Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason

Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason

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by Christina Shelton
     
 

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In 1948, former U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss was accused of being a Soviet spy. Because the statute of limitations on espionage had run out, he was convicted only of perjury. Decades later—after the Hiss trial had been long forgotten by most—archival evidence surfaced confirming the accusations: a public servant with access to classified…  See more details below

Overview

In 1948, former U.S. State Department official Alger Hiss was accused of being a Soviet spy. Because the statute of limitations on espionage had run out, he was convicted only of perjury. Decades later—after the Hiss trial had been long forgotten by most—archival evidence surfaced confirming the accusations: a public servant with access to classified documents had indeed passed crucial information to the Soviets for more than a decade.

Yet many on the American Left still consider Hiss an iconic figure—an innocent victim accused of unsubstantiated crimes. They prefer to focus on the collectivist ideals Hiss stood for, rather than confront the reality of a man who systematically and methodically betrayed his country.

Former U.S. Intelligence analyst Christina Shelton employs an in-depth knowledge of Soviet intelligence affairs as well as recently released Hungarian and KGB archival material to shine a fresh light on one of the most famous espionage cases. The story is dramatic, but Shelton’s analysis goes beyond sensationalism as she explores both the ideological motivation behind Hiss’s behavior and the lasting influence it has had on U.S. foreign policy.

Why exactly were the intellectual elite so deter-mined that Hiss was innocent? His accuser, Time magazine senior editor Whittaker Chambers—originally Hiss’s Soviet handler—presented compelling written evidence. However, the intelligentsia were intent on supporting one of their own. They ignored the facts, a willful blindness that helped contribute to a polarization still in place in our country today.

Thirty years of intelligence analysis gives Shelton the expertise to approach the story from many different angles, especially:

• Her persuasive argument that Communism and Fascism are not polar opposites, as has so long been claimed, but highly similar ideologies.

• How Hiss’s central role at the Yalta Conference and the founding of the United Nations are examples of the significance of Soviet intelligence recruitment of high-level Americans who could influence U.S. foreign policy in their favor.

• Why the silence surrounding the implications of Hiss’s espionage continues—and why apologists fear that smearing his name would undercut New Deal policies and the United Nations. Shelton doesn’t just detail the body of evidence pointing to Hiss’s guilt; she suggests new layers of meaning in light of the current political landscape.

Today, the importance of understanding Hiss’s ideological commitment has never been more vital. His advocacy of collectivism and internationalism still resonate among the political elite, making this book an important and timely analysis of American thought at this critical juncture in our country’s life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Nowadays, few doubt Alger Hiss (1904–1996) was a Soviet spy, but retired U.S. intelligence analyst Shelton writes that his story deserves retelling because he was a key 20th-century figure whose beliefs continue to influence America’s intellectual elite as they struggle, in her opinion, against individual liberty, small government, and free enterprise. Shelton delivers a clear, detailed account of Hiss’s privileged background, his 1933–1946 government career and that of dozens of fellow traveling and Communist associates; the stormy accusations of espionage; the 1948–1950 trials; his imprisonment, and life-long campaign to rehabilitate his reputation. Despite entire chapters devoted to evidence that he spied, most readers who accept Shelton’s conservative editorializing will not need convincing. Those who agree with Shelton and commentators such as Glenn Beck that America began its decline into collectivism with Woodrow Wilson’s progressivism, advancing into frank socialism with FDR’s New Deal will accept this call to arms against liberals who aim, as Shelton believes, to turn America into a latter-day Soviet Union. Agent: (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"A vigorous reappraisal of the Hiss-Chambers espionage affair, leaving no doubt of Hiss’s guilt.
The author makes a good case for the willful blindness practiced by pro-Hiss parties involved ...

A solid look at the specifics of the case as well as a useful overview of the ideological debate gripping America." —Kirkus

“A timely reminder that the worries about national security and loyalty—concerns often derided as paranoiac, right-wing delusions—were entirely justified.” —Wall Street Journal

"Rigorous and carefully documented analysis...[Alger Hiss] is a rare thing: a good book about an important subject. Shelton makes a sledgehammer of a case…a sustained artillery assault." —National Review

“ A much needed book... With clarity, conciseness, and a sure hand, Christina Shelton guides the reader through what has become an otherwise nearly impenetrable jungle of controversy.”” — Tennent H. Bagley, author of Spy Wars

“In Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason, Christina Shelton ably captures the real Alger Hiss—his path to communism, his treason, and his conviction and imprisonment. Her evidence is overpowering: Alger Hiss was indeed a communist spy. Shelton carefully connects Hiss to his historical context inside America’s political elite, which was chagrined and strangely baffled when Hiss’s treason was exposed.” —Burton Folsom, Jr. and Anita Folsom, authors of FDR Goes to War

“Shelton makes clear what Hiss did and the impact it had on U.S. intelligence. . . . A well-done book written by someone who knows.”

