Reed Irvine - Editor
  November B, 1996  
 

HISS DIES BUT NOT HIS LIES

 THIS ISSUE:
  • The Exoneration Effort
  • AIM Gets Corrections
  • The Omits Of The Obits
  • Hiss Hit By A Model-A Ford
  • Papers, Pumpkin and Microfilm
  • Corroborative Testimony
  • The Case-Closing Cable
  •  What You Can Do
  • Notes
  • Alger Hiss died at age 92, but the lies that sent him to prison for four years colored the stories in which our media reported his death, granting Hiss more credibility than any traitor deserves. In January 1950, Hiss, a former senior State Department official, was convicted of perjury and sentenced to five years in prison for denying that he had given secret U. S. Government documents to Whittaker Chambers for transmittal to the GRU, the military intelligence agency of the Soviet Union. The evidence against Hiss was overwhelming then, and it has increased in volume and strength in recent years. In most of the Hiss obituaries that fact was lost or obscured by the accounts of the charm, achievements and bright promise of the young Alger Hiss that shattered on the shoals onto which he was driven by his devotion to the Communist cause.

    Because of ignorance, carelessness or design, the authors of these obituaries missed an opportunity to tell the generations that have matured since World War II what the Hiss case was all about and why it was so important. Instead, they tried to pump life into the lies that Hiss and his coterie of true believers had been spreading since August 17, 1948, when Hiss, after examining Whittaker Chambers' teeth, claimed he had known him as George Crosley, a free lance writer to whom he had sublet his apartment and sold an old car in the summer of 1935.

    The Exoneration Effort

    The effort to exonerate Hiss was on the air the night of his death. In a brief report on the NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw said, "Despite the support of many prominent Americans, Hiss was sent to prison for almost four years. It is a case that still divides many people in this country, but at the end of his life, Hiss considered Vindication a declaration by a Russian general who controlled the KGB archives saying that Hiss had never been a spy."

    Peter Jennings on ABC's World News Tonight elevated the authority for Hiss's vindication, saying, "He protested his innocence until the very end, and last year we reported that Russian President Boris Yeltsin said that KGB files had supported Mr. Hiss's claim."

    National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" implied that the argument over Hiss's guilt pitted Communists against McCarthyites and suggested that the Communist view had been vindicated. It said, "His case was long one of those Cold War litmus tests. People's opinions of it said much about their views of the relative merits of Moscow and McCarthyism. In recent years, he claimed vindication from Moscow when an aide to Boris Yeltsin said that files showed Hiss had never spied for Russia."

    These reports reflected serious errors in the stories that the Associated Press and Reuters put on their wires. Reuters reported, 'A senior adviser to Russian President Boris Yeltsin said in 1992 that newly opened files showed no evidence that Hiss had spied for Moscow.' The Associated Press, noting that Hiss had worked for vindication all his life, said, 'He proclaimed that it had come finally in 1992, at age 87, when a Russian general in charge of Soviet intelligence archives declared that Hiss had never been a spy, but rather a victim of Cold War hysteria and the McCarthy Red- hunting era."

    Of 20 news stories, including those on TV, the wire services, news weeklies and newspapers, only two did not mention the alleged exoneration of Hiss by the Russian general--the CBS Evening News, which said only that Hiss had died, and the Orlando Sentinel. Of those 18, nine did not report that Gen. Volkogonov had retracted his statement soon after making it. Those nine were the AP, Reuters, NBC, ABC, NPR, The Washington Post, Newsday, The Wilmington (Del.) News Journal and the Dallas Morning News. The Washington Post said only that Volkogonov, a biographer of Stalin, "said in a 1992 letter to a student of the Hiss case that newly opened files showed no evidence that Hiss had spied for Moscow." The Dallas Morning News, which shared with the Orlando Sentinel the dishonor of not mentioning any evidence of Hiss's guilt, left this statement uncorrected, "In 1992 he proclaimed himself cleared of wrongdoing when a formerly high-ranking Soviet official said the espionage accusations were 'completely groundless.'"

