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Researcher adds to Alger Hiss debate

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070405/ap_on_re_us/alger_hiss;_ylt=AiIltNvxhBAsYzPbma0TR3fMWM0F Researcher adds to Alger Hiss debate By RICHARD PYLE, Associated
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2007
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      http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070405/ap_on_re_us/alger_hiss;_ylt=AiIltNvxhBAsYzPbma0TR3fMWM0F

      Researcher adds to Alger Hiss debate

      By RICHARD PYLE, Associated Press Writer 12 minutes
      ago

      NEW YORK - A Russian researcher, delving anew into
      once-secret Soviet files from the Cold War, says she
      has found no evidence that Alger Hiss spied or that
      Soviet intelligence had any particular interest in
      him.

      In a speech to be delivered at a New York University
      symposium Thursday, Svetlana A. Chervonnaya says
      neither Hiss' name nor his alleged spy moniker, Ales,
      appears in any of dozens of documents from Soviet
      archives that she has reviewed since the early 1990s.

      A copy of the speech was made available to The
      Associated Press on Wednesday.

      Calling her efforts "proving the negative,"
      Chervonnaya says "a thorough combing of all the said
      archives combined has not produced a shred of evidence
      that Alger Hiss had ever been a member of the
      (American) Communist Party and was engaged in any
      behind-the-scenes interactions with the Soviets."

      Hiss, a top State Department official who played a key
      role in founding the United Nations, was convicted of
      perjury in 1950 for lying about being a Soviet spy. He
      served nearly four years of a five-year federal prison
      sentence and died at age 92 in 1996.

      Scholars and experts have debated for decades whether
      he was guilty or a victim of anti-communist fervor.
      The case was fraught with Cold War drama, involving a
      typewriter and a secret film cache in a Maryland
      pumpkin field.

      Chervonnaya was one of several scholars, writers and
      historians scheduled to speak Thursday at a daylong
      symposium, "Alger Hiss and History," inaugurating New
      York University's new Center for the United States and
      the Cold War.

      Others on the program included Hiss' son, Tony Hiss,
      and stepson, Timothy Hobson, who were expected to
      recall their family life with the man whose name
      became a synonym for Cold War espionage. Both have
      always maintained Hiss was innocent.

      Soviet defectors, retired KGB agents and U.S.
      officials, some claiming to have documentary proof,
      have come down on both sides of what remains one of
      the Cold War's most enduring controversies.

      In 1995-96, U.S. intelligence agencies released the
      Venona Files, a series of decoded Soviet diplomatic
      cables on espionage matters during World War II. They
      mentioned a U.S. contact called Ales, who already had
      been identified by a defecting Soviet agent as Hiss.

      Tony Hiss, a New York-based writer, said he was
      encouraged by Chervonnaya's research.

      "Her stating of the negative in all this is so strong
      that it almost becomes a positive," he said. "With her
      findings, plus new findings from FBI files, we
      envision reopening the whole field of investigation.
      After looking for so long like a played-out mine, it's
      now revealing new veins and whole new galleries of
      material, but it's far too soon to say this has
      reached any kind of positive conclusion."

      Chervonnaya said her findings thus far echo those of a
      former Soviet general who in 1992 quoted KGB secret
      police files as saying Hiss was not a Soviet spy. But
      she said that was based on one document, whereas her
      research draws extensively on now publicly accessible
      files in which intensive cross-checking would be
      likely to turn up clues if any existed.

      "I reasoned that, provided Alger Hiss had been such an
      important and long-term Soviet asset, we should
      logically expect his name to slip at some stage into
      some of the files," she said.

      None of the documents implicated Hiss, although names
      of other people to whom he was linked or who also were
      accused of being Soviet sympathizers do appear, among
      them Whittaker Chambers, a one-time Time magazine
      editor who later became Hiss's chief accuser.
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