—David Murphy, retired chief of Soviet operations at CIA HQ and author of What Stalin Knew

Kirkus Reviews
A vigorous reappraisal of the Hiss-Chambers espionage affair, leaving no doubt of Hiss' guilt.

Retired U.S. intelligence analyst Shelton provides a systematic chronicle of the affair, introducing the events to a generation who, she suspects, knows little of that fraught era, when left-leaning academics and intellectuals flirted with Soviet Communism before the extent of Stalin's totalitarianism was generally acknowledged. The book encompasses familiar biographies of Alger Hiss, a Baltimore-raised brilliant student of Johns Hopkins and Harvard Law School who went on to become a high-level U.S. State Department officer, and Whittaker Chambers, a Columbia University dropout of exceptional writing ability who became a senior Time editor. By contrast and comparison, Shelton reveals how Hiss used his upper-middle-class German breeding, fancy education and good looks during his two perjury trials to discredit the more slovenly, dumpy Chambers. Hiss, a committed New Dealer, as many communists were, met Chambers when he was recruited during the mid '30s into the so-called Ware Group, a communist cell in Washington, D.C. As a high-placed government lawyer, Hiss had access to classified information and passed it to Chambers, who had the documents copied then delivered to his Soviet superior. However, Chambers' crisis of conscience over Stalin's crimes by 1938 prompted him to quit the party, going underground to save himself from assassination. Until the mid '40s, Hiss' activities were apparently known by many in the State Department and FBI, and Shelton confirms the fact (made unfashionable thanks to the subsequent "red scare") that communists had indeed "infiltrated" many agencies of the U.S. government. The author makes a good case for the willful blindness practiced by the pro-Hiss involved, delving carefully into the literature and documentation.

A solid look at the specifics of the case as well as a useful overview of the ideological debate gripping America.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781451655452
Publisher:
Threshold Editions
Publication date:
04/17/2012
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
616,843
File size:
4 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A vigorous reappraisal of the Hiss-Chambers espionage affair, leaving no doubt of Hiss’s guilt.

The author makes a good case for the willful blindness practiced by pro-Hiss parties involved ...

A solid look at the specifics of the case as well as a useful overview of the ideological debate gripping America." —Kirkus

“A timely reminder that the worries about national security and loyalty—concerns often derided as paranoiac, right-wing delusions—were entirely justified.” —Wall Street Journal

"Rigorous and carefully documented analysis...[Alger Hiss] is a rare thing: a good book about an important subject. Shelton makes a sledgehammer of a case…a sustained artillery assault." —National Review

“ A much needed book... With clarity, conciseness, and a sure hand, Christina Shelton guides the reader through what has become an otherwise nearly impenetrable jungle of controversy.”” — Tennent H. Bagley, author of Spy Wars

“In Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason, Christina Shelton ably captures the real Alger Hiss—his path to communism, his treason, and his conviction and imprisonment. Her evidence is overpowering: Alger Hiss was indeed a communist spy. Shelton carefully connects Hiss to his historical context inside America’s political elite, which was chagrined and strangely baffled when Hiss’s treason was exposed.” —Burton Folsom, Jr. and Anita Folsom, authors of FDR Goes to War

“Shelton makes clear what Hiss did and the impact it had on U.S. intelligence. . . . A well-done book written by someone who knows.”

—David Murphy, retired chief of Soviet operations at CIA HQ and author of What Stalin Knew

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Meet the Author

Christina Shelton is a retired U.S. intelligence analyst. She spent twenty-two years working as a Soviet analyst and a Counterintelligence Branch Chief at the Defense Intelligence Agency. She has also been a staff analyst at various think tanks.

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Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
KPKH More than 1 year ago
I was a college student in the late 60s, early 70s. I actually was in a group that sponsored an Alger Hiss fundraising event on campus. Going along with the popular mythology built around the "innocence" of Alger Hiss I regret my part in helping with the ongoing cover-up of actual misdeeds while he was in the employ of the government. I really wish I knew then what I know about the case now. This is a well-written and thoroughly documented book on Alger Hiss, the man, and the case proving his involvement in pro-Soviet spying and espionage. Highly recommend this to others who still hold onto the belief of his innocence.
HoraceWard More than 1 year ago
The truth cannot be denied any longer, but many in the media ignore it. This man did much damage to this country like many other Soviet spies. The media still insists it was all made up. Thank you for this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BCPromotions More than 1 year ago
pretty good pretty good