Reed Irvine - Editor
  May A, 1994  

ATOMIC SECRETS: WHO WERE THE SPIES?

 THIS ISSUE:
  • ATOMIC SECRETS: WHO WERE THE SPIES?
  • Charges Challenged
  • No Case Against Fermi
  • The Missing Moles
  • Niels Bohr Unscathed
  • Sudoplatov Remembers?
  • Answering The Critics
  • Not For The Money
  • Sudoplatov on Oppenheimer
  • The Rest of The Story
  •  What You Can Do
  • Notes
  • The Washington Post bleared with editorial pain in the spring of 1954 when the Atomic Energy Commission upheld the revocation of the security clearance of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the brilliant physicist who, as head of the Manhattan Project, fathered the atomic bomb. A Post editorial expressed "disappointment and shame" at the AEC decision. It wondered "whether a generation from now, historians will not consider the decision of the Security Board a greater mistake than any Dr. Oppenheimer ever made." Portraying Oppenheimer as a parlor pink, it viewed his communist associations as meaningless. This view was vindicated in 1963, when President Johnson rehabilitated Oppenheimer by giving him the AEC's Fermi Award.

    Now, 31 years later, Pavel Sudoplatov, a former senior Soviet intelligence officer, charges that Oppenheimer was really a spy. He claims that the most important information about the A-bomb came not from Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were executed as spies, but from Oppenheimer and other top physicists in the Manhattan Project. He says the Rosenbergs "provided no valuable secrets....Their contributions to atomic espionage were minor....The most vital information for developing the first Soviet atomic bomb," he claims, "came from scientists designing the American atomic bombs at Los Alamos, New Mexico--Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard." He also implicates the famous Danish physicist, Niels Bohr.

    This shocking charge is made in a new book, Special Tasks, The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness--A Soviet Spymaster, by Sudoplatov, his son Anatoli, and American journalists Jerrold and Leona Schecter. Sudoplatov claims he was deeply involved in the Soviet's atomic espionage operations from 1942 to 1946. In the chapter of his book on atomic espionage, he charges that these great scientists were often quoted in his agency's files from 1942 to 1945 as sources of information on the development of the atomic bomb. Time's April 25 issue devoted nine pages to this story, seven of them excerpts from the book.

    The naming of Oppenheimer comes as no surprise in view of the evidence of his known Communist ties, his pro-Soviet sympathies and his lack of candor about contacts with Soviet espionage agents. General Leslie Groves, who headed the Manhattan Project for the military, had to issue a written order to his chief security officer, Colonel Boris Pash, to give Oppenheimer a security clearance when Pash refused to do so. Leo Szilard, who drafted the letter that Albert Einstein sent to President Roosevelt in 1940 urging exploration of the development of atomic weapons, was also known for his pro-Soviet views. He was not allowed to even visit Los Alamos, although he was cleared for work at the Manhattan Project's Metallurical Laboratory in Chicago.

    Charges Challenged

    In view of this record, Sudoplatov's charges might have met with less skepticism if they had been confined to Oppenheimer and Szilard. Even some who supported the lifting of Oppen-heimer's security clearance have been turned off by the inclusion of Fermi and Bohr among those accused of espionage. Among them is Edward Teller, who fought for the development of the hydrogen bomb against Oppenheimer's opposition.

    Teller, a close friend of Fermi for 22 years, considers the charge against Fermi so outrageous that it casts doubt on all of Sudoplatov's claims about Soviet atomic espionage. In an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal of May 11, he wrote: "I never detected--not even in revealing side remarks--any tendency in Fermi to be anything but critical of communism and the Soviet Union. Fermi was apolitical. But he simply and dearly opposed the Stalinist nightmare even more than he opposed Mussolini."

