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The Hiss Case: Another Exchange!

In response to:

The Hiss Case: An Exchange from the May 27, 1976 issue

To the Editors:

When Allen Weinstein and I debated the issues in the Hiss case before 1,000 members of the Organization of American Historians in St. Louis, on April 8, Weinstein publicly apologized for his charges that I had been sent as Hiss’s representative and that Hiss and I had jointly filed suit seeking access to the FBI files in the case. The implication behind these untrue allegations, and the innuendo intended by Weinstein, was that I (and others who have criticized the evidence he cites in concluding that Hiss was guilty) am biased and unwilling to evaluate evidence fairly.

I accepted Weinstein’s apology in St. Louis. However, in the most recent issue of this journal [NYR, May 27] he repeats the same allegations in his response to the letter of Athan Theoharis. He characterizes me as one of “Hiss’s supporters” and claims that I have been “associated with Hiss’s recent legal efforts to secure FBI files.” This response was obviously written after the St. Louis meeting at which he apologized, since he refers to it in his response.

To clarify matters, my research on the Hiss case began as an outgrowth of my doctoral dissertation on the early Cold War period, I interviewed several of those on the other side of the case before I met Hiss, my Freedom of Information Act suit was filed independently in federal court in Boston (Mr. Hiss’s suit is filed in New York), and I have never expressed any conclusive opinion on the question of guilt or innocence in the case. Professor Weinstein knows all of this. I can only conclude that his repetition of untrue charges and innuendoes is deliberate. Having received one useless apology (one I think is also due all of Weinstein’s critics) I do not seek another. But I think your readers should know of this.

Peter H. Irons

Somerville, Massachusetts

Allen Weinstein replies:

Last year, I invited Alger Hiss to participate in a panel discussion at the Organization of American Historians meeting in April 1976, when I intended to read a paper on the case. Hiss declined, naming as his representative John Chabot Smith, whose book I reviewed in the April 1 issue of The New York Review. Because of conflicting publisher’s commitments, Mr. Smith could not appear and designated Peter Irons as his representative. I regret that I called Mr. Irons Alger Hiss’s personal representative rather than describing him, more accurately, as the surrogate for Mr. Smith (who has recently appeared with Hiss in a variety of news conferences, interviews, and television shows promoting his book).

Mr. Irons is technically correct about another point, his complaint that I made an “untrue allegation” that he “had jointly filed suit [with Hiss] seeking access to the FBI files in the case.” Both Irons and (in the letter that follows) Stephen Salant are accurate in so far as they insist that their respective lawsuits for FBI files were not “jointly filed” with Hiss’s suit. But, as I pointed out in my reply in the New Republic (May 22, 1976) to earlier letters by Irons and Salant, both “last year filed lawsuits in tandem with Hiss’s own suit for FBI files and participated in a joint press conference with Hiss last year announcing their suit.” Moreover, according to information I had received from two reliable sources on the matter—Peter Irons himself and Alger Hiss—Irons has been involved for some time in Hiss’s efforts to obtain additional evidence about a former private detective whom both men suspect either of having helped to frame Hiss or of having known about such a plot. Irons, for example—according to Alger Hiss—helped to formulate questions to be put to the private detective.

I do not see why Irons wishes to deny (as his letter would indicate) that he has been “associated with Hiss’s recent legal efforts to secure FBI files.” Although Irons insists that his own lawsuit—“filed independently in federal court in Boston (Mr. Hiss’s suit is filed in New York)”—had no relation to the latter suit, the press release issued by Hiss’s attorneys, the National Emergency Civil Liberties Foundation, on June 5, 1975, states:

Joining Mr. Hiss in the law suit…is William A. Reuben, a New York City author who has written books on the Hiss case and on Richard Nixon….

A companion suit, Peter Irons v. Edward H. Levi, also seeks information from the files of the Justice Department regarding the Hiss case. The plaintiff in that action, Dr. Peter Irons, is an instructor of political science at the University of Massachusetts….

Both the Hiss-Reuben and Irons law suits are being instituted under the auspices of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Foundation.

Representing plaintiffs Hiss and Reuben is the New York law firm of Rabinowitz, Boudin & Standard. Professor David Rosenberg of Harvard Law School is the attorney for Dr. Irons.

An independent action, initiated by Stephen W. Salant, was also filed this morning in Federal Court in Washington, DC….1

That same day, June 5, 1975, according to The New York Times, “Mr. Hiss and his associates” held a joint press conference at the offices of the National Emergency Civil Liberties Foundation. “Mr. Hiss…said that it was his understanding of the law that to obtain a review of his case, indication of material fraud would have to be produced. He left little doubt that this was what was being sought.”

Irons states that he has “never expressed any conclusive opinion on the question of guilt or innocence in the case.” Neither have I; nor have I questioned either the good faith or the seriousness of my critics, whether apparently linked to the Hiss defense or not. Perhaps my critics might be willing in future to avoid the acrimony and carelessness that have characterized some of their recent writing in response to my own work.2

To the Editors:

In my letter [NYR, May 27] concerning Professor Weinstein’s article [NYR, April 1] on the Hiss case, I sought to present additional evidence which in my view undermines his principal accusations against Alger Hiss. After raising unwarranted questions about my independence, Professor Weinstein carefully obscured the evidence I presented by seizing on irrelevant detail, erroneously challenging my accuracy, and appearing to deny the very existence of documents from which I quoted. To reduce the likelihood of a recurrence of such a response, I am enclosing a copy of each document cited in this letter for the benefit of the editors of The New York Review.

Before reconsidering his accusations against Mr. Hiss, I wish to correct a mistaken impression created by Professor Weinstein concerning my independence. Taking an approach which unfortunately is becoming his trademark, Professor Weinstein begins his response to me by questioning the accuracy of my own claim to being an independent researcher who, among others, sued for access to the Pumpkin microfilms. Elsewhere [New Republic, May 15] he has gone so far as to characterize a scholar who discussed his work unfavorably at recent professional meetings, Peter Irons, as “a co-plaintiff with Alger Hiss and two others in a suit coordinated by lawyers for Hiss”—one of those two others presumably being me. Professor Weinstein is simply mistaken in believing that either Dr. Irons or myself is a co-plaintiff with Mr. Hiss. Last year, I filed an independent law suit in Washington, DC through my own attorney. Dr. Irons filed a separate suit through his own attorney in Boston. Ironically, it is presumably our participation in a press conference along with Mr. Hiss—a conference where each plaintiff clarified his separate reasons for filing a separate suit for the same microfilm evidence—which has confused Professor Weinstein. Contrary to Professor Weinstein’s suggestions, there exist no monolithic “suit coordinated by lawyers for Hiss.” In “correcting” my characterization of myself as an independent, Professor Weinstein presumably sought to depict me as a “Hiss partisan” who lacks “balanced” judgment. Such suggestions are unacceptable substitutes for logical, factual responses to the many questions which have been raised concerning his conclusions.

The Handwritten Note

In his original article, Professor Weinstein asserted that Mr. Hiss transcribed an incoming State Department cable from Moscow which “had nothing to do with international economic questions with which Mr. Hiss was concerned”; that the cable got back to Soviet Military Intelligence; and that the Rubens couple described in the cable was presumably subsequently executed by the Soviets.

Professor Weinstein’s “convincing evidence” that the information in the cable got back to Soviet Military Intelligence turns out to be a story to that effect by Chambers—whose veracity should presumably be as much open to question as that of Mr. Hiss. His speculation that Mrs. Rubens was executed is at variance with stories in The New York Times: “Mrs. Rubens Takes Soviet Citizenship—American Involved in Passport Fraud Settles in Ukraine” [November 17, 1939]. But most important, Professor Weinstein has failed—despite my query—to provide any basis for his bold accusation that Mr. Hiss “had no legitimate reason for transcribing the cable in question or even concerning himself with it.”

