Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mysteriously Missing Documents

Documents containing details of Soviet spy networks inside the United States mysteriously disappeared from the national archives: real-life events as gripping as any suspense movie from Hollywood.

In 1946, a State Department employee named Samuel Klaus wrote a memo detailing communist infiltration in the federal government. At that point in time, the Communist Party was not about ideas; it was about, in its own words, the “violent revolution” to overthrow the U.S. government.

At least two copies of the Klaus report existed: one in Klaus’s own files, the other sent to Congress’s Tydings committee. Yet, by the late 1990s, neither copy could be found, despite the otherwise meticulous record-keeping of the national archives. The Klaus report named specific individuals. Was someone’s identity kept secret by this theft?

The Klaus memo was only one of a number of such documents to disappear. One historian, M. Stanton Evans, made a careful study of the archives, including the Tydings committee, and noted that “other historical data that ought to be in the subcommittee records are documents provided to the panel by” senators, by the State Department, and by the FBI, among other sources.

One document was a letter to Senator Millard Tydings “of March 18, 1950, listing the names of eighty loyalty/security suspects at State and elsewhere.” Enclosed with that letter “was a letter from the head of the Central Intelligence Agency concerning one of the eighty suspects.” The Tydings committee gathered quite a bit of intelligence. It had, also in March 1950, obtained “a list of two dozen other names as potential subjects of inquiry. All told, a pretty sizable package of information on the most burning issue of that day, and many days thereafter.”

There is a significant lacuna in the historical data about how much, and how thoroughly, foreign espionage permeated the United States government. It seems reasonable to conjecture that foreign agents, or their accomplices, orchestrated the theft and probable destruction of documentation from the archives. As historian M. Stanton Evans notes,

As these papers were part of an official proceeding of the Senate — and as we know from other sources they were in fact provided — they should all be in the Tydings archive. Again, however, so far as diligent search reveals, all of them are missing, with no explanation of what happened to them, no hint that they were ever there, and no withdrawal notice. They are simply gone.

In trying to understand the Cold War, the international communist conspiracy, and the Soviet spy network inside the United States, these texts are crucial to historians. In trying to protect ordinary citizens, these texts are crucial to understanding the methods and identities of such agents. “Since they were documents central to any assessment of” Soviet espionage, “their absence is a critical gap in the archival record. That absence, it bears noting, affects” our ability to measure the damage inflicted by communist infiltration, and affects “our comprehension of the Cold War era.”

Historians seek data to answer specific, measurable questions: Which classified documents were compromised by Soviet agents? How was misinformation fed to policy makers, and how did that misinformation cause policy to play into the hands of the Soviets? How did the Soviets nudge media outlets and news coverage to slant reports according to their strategies? Which types of sabotage were planned?

A long list of various agencies and departments within the government had responsibilities regarding counterespionage activities, and produced documentation about the Soviet spy network. “Such problems,” Evans notes, “didn’t cease with Millard Tydings but would occur also with the records of” other House committees, Senate committees, FBI memoranda, etc. “It’s evident that a lot of records here are likewise missing. A notable instance involves the case of Annie Lee Moss, a security suspect in the Army who appeared before” to testify

at an historic committee session. In the hearing record, reference is made to an “Exhibit 18,” an FBI report about Mrs. Moss that was obviously important in gauging the merits of the case.

After a careful search, “there is no ‘Exhibit 18’ to be found in the archive” pertaining to the Moss case. Once again, a central bit of evidence has disappeared.

In addition to missing documents, other documents have been mysteriously redacted. This was done simply by using ink to obliterate words, sentences, and entire paragraphs in such a way that no technology can recover the missing text. This happened, for example, to a 1946 memo from the director of the FBI to the Attorney General Tom Clark. The memo concerned a Soviet agent named David Wahl. Did someone inside the government obliterate text in order to hide Wahl’s activities?