    Teller has long been an anathema to the left because he understood that communism was the enemy of freedom. Some never forgave him for his testimony on the lifting of Oppenheimer's security clearance. He told the AEC security panel in 1954 that although he did not feel Oppenheimer would "willingly and knowingly" hurt the U.S., "If it is a question of wisdom and judgment, as demon- strated by actions since 1945, then I would say one would be wiser not to grant clearance." Teller argued that the U.S. had to develop the H-bomb, because the Soviets would surely do so. Without it, we would be in peril. He suspected that Oppenheirner's strong opposition to the H-bomb was colored by his Soviet sympathies.

    No Case Against Fermi

    Fermi, like Oppenheimer, opposed the development of the H- bomb, but Teller says this is explained by his fear "of a development whose devastating consequences he could not estimate," not because of any pro-Soviet sympathies. It is true, of course, that good spies can sometimes fool not only their friends but their families; however, Sudoplatov's case is flawed by both a lack of supporting evidence and by errors that suggest fabrication. For example, he asserts that Bruno Pontecorvo, an Italian physicist who defected to Russia in 1950, served as a conduit for information from Fermi. He says that when Fermi achieved the first nuclear chain reaction in Chicago on December 2, 1942, the Soviet spymaster in New York received this pre-arranged telephone message: "The Italian sailor reached the new world." In January, he says, Pontecorvo sent a full written report on the experiment.

    The reader is led to believe that Pontecorvo was part of Fermi's team in Chicago and that he conveyed the information about the success of the experiment with Fermi's knowledge. There are four serious problems with this: (1) Pontecorvo at the time was in Oklahoma working for an oil company; (2) a Soviet document in the appendix of the book shows that in July 1943 the head of the Soviet atomic bomb project was unaware that a chain reaction had already been achieved; (3) a footnote on p. 189 says Pontecorvo was first approached directly by a Soviet intelligence officer in 1943; and (4) the alleged telephone message is remarkably similar to the famous words used by Arthur Compton, the head of the Chicago laboratory, to inform James Conant of Harvard of the success of the experiment. Compton said, on the spur of the moment, "The Italian navigator has landed in the New World."

    This is but one example of Sudoplatov' s lack of knowledge of the whereabouts of those he accuses of being Soviet spies. When Pontecorvo left the oil company, he did not join Fermi in Los Alamos. He went to Montreal where he worked on nuclear matters, but not the bomb. However, Sudoplatov says the information supplied by Fermi was relayed to Moscow via Mexico City, which would require a slow and risky transport of highly sensitive documents if Pontecorvo was the conduit. They would have to go from New Mexico to Canada to Mexico City. Another example: Sudoplatov has Szilard working in Los Alamos, a place he was not allowed to visit. He actually worked in Chicago.

    The Missing Moles

    Sudoplatov says the Soviets had moles in the laboratories of Oppenheimer, Fermi, Klaus Fuchs and Pontecorvo, but he claims not to remember any of their names. Nor does he recall the code name "Perseus," or the name of anyone to whom it may have applied. Sudoplatov's top spymaster in New York, Anatoli Yatskov, told journalists in 1992 that he had given the name "Perseus" to an American physicist who was invited to work on the A-bomb project in 1941-42 and who was still alive.

    Sudoplatov is now 86, and the American writers who put the book into publishable form, Jerrold Schecter, a longtime editor for Time magazine, and his wife, Leona, acknowledge that his memory is not perfect. But the book has him recalling names, dates and events going back 50 or 60 years. One would think that the name of an agent who got into the Manhattan Project on the ground floor and escaped detection for 50 years would make more of an impression on Sudoplatov. He is quoted as saying that "Perseus" might be a "creation of Yatskov or his colleagues to cover the real names of the sources." The existence of moles whose names have been forgotten and possibly others whose identities were not re- ported to the center adds to the doubts about the validity of Sudoplatov's charges against Fermi and the others as well. If Sudoplatov's knowledge of names of the moles is so sketchy, no one can be confident that the information he obtained was being provided by them with the knowledge and approval of the eminent scientists he accuses.

