Red Star at Morning

This book, the work of a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, is an attempt to fathom the Alger Hiss phenomenon by a man whose father-in-law was among Hiss’s defense lawyers from 1948 to 1950 and who remained for years a quiet believer in the innocence of his client.  Hiss died in 1996 at 92, still seeking “vindication” and insisting on public acknowledgement that he was wrongly judged.  His half-century campaign of obfuscations, alleged frame-ups and cover-ups, alternative scenarios, ad hominem assaults, and small victories add up to a tedious battle of attrition.  The author saves the best for last: the documented chatter among the Soviet controllers of this American spy and traitor, as unearthed in Moscow’s archives.  Between pages 223 and 235, Alger Hiss blossoms forth in Technicolor, rendering 50 years of mendacity unworthy of any further serious consideration.

For those unfamiliar with the dreary tale, Alger Hiss was an official of the federal government who began spying for Soviet military intelligence (GRU) in the early 1930’s.  Although he was exposed in 1938 by Whittaker Chambers, the courier who carried his intelligence harvest to his Soviet spymasters, nothing came of the event.  Hiss quickly moved upward in the State Department, accompanying President Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in 1945.


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