Mr. Hiss, it should be recalled, has always maintained that he concerned himself with the cable because it was his responsibility to brief his superior Mr. Sayre orally on incoming cables at their office sessions and working lunches. Mr. Hiss claimed he wrote the notes, which Chambers somehow obtained, for his own use in refreshing his memory when briefing Mr. Sayre. Now, it is a fact that the cable in question was routed to Mr. Sayre’s office—although Professor Weinstein did not mention this point in his original article. And it was Mr. Sayre’s testimony at the second trial—also omitted in Professor Weinstein’s accounts—that one of Mr. Hiss’s responsibilities was to keep Mr. Sayre current, sometimes by oral briefings, on cable traffic incoming to the State Department. As Mr. Sayre testified:

[Mr. Sayre:] I used Mr. Hiss as my righthand man to help relieve me of the load. Now, part of the load was familiarizing myself with the contents of hundreds of cables which kept pouring in from all over the world, cables bearing on all these various matters, great armfuls of them would come in. I could not possibly read every word of every cable. It was absolutely necessary for me to have someone helping to comb through and bring the important and significant ones to my attention, and perhaps summarize orally what this cable contains, what that cable contains; so that, that again was part of his work. [Tr. 1479, emphasis added]

As Assistant Secretary of State, it was Mr. Sayre’s responsibility to keep abreast of cables on a wide variety of subjects. In his testimony, he noted that “it was the practice in the State Department to pass copies of cables, even though in the military or political field, to pass copies to the Assistant Secretaries so that they would have a background knowledge” (Tr. 1481).

Mr. Sayre was asked whether Mr. Hiss reported orally on matters of general interest to the State Department at working lunches in Mr. Sayre’s office:

[Mr. Cross:] Did Mr. Hiss report to you from time to time on matters that you were interested in and working on and that were a matter of public interest in the department?

[Mr. Sayre:] He did.

Q. And was that done both in your office orally and at lunches when you were together?

A. It was. [Page 1492]

Finally, Mr. Sayre was shown a variety of newspaper clippings about the Robinson-Rubens Case and was asked:

[Mr. Cross:] If those do refresh your memory as to whether the Robinson-Rubens Case was a matter that was being considered by the State Department in the latter part of January 1939, and was a matter that was also frequently referred to in the press about that time?

A. It was. [Page 1495]

As Professor Weinstein points out, Mr. Sayre was unable to recall a particular thirty-four-word cable on the Robinson-Rubens Case ten years later. Not surprisingly, he was unable to recall any particular cable. Nor was he able to confirm, and was not allowed to offer in his testimony the supposition, that Mr. Hiss used handwritten notes to refresh his own memory when briefing Mr. Sayre orally on these many cables. However, as the trial record indicates, this particular cable was officially routed to Mr. Sayre’s office and Mr. Sayre testified that it was Mr. Hiss’s practice to brief him orally on incoming cables.

Professor Weinstein failed originally to disclose where the cable Mr. Hiss transcribed was officially routed and fails in his reply to discuss Mr. Sayre’s trial testimony about the nature of Mr. Hiss’s job responsibilities regarding incoming cables. Yet, for my part, I can think of nothing more relevant to a charge that Mr. Hiss had “no legitimate reason for even concerning himself” with an incoming cable than a discussion of its official routing slip and Mr. Hiss’s official duties with regard to such cables.

Instead, Professor Weinstein calls attention to information which is neither relevant nor surprising. For example, Mr. Sayre was apparently puzzled ten years later about why a particular thirty-four-word cable was routed to his office. Professor Weinstein also quotes as a blunt disavowal of Mr. Hiss’s assertions a response of Mr. Sayre to a question by Nixon: Mr. Sayre apparently said it was never Mr. Hiss’s duty to transcribe documents at home. But, this was never Mr. Hiss’s contention.

The cable Mr. Hiss transcribed was sent by Mr. Henderson, the American representative in Moscow, to the State Department. It relayed information sent via commercial cable to Henderson from a private citizen named Mary Martin. Professor Weinstein has suggested that my characterization of her as a mere private citizen is misleading. Except as it pertains to my credibility, this issue is of little importance and was used by Professor Weinstein merely to distract the reader. But, since he has called attention to it, permit me to say that it is he who appears in error.

According to Professor Weinstein, Mary Martin’s cable provided important intelligence. She “apparently confirmed for Henderson that ‘Rubens’ was a Soviet agent she [Mrs. Martin] had known in Riga, and her warning—’be strict’—apparently cautioned Henderson against becoming involved on the arrested agent’s behalf….”

Evidently, Professor Weinstein has not yet fully absorbed a lengthy FBI document (No. 3050) about Mary Martin, which Dr. Irons called to his attention a month ago at the meeting of the Organization of American Historians (see p. 2 of “Statement on Allen Weinstein’s Paper, Alger Hiss: Guilty or Innocent?“). This FBI document describes an interview of Mrs. Martin by one Mr. Bannerman of the Department of State during 1938, and several interviews by the FBI during the spring of 1949. It leaves little doubt that Mrs. Martin’s “intelligence” was of no value since she apparently was unacquainted with the Rubens detained in Moscow. It is because of this FBI memo that I choose to characterize Mrs. Martin merely as a private citizen.

The memo indicates, for example, that Mr. Bannerman of the State Department was “inclined to believe that little confidence” could “be placed in the identification by MARY MARTIN” in part on the grounds that Mrs. Martin described the Rubens she knew “as a man of slight build,” while the Rubens “under arrest in Moscow would weigh over 190 lbs.” Mr. Bannerman concluded she had “misidentified” Rubens. The FBI reached a similar conclusion after listening to Mrs. Martin’s vacillating recollections about whether the man’s name was “Rubens” or “Rubems.”

As to her motivation for sending the commercial cable to Henderson, Mrs. Martin explained to the FBI that she had sent the cablegram because “she did not like RUBENS” [that is, the man she confused with the Rubens detained in Moscow] “in that he was a Jew and probably a Communist and she felt he should be dealt with harshly.” She provided the further “intelligence” that “all Communists are Jews,” “that RUBENS was a Jew Communist” and “that all Jews ‘should be locked up.’ ”

From this FBI document, I concluded that both Mr. Bannerman and the FBI appeared correct in their skepticism about Mrs. Martin’s acquaintance with the Rubens being held in Moscow and decided that her crank cable was precipitated by the frequent stories in the press about this celebrated case and Mrs. Martin’s inability to distinguish among, and evident hostility toward, people with the Jewish name of Rubens.

Interlinear Corrections

According to Professor Weinstein, “several” defense experts concluded that “either Alger or Priscilla Hiss had written the interlinear corrections on the various typed documents, thus linking the couple even more closely to the material in question” (my emphasis). Thus far, however, he has failed to identify even a single expert who in fact concluded that Alger Hiss made the interlinear corrections on the Baltimore documents. His original article failed to disclose that the two leading experts (Haring and Fearon)—both of whom he cited frequently in other connections—reached a contrary conclusion. And, while Professor Weinstein’s reply to me relies on a third expert (Mr. Cassidy), his reply again fails to disclose that Mr. Cassidy specifically expressed the view that it “is highly improbable that Alger Hiss made any of the sixty (60) hand printed corrections” and that it “is highly improbable that Alger Hiss made any of the proofreading marks.” Mr. Cassidy did reach an adverse conclusion regarding Mrs. Hiss; but while this perhaps merits further study, it should be realized that his finding conflicts with the conclusions of both Mr. Haring and Mr. Fearon. Moreover, had the Government any evidence or expert opinion that the Hiss couple made any of the interlinear corrections, the Government would presumably have made this point at the trials.