    Niels Bohr Unscathed

    Of the four eminent scientists accused by Sudoplatov, Niels Bohr is the only one whose defenders can actually prove a negative-- that he didn't do what Sudoplatov alleges. This is because Sudoplatov bases his involvement of Bohr in Soviet atomic espionage on a meeting that was arranged between Bohr at his laboratory in Denmark and Yakov Terletsky, a young Soviet physicist working for Soviet intelligence. According to Sudolplatov, the meeting was set up after they had an accident with their first reactor in November 1945. They were seeking Bohr's advice on how to deal with the problem. Sudoplatov claims Terletsky explained the situation, showed Bohr a drawing, and Bohr pointed out "the trouble spot," enabling them to start their reactor a year later.

    This is denied by Bohr's son Aage, a Nobel laureate in physics, who sat in on the meeting with Terletsky at his father's request. Aage Bohr said his father's response to the technical questions posed by Terletsky was to refer him to the recently released Smythe report on the military uses of atomic energy. He also pointed out that the American, British and Danish authorities were all informed of the meeting in advance and that he had informed the Soviets that it was impossible for him to keep any secrets from his British and American friends. Bohr's version of what took place is confirmed by a 29-page account of the meeting dictated by Terletsky before his death. The Schecters, appearing on AIM's TV show, "The Other Side of the Story," on May 18, disputed this, claiming Terletsky made a second visit to Bohr, which was more productive. It seems odd, to say the least, that this is not mentioned in the book or in Terletsky's article.

    Sudoplatov Remembers?

    Sudoplatov's co-author and son, Anatoli, did archival research in Moscow, but there is no claim that he had access to the KGB files. His father, who fell out of favor and was imprisoned for 15 years in the Khrushchev era, could not have accumulated and retained his own collection of top secret intelligence files.

    The Schechters say they relied on taped conversations with the elder Sudoplatov, covering the material in all nine chapters of the book. In his review in the June 9 issue of The New York Review of Books, Thomas Powers has provided an excerpt from the transcript. Here is part of it.

    Answer (from Gen. Sudoplatov): The first reports were from Grigory Markovich Kheifetz. There were Oppenheimer's plans for the atomic bomb, and the development of his work into industrial areas.

    Q (from his son): When was that?

    A: This was approximately 1942 and '43. Again in '43 were the results of Fermi's experiments received from Pontecorvo. Here I would like to underline to you all the time that we are talking not about these comrades; comrades, that's an old way of speaking. These scientists were not our agents. Lord save us. We're not talking about that. An agent is someone under your command. They were not under our command. Not one of these people.

    Q: But they passed material to you?

    A: We received material all the same. But it wasn't from agents that we received materials. We received materials from people who were fearful of the spread of the atomic plague, people who were worried about the future of the world....In 1944 we received from Szilard material about his work at Los Alamos .....

    Q: Do you remember the pseudonyms used in the telegrams that we looked at yesterday?

    A: Charles is Fuchs, Star is Szilard. [Note: not consistent with the book, which says Star was Oppenheimer and Fermi.]

    Q: And Mlad, another source, was Pontecorvo?

    A: I think so. Yes. These weren't people who could be bought.

    Q: But they gave you information in written form? A: Sometimes they gave us information in written form when we asked for it. They gave it in written form. These were people who liked the Soviet Union very much...

    Q: What is known about the relationship between Oppenheimer and Fuchs?

    A: Well, what is known is that they worked together first of all, and Oppenheimer valued Fuchs highly as a physicist.

    Q: Did Oppenheimer know about Fuchs's sympathies to the Soviet Union?

    A: Maybe Oppenheimer knew about his feelings, and this may have made them closer to some degree. But of course we're not talking about his knowing there was a connection to Soviet espionage. Soviet espionage was never mentioned.

    This was excerpted from five pages of transcript that the Schecters released to the media. If this is the basis for the assertion that Pontecorvo gave the Soviets a full report on the success of Fermi's chain reaction, with Fermi's knowledge and consent, then it is obvious that it would be a mistake to put too much reliance on what the book attributes to Sudoplatov's memory.

