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With this new volume, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr build upon their groundbreaking work in The Secret World of American Communism and solidify their reputations as the foremost historians of Soviet espionage in America. In Venona, they provide a detailed study of how the United States decrypted top-secret Communist cables moving between Washington and Moscow. This account, based on information unavailable to researchers for decades, reveals the full extent of the Communist spy network in the 1940s. At least 349 citizens, immigrants, and permanent residents of the United States had a covert relationship with Soviet intelligence agencies, among them Harry White (assistant secretary of the treasury in FDR's administration and the Communists' highest-ranking asset) and State Department official Alger Hiss, whose association with the Soviets had been hotly debated since the moment he was first publicly accused in 1948.
"The Soviet assault was of the type a nation directs at an enemy state," write Haynes and Klehr. They go on to suggest that Venona's code-breaking "indicated that the Cold War was not a state of affairs that had begun after World War II but a guerilla action that Stalin had secretly started years earlier." Moreover, "espionage saved the USSR great expense and industrial investment and thereby enabled the Soviets to build a successful atomic bomb years before they otherwise would have." Haynes and Klehr deliver what is at once a real-life spy thriller and a vital piece of scholarship. A grand achievement. --John J. Miller [via]