Historians face a double mystery. First, which data did these missing documents contain? Second, who stole them, and when? Why were they stolen, and where are they now?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Soviet Agents - Missing Evidence

During the summer of 1946, Samuel Klaus, a State Department employee, wrote a document about security risks facing his department. Historians refer to this text variously as the ‘Klaus Memo’ or the ‘Klaus Report’ and it discussed the existence of known Soviet agents and Communist Party members employed by the State Department.

During the Cold War years, during the dictatorship of Stalin, being a member of the Communist Party (CPUSA) in the United States was not merely a matter of holding a set of political views. Rather, the CPUSA had stated in writing that its goal was a “violent” revolution and overthrow of the United States government.

In addition to Soviet spies and CPUSA member, there were individuals who were “dupes” - sympathetic to noble rhetoric of the CPUSA, naive about its true intentions, these individuals could sometimes be persuaded to help the allegedly idealistic causes, not of the CPUSA directly, but rather of various “front” organizations - cultural and social groups which had hidden connections to the Soviet espionage network. Donating time and effort to, or speaking on behalf of, these fronts, otherwise innocent individuals could, unwittingly, encourage and maintain efforts to compromise U.S. military secrets, efforts to steer U.S. policy away from the interests of ordinary citizens, and efforts to prepare saboteurs to injure key points of infrastructure.

Such a document was important to defending the peace and freedom in which millions of United States citizens lived at the time. The threats were real. One such spy, documented to be on the payroll of Soviet intelligence agencies like the KGB and the NKVD, was Alger Hiss, who had direct access in face-to-face meetings with the president. The Klaus Memo got attention. As one historian, M. Stanton Evans, writes:

A Senate subcommittee chaired by Sen. Millard Tydings (D-Md.) requested a copy from the department and in due course received one. Thus, one of the most revealing documents ever put together about Red infiltration of the U.S. government was supplied to Congress. But thereafter, so far as the public record shows, the Klaus memo would mysteriously vanish.

Information released decades later - both the Venona files of Soviet messages intercepted by American intelligence agencies, and the files released by the Russians after the fall of the Soviet Union - would confirm the extent of the Soviet spy network inside the United States, and confirm the degree of its infiltration into the federal government. This network was, in fact, capable of making documents like the Klaus Report disappear.

In the National Archives of the United States there are at least two places where this report should be on offer. One is the legislative archive of the Tydings panel.

As noted above, the Tydings committee obtained a copy of this document. Like every other congressional committee, the Tydings committee kept records, and those records are, or should be, preserved in the archives.

When this historian, M. Stanton Evans, inquired at the archives about the memo, the archivists there found it to be missing. The State Department had sent the memo to the Tydings committee, which received it. Yet, in the committee’s papers, the memo is nowhere to be found.

This is reflected in the department’s letter of transmittal, which survives and is included in the subcommittee records. So the memo should also be in the files, but isn’t.

At least one other copy of the memo existed: in the files of Samuel Klaus himself. Yet among those papers, too, the memo was not to be found:

The other place where this memo ought to be is in the papers of Sam Klaus, held in another section of the Archives. In the index to the Klaus papers, the document is listed, under its proper official heading. However, when the file was examined by this writer it turned out the report again was missing. In this case, at least, we know what happened to it. The file contained a notice where the memo had been, saying it was withdrawn from the Archives in March 1993 — not quite half a century after it was written. So this important document is twice over absent from the nation’s official records.

The network of Soviet spies, their willing accomplices, and naive but willing dupes was large enough and pervasive enough to reach into the supposedly secure storage of sensitive government documents. Further, the curious question must be posed: why would anyone devote effort to destroying evidence about Cold War espionage at a time when the Cold War was clearly over and done? The Cold War ended, for practical purposes, in either 1989 or 1990. Who went to great effort to steal and destroy these documents in 1993, and why would they do so?

The Klaus Report is not the only piece of evidence to disappear in this way. Clearly, an organized effort had been made to remove evidence - evidence of the international communist conspiracy - from federal records. Whoever made this effort clearly had access inside the federal government.

