Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case

Overview

Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley shocked America in 1948 with their allegations that Communist spies had penetrated the American government. The resulting perjury trial of Alger Hiss is already legendary, but Chambers and Bentley also named Harry Dexter White, a high-ranking Treasury official. (Hiss himself thought that White had been the real target of the House Un-American Activities Committee.) When White died only a week after his bold defense before Congress, much speculation remained about the cause...
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Overview

Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley shocked America in 1948 with their allegations that Communist spies had penetrated the American government. The resulting perjury trial of Alger Hiss is already legendary, but Chambers and Bentley also named Harry Dexter White, a high-ranking Treasury official. (Hiss himself thought that White had been the real target of the House Un-American Activities Committee.) When White died only a week after his bold defense before Congress, much speculation remained about the cause of his death and the truth of the charges made against him. Armed with a wealth of new information, Bruce Craig examines this controversial case and explores the "ambiguities" that have haunted it for more than half a century.The highest ranking figure in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations to be accused of espionage, White played a central role in the founding of the United Nations' twin financial institutions, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. For years after his death, White was a target of red-baiting by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and Eisenhower's attorney general Herbert Brownell. Two Republican-controlled Senate committees even held White accountable for formulating the "pro-Russian" Morgenthau Plan for post-war Germany and for orchestrating the loss of mainland China to the Communists. Craig draws heavily on previously untapped or underused sources, including White's personal papers, Treasury Department records, FBI files, and the once secret Venona files of decrypted Soviet espionage cables. Interviews with nearly two dozen key figures in the case, including Alger Hiss and former KGB officer V. G. Pavlov, also help bring White's story to life. Sifting through this mountain of evidence, Craig retraces White's rise to power within the Treasury Department and confirms that White was involved in a "species of espionage"—but also shows that the same evidence contradicts Bentley's charges of "policy subversion." What emerges is an evenhanded portrait of neither a monster nor a martyr but rather a committed New Dealer and internationalist whose hopes for world peace transcended national loyalties-a man who saw some benefit in cooperating with the Soviets but had no affection for dictatorship. Although it still remains unclear whether White leaked classified information vital to national security, Craig clearly shows that none of the most serious allegations against him can be substantiated.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
White became a high-level economist in the Treasury Department under President Franklin Roosevelt and helped establish the framework for the current international financial system at the end of World War II. He was also a firm believer in international peace and a Soviet sympathizer. During the McCarthy era, White was accused with Alger Hiss of being a Communist spy and died a few days after testifying before Congress in 1948. Craig, executive director of the National Coalition for History, here presents a polished version of his 1999 dissertation for American University. In investigating White's case, he conducted considerable archival research and was able to get many important documents declassified. Though he does not always cite specific evidence, sometimes simply giving his evaluation, his work is extensively documented. In it he argues that the documents show that White passed along information but had nothing vital to give away and that he did not subvert U.S. policy. He also provides a good context of the times and of Soviet conspiratorial techniques. With all the documents now coming available, it would take some time to do the research and confirm that Craig's assessment is correct. But Craig is not just presenting a whitewash, and amid the growing volume of literature on Soviet espionage at the beginning of the Cold War, he poses a bigger, more important question: exactly what did the Soviets do with the information from their American agents, and how did it benefit them? Suitable for all libraries. Daniel K. Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700613113
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 3/1/2004
  • Pages: 436
  • Product dimensions: 6.28 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 1.54 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue 1
1 The early years 17
2 Whittaker Chambers, Harry Dexter White, and the Washington, D. C., Communist underground 35
3 The Elizabeth Bentley story 59
4 The econ-umists 83
5 The quarter-billion-dollar German occupation-currency scandal 113
6 Bretton Woods and the assault on American internationalism 135
7 A different peace : the Morgenthau plan for postwar Germany 156
8 Harry Dexter White and the "fall of China" 178
9 Great expectations dashed 196
10 Herbert Brownell, J. Edgar Hoover, Harry S. Truman, and the Harry Dexter White controversy 219
11 The half-century search : a matter of espionage 238
12 The Harry Dexter White case in retrospect 263
Notes 279
Selected bibliography 401
Index 423
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