The Location of and Brand of Typewriters

Professor Weinstein has accused Mr. Hiss of concealing his knowledge in early December 1948 that he had given his old Woodstock typewriter ten years before to the Catlett family and of lying to the FBI and Grand Jury in suggesting that he might have given it to the Salvation Army or a second-hand dealer. In reply, I cited internal evidence from the defense files that the Hisses themselves were considering at least three places in early December—the Salvation Army, second-hand dealers, and a writer named Don Tilman—as possible locations for the Woodstock. That any one of these three possibilities was being considered refutes Professor Weinstein’s charge that the defense knew that the Woodstock had been given to the Catletts. Professor Weinstein made no comment about this evidence, but has not withdrawn his much publicized accusation.

As I indicated in my previous letter, it is not unlikely that the Catletts were considered as still a fourth possible location for the Woodstock. I based this not on any new discovery of Professor Weinstein, but merely on a passage from Mr. Hiss’s book, published nineteen years ago. Referring to the Woodstock, he recalled that stepson “Timothy was the only one of us who thought it might have gone to the Catlett boys, his own contemporaries.” However, as the defense files indicate, even Timothy was considering alternative locations for the Woodstock.

In his original article, Professor Weinstein quoted from a letter by John Davis, an attorney working for Mr. Hiss. In that letter, written some three weeks after a telephone conversation with Mr. Hiss, Davis alluded to “an old machine” which, according to Davis’s recollection, Mr. Hiss recalled had been given to a Catlett boy. From the Davis letter, Professor Weinstein jumped to the conclusion that the “old machine” in question was the Woodstock. In light of the passage I found in Mr. Hiss’s book, it might not be unreasonable to infer that, when talking to Mr. Davis on December 7, Mr. Hiss conveyed Timothy’s recollection about the Woodstock. However, from the Davis letter alone, no such inference is warranted. It is not even clear from the Davis letter that the “old machine” in question was the Woodstock. It might have been the old Hiss Corona instead.

I made this point merely to illustrate Professor Weinstein’s apparent inability to read documents carefully. His reply provided me with a more glaring illustration. He insisted “that there is no evidence in the defense files to support [Salant’s] assertion that Hiss owned ‘several’ typewriters during the 1930s” (my emphasis).3 This claim has no direct bearing on any accusation which Professor Weinstein has made against Mr. Hiss. But, as with those accusations, this statement reveals what little confidence ought to be placed in Professor Weinstein’s confident assertions.

In my previous letter, I cited the dates of two documents from the Hiss defense file which allude to more than one Hiss typewriter, and quoted from them. These documents indicate that on December 2, 1948, Mr. McLean wrote Mr. Hiss that: “All the details as to the dates of acquisition and disposal of the various typewriters should be established as accurately as possible” (plural—my emphasis). This request presumably resulted in the interview with Mrs. Hiss and their son on Saturday, December 4 and led to Mr. Hiss’s telephone call to Mr. Davis the following Tuesday.

A memorandum summarizing the interview with Mrs. Hiss and her son bears as its title: “Hiss Typewriters” (plural—my emphasis), and mentions, in addition to the Woodstock, “a rickety portable which [Timothy] thought was a Corona.” A 1939 Cub Scout menu of Timothy’s, which Timothy recalled he typed on the Corona (Mr. Haring verified that this brand of machine was used), serves to establish that the machine was in the Hiss household as early as 1939. Reference is also made in the “Hiss Typewriters” memorandum to still a third typewriter—a Royal, apparently purchased in 1942. These were at least some of the various typewriters about which details were being sought on December 4. On December 7, Mr. Hiss appears to have called Mr. Davis about “an old machine” given to the Catletts.

In replying to his critics, Professor Weinstein accuses the Hisses of deceiving the FBI about still another matter. He asserts that, after learning that a documents expert had identified some Hiss correspondence from the 1930s as having been typed on a Woodstock (the Hisses said they had been unable to recall the brand name of the typewriter they had last seen ten years before), the Hisses purposefully concealed this information from the FBI. Weinstein advances this charge of deception with respect to Mrs. Hiss in his reply to me, and with respect to both Mr. and Mrs. Hiss in his response to Professor Theoharis [NYR, May 27].4

The background for this accusation is reflected in a memorandum dated December 8, 1948 written by Edward McLean. McLean there describes his realization on December 6, 1948 that a number of old documents typed by the Hisses had been in his possession since September. McLean promptly showed one of these documents, an unsigned letter dated January 30, 1933, to the documents expert, J. Howard Haring, who immediately identified it as having been typed on a Woodstock typewriter, possibly the one that typed the Chambers’ documents.

There is little question that Professor Weinstein has read this McLean memorandum. Yet in his response to Professor Theoharis, under the heading “December 6, 1948,” he alleges that “McLean (as his memo shows) reports this [discovery by Haring] to Alger and Priscilla Hiss that same day” (my emphasis). Professor Weinstein then castigates Mrs. Hiss for withholding the information from the FBI in her interview of December 6.

Professor Weinstein’s statement that Mrs. Hiss was told this information simply cannot be squared with McLean’s memorandum, which specifically notes that:

The January 30 letter had not been mentioned at Mrs. Hiss’ meeting with the F.B.I. on Monday, December 6, because she did not then know about it. [My emphasis]

The discrepancy between the conduct ascribed by Professor Weinstein to Priscilla Hiss on December 6 and the plain language of the McLean memorandum can perhaps be regarded as simply another inadvertent misreading of a document.

The same can scarcely be said of the balance of Professor Weinstein’s accusations. In concluding his description of the events of December 6, 1948, Weinstein goes on to charge Mr. Hiss with failure to:

correct his December 4 statement to the F.B.I. with the new [i.e., Haring identification of the Woodstock] information.

The discrepancy between this accusation that Mr. Hiss deceived the FBI and Mr. Hiss’s forthright actions as described in McLean’s memorandum cannot be ascribed to mere inadvertence. The memorandum speaks for itself:

I did not tell either Mr. or Mrs. Hiss about the discovery until the afternoon of December 6 when I told Mr. Hiss about it. I also discussed it further with Mr. Haring who said that although he had not had a chance to complete his examination, such examination as he had made led him to believe as a tentative conclusion that [the January 30, 1933] letter was typed on the same typewriter as the Chambers’ documents.

Mr. Hiss told me at once that he wanted me to bring this letter to the attention of the F.B.I.

I talked to Mr. Hiss about 9:00 a.m. on December 7 about this again. He again insisted that I show the letter to the F.B.I. at once. I thereupon called Francis O’Brien, the F.B.I. agent whom I had met on Monday afternoon, and made an appointment to see him. The first time that he could see me was 11:30 this morning.

* * *

I went to Mr. O’Brien’s at 11:30 and showed him the ribbon copy of the letter of January 30, the carbon copy of it and the carbon copy of the letter of February 17, 1933 [which Mr. McLean had come across that morning].

I told Mr. O’Brien that our expert had said that a quick examination indicated that the January 30 letter was typed on a Woodstock. I did not tell him the expert’s opinion as to whether it was the identical Woodstock upon which the Chambers’ documents were typed. I did tell him, however, that I would not be unduly surprised if it turned out that this was the case. [My emphasis]

It is difficult to understand how anyone could charge that Mr. Hiss failed to “correct his December 4th statement to the FBI with the new information” after even the most cursory reading of this memorandum.

