldore Hanson - Inconspicuous Danger

During the years of the Soviet Union, infiltration and the planting of subversives into various positions in the United States government was a standard tactic of the KGB. The list of such moles, when mostly, although not entirely, revealed after the fall of the Soviet Union, was longer than most observers had suspected.

In addition to such plants, however, were those who freely supported the Soviet cause without being directly employed by the Soviet intelligence agencies. These individuals were equally dangerous to the lives and safety of United States citizens.

The tension between liberty and security was highlighted as the United States worked to preserve freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly, even while it worked to protect itself from the Soviet espionage apparatus which aimed to destroy the United States.

An interesting example is offered by Haldore Hanson, a pro-communist author who came to the attention of the United States government in early 1950. Merely writing a book which was favorable to the expansion of communism in Asia was no crime. But there was evidence which suggested, if it did not at first prove, that Hanson was involved in a more direct connection with the Soviet government.

Hanson had lived in Peiping (now known as ‘Peking’ or ‘Beijing’) and had substantial contact with Chinese communist leaders. At this time, the Chinese communists were solidly in league with the Soviet communists. Two historians, L. Brent Bozell and William F. Buckley Jr., report that:

For three years Hanson had taught school and had written as a freelancer, mostly while living in Peiping. The turning point in his career had come in 1937, when Japanese and Chinese troops clashed at the Marco Polo Bridge: he then took a job as war correspondent with the Associated Press. Two years later, at the age of twenty-seven, he published a book called Humane Endeavor.

Hanson’s writing career would include working with Edgar Snow and Helen Foster Snow. The latter used the pseudonym ‘Nym Wales,’ and both were known members of the Communist Party. In addition, Louis Budenz, who had been a well-connected member of the Communist Party, testified to Senator Brien McMahon of Connecticut that Haldore Hanson was a member of the Communist Party.

In Hanson’s book, he clearly expressed his pro-communist views, and portrayed the communists sympathetically, while depicting the non-communists as, at best, mediocre. The book also apparently influenced John Service, a State Department employee. Concerning this, M. Stanton Evans writes:

The book was full of plaudits for the Red Chinese similar to those expressed a few years later by John Service, a Hanson friend and sometime roommate. In the 1930s, a united front was in effect between the Reds and Chiang Kai-shek against Japan, and in this context Chiang merited some kind words from Hanson, as well as some that weren’t so kind. However, Hanson showed no similar ambiguity toward the Red Chinese, on whom he showered lavish kudos.

Because he was an United States citizen, Hanson certainly had the right to freely believe, write, and publish whatever he wanted. But being a communist during the Soviet era was not merely a matter of expressing certain political views. Members of the CP took action.

In the early 1950s, to be a member of the Communist Party was not like being a member of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. The Communist Party was not merely a subversive organization, it was a clandestine organization, involved in compromising military security, subversively influencing U.S. policy, and even sabotage. It was a direct threat to the lives and safety of United States citizens. To be a member of the Communist Party was to be advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government, the end of American civil and human rights, and destruction of the American physical infrastructure. To be a member of the Communist Party was to advocate, plan, and work toward the deaths of many innocent civilians.

The Communist Party, in the 1950s, was not merely a group which advocated free speech, free thinking, and free debate about policy questions. The Communist Party advocated violence, destruction, and the end of civil rights and of human rights. The Communist Party was organically and directly connected to Moscow and to the Kremlin’s actions, e.g., the deaths of thousands of Ukrainians in an artificially-created famine.

Haldore Hanson was connected to this Communist Party, and in the meantime, Haldore Hanson had obtained a job in the State Department. Hanson’s case contained an added urgency because he was now working within the United States government, where he might gain access to sensitive information and might have input into the thought process of policymakers.

At one point, however, it seemed that suspicions about Hanson might be wrong: in one hearing, Senator Bourke Hickenlooper of Iowa questioned Earl Browder about Haldore Hanson. Browder was a former member of the Communist Party, and while a member, had engaged in communications with the KGB and the NKVD. Browder worked with Philip Jaffe, who was an editor of a periodical called Amerasia. Jaffe and his fellow editors were found to be in possession of classified documents from the OSS and other branches of the United States government. Jaffe and Browder had met with a highly-placed Chinese Communist named Tung Pi-Wu (Dong Biwu). Clearly, Browder was well-placed in the networks of the international communist conspiracy, and Senator Hickenlooper wanted to hear what Browder said about Haldore Hanson.

Hickenlooper then questioned Browder about the meeting at Philip Jaffe’s New York home five years before this, attended by Browder and Red Chinese official Tung Pi-wu. When Hickenlooper asked if either John Carter Vincent or John Stewart Service had been at this meeting, Browder refused to answer. Hickenlooper then read a list of names, nine in all, asking if they were known to Browder as CP members. Two of the people on the list were Dorothy Kenyon and Haldore Hanson. In these cases, as in others, Browder said, “I refuse to answer.” This caused great distress to McMahon and Tydings, both of whom implored the witness to reconsider. Appealing to standards of “fairness and truth,” Tydings at last got Browder to say neither Kenyon nor Hanson “had any organized connection to the Communist Party.”

This latter statement seemed, at first, to possibly exonerate Hanson. The 1995 release of information from the the “Venona” project - finally declassified after the fall of the Soviet Union - confirmed Browder’s resume as an important Soviet agent. There was even some evidence that Browder may have had a hand in planning the assassination of Leon Trotsky. So his statement that that Hanson had had no “organized connection to the Communist Party” would seem to carry weight.

But one historian, M. Stanton Evans, noted Browder’s curious qualification in the statement: “organized.”

If Hanson had no “organized” connection to the CP, did he have some other type of connection? It was known that the Soviets sometimes used casual social connections to infiltrate various agencies. Along these lines, M. Stanton Evans writes:

The locution used here by Browder, who was careful in his choice of words, seemed odd, speaking of an “organized connection.” Did this mean there was some other kind of connection on the part of Kenyon or Hanson to the Communist Party? Browder’s way of putting the matter cried out for clarification, but no effort of this nature was made by an inert committee.

Senator Hickenlooper, and the others investigating the matter, failed to follow up on this tantalizing clue.

Informally linked with the Amerasia periodical was the Institute of Pacific Relations, a network of business and academic leaders around the Pacific Rim. IPR had been infiltrated by confirmed Soviet agents, including T.A. Bisson. Two historians, M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein, note that:

Among U.S. officials who at various times served on the board of the IPR were such prestigious mainstream figures as General George C. Marshall and Undersecretary of State Sumner Wells, plus others who were of lesser stature but in their way important. Government staffers who served as IPR trustees included Soviet agents of influence Hiss and Currie and State Department official John Carter Vincent. Meanwhile, Owen Lattimore and Joseph Barnes, both on the IPR payroll in the 1930s, would become government information specialists in the war years. Others connected to the IPR included State Department Far East experts Michael Greenberg and Haldore Hanson and Soviet intelligence asset T.A. Bisson, who like others mentioned shows up in the pages of Venona.

There are many questions about Haldore Hanson. The most relevant one is not whether or not he was a member of the Communist Party, or whether he was an active Soviet agent, but whether the State Department was guilty of negligence for not having discerned him as a security risk.

Perhaps Hanson was neither a CP member nor a Soviet agent. He was, however, beyond all doubt surrounded by, and in constant contact with, both. They could, perhaps even without his knowledge, use him, either to gain information or to steer U.S. policy decisions.

The case of Haldore Hanson reveals a lack of care, and a lack of due diligence, in the hiring processes used by the State Department.