    Answering The Critics

    No one denies that the Soviets breached the wall of secrecy erected around the development of our A-bomb. Some insist that the treachery of Klaus Fuchs, the German-born Communist physicist, can explain the theft of all the high-level material. Fuchs was exposed in 1950 and confessed. Soviet intelligence officers have claimed they had spies inside all the Manhattan Project laboratories, especially Los Alamos, by the beginning of 1944. Fuchs did not get to Los Alamos until August 1944.

    Sudoplatov alleges that Oppenheimer used his influence to bring Fuchs to Los Alamos. Many of the critics of the book argue that Fuchs was part of a British team that we accepted as a package and that Oppenheimer had no influence on the selection of the personnel. Powers asserts that the records show that Oppenheimer had nothing to do with Fuchs coming to America or going to Los Alamos. But Powers is one of the few critics to point out that Fuchs spent six months working at Columbia University in New York when he first arrived in the U.S. He was already in contact with Soviet intelligence in Britain, and he immediately established contact with the network in New York City. He got his chance to go to Los Alamos and latch on to the secrets of the bomb when Hans Bethe, who headed the Theoretical Physics Division at Los Alamos invited Rudolph Peierls, a distinguished German refugee to join his staff. Peierls sought and obtained permission to bring along his two assistants. Fuchs was one of them. How could anyone prove that it was impossible for Oppenheimer to influence the decision to hire Peierls and Fuchs?

    Some of the critics dispute Sudoplatov's claim that Oppenheimer told his KGB control agent about Albert Einstein's letter urging Roosevelt to start a nuclear bomb program. Priscilla Johnson McMillan said in an article published by The Washington Post, "His papers and my interviews don't indicate that he knew about the Einstein letter at all at that time."

    The Schecters answered McMillan's criticisms in an op-ed article in the Post on May 2. They asserted that NKVD officer Gregory Kheifetz told Sudoplatov in 1944 and again in 1975 that he had first learned of the Einstein letter at a lunch with Oppenheimer in December 1941.

    Not For The Money

    Some of Sudoplatov's critics have charged that he made up his sensational charges against Oppenheimer and the others to give the book publisher something that would sell books. Those who have made or accepted this accusation have overlooked a document in the appendix of Special Tasks which, if authentic, disproves the charge. After the death of Stalin in 1953, Sudoplatov was imprisoned for 15 years and stripped of his rank, rights and honors. The document in the appendix is said to be the letter he wrote to the Politburo in 1982 requesting rehabilitation. It sketches his achievements, including a brief account of his atomic espionage.

    "I shall omit the details of my work in this area," he wrote. "It is described by... Professor N. S. Sazykin in his letter to the president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences Com. Aleksandrov and to the USSR KGB. I shall only say that Department S rendered considerable help to our scientists by giving them the latest materials on atom bomb research, obtained from such sources as the famous nuclear physicists R. Oppenheimer, E. Fermi, K. Fuchs and others." He also mentioned Teretsky's meeting with Niels Bohr, saying this renowned scientist pro- vided advice that "enabled us to eliminate the damage, bring the facility back to normal, and thus speed up the building of the nuclear bomb...."

    Sudoplatov had to assume that these claims would be checked. It would seriously damage his petition for rehabilitation if the Politburo found that he was lying. The granting of his request suggests that some documentary support for his claims did exist. This would not necessarily prove the charges were true. The files very likely contain a document describing Terletsky' s visit to Bohr as a great success, but the objective evidence now available indicates the contrary. However, if this was written twelve years ago, it absolves Sudoplatov of the charge of inventing slanders just to sell books.

    Sudoplatov on Oppenheimer

    Sudoplatov has a lot to say about the Soviet cultivation of Robert Oppenheimer. What follows are mainly his allegations. When Beria put Sudoplatov in charge of atomic espionage in 1944, one of the first persons he debriefed was Gregory Kheifetz, the NKVD resident in San Francisco, who had been cultivating Oppenheimer for several years. Kheifetz said he and Oppenheimer met on December 6, 1941, at a party to raise money for Spanish Civil War refugees. Kheifetz used the alias "Mr. Brown" and said he was vice consul of the Soviet consulate. Later that month, Sudoplatov says, Oppenheimer confided to Kheifetz his concern that nothing had resulted from the Einstein letter urging action on an atomic weapon, indicating his willingness to share secrets.