The matters touched on in this letter are not trifling. They involve some of the more important and most publicized of Professor Weinstein’s accusations concerning Mr. Hiss. And there is an important point to be made. It is Professor Weinstein himself who has said that any accurate historical assessment of the Hiss case will turn, not on any single piece of evidence, but on a balanced appraisal of it all. To my mind, this means a review of all available data and the testing of any hypotheses in light of it all. In contrast, Professor Weinstein’s treatment of the routing of the Mary Martin cable and Mr. Hiss’s responsibilities to Mr. Sayre suggests a willingness to overlook inconvenient information. A similar willingness is reflected both in his failure to disclose that several possibilities were being considered for the location of the Woodstock and that most experts (including those on whom Professor Weinstein himself relied in other respects) did not link the Hiss couple to the interlinear corrections on the typewritten documents.

More importantly, no scholar can even purport to offer a balanced appraisal until all relevant evidence has been (1) identified and (2) accurately read. Professor Weinstein’s confident denial that evidence exists in the Hiss defense files regarding several typewriters reflects a deficiency on his part in the first respect; the glaring contradictions between McLean’s December 8 memorandum and Professor Weinstein’s accusations indicate a basic lack of care in the second.

I submit that this and not the issue of partisanship, is the heart of the differences between Professor Weinstein and myself. Given his treatment of the December 8 memorandum, who among us can have any confidence in his ability to read the documentary evidence accurately? This problem must surely be aggravated in the case of other documents, to which Professor Weinstein so frequently resorts, that he has failed to permit others to review. And if, as I suggest is the case, there are good grounds for questioning the accuracy of Professor Weinstein’s reading both of evidence that is available to us all and of evidence that is not, who among us can have any faith that the forthcoming book to which Professor Weinstein so frequently refers will constitute the balanced appraisal of all of the evidence that he has promised, rather than more of his own personal preconceptions—documented by misleadingly selected, casually read, and inaccurately interpreted bits of data from the entire corpus of evidence bearing on this case?

Stephen W. Salant

Washington, DC

(The writer is an independent researcher on the Hiss case who located the misplaced rolls of pumpkin microfilm last year and, among other, sued for access to them under the Freedom of Information Act.—S. W. S)

Allen Weinstein replies:

Since my comments on Irons’s letter deal with issues also raised by Stephen W. Salant’s introductory statements, I will not repeat them. Instead, I turn directly to his specific criticisms.

The Handwritten Note:

Salant here either omits or distorts the evidence I presented in my April 1 review and in my May 27 reply to his earlier letter. At neither time did I claim that Mary Martin was an admirable person or a reliable witness. I stated, first, that a confidential cable sent by Loy Henderson to the State Department in 1938—which quoted a telegram Henderson had received from Mrs. Martin—was copied verbatim by Alger Hiss (a fact that Hiss acknowledged after first denying that the copy was in his handwriting). Second, the identical cable was then quoted almost verbatim by Chambers in a November 1938 article he wrote on Soviet espionage after his defection. Finally, Hiss’s handwritten copy was turned over by Chambers to Hiss’s lawyers in November 1948. This damaging sequence of evidence has nothing to do with Mary Martin’s anti-Semitism or the question of her reliability as a witness.

Nor does Salant’s extended description of former assistant secretary of state Francis B. Sayre’s trial testimony explain away Sayre’s earlier doubts, expressed to Hiss’s lawyers and to the FBI, about having been interested in the Robinson-Rubens cables (including the Mary Martin cable from Henderson). Salant overlooks Sayre’s statement, supported by depositions in both defense and FBI files from the two secretaries in Sayre’s office at the time, that the notes Hiss occasionally made of cables were usually summaries, and were clipped to the documents themselves and filed after he briefed Sayre.

Salant makes no effort to explain either why Hiss transcribed the cable in question exactly at the time or why, ten years later, he persisted in expressing uncertainty that the transcription was in his handwriting until his own and FBI documents experts confirmed this fact. For example, Hiss made the following pretrial statement to his attorneys on March 8, 1949.

Q. Now, Mr. Hiss, I show you a handwritten piece of paper about three inches wide by five inches long, beginning “Tel. fr. Mary Martin.” Is that paper in your handwriting?

A. I believe it is not, Mr. Stryker.5

Discounting Chambers’s 1938 article about the Rubens case, Salant states that Chambers’s veracity should be as much open to question as Hiss’s. But he has missed the point; for it only helps to confirm Chambers’s veracity if in a manuscript of 1938, which has recently turned up, Chambers quoted nearly verbatim a cable Hiss had transcribed. This is additional evidence that the Mary Martin cable was one of the “handwritten matters” he referred to when he wrote to his former associates in Soviet espionage later in 1938.

Salant complains that I failed to note that the Mary Martin cable had been routed to Francis Sayre’s office and that I omitted mentioning that Sayre testified at the second trial that “one of Mr. Hiss’s responsibilities was to keep Mr. Sayre current, sometimes by oral briefings, on cable traffic incoming to the State Department.” But as I said in my reply of May 27, Sayre’s recollections underwent an interesting transformation on this point as Hiss’s trial approached. Thus, Hiss’s lawyer, Edward McLean, wrote on December 19, 1948, after interviewing Sayre: “Sayre would not admit that he recalled having seen written memoranda prepared by Hiss like the samples produced by Chambers.” In a later interview, Sayre repeated that he did “not recall that it was Alger’s duty to ‘sift’ cables and digest them and make oral reports on contents.” He disavowed specifically having asked Hiss to digest cables on military information, such as the material contained in the three remaining handwritten notes by Hiss that Chambers turned over in 1948.

Finally, under questioning by McLean, Sayre recalled Hiss’s making “handwritten” memos on documents which Sayre asked him to read. “These would be brief opinions, recommendations for action, etc. They would not be summaries of the contents.” (As the four memos in Hiss’s handwriting were.) As for Sayre’s exchange with Nixon, which Salant rebukes me for misinterpreting, surely Salant is aware that the critical point in this exchange is not Nixon’s question of whether Hiss’s duties included paraphrasing documents at home but whether Hiss’s duties included paraphrasing any documents.

As I indicated in my May 27 reply, the doubts Sayre expressed earlier about Hiss’s duties in this respect (anxieties he communicated to the defense lawyers, to HUAC, and to the FBI) had been partially resolved in his mind by the time he testified on Hiss’s behalf at the second trial. But still, as Salant notes, he would not say that Hiss ever used notes to brief him orally. And when read carefully, his court testimony quoted by Salant is ambiguous. He never explicitly concedes that he was “interested” in the Robinson-Rubens case, only that it was a current matter for the Department and the press. We are still left with the picture of Hiss carefully copying this apparently cryptic telegram and of Sayre saying, years later, not simply that he did not remember it, but that he “especially” could not understand “why an exact copy should have been made.”

Several significant points emerge from Salant’s latest opinions on the Robinson-Rubens case. First, he has apparently backed away from the argument he made in his first letter that the Mary Martin cable transcribed by Hiss was not included in one of Loy Henderson’s dispatches to State on the Robinson-Rubens case. Second, as to FBI document number 3050, I am thoroughly familiar with its contents. There is no doubt in my mind (and perhaps I should have made this clear earlier) that by 1949 Mary Martin had become a fanatical anti-Semite. I am somewhat less persuaded (because of other evidence that the man who used the names “Robinson-Rubens” was a Soviet agent, born in Latvia) that Mrs. Martin was necessarily wrong in claiming that “Robinson-Rubens” was the particular man named “Rubens” whom she claimed to have met both in Latvia during the 1920s and in the United States in 1933. Her testimony on this point later changed, but even if she was completely muddled on this identification, the important point is that Mary Martin’s mental condition in 1949 and her credibility as an expert witness on the Communist underground are not the important issues in the Hiss-Chambers case. What should be clear is that, in 1938, Soviet intelligence would have been interested in cables to and from Henderson about the Robinson-Rubens affair.

