Feb 19

One of the many abiding mysteries of the Hiss Case was how Chambers got hold of the State Department documents, if he didn’t get them from Alger Hiss. During the trials, the prosecution had Francis Sayre’s secretary, Eunice Lincoln, testify that security around the office was tight, and that no one could have gone in unnoticed.

The defense countered that with the testimony of Charles Darlington, a State Department official in the Trade Agreements division (where some of the documents originated), who said he happened to see Julian Wadleigh — who admitted stealing documents for Chambers — sitting in his office going through his papers. He also said he had gone to Hiss’s office and hadn’t been prevented from entering by Eunice Lincoln.

But it was Chambers himself who inadvertently provided the best evidence about how documents could easily have been stolen from the Department. The story came via a 1969 conversation that Alger Hiss had with the radical journalist Ella Winter, who had met Chambers in the 1930s. Winter then sat with John Lowenthal for a longer interview, in which she told him about the encounter. The interview raises all sorts of questions about what Chambers was up to, but I’m posting a couple of pages here just to focus on explanation about how easy it was to sneak documents out Foggy Bottom. Here are three pages from Lowenthal’s interview notes:


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