Title: Stalin’s Secret Agents
Author: M. Stanton Evans
Evans, M. Stanton (2012) and Herbert Rommerstein. Stalin’s Secret Agents: The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government. New York: Threshold Editions
- Espionage, Soviet–United States–History.
- Subversive activities–United States–History–20th century.
- Secret service–Soviet Union–History.
- World War, 1939-1945–Secret service–Soviet Union.
- Spies–Soviet Union–History.
- Spies–United States–History–20th century.
- Communists–United States–History–20th century.
- United States–Politics and government–1933-1945.
- Soviet Union–Foreign relations–United States.
- United States–Foreign relations–Soviet Union.
Date Posted: April 21, 2016
Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake
With the publication of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, the claims of many authors that Soviet spies hadn’t really existed, or, if they had it didn’t really matter, were debunked with irrefutable evidence. What more was left to say? M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein hint at the answer, quoting Whittaker Chambers: “The power to influence policy has always been the purpose of Communist Party’s infiltration. It was much more dangerous … and more difficult to prove than espionage.” (p. 8) While Chambers did not have access to material that supported his judgment, Evans and Romerstein have found documents in the heretofore unexamined papers of former secretary of state Edward Stettinius that, they argue, do just that. Stalin’s Secret Agents states their case.
A principal focus of Stalin’s Secret Agents is on the extraordinary influence exerted by Alger Hiss at the Yalta Conference in February 194S. Roosevelt’s foreign policy advisor, Stettinius, had been secretary of state for only two months and often allowed Hiss to speak for him in the presence of the principals. The authors provide examples. One instance involved China policy, a topic Hiss later claimed he didn’t address. Stettinius’ diary—the page is reproduced in the book—shows that Hiss had indeed raised the question, encouraging “support for an agreement between the Comintern” and the anticommunist Chiang Kai-shek government. The official State Department record omitted the exchange. (pp. 43-44)
The authors discuss many other examples of known communist agents, for example Harry Dexter White and Lauchlin Currie, working to influence US policies. In one case, they describe a report written by OSS officer, Linn Farish—named as a Soviet agent in the VENONA decrypts—that praised Tito and compared the Chinese communist movement to the “American revolution.” Somehow the document found its way from OSS files to the White House and was shown to Stalin. (pp. 163-64)
Evans and Romerstein do not neglect espionage performed by Americans serving as Soviet agents. One example involved Duncan Lee, the OSS officer who supplied a list of suspected communists to the Soviets through Soviet agent Elizabeth Bentley. The list, heavily redacted in the VENONA decrypts, is reproduced in full for the first time in this book.
Will Stalin’s Secret Agents put to rest the view that Hiss and the other agents mentioned really acted in the best interests of the United States? Probably not. The actions of “agents of influence” will likely be interpreted by some as simply aiding an ally in the war. Evans and Romerstein have made that judgment much more difficult to support.
 Peake, Hayden B. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 2, Fall/Winter, 2013, pp. 130-131). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found online at www.cia.gov.