Unfortunately for researchers of such matters, this elusive memo is but one of many Cold War papers that have gone AWOL. Some two dozen other documents from the State Department relating to security issues were likewise supplied to Tydings and should be in the Archives also. In these cases handsomely embossed cover sheets, signed by Dean Acheson, Secretary of State in 1950, are still there in the folders. In every case as well, however, the material once enclosed has been stripped from the cover sheet, leaving small wads of paper beneath the staples that held the documents together.

The questions facing historians are these: Can, or will, any of the stolen evidence about the Soviet spy network ever be recovered? Who was stealing such documents in 1993? Why were they stolen? Can some or all of the contents of those documents be reconstructed from other bits of evidence?

We can speculate about the evidence we don’t have. The evidence in hand, however, points to an amazing degree of infiltration by Soviet agents inside the United States federal government.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Counterespionage

During the Cold War years, the United States faced the threat of Soviet aggression. Communist agents had infiltrated the federal government, and by the 1930s, spies like Alger Hiss had reached to the top levels of American government: he occupied a post as presidential advisor in the State Department, and had face-to-face meetings with FDR. In 1946, the Klaus Report, issued by the State Department, documented shocking numbers of Soviet agents in the State Department, and the declassified Venona files, made public five decades later, shows that there were even more of them than the Klaus Report suspected.

Agents of the international communist conspiracy extracted classified information from the government, shaped policy decisions, steered the media to form public opinion, and even planned sabotage activities within the United States.

Facing the Soviet threat, Congress passed the McCormack Act, the Smith Act, and the Hatch Act between 1938 and 1940. Yet, because some officials did not believe that the communist menace was real, and because other bureaucrats were actually sympathetic to the communists, they failed to fully implement these bits of legislation, designed to ensure that government employees were properly vetted. In 1954, William F. Buckley wrote:

Moreover, the laws were not enforced; or, insofar as they were enforced, they were enforced tardily and halfheartedly. The Hatch Act bothered nobody. Even after it was passed, no less than 537 members of the American League for Peace and Democracy alone (as palpable a Communist front as ever existed) remained in federal service.

The Communist Party (CPUSA) had, in its official written materials, explicitly stated that one of its goals was a “violent revolution” to overthrow the government of the United States. The CPUSA did not merely contemplate taking life, it planned to do so.

Among those whose actions enabled the spy network inside the United States, some were unaware of precisely what they were doing. As unwitting “dupes,” they were perhaps not alert to the connections between the CPUSA and the seemingly noble goals of “front” organizations. Some of these fronts presented themselves as supporting culture and the arts; others spoke of justice, peace, equality, and rights. Support, in the forms of money or volunteered effort, given to such groups was actually used, however, to smuggle military secrets to Moscow, to influence federal policymakers to act against the interests of ordinary American citizens, or to prepare saboteurs for the anticipated violent revolution.

For the safety of American citizens, it was logical that members of the CPUSA, or those who supported them, should not be hired into governmental posts involving sensitive intelligence or policy formation. This would be true even for those whose support was given unwittingly. Buckley writes:

However, the Civil Service Commission’s “reasonable doubt” criterion for applicants moved toward the heart of the matter. The Commission made a start toward committing us to the principle that the federal government has the right to draw up its own requirements for government service - that employment by the Government is a privilege, not a right.

While such hiring and personnel efforts were correct in their intentions, their implementation was weak. Buckley continues:

The Commission’s effort did not, however, prevent further Communist penetration of the government, much less undo that which had already occurred. For the Commission did not rule on personnel already hired. Moreover, the Commission, under existing statutes and budget limitations, could not use the FBI in its investigations. Consequently, most of the Commission's information was obtained from the files of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. The rest came from a handful of its own investigators.

Upon closer examination, it became clear that there was disarray among various agencies and departments concerning how, and to which extent, they vetted potential hires and current employees.

Between 1934 and 1937, two Democratic Congressmen, John W. McCormack and Samuel Dickstein, operated a committee to investigate the influence of foreign agents infiltrating the federal government. It later emerged, however, that Dickstein himself was an operative of the NKVD (a forerunner to the KGB), and was being paid by the Soviets, presumably to ensure that communist agents were not detected as they applied for, or worked in, federal posts. Dickstein also nudged policy discussions in various directions as Moscow requested, and sent documents to the NKVD.