Salant has used the FBI report to obscure the pivotal factors that I discussed in these pages on April 1 and May 27: Alger Hiss transcribed Henderson’s confidential Mary Martin cable in 1938; Chambers restated the cable practically verbatim later that year; Chambers turned over the copy in Hiss’s handwriting to Hiss’s lawyers a decade later. Without addressing himself to these facts, Salant, by using the FBI’s derogatory information on Mary Martin, has diverted attention from them.

Concerning Mrs. Rubens’s fate, Mr. Salant cites a story in The New York Times of November 17, 1939, saying that she settled in the Ukraine. I hope this story was true; but it does no more than quote official Soviet sources on Mrs. Rubens, who was, after all, an American citizen in whom the State Department and the world press had taken an interest. She was arrested in Moscow during the height of the purges, a time when a great many Soviet foreign agents were recalled to the USSR and liquidated. If Mr. Salant has any evidence that she survived, apart from the Soviet government’s statement, I would be grateful to know about it.

Interlinear Corrections

Mr. Salant states one of the defense expert’s views inaccurately, as I did myself. A careful re-examination of Edwin Fearon’s reports reveals still more evidence damaging to Alger Hiss. In my May 27 reply to Salant I pointed out that one defense expert, Harry E. Cassidy, concluded that Priscilla Hiss printed or wrote all of the interlinear corrections. Salant had suggested that another expert, J. Howard Haring, was basically neutral on the question of who made the handwritten interlineations. But, in fact, to the specific question asked by Hiss’s attorneys—whether it was more likely that Hiss or Chambers had written these corrections—Haring responded: “I am inclined to the opinion that the AH corrections more closely resemble the QUESTIONED writing, than do the writings of WC.”

Both Mr. Salant and I were incorrect in believing that a third defense expert, Edwin Fearon, had differed seriously from Haring on the matter of the interlinear corrections. Salant’s previous letter quoted from Fearon’s report of May 17, 1949, that Fearon’s analysis “would not justify the opinion that he [Hiss] made them.” But Salant failed to quote the entire sentence from Fearon’s letter to Hiss’s lawyer, Edward McLean, from which that phrase was drawn: “A comparison of the corrections on sample sheets that Mr. Hiss made in my presence would not justify an opinion that he made them [i.e., the interlinear corrections on the stolen documents].” This means only that in 1949 Alger Hiss rewrote the interlinear corrections for Fearon in a form that did not exactly resemble those made on documents stolen in the 1930s. But in his report to the Hiss lawyers on April 5, 1949—a document that both Salant and I failed to mention earlier—Fearon reached the same conclusion stated earlier by Haring: “The corrections appearing in Exhibits 5-47 inclusive (exception—Exhibit 10) bear a closer resemblence [sic] to the handwritten corrections made by AH than to those made by WC.”

Thus two defense experts, Haring and Fearon, both thought it likelier that their client, Alger Hiss, rather than Whittaker Chambers, made the interlinear corrections, while a third expert, Cassidy, decided that the writer in question had been Priscilla Hiss. But after examining the typed documents, all three experts rejected the idea that Hiss’s lawyers had hoped to prove, namely that Chambers himself made the notations.

Since both Salant and I have referred to the opinions of Hiss’s three leading documents experts at the time during both of our exchanges, readers might find a capsule summary of their conclusions helpful:

J. Howard Haring (who worked for Hiss’s lawyers during the Grand Jury probe that led to Hiss’s indictment in December 1948 and for a time thereafter): Hiss wrote all four handwritten memos (including the Mary Martin cable); the interlinear corrections “more closely resemble” Hiss’s writing than Chambers’s; the stolen documents were typed on the identical Woodstock on which samples of Priscilla Hiss’s typing were done during the 1930s; the typist could not be identified definitely although there exist “certain similarities between the typing on the Baltimore papers and the typing on the Hiss samples” most likely done by Mrs. Hiss, according to Alger Hiss. Haring’s conclusion: “The only pronounced difference between the known Hiss samples and the Baltimore papers is that the Baltimore papers are all single spaced whereas most of the Hiss samples are double spaced.”

Edwin H. Fearon (chief defense documents examiner prior to Hiss’s first trial): Hiss wrote all four handwritten memos: the interlinear corrections “bear a closer resemblence [sic]” to Hiss’s handwriting than to Chambers’s; “the questioned typing, with the exception of exhibit 10 [the one document not typed on a Woodstock] was typed on Woodstock typewriter no.N230099 [the Hiss machine recovered by the defense].” Fearon’s analysis was helpful to the defense only in his conclusion—which contradicted the one reached by the FBI experts—that the same person did not type both the stolen documents and the four “Hiss standards”—letters typed by Alger or Priscilla Hiss during the 1930s—supplied by the government. (The defense’s next documents examiner disagreed.)

Harry E. Cassidy (who worked for the defense before Hiss’s second trial): Mrs. Hiss made the interlinear corrections; Mrs. Hiss typed all of the stolen documents (except for exhibit 10, which was not typed on a Woodstock).

The FBI’s laboratory findings were no more favorable. The Bureau’s experts concluded even before recovery of the typewriter that samples of the Hisses’ typing during the 1930s matched the stolen documents and had been typed on the same Woodstock. The Grand Jury accepted this evidence and indicted Hiss.

The Location and Brand of Typewriters

Here Salant either distorts the evidence or fails to mention it. First, he notes that Alger and Priscilla Hiss told their lawyers in December 1948 that they might have given their old typewriter to the Salvation Army, secondhand dealers, or to a writer named Don Tilghman (not “Tilman”). This, he would argue, “refutes Prof. Weinstein’s charge that the defense knew that the Woodstock had been given to the Catletts.” But the point I was making was that Hiss never seems to have informed his chief attorney, Edward McLean, during that entire month (despite daily meetings with McLean) about his phone call to John F. Davis on December 7, when Hiss told Davis he recalled having given his old typewriter to the Catlett family. Nor did Hiss correct his December 4 statement to the FBI that the machine had probably been disposed of to secondhand dealers or junk dealers. (He never mentioned the Catletts to the Bureau.) Nor did he inform the Grand Jury, on any of his several days of testifying after his phone call to Davis, that he remembered giving the Catletts the machine. On December 10, asked by a grand juror whether the typewriter had been sold or thrown away, Hiss stated: “I have not any recollection of its disposition at all.” On December 14, when asked how he got rid of his old typewriter, he insisted, “I frankly have no idea,” and he repeated this claim the following day, the day of his indictment.

Replying to still another question on December 15 about gifts he had made, he remembered having given a used radio to the Catletts but he did not mention the typewriter. Hiss has insisted upon this version of events up to the present day, and told me during several interviews (e.g., on June 21, 1975) that he was “absolutely unaware” of “where it had gone [until] Mike Catlett came to Donald [Hiss]” in January 1949. Until that time, according to Hiss, he “had no idea where it was.”

Salant claims that during December 1948 “it is not unlikely that the Catletts were considered as still a fourth possible location for the Woodstock.” But Hiss’s 1957 memoir, which he quotes to support this claim, states that Timothy Hobson was the “only one of us” to think of the Catletts; and this, if true, contradicts Hiss’s own recollection, as described by John F. Davis in his letter of December 1948.