    The New York Times embellished the general's exoneration and minimized his retraction, saying, 'Gen. Dimitri Volkogonov, a Russian historian in charge of KGB and military intelligence archives, announced in 1992 that he had searched files and found no evidence that Mr. Hiss had been a Communist spy. 'You can tell Mr. Alger Hiss that the heavy weight can be lifted from his heart,' Gen. Volkogonov said, responding to a request for information from Mr. Hiss and his supporters, who say a half-dozen other Russian archivists have told them they, too, found no evidence that Mr. Hiss was a spy. But when American historians questioned whether General Volkogonov's certainty was realistic, given the voluminousness and complexity of the Soviet archives, he conceded that he could not rule out the possibility that some records had been overlooked or even destroyed."

    That did not track with the Times' own report of Dec. 17, 1992 on Volkogonov's retraction. That report quoted him as saying that "even if he had scoured all the voluminous archives of the KGB, the Defense Ministry and the Communist Party (which he admittedly had not done), there were also untold files that were destroyed in the upheavals after Stalin' s death." He admitted that his motive in writing the letter exonerating Hiss was "primarily humanitarian," to relieve the anguish of a man approaching death. He told the Times, "His attorney, Lowenthal, pushed me hard to say things of which I was not fully convinced."

    This was almost as dishonest as the left-wing magazine, The Nation, an ardent defender of Alger Hiss. The Nation said, "Volkogonov's finding achieved page-one status across the country, and it appeared that Alger Hiss had at last won the vindication he sought. But after a barrage of complaints from professional anti-Communists like Herbert Romerstein, the general qualified his finding and conceded that while his search had turned up not a scintilla of evidence in re Hiss, he couldn't say for certain that the case was closed. (Latter-day cold warriors portray this as a 'retraction,' which it wasn't.)"

    AIM Gets Corrections

    Many papers got this part of the story right because Accuracy in Media called the Associated Press about its failure to report the Volkogonov retraction. Our call resulted in a correction being sent out at 6:19 p.m. Eastern Time. It read, "In 1992, at age 87, Hiss proclaimed that it (his vindication) had finally come when a Russian general in charge of Soviet intelligence archives declared that Hiss had never been a spy, but rather a victim of Cold War hysteria.

    Gen. Dimitri A. Volkogonov later qualified his statement, saying that while he had found no evidence against Hiss in KGB files, he couldn't speak for other Soviet intelligence agencies, and many documents had been destroyed." This was an improvement, but what they should have done was drop the statement entirely, since Volkogonov had admitted it was baseless.

    We also succeeded in getting corrections made by Tom Brokaw on the NBC Nightly News on Nov. 18 and by Peter Jennings on ABC's World News Tonight on Nov. 19. Here is how Brokaw handled it: "Last week on this program we reported on the death of Alger Hiss, the establishment intellectual who was the center of a long, bitter debate about his Communist Party credentials and suspected Soviet spy activity. Late in his life, we reported, he felt vindicated by a Russian general's claim that there were no records to support the claim that Hiss was a spy. However, the Russian general admitted he did not have access to all records."

    It took a day longer and a little more effort to get this correction aired by Peter Jennings: "We have a clarification tonight of something we reported on Friday. In the obituary of Alger Hiss, we reported Russian President Boris Yeltsin had said that KGB files supported Hiss's contention that he had never spied for the Soviets, as he had insisted all of his life. It was actually a member of Boris Yeltsin's staff, General Dimitri Volkogonov, who made the statement. He later said that the evidence wasn't conclusive because there were other Soviet intelligence agencies whose files were not available."

    We were alerted to the error in the AP story by a journalist who reads the AIM Report. He knew that Volkogonov had retracted his exoneration of Hiss after a confrontation with AIM's Joe Goulden and Herbert Romerstein (dubbed a "professional anti- Communist by The Nation) in Washington two weeks after The New York Times had reported the exoneration. That story had been given to the Times by Hiss's friend and defender, John Lowenthal, who was identified as a "film maker and researcher with a long interest in the Hiss case." He has also acted as an attorney for Hiss in his long fight for vindication. (He is the "student of the Hiss case" mentioned above by The Washington Post.) Lowenthal's research has been financed in part by The Nation Institute, the research arm of The Nation..