Meanwhile, the Attorney General had entered the field. In 1941, he directed the FBI to probe complaints of alleged disloyalty among Federal personnel. The FBI reported its findings to the appropriate agencies, and these agencies made their own decisions. It soon became clear that standards varied widely from agency to agency. In 1942, therefore, the Attorney General created an Interdepartmental Committee on Investigation to assist in standardizing procedures and evaluative criteria. This Committee, like the Civil Service Commission, confined itself to regulating applications for employment; and even then it recommended a manifestly inadequate standard: rejection on loyalty grounds was to be based on proof that the applicant personally advocates the overthrow of the government; or else that he is a conscious and willing member of an organization advocating such overthrow.

Thus time elapsed until the 1946 Klaus Report disclosed the greater extent of the problem. Democratic Congressman Martin Dies operated a committee from 1938 to 1944, for the purposes of examining subversive operations in the United States. In 1946, this committee was renamed the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Concerned with all manner of subversive activities, not only with communist and socialist ones, the HUAC would investigate the KKK as well as Soviet agents.

During the Cold War, the full extent of the Soviet spy network in the United States was never discovered. Enough of it was exposed to alert the nation to stop it. After the 1990 fall of the Soviet Union, the Venona files would indicate that communists infiltrated the United States to an extent not previously imagined.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Cold War and the First Amendment

The Cold War Era, roughly 1917 to 1990, challenged the United States on two different levels. First, the physical safety and freedom of U.S. citizens were in danger; second, the U.S. had to counter these dangers without violating its own principles of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Correspondingly, the word ‘communism’ has many meanings, two of which reflect this Cold War dilemma. On the one hand, communism is an idea which citizens should be free to discuss, research, and even advocate. On the other hand, the word ‘communism’ referred during these years to an international conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens or subjugate them under a dictatorship - a conspiracy equipped both with the resources of the powerful Soviet military and with a sophisticated and extensive espionage network within the United States.

Regarding communism as an idea, the books of Karl Marx were never banned in the United States. Citizens were free to print, sell, buy, own, read, discuss, and even publicly endorse his books. Marx’s books were read and taught in universities, and citizens could, and did, form private groups to discuss them. This was America’s attempt to live up to its ideals of freedom of expression, freedom of thought, freedom of association, and freedom of assembly.

Regarding communism as an international conspiracy to overthrow the U.S. government and oppress Americans under a totalitarian regime, some historians argue that the United States was slow to develop an effective response. Already after the revolution of 1917, and increasingly after the communist victory in 1920 in the Russian civil war, Soviet intelligence organizations were creating a network of agents within the United States. By the 1930s, this network had infiltrated the federal government to the extent that one agent, Alger Hiss, had risen within the State Department to be a top advisor to FDR, consulting directly with the president.

A long list of such agents, verified by Soviet records made public after the 1990 fall of the communist government, was able both to relay confidential information to Moscow, and to influence policy decisions made in the United States. Many were native-born U.S. citizens, who willing chose to serve the communist conspiracy. One historian - William F. Buckley, Jr. - wrote in 1954:

Certainly one of the most effective arms of Soviet imperialism has been the strategically placed native of the free world who, for whatever perverse reason, has determined to serve the Communist cause.

One tactic used by the Soviets was the formation of a “popular front.” Using this tactic, communist agents would make alliances with already established social or political groups within the United States, usually groups whose views were similar to, but not the same as, communism. These alliances were formed for the sake of expediency - the communists were willing to befriend a group today and attack it tomorrow.

The “popular front” allowed communist agents to gain support and help from individuals and groups who were in some way sympathetic to aspects of the communist cause, but who were not communists themselves. The communists played on their naivety and on their sympathy for what seemed to be reasonable causes.