As for Timothy, the key defense file to which Salant apparently refers is a December 7, 1948, memo by McLean which records an interview on December 4 with Mrs. Hiss and Timothy on the subject of “Hiss Typewriters.” In it Timothy Hobson says nothing about the Catletts having received the Woodstock (nor does he claim this in any other defense memo I have read). But the memo states the following: “He [Timothy] also suggested that perhaps the Hisses had given away the Fansler typewriter [the Woodstock given to Priscilla Hiss by her father, Mr. Fansler] to a writer friend. The only writer he could think of was Don Tilman [sic] whom he said was left-wing. Mrs. Hiss vigorously denied that Don Tilman was left-wing and also said that she was sure that the typewriter had not been given to him.”

Mr. Salant then rehashes an old point, the question of whether or not the “old machine” which Hiss told Davis (on December 7) that he had given to the Catletts was actually the Fansler Woodstock or, perhaps, could have been some other Hiss family typewriter. There is plenty of additional evidence from defense files to corroborate the contention that Hiss and his attorneys understood at the time that the “old machine” mentioned referred only to the Fansler Woodstock. The Hisses owned only one typewriter during the period of their association with Chambers in the 1930s, as both Alger and Priscilla stated to the FBI in December 1948.

Salant’s argument that there were several “old machines” in the Hiss household during the 1930s should be compared with the following excerpts from the Grand Jury testimony of Priscilla Hiss on December 10 and of Alger Hiss on December 14, 1948:

Priscilla Hiss, Grand Jury testimony, December 10, 1948:

Q. Did you have a typewriter in your possession in 1935?

A. Yes….

Q. And how long did you have that same typewriter?

A. That I don’t know, because I don’t know when we got rid of it…. It was an old office typewriter….

Q. Do you recall the make?

A. No, I am sorry. I don’t recall it. My father had given it to me from his office when he retired. It had belonged to him and he presented it to me. [pp. 2423-2424, First Trial]

Alger Hiss, Grand Jury testimony, December 14, 1948:

Q. How many typewriters did you have in your home over…that period of time, in other words, when you were changing from the Dept. of Justice to the Dept. of State [1936]?

A. I remember the old typewriter I have testified about before and your have examined me about.

Q. When you say the “old typewriter” you are referring to the typewriter

A. That belonged to Mr. Fansler, my wife’s father.

Q. Now I believe that you have stated that the typewriter was in your house for a long period of time, is that correct?

A. Yes. I think we had it from the early 30s for some period after that, some years after that. [p. 834, First Trial]

The Hisses subsequently acquired a Corona portable in the late 1930s (after the stolen documents had been typed on the Woodstock) and a Royal portable in 1942. Mr. Salant’s attempt to blend all three machines into a composite portrait of several “Hiss typewriters” being used simultaneously during the 1930s has no basis whatever. He fails to quote another portion of that same December 4 interview with Timothy Hobson in which McLean wrote that Hiss’s stepson had “said that he very definitely recalled that between the time that they god rid of the Fansler typewriter and the time they acquired the Royal from Cynthia Jones [in 1942], they had a rickety portable which he thought was a Corona.” Priscilla Hiss also recalled the same sequence of Hiss typewriters for the Grand Jury on December 10; and Alger Hiss told the FBI on December 4 that his family owned one typewriter, the Fansler machine, “during the period from 1936 to sometime after 1938.”6

Salant’s own letter confirms that there was little, if any, overlap between the Hisses’ possession of the three machines—the Fansler Woodstock or “old office typewriter” (1932?-1938), the Corona portable (1938 or 1939-1942), and the Royal portable. The last was not (as Salant states) “apparently purchased in 1942” but—according to McLean’s memo of the December 4 conversation about “Hiss typewriters” from which Salant only selectively quotes—“a gift from Cynthia Jones, a sister of Donald Hiss’s wife.” Both the Corona and the Royal were irrelevant to Chambers’s accusations against Hiss. The sole typewriter about which Hiss’s lawyers sought further information during December 1948 was the Fansler Woodstock, especially after Haring identified the stolen documents and Hiss samples on December 6 as apparently having been typed on the same machine.

The Hisses’ Testimony on the Woodstock

McLean’s December 8 memo states that he told Alger Hiss, but not Priscilla, early on the afternoon of December 6 that the old Fansler machine had been identified by Mr. Haring as a Woodstock. Salant rightly corrects me when he points out that Mrs. Hiss did not learn from McLean at that time (according to the memo) about Haring’s identification. Later that afternoon, December 6, however, she was told by McLean of a defense investigator’s report that her father had said he was giving her his Woodstock. The next day, December 7, she continued to deny she knew the make of the typewriter he gave her.

I shall return to the complex question of what Mrs. Hiss might have known and what she said. But first the sequence of events must be clarified. On December 6, Haring told McLean that one of the Hisses’ letters of 1933 had apparently been typed on the same machine as the Chambers documents. As Salant points out, Hiss, on hearing of this from McLean, told him “at once” to bring this 1933 letter to the attention of the FBI; and McLean did so the next morning, December 7. 7

What, we might ask, were Hiss’s options? Could he have instructed McLean not to inform the FBI about this critical new evidence in the case, after having told the bureau two days earlier, in the office of his libel lawyer William Marbury, that “he would make every effort to locate [a manuscript typed by Mrs. Hiss during the 1930s] as well as other specimens known to have been typed on the HISS typewriter, especially during the period from 1933 to 1939”?8

Marbury had written to Hiss on December 3 expressing deep concern about the missing typewriter and the absence of typing samples: “I am troubled by the fact that your inability to explain what became of the typewriter which Prossie had in 1938 might be construed as an attempt to cover up something. This inference could be rebutted by the voluntary production on your part of papers which were typed on that particular machine. I think that she should make every effort to locate some such papers.” Hiss’s attorneys could hardly be expected to withhold the newly found letter from the FBI on December 6, especially in the light of Marbury’s advice to Hiss.

Hiss insisted to McLean only that the letter itself be shown to the FBI; he did not ask that the Bureau be informed about Haring’s analysis of its relationship to the stolen documents.

What facts did Mrs. Hiss know about the Woodstock and when did she learn them? A portion of McLean’s December 8 memo of the events of December 6, one that Salant does not mention, describes a meeting of Mrs. Hiss’s with McLean and an FBI agent.

She was asked whether she had a typewriter obtained from her father and she said yes. She said that her father was in the insurance business in Philadelphia. [FBI Agent] O’Brien asked me directly whether I had obtained any information from the insurance office as to the typewriter. I told him that this afternoon, I had been informed by our investigator that he had found a man in the office which is the successor to Mr. Fansler’s office who said that he remembered that Mr. Fansler took a Woodstock Typewriter from the office and said that he was going to give it to Mrs. Hiss, that this was in 1937 and that Mr. Fansler died in 1938. I stated that this man’s recollection was undoubtedly wrong as to the dates because Mr. Fansler died in 1940 and Mrs. Hiss was sure that whatever typewriter she obtained from her father was obtained long before 1937, probably at least by 1933 and perhaps earlier…. O’Brien asked whether Mrs. Hiss had any specimens of and typewriter done in her home. She said no. I felt it necessary to point out that this answer was incorrect.

McLean then mentioned having found two specimens, “neither of them…done on a Woodstock,” but said nothing until the following day about the January 1933 letter typed on a Woodstock that he had discussed with Haring and Alger Hiss earlier in the afternoon.

The events that followed are best described in another section of that same December 8 memo by McLean, a portion dealing with Mrs. Hiss’s FBI interview:

On December 7, about 5 P.M. Mrs. Hiss met again with Mr. O’Brien of the F.B.I…. O’Brien showed her the carbon of the January 30 letter and asked her if she recognized it. She said she did not. He asked her whether she had typed it. She said she did not remember. He asked her whether it looked like her typing or the type on her typewriter. She said she could not say. He asked her whether on the basis of this letter she could state definitely that she had the Fansler typewriter in New York. She said that she still could not remember. O’Brien, in some disgust, said that there was no need to put anything about this in her statement.

