Accuracy in Media

Notra Trulock sitting in for Cliff Kincaid

That is the conclusion of two new books on J. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific director of the Manhattan Project that produced the A-bomb. To the day of his death, Oppenheimer, like Alger Hiss, vehemently denied that he was a Communist or that he had spied for the Soviet Union. Over the years, Oppenheimer’s defenders admitted that he had a “pink background” and may even have been a “fellow traveler.” But the circumstances surrounding Oppenheimer’s post-war loss of his security clearance transformed him into a sympathetic figure to the left and the elite media.

Both of the books agree that Oppenheimer was indeed a Communist and that he participated in secret party work into the early 1940s. But they are at odds on Oppenheimer’s responsibility, if any, for the wholesale transfer of critical nuclear weapons secrets from Los Alamos to Moscow. The New York Times and most of the elite media prefer the benign interpretation of Oppenheimer’s actions offered by Greg Herken in his book, Brotherhood of the Bomb. To date, for example, the Times has published three articles on Herken’s book: a feature article by Times science writer William J. Broad and two book reviews.

The Times and the rest have ignored the other Oppenheimer book, Sacred Secrets by Jerrold and Leona Schecter. The Schecters conclude that Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty, a known Communist, convinced him to hire “anti-fascists of German origin.” According to them, this paved the way for Klaus Fuchs and other young Communists to work at Manhattan Project centers around the country including Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Chicago.

One example of the differences in the two books concerns how the Soviets learned of Albert Einstein’s 1939 letter to Franklin Roosevelt urging the government to undertake the Manhattan Project. The Schecters say that Oppenheimer told Georgi Kheifitz, the top Soviet spy in San Francisco, about the letter sometime after December 6, 1941. Kheifitz reported the letter to Moscow and that, combined with Donald Mclean’s information on the British efforts to develop an A-bomb, triggered the Soviet crash project to steal our atomic secrets. Herken notes the Schecters’ finding, but says that “lacking additional documentation,” he couldn’t determine that the Schecters’ discoveries in the Soviet archives prove Oppenheimer committed espionage.

That judgment can be sustained only by ignoring the evidence found by the Schecters, who mined the KGB archives and conducted interviews with former KGB operatives. They unearthed and published a document written by Lavrenti Beriya, Stalin’s chief spy and head of the Soviet nuclear program. The document identifies Oppenheimer as an “unlisted agent” of the Communist Party of the USA and praises Oppenheimer’s cooperation in providing Soviet spies access to U.S. atomic secrets.

Jerrold and Leona Schecter have uncovered important new evidence on one of the most significant crimes in our time. With few exceptions, their discovery has been met by a wall of silence in the elite media. The Schecters and the public deserve better.

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