    When they confronted Volkogonov in Washington on Nov. 11, 1992, Joe Goulden and Herb Romerstein found that he knew very little about the Hiss case. He admitted that the only inquiry he made was to the successor agency to the KGB. He didn't know that Chambers, Hiss's contact with Soviet intelligence, didn't report to the KGB. He worked for the GRU and the Comintern. After this "Hisstory" lesson, Volkogonov sent a letter to The Independent newspaper in Moscow admitting that his "exoneration" was groundless.

    The Omits Of The Obits

    Of the stories we reviewed, only two made it clear that Alger Hiss was guilty as charged--The New York Post and Time magazine. Newsweek opted for "probably guilty," and the rest leaned toward suggesting that there was room for doubt. The near universal reporting of the Volkogonov "exoneration," contrasts sharply with the failure to discuss most of the evidence that convinced the jury that Hiss was guilty in 1950, not to mention the evidence that has become available since then. We discuss below the most important evidence and indicate how it was covered--or mainly not covered in the Hiss obituaries we reviewed.

    Hiss Hit By A Model-A Ford

    Chambers testified that he was an underground Communist known to Hiss only as Carl and that he and Hiss and their wives were close friends and comrades in the Red underground. He had detailed knowledge of the Hiss homes, the pet names the Hisses called each other, and their hobbies, recalling birdwatcher Alger's excited reaction when he spotted a rare prothonotary warbler. Hiss, after asking Chambers to open his mouth so he could examine his teeth, identified him as a free lance writer to whom he had sublet his apartment in the summer of 1935, selling him his 1929 Model-A Ford as part of the deal. He claimed Crosley never paid what he owed for either the apartment or the car.

    Records found by the House Committee on Un-American Activities showed that Hiss lied in claiming that he sublet the apartment for the summer of 1935, because his own lease expired in June. It also found records that proved Hiss lied in claiming that he sold the Model-A to Crosley in the summer of 1935. These records showed that Hiss bought a new car in September 1935, and he held onto the Model-A until July 1936 when he transferred it through a dealer to a Communist Party member named William Rosen with no money changing hands. Chambers had testified that Hiss had insisted on donating the car to the Communist Party even though this was against the party's rules because it would leave a paper trail. Chambers wrote that the discovery of this trail was second in importance only to the papers and microfilm discussed below in proving Hiss's guilt.

    The only story we found that accurately described how the car proved perjury by Hiss was in The Los Angeles Times. The only other paper that mentioned the car was The New York Times, but it neglected to explain how the records proved that Chambers had told the truth and Hiss had lied.

    Papers, Pumpkin and Microfilm

    All the print-media stories except those in the Dallas Morning News and the Orlando Sentinel mentioned the microfilms of government documents Chambers had obtained from Hiss, but only seven stories mentioned the typed copies of official documents, and only five mentioned the handwritten notes that were crucial in tying all the documents to Hiss. But mentioning is very different from explaining. For example, the AP story mentioned "spectacular developments involving microfilm in a hollowed-out pumpkin and an ancient typewriter." Later it said, "Chambers said that in 1937 and 1938, Hiss was a Communist who betrayed his country by giving him documents to relay to the Soviets....Hiss denied it all. But Chambers took investigators to his Maryland farm and produced a hollow pumpkin. Inside, they found microfilmed State Department documents--the ones Chambers said he received from Hiss."

    The Los Angeles Times, by contrast, provided information about the evidence that was more accurate and which explained its significance. Its story began by explaining, albeit inaccurately, how the documents came to be introduced into the case. Hiss had challenged Chambers to repeat his charge that he was a Communist outside a Congressional hearing. Chambers made the charge on Meet the Press, and Hiss sued him. During Chambers' pre-trial deposition, Hiss's attorney demanded that he turn over any letters or other communications he had received from Hiss. Chambers had not yet accused Hiss of espionage, an important point that the L. A. Times story got wrong. When he broke with the Communists in 1938, Chambers had entrusted an envelope full of documents he had obtained from Hiss to a nephew for safekeeping. In response to the attorney's demand, he retrieved that envelope and turned over the documents, holding back three cassettes of undeveloped film and two developed film strips.