Subsequently, O’Brien pointed out to me while Mrs. Hiss was out of the room that without some admission from her that this paper was typed on her typewriter, the chain of evidence would still not be wholly complete even if it should develop that this was the typewriter which typed the Chambers documents. I was unable to tell by his manner whether he thought that Mrs. Hiss was intentionally withholding this last link of evidence or not.

I should have mentioned above that when I showed this letter to Mr. Hiss on December 6, he said at once that he remembered the letter and the incident relating to his insurance to which the letter refers and that it must have been typed on the Hiss typewriter, undoubtedly by Mrs. Hiss, as he does not type that well.

Mrs. Hiss continued to deny, when testifying to the Grand Jury later that month, that she knew the make of her father’s machine, which had been in the Hiss household for at least six years. Her testimony remained constant on this point throughout Hiss’s two perjury trails, and when she was asked at the second trial whether she recalled the make before the machine had been recovered by the defense in April 1949, she replied: “No, I didn’t.” The Hiss defense files, however, contain two December 1948 letters written to Mrs. Hiss by her brother, Thomas Fansler, which refer to the machine as a Woodstock. “I am sorry but I cannot recall anything definite about the Woodstock typewriter,” Fansler wrote on December 26, answering Mrs. Hiss’s inquiry on the question. Four days later, he wrote her once more, observing matter-of-factly about the machine: “Again, re how come the Chambers documents were copied on Father’s Woodstock (if true!)?”

When did Alger Hiss first discuss the question of “Father’s Woodstock” with Mrs. Hiss? Did they talk about it during the critical nine days between December 6, when McLean told Hiss about Haring’s identification of the typewriter, and December 15, the date of Hiss’s indictment? At the second trial Priscilla acknowledged having talked about the disposition of the typewriter to her husband “a day or two prior to my being in the grand jury” [on December 10], in short, after Hiss had told John F. Davis on December 7 that the machine had been given to the Catletts (Second Trial, p. 2511). Priscilla Hiss also recalled a discussion with her husband about the whereabouts of the “old machine” after Hiss’s December 4 FBI interview but prior to her own December 7 statement.9

Of course it is possible that while discussing the Woodstock’s disposition with his wife during this period, Mr. Hiss failed to inform her about Haring’s findings. Priscilla Hiss had already heard about the report of McLean’s investigator concerning a Woodstock at her December 6 meeting with the FBI, but she may have felt that the report from her father’s former office was too imprecise to be conclusive. After being confronted by the FBI agents with the 1933 letter typed on the “old machine” on December 7, she denied having typed it. Both to the FBI and to the Grand Jury three days later, she insisted that she did not know the make of the Fansler machine. It could be argued—although it is not easy to believe—that Mrs. Hiss was so troubled by the case, or so forgetful, that she did not remember the 1933 letter or the make of the typewriter. She may have felt that, having heard the report of McLean’s investigator, she still could not say she knew it was a Woodstock.

It seems possible, moreover, that both her husband and his chief attorney, Edward McLean, shielded her from knowledge of the damaging information in Haring’s analysis of the January 1933 letter. Hiss, for his part, insisted to the FBI, the Grand Jury, and to his own lawyers that his wife (and not he) had probably typed all the various “Hiss standard” letters from the 1930s. In the light of Haring’s “tentative conclusion” that the January 1933 insurance company letter had been typed on the same machine as the stolen documents, Hiss’s claim would have suggested to McLean—and to the FBI and Grand Jury, had they known about Haring’s analysis—that Priscilla Hiss had probably typed the stolen documents. Under the circumstances, both her husband and his lawyer may have felt that the less she knew about the defense investigation on December 6 and 7, the better it would be for all concerned while her FBI deposition was still to be given.

For Hiss’s testimony before the Grand Jury and at his two trials, however, no such defense seems available. For example, at one point during the first trial he indicated that he did not know whether or not McLean had even hired a documents examiner prior to his indictment. He then said that he was not told the examiner’s conclusion that both the stolen documents and the “Hiss standards” had been typed on the Fansler Woodstock. Hiss’s evasions on these critical points under cross-examination by Prosecutor Murphy are worth quoting here (especially in light of McLean’s December 8 memo recording these events). Those passages directly contradicted by McLean’s December 8 memo are in italics:

Q. You yourself, or your lawyers, hired experts, did you not?…

A. My own attorneys have consulted experts from time to time in preparations of my defense in this case.

Q. Well, prior to you indictment they also hired experts, didn’t they?

A. I don’t know just when they first did.

Q. And didn’t you tell the grand jury in words or substance that you had been advised by your experts that these documents, the Baltimore papers, were typed on a Woodstock typewriter?

A. I said that in substance, yes, sir.

Q. Yes. And were you also advised that it was their opinion, now your experts, that it was not only typed on a Woodstock typewriter but on the Woodstock typewriter, that is, the Fansler typewriter?

A. I was not rendered any opinion by any expert. They rendered their opinion, such as they gave to my counsel. On the question you specifically asked I have no knowledge.

Q. You don’t what, remember?

A. No, I say, I have no knowledge of what you asked.

Q. You have no knowledge of what the experts’ opinion was, or you have no recollection of what you told the grand jury?

A. I have no knowledge as to whether the experts said specifically that the standard or the questioned documents were typed on a particular machine. I do know that I was told that they said they were typed on a Woodstock. I was not told more. [pp. 2056-2058, First Trial]

Readers will find the appropriate sections of McLean’s December 3 memo bearing on Hiss’s testimony quoted in Salant’s letter, and there is no need to repeat them here.

Ludwig Lore

In a footnote, Salant raise the question of Ludwig Lore’s claim that Chambers, after his defection, gave Lore a packet of stolen documents to hide temporarily as “life preservers,” protection from Soviet retribution. Salant criticizes me for omitting Mrs. Lore’s 1949 statement to the FBI that her husband’s story “may very well have been untrue” and also for omitting Chambers’s own denial in 1949 that he ever gave Lore any papers to conceal. Although Chambers did deny turning over papers to Lore, he did say that, during one of his visits, he “may” have had some papers with him. Some clarification of his relations with Lore after he defected in 1938 can be found in Herbert Solow’s notarized memo of November 12, 1938, about his own contacts with Chambers:

I saw Chambers in July-August until mid-September [1938] and was then quite busy for a time [Solow wrote]. I heard nothing more about Chambers until I visited Ludwig Lore around the time the Rumrich trial opened [a trial of Nazi spies in October 1938]…toward the end of the talk he spoke of a mysterious man who had broken with the GPU, had two children, etc. I was sure he was speaking of Chambers, and although we never mentioned Chambers name, we agreed after exchanging a few details of description, that we knew the same man. He told me the man of whom he was speaking had deposited a statement with three friends. He told me he expected to hear from the man within a week…. Several days later I had a telephone call from [Chambers]…. I said…that I had had a talk with Lore, that no names were mentioned, but that I wanted to tell him the story lest something get gummed up between us due to Lore. [December 6]…I told Chambers I had heard of Tina (concerning whom he asked) from Lore and he said “that’s a good reason for me to keep away from Lore, if he knows her.” [Tina was allegedly a Russian agent.]

Talking to Hiss’s lawyers Mrs. Lore recalled clearly Lore’s statement that Chambers had asked him to keep papers. One of Hiss’s attorneys wrote after interviewing Mrs. Lore on August 10, 1949:

The story of her relation with Chambers is this: In 1936 or 1937, her husband invited to lunch a person named Carl [the underground name used frequently by Chambers and under which he claimed to have known Alger Hiss]. …Mrs. Lore was introduced to Chambers only as Carl. She was much impressed by his intelligence and openness. He became a friend of the family and saw her husband on the average of once a month. Mrs. Lore met Mrs. Chambers and the two children once…. Mrs. Lore says that it was her understanding when Chambers first came to Mr. Lore he wanted advice in respect to breaking from the Communist Party….

