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Major General (Retired) Julius N. Kobyakov of the SVR has furnished the readers of this list with an interesting communication on the matter of Alger Hiss. General Kobyakov writes that it was he who in response to a request made to the SVR by the late John Lowenthal in 1992, investigated whether Alger Hiss had "'an agent of the NKVD.'" (Here General Kobyakov quotes Mr. Lowenthal.) General Kobyakov relates that he personally investigated the question in the archive of his service, whereafter he "prepared an answer to Mr. J .Lowenthal that in essence stated that Mr. A. Hiss had never had any relationship with the SVR or its predecessors." This was communicated to the late General Dmitri Volkogonov, who -- according to General Kobyakov -- claimed to have made the investigation himself and announced the result to the world. How absurd, General Kobyakov writes, to think that the intelligence services would have opened their files to "that defrocked komissar." Perhaps time has, I regret to observe, distorted General Kobyakov's memory of this episode. First, as Mr. Lowenthal himself stated, he wrote not to the SVR but to General Volkogonov. <1> This accords with General Volkogonov's own account, which appeared in NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA in November 1993. Upon receiving Mr. Lowenthal's request, General Volkogonov approached the Director of the SVR, Yevgenii M. Primakov. He did not claim to have conducted the archival search himself. He rather wrote -- and I translate literally -- "I was able to visit the Foreign Intelligence archive several times. Its employees, on Primakov's instructions, said that A. Hiss was not registered n the documents as a recruited agent." <2> The result of the investigation in the archive of the SVR was made known to the world and received by Hiss's partisans with exultant crowing. Then came the denouement. General Volkogonov wrote in NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA that he had learned that he had applied to the wrong agency -- Hiss, if a Soviet agent or informant, had been associated not with the NKVD/NKGB/MGB/KGB/SVR but with Soviet military intelligence, the GRU. Upon realizing this, General Volkogonov unequivocally repudiated the exoneration of Hiss.<3> General Volkogonov's public statement was tactful: "As to whether A. Hiss was or was not a 'spy,' I can render judgment only as a historian. The more so as, as far as I know, the agency in which those documents from the 1950's [sic] were reviewed was not the only one which was involved in intelligence. Furthermore, there are no guarantees that they all survived." <4> Privately, I have been given to understand, his comments were less restrained. In his valedictory defense of Hiss in INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY Mr. Lowenthal stressed General Volkogonov's "exoneration" but ignored altogether the subsequent repudiation of it.<5> Hiss himself, however, at the time manfully faced up to the significance of General Volkogonov's repudiation of the exoneration.<6> It is, finally, important to note that the files of the SVR do in fact contain references to Hiss -- not, to be sure, as an agent of the NKVD/NKGB/MGB/KGB/SVR but of the GRU. As Lowenthal himself notes, the press agent of the SVR whom he consulted in his attempt to discredit THE HAUNTED WOOD of James Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, freely admitted that Vassiliev had had access to documents from the archives of the SVR, just as General Kobyakov does. The spokesman only substantive point was that none of the material Vassiliev had seen identified the individuals behind the cryptonyms in the documents and they therefore guessed when they followed cryptonyms with bracketed names.<7> Two of the documents in the book, one written by Hede Massing in 1936, the other by Itzhak Akhmerov in 1938, mentioned Hiss by name as an agent of the GRU. (As agents of the NKVD, neither Massing nor Akhmerov had any way of knowing Hiss's cryptonym.)<8> The revelations of THE HAUNTED WOOD hardly represent the only leaks about Hiss from still closed Russian archives. Several Russian historians have spoken of seeing in the Presidential Archive of the order bestowing the Order of the Red Star upon Hiss in 1944. (I have it on good authority that a photocopy is making the rounds in Moscow.) Two western researchers at least have seen Hiss's file in the archive of the GRU. There is also anecdotal evidence. Pavel Sudoplatov told Jerrold and Leona Schecter what he remembered of Hiss's services to the Soviet Union, and even before the fall of the Soviet Union a Russian told me what his father had learned of Hiss directly from Akhmerov. I could go on, but there really is no point. All will come out in the fullness of time, and even Hiss's staunchest defenders, in my view, no longer believe in his innocence. For many leftists the guiltlessness of those accused of espionage for the Soviet Union long ago became a central tenet of political commitment, and remains as a kind of catechism of identity to be repeated mindlessly in the gathering gloom as they despairingly wait for a future that it already the past. Eduard Mark Department of the Air Force Notes: <1> John Lowenthal, "Venona and Alger Hiss," INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY, 15 (Autumn, 2000), 114. <2> NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA, November 24, 1992, 4. <3> Ibid. <4> Ibid. See also the interview of General Volkogonov by Serge Schmemann in THE NEW YORK TIMES, December 17, 1992, A17. The ever-so-politically-correct TIMES buried General Volkogonov's retraction on page 17 after having earlier blazoned the "exoneration" on the first page. <5> Lowenthal, "Venona and Alger Hiss," 114-115. <6> NEW YORK TIMES, December 17, 1992, A-17. <7> Lowenthal, "Venona and Alger Hiss," 116. <8> Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, THE HAUNTED WOOD (New York: Random House, 1999), 5, 79.