    The L. A. Times said, "Its contents, if genuine, were dynamite: 65 typed sheets purporting to be summaries and copies of 71 State and War Department cables from late 1937 to April 1, 1938; four manuscript notes, apparently in Hiss's handwriting; four sheets bearing longhand notations by Harry Dexter White, a Treasury official; two strips of developed microfilm and three cans of undeveloped film. Taken at face value, the haul documented apparent espionage on Hiss's part and undermined his claim to have had no dealings with Chambers--or Crosley--after mid-1936.

    "Chambers told the FBI it was at the request of Col. Boris Bykov, a Soviet spymaster, that Hiss agreed in the fall of 1937 to procure State Department documents, bringing them home in his briefcase to be typed by his wife, then passing them to Chambers. On Dec. 2, Chambers led committee investigators to microfilms that he had temporarily cached in a hollowed-out pumpkin on his Maryland farm. The hoard, headlined as the 'Pumpkin Papers,' was promptly subpoenaed by the House committee."

    Hiss never came up with an innocent explanation as to how Chambers acquired so many State Department documents that had been copied on a typewriter in Hiss's home. When first asked about this, he told the grand jury, "Until the day I die, I shall wonder how Whittaker Chambers got into my house to use my typewriter." Later, He declared himself to be a victim of "forgery by typewriter," charging that the FBI had a typewriter made to duplicate the typing of the old Woodstock. That was a hard sell, since his own investigators had found the old typewriter and turned it over to the FBI.

    The Washington Post also gave its readers a good explanation of these documents and their significance, describing their content, and showing that many of them dealt with highly secret information of great interest to the Soviets. The Post also pointed out that the copies of cables from our Moscow embassy would have helped the Soviets crack our codes. The New York Times, however, devoted less than 150 words to describing this key evidence against Hiss, and did little more than allude to his tortured, implausible explanations of how Chambers might have obtained his handwritten notes and gained access to his typewriter to copy all those State Department cables. It reported that Chambers had said the documents had been typed by Mrs. Hiss. It did not report that document experts agreed that they had been typed on her typewriter.

    Corroborative Testimony

    None of the stories reported that another former Soviet spy, Hede Massing, had testified at Hiss's second trial that she had met Alger Hiss in 1935 at a dinner given by Noel Field, a Communist then working in the State Department. She said both she and Hiss were trying independently to get Field to steal State Department documents, and they joked about who was going to win Field's services. Massing said Field at first agreed to work with her, but almost immediately he resigned and took a job with the League of Nations, where he felt more comfortable engaging in espionage for the Soviets.

    Noel Field and his wife were arrested as "Western imperialist agents" in Czechoslovakia in 1949 and were imprisoned in Hungary for five years. Their harsh treatment did not turn them against communism, and after their release in 1954 they chose to remain in Hungary, where they were given a house and employment. Trying to help Alger Hiss, they denounced Hede Massing's testimony as false, but it has been learned that Field gave statements to Czech and Hungarian security officials that confirmed Massing's story Chambers' charges.

    Allen Weinstein learned this from Prof. Karel Kaplan, a member of the Czech government's 1968 commission to investigate the 1949 Soviet satellite purge trials, and reported it in his book, Perjury, the definitive book on the Hiss case. (A new edition will be published in 1997.) Kaplan had seen reports showing that months before Field was arrested, he told Czech security officials that he and Alger Hiss had been underground Communist agents in the State Department in the 1930s.

    In February 1992, Hungarian historian Maria Schmidt found reports of interrogations of Noel Field conducted by Hungarian secret police as part of Field's "rehabilitation" after being released from prison. Sam Tanenhaus, who is writing a biography of Whittaker Chambers, summarized Schmidt's findings in Commentary magazine in April 1993. He wrote, "On at least four occasions, Field named Hiss as a fellow spy. Field also told of his anxiety when he learned of Whittaker Chamber's testimony before the House Commit- tee on Un-American Activities in August 1948. He further told how Hiss and Hede Massing-a former Comintern agent who testified at Hiss's second perjury trial--had competed in the mid-1930s to recruit Field for espionage work."

