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Having been a Communist Party member since 1924, Whittaker Chambers, editor of The New Masses and operating editor of The Daily Worker, in 1932 became a courier between a ring of underground Communists in the Federal government (headed by Harold Ware) and Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU) under (sequentially) Alexander Ulanovsky, J. Peters, Boris Bukov, and Rudy Baker.

Chambers made his last delivery to the GRU in October 1937, hiding a final parcel of documents he received in April 1938. Through the influence of journalist Isaac Don Levine, he secured a meeting with Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle in 1939. According to Berle's notes, Chambers gave him the names of 14 of his contacts, including Treasury staffer Solomon Adler, White House advisor Lauchlin Currie, and State Department officials Laurence Duggan and Alger Hiss.

Berle relayed Chambers' charges to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but he dismissed them. In consequence, the FBI did not interview Chambers until 1942, after Ludwig Lore denounced him to the Bureau. In that interview Chambers gave the FBI additional names, including Harry Dexter White and “Peter,” whom the Bureau later identified as J. Peters. The following year, the FBI obtained Berle's 1939 notes, and in 1945, when the Amerasia case broke and Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko's document trove and Elizabeth Bentley's own charges corroborated much of what Chambers had told Berle six years earlier, the Bureau followed up. In that interview, Chambers named others, including “Nathan Perlow,” whom in 1947 he identified from a photograph as Victor Perlo.

The FBI had alerted the State Department about Hiss as early as 1942, a warning the department dismissed on the basis of Hiss' own denial. Again in 1945, the Bureau furnished State a report on Soviet Espionage in the United States featuring Hiss (along with Adler, Currie, Perlo, White and others). In 1948, the House Committee on Un-American Activities subpoenaed Chambers and Hiss to testify. Chambers named Hiss as a contact of the Ware group; Hiss denied the charge. The FBI opened a perjury investigation.

One memorandum in the file reflects Hoover's consternation that Truman Justice was more interested in nailing Chambers than Hiss.

See also:

FBI Report: Whittaker Chambers, September 5, 1948


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