Thus a number of social and cultural organizations, large and small, scattered geographically across the country, began to function as communist fronts. At one point in the 1950s, there were over a hundred such fronts, including groups like the United May Day Committee, the Quad City Committee for Peace, Palo Alto Peace Club, Michigan School of Social Science, Industrial Workers of the World, Chopin Cultural Center, and many others.

Some of these fronts, and the individuals in them, helped unwittingly, and were known as ‘dupes.’ Others were aware that they were directly aiding Soviet agencies, and were sometimes called ‘fellow travelers.’

The Soviets recruited opinion makers in the media as part of this tactic. Famous journalists like I.F. Stone, known as “Izzy,” were on the payroll of the Soviet intelligence agencies like the NKGB and the NKVD (predecessors to the KGB). Stone wrote for the New York Post newspaper and Nation magazine from 1933 to 1946. Others, like New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, were not documented to have received payment from the Soviets, but aided them based on personal conviction.

A small but active group of academics and fine arts professionals constituted another front. Many of them were drawn to the Communist Party (CPUSA) because it seemed to espouse noble humanitarian ideals. This ‘front’ group was not a formal organization, but more like a social fad. Some were, and some were not, aware of internal CPUSA documents which set a “violent revolution” as the party’s goal. In 1954, Congress passed the Communist Control Act, which came close to making the party illegal, but stopped short of actually doing that. The nation valued the freedom of ideas too much to make a party illegal. The party’s espionage and sabotage activities were still, however, outlawed.

Surveying Congress’s efforts to reduce the Soviet threat, Buckley writes:

As far back as the twenties, many Americans were aware that Communism was more than a proposal for political change which would take its chances “in the marketplace of ideas.” Communism, it was recognized, was a relentless political-military conspiracy. A Committee of the House of Representatives was soon instructed to investigate the Communist conspiracy in the United States. The Committee operated in the increasingly difficult climate of the Popular Front, when great numbers of Western intellectuals had entered into an enthusiastic concordat with Stalin. Slowly and haphazardly our lawmakers sought to adjust our statute books to the realities of the Communist menace.

Congress passed various bits of legislation to deal with the danger. When it became clear that paid Soviet agents like Hiss had worked their way into jobs which gave them one-on-one access to the president in private conversations, the legislation focused on how to screen federal employees, especially those shaping policy or having access to sensitive military information.

The difficult aspect of such legislation was ensuring that civil rights would not be injured in the course of - paradoxically - trying to preserve the society which is based on them and which values them. Buckley describes Congress’s actions:

In 1938, the McCormack Act ordered all agents of foreign governments to register with the Department of Justice. The Hatch Act of 1939 excluded from Federal employment members of any organization that advocates the forcible overthrow of our constitutional form of government. The Smith Act of 1940 forbade Americans to conspire to teach or advocate the overthrow of the U.S. government by force or violence.

Of these laws, the Smith Act caused the most concern. Did it injure First Amendment rights to freedom of expression? It not only outlawed the violent overthrow of the government, but outlawed any action to “teach, advocate, or encourage” such violence. It made liable anyone who “prints, publishes, sells, circulates, or displays” material which teaches, advocates, or encourages this violence. This is a nuanced question for any free society: how do we protect freedom without destroying it in the process of protecting it?

Other actions taken by federal agencies, by contrast, clearly did not injure civil rights. It is noncontroversial that those hired to shape policy or have access to military intelligence must be vetted. National security took a step toward the safety of ordinary citizens by doing this, as Buckley notes:

In 1942, surprisingly, an alert Civil Service Commission enunciated loyalty criteria which were to govern federal agencies in determining whom to hire. It was stipulated that, in case of “reasonable doubt” as to his loyalty, an applicant must be regarded as unemployable.

Writing in 1954, Buckley could not have guessed the details and surprises that waited in the remaining thirty-five years of the Cold War. While he focused on legislative means to a victory, and some of his contemporaries focused on military means to the same, it would, in the end, be an economic struggle, and on that field, the Soviets would lose, when the Reagan administration discovered that it could trigger an economic collapse within the Soviet Union by causing it to spend ever-increasing amounts in an effort to keep pace with U.S. military developments.

