November 15, 2007
THE UNGENTLEMAN OF VENONA:
Of Witches and Witch Hunts: RON CAPSHAW, November 8, 2007, NY Sun)
Against the vivid backdrop of the conventional account, though, M. Stanton Evans, a writer for Human Events magazine, will convince few liberals across the aisle that McCarthy was correct in his attempts to prove security breaches on the watch of presidents Roosevelt and Truman with his thorough new study, "Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies".
With a painstaking reliance on documentation (decrypted Soviet cables, secret Congressional testimony, declassified FBI files), Mr. Evans presents the case for McCarthy that Whittaker Chambers once said the senator was "unwilling or unable to make for himself." Many of those investigated by McCarthy were grouped in an earlier list of subversives by the Roosevelt administration in the early 1940s, and some have since been confirmed as spies by the Venona telegrams, a series of intercepted transmissions from and to Moscow by their American agents during World War II, which were released for public consumption in 1996.
With his determination to source everything, Mr. Evans's presentation is not particularly page-turning. But the reality that Mr. Evans presents is disturbing. In the 1930s and '40s, despite warnings from the FBI, presidents laughed away charges that their employees were Soviet spies. Confronted with evidence about a State Department official, Alger Hiss, FDR merely waved his hand and said, "Drop it. There's nothing there." Government employees carting away papers to Soviet couriers in the dead of night were advanced up the career ladder: Hiss was placed in charge of security at wartime conferences; Gustav Duran, a part of the Loyalist secret police that was hunting George Orwell in Spain, was moved into the Office of Strategic Services; Cedric Belfrage, a Soviet agent, was promoted to security coordinator between wartime British intelligence and America. Despite warnings from the FBI that J. Robert Oppenheimer was still a secret party member, General Leslie Groves put him in charge of the secret Manhattan Project.
The only entities even attempting to halt these penetrations and leaks were the House Un-American Activities Committee, that rogue's gallery of anti-Semites and future perjurers, and McCarthy, already boozy by the late '40s, unorganized, and hungry for publicity. Only they seemed to be blind to the threat. Prosecutors are fond of countering character attacks on their witnesses by asking rhetorically, "Why can't a criminal have good eyesight?" Whatever McCarthy's peccadilloes — and they are more numerous than Mr. Evans acknowledges — his vision was at least clearer on this question than that of the liberal establishment.
Denying there are witches doesn't make them go away.
Posted by Orrin Judd at November 15, 2007 10:26 AM