Paul Kengor’s recent book, Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century (reviewed by Dr Mervyn Bendle in News Weekly, May 14, 2011), stands in good company with a great series of works which examine Soviet intelligence operations in the United States, from the time of the Bolshevik takeover in 1917 until the fall of the USSR in 1991.
There are many other authors who have written on this subject and, while no two are identical, there is a general consistency in their information about Soviet intelligence objectives, which were, naturally enough, part of the ongoing campaign directed from Moscow and aimed at undermining and then destroying Western democracy.
Until the end of World War II, Soviet intelligence attacks abroad were principally aimed at the United Kingdom and Germany and other European countries. In many respects, they were remarkably successful, as the dedicated literature on the Soviet spy agency, the KGB, has pointed out.
People remember the notorious Cambridge spies, Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt and John Cairncross (whom the KGB dubbed the “Magnificent Five”). These high-flying graduates from Britain’s prestigious University of Cambridge, before and during the war, rose to key positions in the British Government — from plum diplomatic postings to the heart of Britain’s secret intelligence world. They betrayed countless military, scientific and government secrets to Moscow.
Less well-known, but possibly equally damaging to Britain’s security, was a parallel spy-ring centred on the University of Oxford. For years, intelligence historians have speculated about the true identity of a KGB mole, code-named “Scott”, who was known to have recruited a network of communist spies at Oxford before and during World War II.
Two leading American intelligence historians, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, in collaboration with Alexander Vassiliev, a former KGB officer who gained access to Soviet archives in the 1990s, revealed that “Scott” was Arthur Wynn (1910-2001), a British defence scientist, radio expert and civil servant. (“Spy mystery solved”, The Weekly Standard, May 4, 2009).
The public has often formed its main impression of espionage from the heroic or villainous spy characters depicted in bestselling novels and films. Far less attention has been directed towards the subtler types of adversaries in the clandestine world: the agent of influence, the so-called talent-spotter and the communist sympathiser working inconspicuously in the heart of government, academia and the professions.
The subtitle of Kengor’s book Dupes, “How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century”, reminds us of how long Soviet intelligence bodies worked to influence the United States. They made deep penetrations of the U.S. between the two world wars. There is significant evidence that the Comintern posted gifted apparatchiks to the U.S., and even more evidence that Soviet military intelligence, the GRU, arguably caused as much damage to the U.S. as the Comintern and, later, the KGB. After World War II, Moscow described the powerful U.S. as the Main Adversary.
Reading Kengor’s study, I was struck by its readability, comprehensive notes and sizable appendices. The last feature, in particular, cannot be dismissed lightly as they consist of original documents and are quite damning.
The only minor error I found occurred early in the book and concerned American writer and editor Whittaker Chambers, a one-time member of the Communist Party of the USA, who was wrongly described as a KGB agent. In fact, he was under the control of a completely different spy organisation, the GRU, a military intelligence directorate of the Soviet Army.
(In the late 1930s Chambers lost his faith in communism, becoming a vocal opponent of it and, after the war, testifying in the espionage trial of Alger Hiss, a high-ranking official in both the U.S. State Department and United Nations).
The relevance of Dupes to the Australian setting is quite precise. This country was targeted by the Soviets from the earliest years of the Soviet Union. It is as close to being a stone-cold certainty as possible that the Comintern operated in Australia until World War II when its agents were taken over by the KGB predecessor organisations.
Equally, there is fragmentary but unmistakable evidence that the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) was also active in Australia, under deep cover, until 1941 when the USSR entered World War II. The evidence for the Soviet Union’s continued espionage in Australia after the war is voluminous.
The role of communist parties should never be underestimated or understated. The former director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, has been the target of leftist calumny for many years, but abundant documentary evidence now available amply confirms his description of the CPUSA as an arm of Soviet intelligence.
Kengor’s important study is timely and should not be passed over as a mere historical curiosity.
In today’s world, the U.S. is still misrepresented by many as the major source of evil in the world, and there are subversive academics and intellectuals who are prepared to side with the extreme left and strenuously oppose fighting fundamentalist Islamic terrorism.
This is the major lesson we should derive from the book, and preferably before it is too late.
John Miller is a former senior intelligence officer.
Alexander Vassiliev, Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, “Spy mystery solved”, The Weekly Standard (Washington DC), Vol. 14, Issue 31, May 4, 2009.