In any case, Buckley was looking to future legislative actions to neutralize the Soviet threat:

These, of course, were primitive and inadequate tools for dealing with the kind of penetration against which our best students of Communism were warning us. It is best to think of them as the first efforts of the American people, acting through their representatives, to master by fiat a problem that, in the long run, would require much more, perhaps even a Constitutional Amendment.

Buckley was of the opinion that the Smith Act, introduced by Democrat Congressman Howard W. Smith, and signed into law by FDR, did constitute injury to the First Amendment. The remedy, argued Buckley, was perhaps another constitutional amendment. Left to stand as it was, the Smith Act would eventually reveal itself as part of an internal contradiction within our legal system.

The Smith Act, in our opinion, in effect did amend the Constitution, the circumlocutions of the slim majority of the Supreme Court that upheld it notwithstanding. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” It does not go on to say that certain social exigencies, as for example war, or a foreign conspiracy, invalidate this explicit limitation of congressional competence.

The complexity of debate and legislation in response to Soviet espionage and sabotage inside the United States reflects the complexity which will arise any time a free society needs to defend its freedom. Defense commandeers resources, yet liberty is the safety of knowing that one’s resources will not be commandeered.

The Cold War had to be won, and won in a way which minimized any injury to liberty. If the victory had done great damage to freedom, it would have been a defeat in disguise and no victory at all.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Cold War Then, Jihad Now

During the years we now call the ‘Cold War era,’ the United States faced a significant threat from an international communist conspiracy. The U.S. encountered a clear and present danger, mainly from the Soviet Union, but also from mainland China, North Korea, and Cuba. That era can be marked out, roughly as ranging from 1917 to 1990.

In the post-Cold War era, the United States faces lethal danger from a global jihadist movement. Although this militant Islamic network has historical roots which are centuries old, it has emerged in its most recent form since the fall of the Soviet Union. A long list of Muslim terrorist attacks during the last two or three decades of the twentieth centuries shows both a departure from more sporadic attacks earlier in the century and the increased pace of attacks during the first few years of the twenty-first century.

One central task for historians is to compare and contrast the Cold War to the subsequent wave of Islamic Jihadism. How are they similar? How are they different?

One clear difference between the two is the in tactics of the aggressors: the officers of the Soviet military were professional soldiers, who had been trained for their careers in military academies. A Soviet officer, for example, was neither trained for, nor inclined to, a suicide attack. Soviet pilots, trained to potentially drop atomic bombs on the United States, would execute their missions with care for their own safety. Many were married, had children and homes and were integrated parts of their communities.

By contrast, a Jihadist is not only willing to plan and execute a suicide attack, but also plans non-suicide attacks which are rather cavalier toward the safety of the attacker. Jihadis don’t typically embrace a lifestyle which includes a house in the suburbs, picnics with the family, or baseball games.

As ruthless as the Soviet Union was, and as aggressive as its ideology was, Soviet officers did conform roughly to the pattern of a middle-class professional and paterfamilias, and could be expected to carry out their duties as such.

Although on opposite sides, a Soviet military officer and a United States military officer functioned in similar ways, shared a foundational set of presuppositions, and were able to understand each other as peers.

A Jihadist, on the other hand, does not have a set of commonalities to share with the ‘infidels’ or ‘westerners’ he attacks.

We can also find a similarity between the Soviet threat and the Islamic threat. Both were able to exploit a hesitancy found in western democracies to clearly state identified threats. Just as the State Department was in some ways hesitant to articulate the extent of the Soviet’s ability to compromise U.S. security, so also a segment of leadership has been hesitant to express the extent of Islam’s threat to societies around the globe.

In both the Cold War and in the subsequent era of Islamic Jihad, technology allows one individual, or a small group of individuals, to have a disproportionately large effect. One individual, smuggling information about the atomic bomb to the KGB, could cause a massive shift in the Cold War dynamic. One Jihadist, likewise, can cause the deaths of many civilians, hijack media coverage for days or weeks, and throw the security services of many nation-states into high alert.