The facts concerning the safe deposit box are these: One day Mrs. Lore came into her husband’s study and saw a bank book lying on his desk. In it there was a deposit of $25. Mrs. Lore was astounded as her husband never kept a bank account. She asked him the significance of this deposit. He told her that Carl had asked him to keep some documents for him. For this purpose he had gotten a safe deposit box in a Bay Ridge bank. He was informed by the bank that he could not get the box unless he had an account. Therefore he opened the account…. In 1942, after her husband’s death, she received a bill from the bank in which the box had been. She went to the bank and looked into the box and found nothing there. She has no direct knowledge to the effect that her husband ever deposited anything in this box. She can only say that he got the box in his name and that he told her that the arrangements were made in order that certain papers belonging to Chambers could be protected. She thinks that [Chambers’s] story is probably true. On the other hand, she does not like to see Alger Hiss be crucified.

A more interesting question concerns the FBI’s motives in pressing Lore’s widow to acknowledge that her late husband’s story “may very well have been untrue.” Here Chambers himself provides an answer, and in the same FBI report from which Salant quotes him as denying having ever left papers with Lore:

CHAMBERS readily realized the danger to the Government’s case if Mrs. LORE should appear in the next HISS trial as a defense witness testifying to the facts allegedly furnished by Mrs. LORE…. He stated that Mrs. LORE so testifying might cause some doubt in the jury’s mind as to the truth of CHAMBERS’ testimony as to the custody of the papers involved from 1938 to 1948, that is in the constant possession of NATHAN LEVINE…. CHAMBERS appeared interested that agents of the New York Office contact Mrs. LORE before she might be persuaded by the defense to perjure herself in the next trial of ALGER HISS with any such testimony as is alleged to her.

Chambers, in short, feared that Mrs. Lore’s testimony might undermine the credibility of the crucial evidence that was deposited with Nathan I. Levine. But the accuracy of Lore’s claim to have received such “life preservers” from Chambers briefly in 1938 was never at issue, only the fact that Lore, according to his widow, had told her that Chambers had papers he wanted Lore to hold for him. The Hiss defense insisted at the time of the case—and subsequently—that Chambers had never even mentioned possessing such stolen documents before he turned them over in November 1948.

There is nothing new about Mrs. Lore’s acknowledgment to the FBI that she had no firsthand knowledge of the dealings between her husband and Chambers. She had said the same thing previously to Hiss’s attorneys. And Chambers’s insistence that the transaction with Lore had never taken place does not undermine the point I made: that both Lore’s earlier depositions to the FBI and Mrs. Lore’s statements to the Hiss defense in 1949 indicate that Chambers (at the very least) discussed the existence of stolen documents with Lore at the time of his defection, whether or not he actually left such papers with Lore.

None of Salant’s criticisms affects the central points I made in my original article and in my first reply, and some of what he says is badly confused. As for his concern about documentation, as I’ve already stated, I will, when my book is published, deposit my files in an archive, and make them available to other scholars and researchers.

  1. 1

    My italics, as are all others in material quoted in these replies.

  2. 2

    The background of some of the attacks on my original review of Smith is exposed by Kevin Tierney and Philip Nobile in their article, “Reopening the Pumpkin,” in the June issue of More Magazine. Perhaps the most vitriolic recent review of my analysis of Smith’s book appeared in a 4,400-word article by Robert Sherrill in The New York Times Book Review. Sherrill acknowledged to Tierney and Nobile that, despite his “12 straight days of reading up on the case,” he had not yet read my own three previous recent articles on the case. Since the editors of The New York Times Book Review found my reply to Sherrill’s many inaccuracies too long to print, readers interested in seeing a copy can write to me at Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts 01060.

  3. 3

    Mrs. Hiss claimed in testimony during the second trial [Tr. 2354] that the Corona portable as well as the Woodstock had been in their house in 1937 and that it must have been the Corona, not the Woodstock, as she had originally stated, which she had given to the Salvation Army.

  4. 4

    Elsewhere, when replying to Professor Theoharis’s inquiry about “whether the FBI followed up on [Ludwig] Lore’s assertion that Chambers had kept a ‘life preserver packet,’ ” Professor Weinstein fails to cite either Mrs. Lore’s statement to the FBI that her husband’s story, about this “may very well have been untrue” [FBI, 4007] or the statement to the FBI of Chambers himself. Chambers “denied positively that he ever gave Ludwig Lore any papers to keep or conceal [FBI 3932].

    By his original article and the omission of these citations in his reply, Professor Weinstein manages to create the mistaken impression, for both Professor Theoharis and the general reader, that the story he mentioned about Ludwig Lore was never even disputed.

  5. 5

    It is of interest here that John S. Dickey, Hiss’s predecessor as assistant to Sayre, told Hiss’s lawyers in January 1949 that his (Dickey’s) duties had never included writing out summaries of documents: “Sayre did not ask him to abstract dispatches or cables and he did not do so. Specifically, he did not make summaries of cables such as the handwritten notes in our case.”

  6. 6

    Shortly before this exchange went to press, I received from the editors several “final changes” in Salant’s letter, including the footnote describing Mrs. Hiss’s testimony at the second trial to the effect that: 1) both the Corona and Woodstock had been in her home in 1937; 2) the Corona, and not the Woodstock, had probably been given to the Salvation Army. (Salant apparently does not realize that Mrs. Hiss testified to all this even at the first trial—pp. 2285-2286.) Yet Priscilla Hiss’s signed statement to the FBI on December 7 contains only one paragraph about typewriters, which entirely concerns the Fansler machine. It begins: “I have been asked to recall all the facts concerning a typewriter which was in my possession.” Three days earlier, on December 4, when questioned by her husband’s lawyers about typewriters, Mrs. Hiss (according to Edward McLean’s memo) was “not clear whether [after disposing of the Fansler machine] she had any other typewriter until she received her present Royal.”

    In short, she could not recall the Corona at all until her son, Timothy, reminded her during that same discussion that “he very definitely recalled” acquiring a Corona after the Woodstock but before the Royal (Hobson’s statement has already been cited). Hobson recalled the sequence more sketchily for the FBI two months later. Then, he termed the Corona “the only typewriter he recalled owned by the Hiss family in Washington” and he “first recalls this typewriter at the time he resided at Volta Place” (i.e., in 1938, not 1937). Moreover, “he denied that he had any knowledge of the existence of an old upright typewriter at the home of the Hiss family in Washington, DC. He stated that his first knowledge of this typewriter was from a conversation that he had with his mother and father…late in forty eight.” [February 9, 1949-FBI Report, No. 1829] At that time, on December 10, 1948, the Grand Jury asked Mrs. Hiss when the Corona had been purchased, but she could remember “neither when nor where.” As for what happened to the machine, she replied: “I am sorry, I don’t know.”

  7. 7

    In November, when Chambers produced the stolen documents in response to Hiss’s libel suit, Hiss and his lawyers also immediately turned them over to the government. In fact, “the suggestion that the papers be sent to the Department of Justice came from me and not from Alger,” Hiss’s libel lawyer William Marbury wrote McLean in December, 1949, “although her readily acquiesced.”

  8. 8

    FBI report, December 4, 1949, “Re: Details of Interview with Alger Hiss Not Included in Signed Statement.”

  9. 9

    Second Trial, p. 2512.

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