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11 April 2012

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Jake Smith

I agree with Susan Rosenfeld’s disparagement of Enemies, if not precisely for the same reason/s. Rosenfeld questions Weiner’s objectivity in describing the FBI’s actions “against anarchists, Communists, the New Left, and foreign and domestic terrorists.” My criticism has to do with lack of accuracy, his not doing the requisite research to get the facts and history straight.

Example A is Weiner’s sham treatment of the Klaus Fuchs case, found in the pejoratively titled chapter, Paranoia. Weiner’s narrative: To his intense chagrin, Hoover learned that the FBI had overlooked its own records on Klaus Fuchs for four years … they had been in the FBI’s files since shortly after the end of WWII, when Fuchs was still in the United States … The fault lay with a brilliant but erratic FBI counterintelligence supervisor named William K. Harvey, whom Hoover had fired for alcoholism in 1947 … The evidence went undiscovered until after Fuchs confessed [January 31, 1950] … “Take note, Hoover wrote to his national security chief on February 16, 1950, we can’t tolerate such slip-shod methods.” There is hardly a word of truth in this account. [Enemies, p. 167]

In reality, Hoover’s fit of pique in February 1950 had to do with a single missing detail in a 30-page briefing summary that had been prepared for him prior to his appearance before the congressional Joint Atomic Energy Committee. That document, dated February 6, 1950, refreshed the Director on the Bureau’s jurisdictional status with regard to the Manhattan Project: “In April 1943 agreement was reached that the Bureau would not take any action in this matter unless military intelligence specifically requested it. At this time, the War Department stated they took complete responsibility for protective activities in connection with the MED project. Specifically, the Bureau was not to initiate any investigative activities except on request of the War Department. This agreement, which was continued in effect during the entire life of the MED, fixed complete responsibility for clearance procedures and investigations on the War Department.” Hoover’s distemper stemmed from the fact that at the Hearing he had been asked if the Army had informed the FBI of Fuchs entry into the United States. As it was not explicit in his brief, Hoover said no. General Leslie Groves, who was present at the Hearing, corrected the Director. On March, 28, 1944, his office had forwarded to the Bureau a list of 39 British personnel who were in the United States to work on MED matters. One of the names was “K. Fuchs.” The list was forwarded as a procedural matter only and, in accordance with the above policy, no investigative actions were requested, required or authorized. (Hoover’s brief included the base fact that Fuchs arrived in the United States on December 3, 1943. In addition to the Army, it had been reported to the Bureau by British Intelligence, the AEC and U.S. Immigration.)

It is pluperfect amazing that this immaterial, minor incident has survived to get manufactured by Weiner into FBI malfeasance in the Fuchs case specifically, and counterintelligence generally. Weiner: “For nearly five years, the FBI had been trying to uncover the depths of Soviet espionage. The Bureau had not broken a single case against a Soviet spy.” Not true. Weiner devotes a half page to the CINRADCASE (Communist Infiltration Radiation Laboratory), when it deserved to be a named section in a chapter. In fact, CINRAD was the real reason the Army marginalized the Bureau with respect to MED counterintelligence: "With reference to jurisdiction for investigation of persons connected with the Atomic Bomb Project (MED), on March 6, 1943, after we furnished information to Major General George V. Strong, Assistant Chief of Staff, G2, War Department, that Steve Nelson, Communist Party functionary and known Soviet agent, was in close contact with Dr. Julius Robert Oppenheimer, G2 requested that we discontinue investigation of Oppenheimer. After furnishing additional data to G2, on April 5, 1943, General Strong conferred with Mr. Tamm and an agreement was reached that the Bureau would not take any action in this matter unless military intelligence specifically requested it." Thus, Weiner misses a crucial reality: The San Francisco CINRAD investigation was shut down instead of being expanded to encompass the atomic labs at Los Alamos, Chicago, Hanford and Oak Ridge. [Enemies, p. 157; FBI HQS 65-58805, Ser. 1202]

Rosenfeld is entirely correct in decrying Weiner’s parsimonious citations to sources. With regard to Weiner’s bogeyman, William Harvey, nowhere in Enemies is there a cited source for his contention that Harvey “fouled up the investigation of Klaus Fuchs.” In addition to the jurisdictional strictures, there is another circumstance that would have precluded the Bureau/Harvey from investigating Fuchs, or for that matter any of the British personnel. Groves waged a major battle to obtain background investigations on members of the British Mission. He was rebuffed and had to settle for the blow-off blanket statement, “each member has been investigated as thoroughly as an employee of yours engaged on the same type of work.” As Groves indicated in his memoirs, he knew the politics were such that he would not prevail if he sought redress via his superiors. For the same reasons, unilaterally submitting the British scientists to the FBI for a records check (his prerogative under the jurisdiction agreement) was fraught with problems. If derogatory information was uncovered there would be a confrontation with the British that had the potential to wind-up at the White House.

It is a sad fact the Army’s intervention in the FBI’s CINRAD investigation (intended to put Oppenheimer off limits) resulted in a crippled American security policy that gave the Soviet Union the atomic bomb in virtually real time. As Vladimir Putin has recently averred, the KGB’s sources in our atomic facilities carried out information literally in suitcases.

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