This phenomenon, in which technology amplifies the actions of one individual, is sometimes called ‘proliferation.’ It requires a recalibration of how threats are perceived, and how we respond to them. During the Cold War, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote:

It is largely because of this new face of treason that we in the free world are writing, preaching and discussing ways to adapt our traditional concepts into serviceable weapons with which to protect ourselves from hazards the architects of our society never contemplated. The job will be hard. The new consequences of treason will not allow us to settle for a security program based on the idea - in itself venerable - that ten suspected traitors working in the State Department should not be molested lest one of them should prove to be loyal. It is one thing for Lizzie Borden to benefit from the charity of the doubt; it is something else again to protect Klaus Fuchs until after he has committed the “overt” act.

Both the Cold War and the post-1990 wave of Muslim terror took place in the age of electronic media. While the Cold War ended before the 24/7 cable TV news cycle, and before the widespread use of online internet news, it nonetheless was covered differently than, e.g., WWII. Telecommunications allowed for near-instantaneous coverage of events during the Cold War.

Both Islamic terrorism and the Soviet threat were, therefore, well known to the general public. Buckley notes:

By 1950, we were more or less agreed that the overt act a Fuchs might commit was something we dared not risk. The majority of us now knew that, for all the twists and turns of the Party Line, the Communists have never swerved and, barring a philosophical or political revolution, never would swerve from their ambition to occupy the world. And we knew, moreover, that they had hit upon an uncommonly successful formula for achieving their goal. The era was past when Americans needed to be educated about the threat of Communism.

While the general public was well aware of the international communist conspiracy, significant segments of both the government leadership and of the media were hesitant to acknowledge the full danger it posed. Instead, coverage downplayed the Soviet threat, and cast those who were aware of it as paranoid or overly reactive.

Likewise, the threat of global Jihad is well known to the public, but some government leaders - and some media leaders - are loathe to publicly recognize the danger, and those who accurately describe the onslaught of Islamic terrorism are labeled as xenophobic or paranoid. Buckley writes:

But a new era arrived, the dominant characteristic of which was and remains - indecision. Undecided how to cope with the new menace, we lacked even the will to find a solution. Our confusion and our purposelessness were crippling. A symbol of it, perhaps, was our society’s relentless persecution of what John Chamberlain has shrewdly labelled “premature anti-Communists.” The evolution from pro-Communism in the direction of anti-Communism seemed to have ground to a halt in an intermediary stage, aptly described as anti-anti-Communism.

The challenge in both the Cold War era and the Jihadist era lies in persuading segments of the government and segments of the media to acknowledge what is already known: name the enemy and identify the threat the enemy poses. For those seeking to preserve some sense of peace, security, and liberty, the “overriding problem” is, in Buckley’s words, this:

Having acknowledged the nature and the immediacy of our peril, how might we get by our disintegrated ruling elite, which had no stomach for battle, and get down to the business of fighting the enemy in our midst?

Just as there were individuals in the State Department and in the media who failed to recognize the Soviet menace, or failed to act appropriately upon the recognition of such menace - just as there were those in the State Department and in the media who were actively complicit with the Soviet Union and on the KGB payroll to keep Americans complacent and to belittle those who attempted to alert Americans to the danger: so also there are those who do not recognize the threat posed by the efforts of Islam to establish an international caliphate, or who recognize but do not respond proportionately to this Jihadist threat - there are those who are enabling Muslim terror.

It remains for calm and articulate scholars to state the historical reality of such threats.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Small Acts of Treason Have Big Effects: Alger Hiss and Klaus Fuchs

In an early 1949 speech at M.I.T., Winston Churchill noted that, had the United States not held a monopoly on the atomic bomb, the Soviet Union would have continued the westward expansion which had already consumed nations like Poland and Czechoslovakia.