    The New York Times and The Baltimore Sun were the only papers that reported Maria Schmidt's findings. Both said that Hiss defenders dismissed the Field statements as coerced. They did not point out that the statements were made before Field was arrested and after his release from prison. Nor did they mention that they were corroborated by Hede Massing's testimony.

    The Case-Closing Cable

    In March 1996, the National Security Agency (NSA) released a batch of World War II era cables known as the Venona intercepts that included one that should settle any lingering doubts about Hiss's guilt. It was sent by the NKVD station chief in Washington on March 30, 1945, giving NKVD headquarters information about an American code-named Ales who had attended the Yalta conference in February 1945 and flown to Moscow after the conference ended. It said, "Ales has been working with the NEIGHBORS (code for the GRU, military intelligence) continuously since 1935. For some years he has been the leader of a small group of the NEIGHBORS probationers, for the most part consisting of his relatives."

    An NSA note explaining the cable said that Ales was probably Alger Hiss, based on the fact that the description of Ales in the cable fits Hiss. This is a smoking gun. Only four Americans who were not attached to the American Embassy in Moscow made the trip from Yalta to Moscow--Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, Hiss and two career foreign service officers. Of those four, only Hiss had tell-tale powder burns on his hands.

    The cable says Ales became a GRU agent in 1935. According to Chambers, that is the year Hiss was recruited. The cable says Ales was the leader of a group of GRU "probationers." Three former Soviet agents have described Hiss as the leader of a group of unpaid GRU agents. The cable says Ales' group consisted largely of his "relatives." That is probably code for his peers in government who were supplying him with material for Chambers.

    The AP got the story all wrong. It said that newly declassified NSA material "included a reference to a Soviet spy working in the United States," adding, "A cable dated March 30, 1945, said the spy went by the code name 'Ales' and was 'probably Alger Hiss.' The cable offered no supporting information for that identification." The Washington Post said only that an intercepted Soviet spy message "referred to an agent whom the NSA said was probably Alger Hiss." The New York Times said the cable revealed that a high-level State Department official who was at Yalta was a Soviet agent and that he had visited Moscow after the conference. It said a notation made by someone at the NSA "suggested Ales was probably Alger Hiss." It said nothing about the basis for that judgment, but it reported that Hiss denied he was Ales. Only The New York Post treated this story as the smoking gun that it is, running an article about it by Eric Breindel.

    What You Can Do

    Send the enclosed cards or your own cards or letters to Louis D. Boccardi, president of the AP, to Burl Osborne, publisher and editor of The Dallas Morning News and to the editor of a newspaper or magazine of your choice.

    AIM REPORT is published twice monthly by Accuracy In Media., 4455 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington DC 20008, and is free to AIM members. Membership dues are $25 a year. Dues and contributions to AIM are tax deductible. Corporate membership is $50.

    AIM Report NOTES FROM THE EDITOR'S CUFF

    THIS AIM REPORT SHOWS HOW POORLY OUR MEDIA CAN PERFORM IN REPORTING A story that has been in the news for nearly 50 years. The death of Alger Hiss should have resulted in stories that reviewed the evidence that led to his conviction and the important new information that has been revealed, some of it as recently as last March, that confirms his guilt. The evidence of his perjury was compelling when Hiss was convicted in 1950, and it has grown stronger as formerly secret information from the former Evil Empire has become available. These stories should also have put the case in its historical context, showing our younger generations that the steps taken in the post-war period to expose and excise the Communist cancer that was growing on our government, labor unions, schools and churches was not the mad witch-hunt that it has been portrayed to be.

