Proliferation of Terror


Thus far, Victor Rothschild managed to hide his secret cooperation with the Soviet Union although leaks regarding Soviet espionage in Britain and the United States were causing him concern. The decryption of the Soviet coded diplomatic messages called Venona by an American cryptanalyst Meredith Gardner from US Armed Forces Security Agency (the forerunner of the NSA), led to the arrest and conviction of German physicist and British citizen Klaus Fuchs (“Charles”) in 1950. Fuchs admitted to have given the Soviets precise information about the U.S. atomic program including a blueprint of the “Fat Man” and everything the Los Alamos scientists knew about the hypothesized hydrogen bomb. Fuchs' confession led FBI to Harry Gold, whose confession led them to David Greenglass and then to the Rosenbergs.399 In a series of investigations FBI arrested nine persons who spied for the Soviets: Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Abraham Brothman, Miriam Moskowitz, Sidney Weinbaum, Alfred Dean Slack, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and Morton Sobell. Of these nine, all of whom were later convicted, eight were Jewish. Soon, the FBI amassed tons of files regarding Soviet espionage within crucial US state departments. In December 1945, Elizabeth Bentley, an American spy for the Soviet Union, who served as courier between Communist groups, implicated Alger Hiss when telling FBI, as documented in the FBI Silvermaster File, that a Soviet agent she called "Eugene Hiss" worked in the State Department and was an adviser to Dean Acheson. In 1948, Whittaker Chambers, an admitted ex-communist and an editor with Time magazine, testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee that Alger Hiss, who played crucial role as adviser to President Roosevelt at the Conference in Yalta, had passed him during his work in the Department of State in the 1930s, top secret reports. Roosevelt's friend, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Felix Frankfurter as well as Justice Stanley Reed, stood in Hiss' defense. In the first trial the jury was unable to reach the required unanimity and the Justice Department quickly announced it would seek another trial. The second trial began in November 1949 and ended in Hiss' conviction. During a press conference in January 1950, Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, stated he did not intend to turn his back on Hiss and he was applauded by his friends in American administration John McCloy, Robert Lovett and Charles Bohlen. Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate was boiling. A senator from Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, a Catholic who formed a strong bond with the Kennedy family, decided to launch a crusade against the ring of Soviet spies in the American administration. Two weeks after Acheson's press conference, Senator McCarthy delivered a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, waving a piece of paper and insisting he had in his hand a list of fifty-seven Department of State employees who were Communists. The press has quickly picked the story up and the hunt for the Reds has begun. The State Department has soon announced that it had fired ninety-one employees, mostly homosexuals, as security risks. Hundreds of others would follow.400 Senator McCarthy was very open in his attacks and accused Dean Acheson and other Harvard boys of having been part of “a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, when it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men.”401

Following decryption of Venona messages, Donald Maclean who worked at the British Embassy in Washington as a Secretary of the Combined Policy Committee on atomic energy matters, passing top atomic secrets to the Soviets, suffered nervous breakdown. His friend, Guy Burgess, who from 1948 worked at the Far East Department of the British Foreign Office in London and later at the British embassy in Washington, was too beginning to crack up. Venona decrypts contained a number of references to an agent codenamed “Homer”. Soviet spy Kim Philby, who was at the time the British Secret Service representative in Washington working in liaison with the CIA and FBI, had access to Venona revelations and quickly realized that “Homer” was Maclean. He was informed by the Moscow Centre that “Maclean should stay in his post as long as possible” and that plans would be made to rescue him “before the net close in”.402 Eventually, when the list of suspects have narrowed, a telegram decrypted by Gardner revealed that in June 1944, Homer's wife was expecting a baby and living with her mother in New York, which fitted Melinda Maclean. Philby warned Maclean through Burgess. The Centre in Moscow agreed to Maclean's exfiltration and instructed London residency that Burgess was to accompany him to Moscow. The Soviets considered exfiltration of Burgess and Maclean a success and calculated that since their recruitment in 1934-5, Philby, Burgess and Maclean had supplied more than 20,000 pages of “valuable” classified documents and agent reports.403 The British investigators then turned to Anthony Blunt, Burgess best friend and lover but as a relative of the British Royal Family he was immune from prosecution. At Burgess' flat the British investigators found some incriminating information about John Cairncross. Because of his efficient work at Bletchley Park he had escaped prosecution and was permitted to settle in southern France. Despite Philby's association with Burgess and Maclean, in October 1955, Philby was officially cleared by the British Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan, who told the House of Commons "I have no reason to conclude that Mr. Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country.” After being exonerated, Philby was sent to Beirut as a Middle East correspondent for The Observer and The Economist.

Meanwhile, in the United States, President Harry Truman transferred the control over America's atomic energy program from military to a civilian board of Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), which consisted of five men, three of whom were Jewish. Its Jewish chairman, David Lilienthal, had belonged to at least two communist fronts previous to his appointment. Within the AEC, high-level scientific and technical advice was provided by the General Advisory Committee, headed by Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer opposed the production and development of the new hydrogen bomb but the project was advocated by a German-Jewish scientist, Edward Teller. Teller's calculations carried out in cooperation with a Polish-Jewish mathematician, Stanisław Ulam, proved very useful and the development of the test device was completed by a team under directorship of the experimental physicist Marshall Holloway. On November 1, 1952, on the eve of Halloween, the US military successfully detonated the world’s first hydrogen bomb on the small coral island, Elugelab Atoll, in the Pacific Marshall Islands. The 10.4-megaton thermonuclear device called “Mike” had around 700 times the explosive power of the weapon dropped on Hiroshima and instantly vaporized an entire island, leaving behind a crater more than a mile wide. One of the witnesses and leading Los Alamos physicists, Harold Agnew, noted that previous tests paled in comparison to the power of the thermonuclear blast: “One thing that impressed me at the Mike shot, we were on the aircraft tender called the Curtiss, and we were about 25 miles away. And when it was detonated it was really hot out there so everybody just had on a pair of shorts. And something I will never forget is the heat. Not the blast. It was a little scary, the cloud – there is an illusion that is something is very high you think is on top of you. And although they were at least 20 or 25 miles away, I had a feeling that the cloud was on top of me. But the heat just kept coming, just kept coming on and on and on. And it was really scary...”404 Tony de Brum, the island state’s future foreign minister and activist, witnessed the U.S. nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands as a child: “The entire sky turned blood red,” and the islands were “vaporized” by nuclear weapons testing. “Our people have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities.”405 U.S. nuclear experiments in the Marshall Islands ended in 1958 after 67 tests causing “near-irreversible environmental contaminations” and in terms of population “indefinite displacement”.406

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399 Klehr, Haynes, Firsov, The Secret World of American Communism, p. 223 »

400 Isaacson & Thomas, The Wise Man, p. 495 »

401 Klehr, Haynes, Firsov, The Secret World of American Communism, p. 15 »

402 Philby, My Silent War, pp. 152-4; quoted in Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sward and the Shield , p. 157 »

403 Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sward and the Shield, p. 160 »

404 Keith M. Parsons, Robert A. Zaballa, Bombing the Marshall Islands: A Cold War Tragedy (Cambridge University Press, 2017), p. 45 »

405 Ankit Panda, “Why are the Marshall Islands Taking India and Pakistan to Court over nuclear weapons”, The Diplomat, 8 March 2016 »

406 “Bikini Atoll nuclear test: 60 years later and islands still unliveable”, The Guardian, 2 March 2014 »