    Oppenheimer was a prime prospect for recruitment. His wife, Kitty, was a Communist Party member, as was her first husband, Joseph Dallet, who was killed in the Spanish Civil War. Kitty and Dallet once shared a house with John Gates and Earl Browder, both of whom became heads of the Communist Party, USA. Oppenheimer's younger brother, Frank, was a party member, as was Frank's wife, Jackie.

    Sudoplatov says, "Kheifetz was an experienced professional and knew better than to approach such a jewel of a source with the usual money or threats. Instead, he created a common ground of interest and idealism....Occasionally, the most valuable information comes from a contact who is not an agent in the true sense--that is, working for and paid by us, but who is still regarded in the archives as an active source of information." Kheifetz reported that Oppenheimer, "the son of a German-Jewish immigrant, was deeply moved by Stalin's plan to set up a Jewish autonomous republic in the Crimea after the war was won against fascism."

    After this initial cultivation, Khelfetz put Oppenheimer in the hands of Elizabeth Zarubina, wife of Soviet operative Vassili Zarubin, and herself a captain in intelligence. During her frequent visits to California, Khelfetz also introduced Zarobina to Oppenheimer's wife, Katherine, who Sudoplatov relates was "sympathetic to the Soviet Union and Communist ideals, and the two worked out a system for future meetings."

    Sudoplatov claims, "Oppenheimer, together with Fermi and Szilard, helped us place moles in Tennessee, Los Alamos and Chicago as assistants in those three labs. In total there were four important sources of information who transmitted documents from the labs to the New York and Washington rezidenturas and to our illegal station, which was a drugstore in Santa Fe." According to Sudoplatov, "One agent report cites Oppenheimer's stressing that information should be leaked in a way that was not traceable to those who worked in Los Alamos. Rather, it should be done through someone not on the permanent staff of the Manhattan Project who, due to illness or personal reasons, would leave when the work of producing a bomb was finished, perhaps even leave the country."

    Sudoplatov summarized, "We received reports on the progress of the Manhattan Project from Oppenheimer and his friends in oral form, through comments and asides, and from documents transferred through clandestine methods with their full knowledge that the information they were sharing would be passed on. In all, there were five classified reports made available by Oppenheimer describing the progress of work on the atomic bomb."

    Sudoplatov said contacts with Oppenheimer were "carefully planned to maintain security," not for "acquiring routine information." And the Soviets had long-range plans: "We knew that Oppenheimer would remain an influential person in America after the war and therefore our relations with him should not take the form of running a controlled agent."

    Among the persons the Soviets used for clandestine contacts with Oppenheimer were two persons described as "two Polish Jewish agents" who had lived as "illegals" on the West Coast for more than a decade. One as these agents was a dentist whose wife became a close friend of the Oppenheimer family. Sudoplatov says these people were clandestine contacts with Oppenheimer and his friends that went undetected by the FBI.

    The Rest of The Story

    There is much more to Sudoplatov's book than the provocative but flawed chapter on atomic espionage. Sudoplatov is a Stalinist, who was privy to and responsible for some of the darkest crimes of that era. Robert Conquest says of his book, "This is the most sensational, the most devastating, and in many ways the most informative autobiography ever to emerge from the Stalinist milieu."

    What You Can Do

    Those of you who are long-time AIM members will recall that in 1985 we started a sister organization, Accuracy in Academia. The premise was that a lot of the problems we see in the media are rooted in the education of our journalists and that it would be a good idea to try to do something about the root of the problem. AIA has a challenge grant which must be matched dollar for dollar by June 30. I am enclosing a letter explaining this and inviting your help. Please read it and help if you can.

    AIM REPORT is published twice monthly by Accuracy In Media, Inc., 4455 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20008, and is free to AIM members. Dues and contributions to AIM are tax deductible. The AIM REPORT is mailed 3rd class to those whose contribution is at least $27.95 a year and 1st class to those contributing $36.95 a year or more. Non-member subscriptions are $40 (1st class mail).