That same year, the communists would finally succeeded in developing, with the help of plans stolen from the U.S. by Soviet spies, their own atomic bomb. But the four- or five-year head start which which the United States experienced was enough to grant security to western Europe. The Soviets could not restart their westward conquest, because NATO had used those years to solidify the security and defense of western Europe.

Commenting on Churchill’s speech in Massachusetts, historian William F. Buckley Jr. writes:

Sir Winston, of course, normally speaks with a robust certitude about everything. It is perhaps not “certain” that our monopoly on the atom bomb served during those years as the controlling deterrent to Soviet expansion. But whatever Churchill's extravagances, he cannot be taken lightly. This time, no doubt, he put his finger on the dominant feature of mid-twentieth century international relations: conceivably a single individual could shift the balance of power by delivering to the Soviet Union technological secrets through the use of which they could overcome their strategic disadvantage and proceed to communize Europe.

Naming Alger Hiss and Klaus Fuchs as example, Buckley notes the dynamic of the atomic age. In a post-1945 environment, one person can smuggle data from the United States to the Soviet Union, and that data can carry significance on a scale previously unimaginable.

The historical effect of technology has been called ‘proliferation’ - the notion that technology makes the actions of one individual more significant. The secrets which Fuchs and Hiss sold to the Soviets were powerful enough that they caused ten of thousands of deaths, and could have caused, in a worst-case scenario, millions.

This is something new in the world. Traitors have played critical parts in the past. But many factors - primarily the indecisiveness of any single weapon - have mitigated the consequences of treason. The great traitors of the past have swung battles, but not wars. The situation is different today. An Alger Hiss, critically situated, can, conceivably, determine the destiny of the West. A Klaus Fuchs can deliver to "the thirteen scheming men" what may well be the key to world conquest.

A few sheets of paper, handed to a Soviet intelligence agent by a State Department employee, prolonged the Cold War by years or even decades. One or two individuals had the ability to create misery for millions around the globe.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Churchill Identifies Key Issues

Not only did Winston Churchill popularize the phrase “Iron Curtain” in a 1946 speech to describe the geopolitical situation which shaped global politics from 1946 to 1990, he also used a 1949 speech as the occasion to articulate one of the defining characteristics of that situation.

If most, but not all, of the world’s nations were placed into one of two camps, two camps divided by that Iron Curtain, then one of the contentions between those two was the ability to gather intelligence about the other’s military secrets. One historian, William F. Buckley Jr., writes:

On the 31st of March, in 1949, Mr. Winston Churchill (he was then ungartered) was to address the Mid-Century Convocation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and he had advertised his forthcoming remarks as “not unimportant.”

The United States held a decisive edge from 1945 until August 1949, when the Soviet Union succeeded in constructing its first working atomic bomb. The Soviets gained valuable intelligence from a variety of spies which it had placed within the United States, including physicist Klaus Fuchs, and couriers Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

Churchill’s speech at M.I.T., then, came at a time when the United States still held a monopoly on nuclear weapons. He did not know, but perhaps suspected, that the Soviets would eventually break that monopoly. Many observers at the time were surprised, not that the communists eventually developed its own atomic bomb, but that they did it as soon as they did. This speed was made possible by the spy network which had infiltrated the State Department and other agencies within the United States government.

But the four or five years during which the United States had the nuclear advantage over the communists were enough to allow western Europe to be solidified. That time, purchased by the atomic monopoly, meant that the westward expansion of the Soviet Union, which had already swallowed up Poland and Czechoslovakia and other regions, would be halted at the Iron Curtain. Buckley writes:

After it was delivered, the press services had a hard time deciding what aspect of Churchill’s address was most newsworthy. They settled, finally, on this: “It is certain that Europe would have been communized like Czechoslovakia, and London under bombardment some time ago, but for the deterrent of the atomic bomb in the hands of the U.S.”

Had Fuchs and the Rosenbergs sold the military secrets about the atomic bomb to the Soviets earlier than they did, an emboldened communism might have pushed westward to consume Switzerland and France. Although America’s nuclear monopoly ended too soon, it had at least lasted long enough to preserve both millions of lives and the civil freedom which lent dignity to those lives.