Alger Hiss (November 11, 1904 – November 15, 1996) was an American government official accused in 1948 of having spied for the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Statutes of limitations had expired for espionage, but he was convicted of perjury in connection with this charge in 1950. Before the trial Hiss was involved in the establishment of the United Nations, both as a U.S. State Department official and as a U.N. official. In later life he worked as a lecturer and author. On August 3, 1948, Whittaker Chambers, a former U.S. Communist Party member, testified under subpoena before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) that Hiss had secretly been a communist while in federal service. Hiss categorically denied the charge.
Rumors of Chambers' homosexuality and of an attraction or relationship between Chambers and Hiss persisted throughout the case and into the present. The aura of homosexuality in this case helped perpetuate the connection in the public mind between homosexuality and treason that was a hallmark of McCarthyism.
During the pretrial discovery process, Chambers produced new evidence indicating that he and Hiss had been involved in espionage. A federal grand jury indicted Hiss on two counts of perjury. After a mistrial due to a hung jury, Hiss was tried a second time, and in January 1950 he was found guilty and received two concurrent five-year sentences, of which he eventually served three and a half years. Arguments about the case and the validity of the verdict took center stage in broader debates about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and the extent of Soviet espionage in the United States. Since Hiss' conviction, statements by involved parties and newly exposed evidence have added to the dispute. Author Anthony Summers argued that since many relevant files continue to be unavailable, the Hiss controversy will continue to be debated. The 1995 Venona Papers prompted more support for the theory that he was a Soviet spy, but were not yet deemed conclusive by many sources. In the 1990s, two former senior Soviet military officers responsible for the Soviet Union's military intelligence archives stated, following a search of those archives, that the "Russian intelligence service has no documents proving that Alger Hiss cooperated with our service somewhere or anywhere," and that Hiss "never had any relationship with Soviet intelligence." Hiss maintained his innocence until his death.
My published books:
BACK TO HOME PAGE