    NOTES FROM THE EDITOR'S CUFF By Reed Irvine

    THIS REPORT IS DEVOTED TO A CONTROVERSIAL NEW BOOK BY THE HIGHEST RANKING former Soviet intelligence officer to publish his memoirs, Special Tasks, by Gen. Pavel Sudoplatov. The book covers a lot of ground, including new information on several official murders of famous people (Leon Trotsky, Raoul Wallenberg, Georgi Markov, Victor Alter, Henryk Ehrlich and others). The chapter that has attracted all the attention and stirred up a lot of controversy is the one on atomic espionage. It charges that J. Robert Oppenheimer and other eminent scientists involved in developing the A-bomb were covertly giving our most closely guarded secrets to Soviet intelligence. I have discussed this with Dr. Edward Teller, who is a member of AIM's National Advisory Board and a man of unimpeachable integrity. He believes the allegations that Enrico Fermi and Niels Bohr gave secrets to the Soviets is dead wrong. I have to agree with him, not only because Teller vouches for their character, but also because the case against them in the book is weak to nonexistent. That casts a cloud over Sudoplatov's other charges as well, but the fact is that there were leaks of very high-level information, not all of which came from the confessed spy Klaus Fuchs. The Russians know who was responsible, and we should be trying to find out.

    THOMAS POWERS, WHOSE CRITIQUE OF SUDOPLATOV'S BOOK IS DISCUSSED IN THIS report, faults the old general for not providing the kind of detail about his agents that one has a right to expect from an intelligence officer. Sudoplatov does provide a fair amount of detail about the cultivation of J. Robert Oppenheimer, some of which we have included in this report. There is a lot more known about Oppenheimer from U.S. security investigations that justifies classifying him as a security risk.

    OPPENHEIMER'S COMMUNIST ASSOCIATIONS WERE WELL-KNOWN TO THE FBI WHEN HE began work on the Manhattan Project. The overall director, Major General Leslie Groves, insisted that this be disregarded because Oppenheimer was indispensable. But an incident in late 1942 or early 1943 made agents suspicious that Oppenheimer could be sharing secrets with the Soviets. The crucial episode involved Oppenheimer's Communist friend Haakon Chevalier, a French language professor at Berkeley. By Chevalier's account, he was contacted by George Eltenton, a British-born engineer for Shell Oil, a fellow leftist who had lived in Leningrad. Eltenton told Chevalier it would be useful for the U.S. and the Soviet Union to exchange scientific information to further their joint war effort.

    CHEVALIER HAS SAID THAT HE THOUGHT OPPENHEIMER WAS LIKELY TO AGREE WITH this idea. He discussed it with Oppenheimer, who failed to report it to security. Security discovered that Eltenton was discussing with the Soviet consul work being done at Oppenheimer's Radiation Laboratory, and Col. Boris Pash called Oppenheimer in for questioning on August 26, 1943. Oppenheimer claimed "no first-hand knowledge" of any spy attempts, then went on to say, "I think it is true that a man, whose name I never heard, who was attached to the Soviet consul, has indicated indirectly through intermediary people concerned in this project, that he was in a position to transmit, without any danger of a leak, or a scandal, or anything of that kind, which they might supply."

    OPPENHEIMER IDENTIFIED THIS PERSON AS ELTENTON. HE AGREED WHEN PASH SUGGESTED that "he made about three contacts that we knew of," one being through Haakon Chevalier. Then Oppenheimer tried to minimize the value of espionage, arguing, "The information about what we are doing is probably of no use because it is so damn complicated." Pash concluded that Oppenheimer was a security risk who should be taken off the Manhattan Project. But Gen. Groves would not agree, and as an alternative Pash recommended that Oppenheimer be told, in no uncertain terms, that "this government will not tolerate any leakage of information, either by subject or any of his associates, to the Communist Party." In addition, Pash urged that Oppenheimer be told that because of the "possibility of violence on the part of Axis agents," two CIC agents would act as his bodyguards. In fact, Pash said, they would be "undercover agents" tasked to watch for security breaches. Groves ordered that Oppenheimer be kept on the A-bomb work but under strict scrutiny.

