Friday, May 8, 2015

Solomon Adler: Multinational Threat

The life of Solomon Adler demonstrates the complex world of international espionage. Born in England, holding a post in the American government, working for the Soviets, he eventually defected to China and spent the rest of his life there, after U.S. officials discovered that he was smuggling classified information out of the U.S. government and on to Moscow.

Alder’s work was multidimensional. He stole secrets from both the United States and from China for the Soviets; later, he would work for a Chinese intelligence agency, analyzing the Soviets and the Americans.

From the 1930s until at least the 1960s, and possibly later, Adler was active in various forms of espionage. Given that these years encompass WWII, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, it is not unreasonable to wonder how many deaths were caused, directly or indirectly, by of Adler’s work.

In 1935, Adler came to the United States, and was hired by the federal government in 1936. Historian Stan Evans documents that

Solomon Adler was an official of the U.S. Treasury Department who served for several years in China during World War II and the early postwar era.

A committee led by Senator Millard Tydings was formed in early 1950 to investigate security risks, specifically those in the State Department. Although the committee’s report failed to identify individuals as Soviet agents, the work of the committee provided data for others who eventually did find unambiguous evidence confirming that the persons examined by the committee were working for Soviet intelligence agencies.

As part of a larger spy network, Adler appeared briefly in the national media and on the country's

radar screen on at least two public occasions we know of, suggesting he had been an object of study and discussion in more private sessions. The first such episode was in the Tydings hearings of 1950.

It became clear that Adler was working with other identified Soviet agents, specifically, with Frank Coe, with John Stewart Service, with Harry Dexter White, and with a large ring of communist spies known as the ‘Silvermaster Group.’ The Tydings Committee investigated John Stewart Service as a result of “original charges of subversion. Assistant committee counsel Robert Morris” interviewed witnesses for the committee.

Robert Morris, as Stan Evans writes, who frequently worked "in these hearings, was questioning diplomat John Stewart Service," one of the State Department's China specialists who'd worked to subvert U.S. policy to favor the communists,

about his contacts in Chungking, China, in the 1940s. It was in this context that Solomon Adler was mentioned, as Morris quizzed Service on his linkage to the Treasury staffer.

Morris had done his homework. “This line of interrogation, and other questions posed to Service, indicated that” careful investigation of the data meant that Morris

at this point had good insight into the bigger picture of events in China, in which Service and Sol Adler both played crucial roles.

Rather than relying merely on secondhand or thirdhand accounts, Morris had direct evidence: “There were also indications that the” members of the Tydings Committee had access to direct intercepts of conversations among the spies. The committee’s

forces were privy to wiretap information from the FBI concerning Service, including ties to Adler.

Although the committee failed to explicitly identify him as a security threat, it was clear already in 1950 that Solomon Adler was working to undermine the United States government. “Adler’s name would surface again in 1953, when,” as Stan Evans notes, the

chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations questioned former Treasury employee William Taylor about his relationship to Adler — specifically, if Taylor and Adler had by any chance lived together at a house in Chungking.

A broad network was uncovered: in addition to William Taylor and Solomon Adler, names like Harold Glasser, Irving Kaplan, Victor Perlo, William Ludwig Ullman, Edward Fitzgerald, and Bella Gold formed a constellation of Soviet agents inside the U.S. federal government. These network was in part uncovered due to the work of Elizabeth Bentley, a former Soviet operative who gave information to American investigators. John Snyder was either an unwitting dupe or a willing accomplice, enabling the careers of the members of this network.

Questions posed by subcommittee

in this session also brought up the name of the Chinese national Chi Chao-ting, yet another Adler contact.

The situation in China was one of internal struggle. The defeat of Japan at the end of WWII ended a temporary truce in a civil war between the communists and the nationalists. The Soviets were backing the communists, but the United States was only half-heartedly supporting the nationalists.

Soviet agents inside the United States worked to ensure that American support for the nationalists would be muted, and that whatever support was given, could be subverted or otherwise rendered less effectual.

Solomon Adler was enmeshed in a multinational espionage network. Evidence increased and reached the point at which no reasonable doubt about Adler’s guilt was possible. Data came from many sources, including intercepted Soviet communications.

Messages among Soviet spies were recorded by U.S. intelligence agencies in a program called ‘Venona.’ Stan Evans writes:

This focus on Sol Adler would be of additional interest when the Venona decrypts were published. There we find him duly making his appearance, under the cover name “Sachs,” passing information to the comrades about the state of things in China. This fits with other official data that show him to have been part of a Treasury Red combine that included Harry Dexter White, Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, Harold Glasser, V. Frank Coe, and a sizable crew of others.

The codename assigned to Adler by the NKGB and MGB was also rendered as ‘Sax’ or ‘Saks’ in various documents. As more data was uncovered, “both Coe and Glasser would become” subjects of investigation, and eventually considered as “committee cases also” by the Tydings group.

When the matter was finished, it became clear that the Tydings committee “did not err in targeting Adler, his ties to Service, or his living arrangements while in China,” although the committee failed to act quickly enough or decisively enough to prevent Adler from continuing his activity for several more years.