A comparison: Alger Hiss, Wilder Foote, and ALES

This chart compares biographical data for Alger Hiss and Wilder Foote against clues in two March 1945 cables sent by the Soviet NKGB station chief in Washington, Anatoly Gorsky. The cables refer to a GRU agent with the code name ALES.

An English translation by Svetlana Chervonnaya and the translation employed in The Haunted Wood of the March 30, 1945 Cable No. 1822 can be found here; the original Venona document here.

An English translation of the March 5, 1945 Gorsky cable (KGB archives, file 43173, vol. 1) can be found in John Earl Haynes’s article “Ales: Hiss, Foote, Stettinius?” here.

Alger Hiss Wilder Foote

Cable No. 1822
March 30, 1945

1. ALES works with NEIGHBORS (GRU) since 1935

Worked in Washington for government from 1933 on; identified as GRU agent by Whittaker Chambers, Elizabeth Bentley, Hede Massing, and Itzhak Ahkmerov; identified as member of secret Ware cell of Communist Party by Nathaniel Weyl

Lived in Vermont publishing weekly newspapers from 1931-1941

2. ALES leader of spy group “for the most part consisting of his relations”

Had brother, Donald, working in State Department; wife Priscilla identified by Chambers as aiding Hiss’s espionage

Donald Hiss listed as GRU agent in two KGB documents (Vassiliev notebooks)*

Had no relatives working in State Department

3. ALES and group provides military information

Focused on military information in State Department documents provided to Chambers; FBI investigation found Hiss had requested classified reports in 1945 on atomic energy and Far Eastern military policies unrelated to his current job

Limited, if any, access to sensitive military information; Served at high levels of State Department for brief period of time

4. ALES works with POL’, who meets with other group members

Connected to Maxim Lieber, identified as POL’, and to KARL’s group*

No known connection to Maxim Lieber or to KARL’s group*

5. ALES and group recently awarded Soviet decorations

Linked by connection to RUBLE (Harold Glasser) and KARL’s spy group [see Gorsky 1948 memo]; RUBLE confirms ALES’s decorations in Fitkin memo

No connection established

6. ALES thanked in Moscow after Yalta talks

Visited Bolshoi Theater in Moscow where Soviet diplomat Andrey Vyshinsky could have relayed thanks of GRU

Visited Bolshoi Theater in Moscow; Did not sit in box with Soviet officials and therefore unlikely to have had close contact with Vyshinsky*

Gorsky Cable (KGB archives, file 43173, vol. 1, page 88
March 5, 1945

1. ALES has not returned from Mexico City (March 5)

Had returned to Washington from Mexico City; radio interview broadcast on March 3; unknown whether Gorsky was aware of early return

Included on State Department delegation list as still in attendance in Mexico City conference March 5; (if Gorsky cabled Soviet embassy in Mexico City to check)*

Resident in Mexico City (March 5)

2. ALES and RUBLE had been members of KARL’s spy group until “connection with KARL lost”

Had been identified, under LEONARD codename along with RUBLE (Harold Glasser) as member of KARL’s group in Gorsky 1948 memo; KARL is Whittaker Chambers, who broke with GRU in 1938

No connection established;
Lived in Vermont publishing weekly newspapers from 1931-1941 during period of activity for KARL’s group in Washington

Here is a PDF of the April 2007 version of the comparison chart:


(Return to: “Alger Hiss, Wilder Foote and the verdict of history“)


Cable No. 1822 (Venona)
March 30, 1945

1. Hiss: For identification of Hiss as GRU agent in 1930s by Chambers and Bentley, see G. Edward White’s Alger Hiss’s Looking-Glass Wars (2004), page 227; for identification by Hede Massing and Itzhak Ahkmerov, see Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev’s The Haunted Wood (1999), pages 3 and 79; for identification of Hiss as CPUSA Ware cell member by Nathaniel Weyl, see his testimony before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, Feb. 23, 1953; for his characterization of Hiss as a “deeply committed Communist,” see Sam Tanenhaus’s “Hiss: Guilty as Charged” in Commentary, April 1993, page 36. Foote: See obituary, “WILDER FOOTE, 69, A U.N. PRESS CHIEF; Former Newsman, U.S. Aide Dies, Retired in 1960,” New York Times, Feb. 17, 1975.

2. Hiss: On family connections, see Eduard Mark, “Who Was ‘Venona’s’ ‘Ales?’ Cryptanalysis and the Hiss Case,” Intelligence and National Security, 18:3 (Autumn 2003), page 57. For KGB documents listing Donald Hiss, see Eduard Mark, “In Re Alger Hiss: A Final Verdict from the Archives of the KGB,” Journal of Cold War Studies , 11:3, (Summer 2009), pages 26-67. Foote: On lack of relatives in State Department, see Mark, “Who Was ‘Venona’s’ ‘Ales?’ Cryptanalysis and the Hiss Case,” page 56.

3. Hiss: On Hiss’s access to military information see Mark, “Who Was ‘Venona’s’ ‘Ales?’ Cryptanalysis and the Hiss Case,” page 50; on Hiss’s 1945 request for unrelated classified documents, see White, page 225. Foote: Foote’s responsibilities were as a press officer for the Office of Emergency Management (1941-42), the Office of War Information (1942-44) and Foreign Economic Administration (1944-45) before working for Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius as an assistant; see Mark, “Who Was ‘Venona’s’ ‘Ales?’ Cryptanalysis and the Hiss Case,” pages 55-56. Mark and Kai Bird differ over whether Foote had access to sensitive information.

4. Hiss: On Maxim Lieber as POL’, see John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America, pages 16-18, 20 and 22. Foote: On Foote’s lack of contact with Lieber and KARL’s group, see Spies, page 25.

5. Hiss: That members of ALES’s group received decorations was confirmed by RUBLE (Harold Glasser), who learned it from ALES, as reported in Pavel Fitin memo of April 25, 1945, see Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev’s The Haunted Wood (1999), page 268-269; for Hiss links to RUBLE and their joint participation in KARL’s Washington group, see John Earl Haynes’s “Ales: Hiss, Foote, Stettinius?” ­(www.johnearlhaynes.org­, 10 April 2007). Foote: See Haynes for Foote’s lack of involvement in KARL’s group or known contact with RUBLE.

6. Hiss: See Mark, “Who Was ‘Venona’s’ ‘Ales?’ Cryptanalysis and the Hiss Case,” page 58. Foote: Foote’s invitation to Bolshoi verified by Bird and Chervonnaya (NYU “Alger Hiss and History” Conference, April 5, 2007).

Gorsky Cable (KGB archives)
March 5, 1945

1. Hiss: On his return to Washington by Feb. 22, see “Eduard Mark on Venona’s ‘Ales’: A note,” Intelligence & National Security 20:3 (September 2005) pages 509-512; for his radio appearance, see “Grew Says World Must Bar Anarchy,” New York Times, March 4, 1945. Foote: Foote’s presence in Mexico City verified by Bird and Chervonnaya

2. Hiss: On his participation in KARL’s Washington group and involvement with RUBLE, see John Earl Haynes’s “Ales: Hiss, Foote, Stettinius?” ­ Foote: See Haynes for Foote’s lack of involvement in KARL’s group or contact with RUBLE.

Revised April 15, 2007 to include text of March 5, 1945 cable reference, update information on clue #5, and to add clue #2 for March 5 cable. Revised September 22, 2009 to add information from Vassiliev notebooks for Clues #1 and #4 for Cable No. 1822 and Clue #1 for March 5 cable (marked with *).

Copyright © 2007-2009 Jefferson Flanders
All rights reserved

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