The Librarian Spies: Philip and Mary Jane Keeney and Cold War Espionage

The Librarian Spies: Philip and Mary Jane Keeney and Cold War Espionage

by Louise Robbins, Louise S. Robbins
     
 

In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy declared that the State Department was a haven for communists and traitors. Among famous targets, like Alger Hiss, the senator also named librarian Mary Jane Keeney and her husband Philip, who had been called before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee to account for friendships with suspected communists, memberships in

Overview

In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy declared that the State Department was a haven for communists and traitors. Among famous targets, like Alger Hiss, the senator also named librarian Mary Jane Keeney and her husband Philip, who had been called before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee to account for friendships with suspected communists, memberships in communist fronts, and authorship of articles that had been published in leftist periodicals. Conservative journalists and politicians had seized the occasion to denounce the pair as communist sympathizers and spies for the Soviet Union. If the accusations were true, the Keeneys had provided the Soviets with classified information about American defense and economic policies that could alter the balance of power between those rival nations. If false, the Keeneys had been shamefully wronged by their own government, for the accusations tumbled them into grief and poverty.

In 1950, Senator Joseph McCarthy declared that the State Department was a haven for communists and traitors. Among famous targets, like Alger Hiss, the senator also named librarian Mary Jane Keeney and her husband Philip, who had been called before The House UnAmerican Activities Committee to account for friendships with suspected communists, memberships in communist fronts, and authorship of articles that had been published in leftist periodicals. Conservative journalists and politicians had seized the occasion to denounce the pair as communist sympathizers and spies for the Soviet Union. If the accusations were true, the Keeneys had provided the Soviets with classified information about American defense and economic policies that could alter the balance of power between those rival nations. If false, the Keeneys had been shamefully wronged by their own government, for the accusations tumbled them into grief and poverty.

This book draws on a wide range of archival materials, especialy FBI files, interviews, and extensive reading from secondary sources to tell the story of Philip Olin Keeney and his wife Mary Jane, who became part of the famed Silvermaster Spy Ring in the 1940s. It paints a picture of two ordinary people who took an extraordinary path in life and, while they were never charged and tried as spies, were punished through blacklisting. It also reaveals the means by which the FBI investigated suspected spies through black bag jobs, phone tapping, and mail interceptions. Spies compromise national security by stealing secrets, but secrets can be defined to suit individual political designs and ambitions. Philip and Mary Jane Keeney constantly tested the boundaries of free access to information - to the point of risking disloyalty to their country - but the American government responded in a manner that risked its democratic foundations.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A major achievement of Cold War scholarship, and a must read for all library professionals. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels/libraries." - Choice

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780275994488
Publisher:
Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
Publication date:
03/30/2009
Series:
Praeger Security International Series
Pages:
183
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

John Earl HayneS Author of Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

"Thorough, interesting, well-written, and well-documented."

Donald A. Downs Professor of Political Science

"What responsibilities does the Government have in protecting the country from foreign subversion? And by what constitutional and moral constraints must the government abide in carrying out this duty? In conducting her remarkably compelling research, Louise Robbins discovered government misconduct in its treatment of the Keeneys, but also another fat: they were indeed guilty of working with the Soviet Union to undermine the United States. Unlike many other accounts of McCarthyism, in Robbins' story, the alleged bad guys were indeed bad guys, Robbins has performed thorough and intensive research, and she presents her ideas with the precision and care of a true scholar. At the same time, she presents a human drama of ambition, misplaced idealism, self-righteousness, and intrigue that is worthy of a high-level detective story. And she raises important moral, legal, and political questions that liberal democracies must confront in dealing with enemies bent on their destruction."

Donald A. Downs Professor of Political Science, Law, and Journalism at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

Donald A. Downs
"What responsibilities does the Government have in protecting the country from foreign subversion? And by what constitutional and moral constraints must the government abide in carrying out this duty? In conducting her remarkably compelling research, Louise Robbins discovered government misconduct in its treatment of the Keeneys, but also another fat: they were indeed guilty of working with the Soviet Union to undermine the United States. Unlike many other accounts of McCarthyism, in Robbins' story, the alleged bad guys were indeed bad guys, Robbins has performed thorough and intensive research, and she presents her ideas with the precision and care of a true scholar. At the same time, she presents a human drama of ambition, misplaced idealism, self-righteousness, and intrigue that is worthy of a high-level detective story. And she raises important moral, legal, and political questions that liberal democracies must confront in dealing with enemies bent on their destruction."
John Earl HaynesAuthor of Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America
"Thorough, interesting, well-written, and well-documented."
Donald A. DownSProfessor of Political Science

"What responsibilities does the Government have in protecting the country from foreign subversion? And by what constitutional and moral constraints must the government abide in carrying out this duty? In conducting her remarkably compelling research, Louise Robbins discovered government misconduct in its treatment of the Keeneys, but also another fat: they were indeed guilty of working with the Soviet Union to undermine the United States. Unlike many other accounts of McCarthyism, in Robbins' story, the alleged bad guys were indeed bad guys, Robbins has performed thorough and intensive research, and she presents her ideas with the precision and care of a true scholar. At the same time, she presents a human drama of ambition, misplaced idealism, self-righteousness, and intrigue that is worthy of a high-level detective story. And she raises important moral, legal, and political questions that liberal democracies must confront in dealing with enemies bent on their destruction."

Donald A. DownS Professor of Political Science

"What responsibilities does the Government have in protecting the country from foreign subversion? And by what constitutional and moral constraints must the government abide in carrying out this duty? In conducting her remarkably compelling research, Louise Robbins discovered government misconduct in its treatment of the Keeneys, but also another fat: they were indeed guilty of working with the Soviet Union to undermine the United States. Unlike many other accounts of McCarthyism, in Robbins' story, the alleged bad guys were indeed bad guys, Robbins has performed thorough and intensive research, and she presents her ideas with the precision and care of a true scholar. At the same time, she presents a human drama of ambition, misplaced idealism, self-righteousness, and intrigue that is worthy of a high-level detective story. And she raises important moral, legal, and political questions that liberal democracies must confront in dealing with enemies bent on their destruction."

John Earl HayneSAuthor of Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

"Thorough, interesting, well-written, and well-documented."

Meet the Author

Rosalee McReynolds was a library historian and Director of Serials and Special Collections at Loyola University in New Orleans.

Louise S. Robbins, is director of the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Madison, Wisconsin.

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