    IN THE LATE 1940s, OPPENHEIMER'S OPPOSITION TO DEVELOPMENT OF THE HYDROGEN bomb raised questions about whether he was doing the Soviets' bidding. William L. Borden, executive director of the Joint Atomic Energy Committee, informed J. Edgar Hoover that he had concluded from a study of the available classified evidence, that Oppenheimer was probably a Soviet agent. In a month of hearings at which his Communist associations were explored at length, Oppenheimer said that as late as 1943 it was "not clear" to him that the Communist Party was a vehicle of espionage in the United States. He denied ever having been a party member, claiming he was a "fellow traveler" through 1942. That means he remained sympathetic even through the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939. An AEC security panel decided that although actual spying was not proven, Oppenheimer's pattern of associations and evasive responses justified lifting his security clearance.

    SUDOPLATOV'S CLAIM THAT OPPENHEIMER WAS ONE OF HIS SOURCES FOR ATOMIC secrets is credible against this background. There is no doubt that Oppenheimer hired others who shared his political views. If he thought sharing atomic secrets with the Soviets was desirable, the Communists he hired very likely felt the same way. If Oppenheimer did not hand the secrets over personally, his disdain for the constraints imposed by security surely created a climate in which Soviet moles could go undetected. On Oct. 4, 1992, The Washington Post quoted one of Sudoplatov's agents, Anatoly Yatskov, as saying that the FBI had uncovered "only half, perhaps less than half" of his agents who supplied atomic secrets. One of them, he said, was a physicist who sometime prior to July 1942 informed an American Communist and Soviet agent named Morris Cohen that he had been invited to join the Manhattan Project. He was recruited and supplied information about the construction and testing of the A-bomb. Yatskov said this undiscovered agent, code-named Perseus, was still alive.

    THE PERSEUS STORY GOT A LOT MORE COVERAGE IN RUSSIA THAN IN THE U.S. IN JUNE and July 1992 Moscow's New Times ran excerpts from a forthcoming book by Vladimir Chikov, an official of the RIS, the successor to the KGB, about the Soviet atomic espionage. The book has been published in Russian, but has not been translated into English. Chikov had access to the KGB files, including those on Perseus. I am told that this was authorized because the RIS was eager to show how intelligence had helped in the development of the Soviet bomb. According to Chikov, Perseus, who was visiting his parents in New York (apparently in June 1942), looked up Morris Cohen, an acquaintance from the Spanish Civil War. He claimed to have important information he wanted to convey to the Russians connected with his prospective employment by the Los Alamos laboratory, which was not yet in existence.

    HERBERT ROMERSTEIN, AUTHOR OF A NEW BOOK ABOUT THE AMERICANS DUPED INTO fighting for the Communists in Spain (Heroic Victims, Stalin's Foreign Legion in the Spanish Civil War), tells me he could find no American veterans of that war who were involved in the Manhattan Project. Sudoplatov says he doesn't remember any Perseus. The story could be RIS fiction. Or Perseus might have been introduced to Cohen by a Spanish Civil War acquaintance such as Oppenheimer's wife, Kitty, who was in Spain during the Civil War, Oppenheimer did get jobs for some of his radical friends at Los Alamos, including even a philosophy professor. The Senate Internal Security Subcommittee disclosed in 1953 that one of his students, who worked for the Manhattan Project from 1942 to 1946, had belonged to both the Young Communist League and the Communist Party, but had failed to disclose that on the security questionnaires he had filled out. The committee questioned him in 1953 about his recent involvement with a group that had been proposed for inclusion on the Attorney General's list of subversive organizations. It didn't ask when or why he left the Communist Party. The laxity this case typifies helped make the elaborate physical security measures adopted to protect our atomic secrets a costly joke.


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