    NEARLY EVERY PRINT OBITUARY WE SAW MENTIONED ALLEN WEINSTEIN'S BOOK, PER- jury, and the fact that Weinstein thought that Hiss was innocent when he started writing it but changed his mind when he became more familiar with the evidence. But very few of the obituaries described the evidence that caused Weinstein to change his mind. Most of them left the impression that it is respectable, if not chic, to question Hiss's guilt. That was achieved by playing up the absurd and quickly retracted "exoneration" of Hiss by Gen. Dimitri Volkogonov in October 1992 and by playing down all the evidence of guilt.

    ON MEET THE PRESS ON DEC. 2, TIM RUSSERT ASKED SEN. PAT MOYNIHAN, D-NY, IF HE believed Hiss was guilty. Moynihan replied, "Yes, and I also think, however, that if the United States Government had told the public what it knew in 1946-47, we would have been spared a generation of excruciating division. Harry S Truman was never told by the FBI that the Army Signals had broken KGB telegrams with Hiss involved in them. So how was he supposed to respond?" He was referring to the Venona cable about a Soviet agent code-named Ales who fits the description of Alger Hiss perfectly. Truman was not informed about the Venona intercepts, but he was given lots of evidence that indicated Hiss was a Soviet agent.

    IGOR GOUZENKO, THE CODE CLERK WHO FLED FROM THE SOVIET EMBASSY IN OTTAWA in September has revealed that an assistant to Secretary of State Stettinius was a Soviet agent. Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King wrote in his diary that the suspect was very close to Stettinius at the United Nations organizing conference in San Francisco in April 1945. He said he was surprised when he saw this individual "filling the position that he did" at the conference. (Perjury, p. 356n) This was clearly a reference to Alger Hiss, who was the temporary secretary-general of the conference. When the FBI learned of this, it put Hiss under surveillance. Truman began to get FBI memos that referred to Hiss as a Soviet agent. Realizing that he was under suspicion, Hiss resigned in December 1946 to assume the presidency of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    STEPHEN SPINGARN, A TOP AIDE TO TRUMAN, HAD ACCESS TO THE FBI REPORTS. HE knew and liked Hiss, but those reports convinced him of Hiss's guilt. He told his brother, Edward, a long-time member of AIM, that he and others on the President's staff had heard Truman say, "Alger Hiss is guilty as hell. There is no doubt in my mind that he's guilty." But when reporters asked Truman about the charges against Hiss, he said it was just a red herring that Republicans were using to embarrass him. When one of the aides asked Truman about the contradiction between that and what he had told the staff, Truman replied, "Sure he's guilty as hell, but I'm not going to tell them anything. They're not going to embarrass me."

    JOE GOULDEN TELLS ME THAT AT THE ARMY INTELLIGENCE SCHOOL IN 1956, HE HEARD a lecture by a retired FBI agent who told of helping brief Truman on the Hiss case, after the President replied, "Hang the guilty S.O.B." Truman's public actions were not in line with what he believed to be true. He no doubt knew that Hiss was only the tip of the red and pink iceberg within the government bureaucracy and that exposing it would do more than embarrass him. It could ruin his chances of re-election. Chambers wrote in his autobiography, Witness, "Alger Hiss is only one name that stands for the whole Communist penetration of Government. He could not be exposed without raising the question of the real political temper and purposes of those who had protected and advanced him, and with whom he was so closely identified that they could not tell his breed from their own." (p. 742)

    THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT ICEBERG WAS THE TIP OF A MUCH BIGGER ICEBERG COM- posed of Communists or fellow-travelers in academia, the entertainment world, the media--all those in the liberal-left establishment who identified with Alger Hiss, saying to themselves, "There but for the grace of God go I." Chambers put his finger on this when he wrote, "In accusing Hiss of communism, I had attacked an architect of the U.N., and the partisans of peace fell upon me like combat troops. I had attacked an intellectual and a 'liberal.' A whole generation felt itself to be on trial--with pretty good reason, too, for its fears probably did not far outrun its guilt." Today, journalists who were not yet born when Hiss was convicted, have identified with that generation on trial and have tried to salvage the reputation of the fallen Hiss.

    TWO ISSUES AGO WE REPORTED ON THE SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS STORIES BY GARY Webb alleging that the CIA introduced crack cocaine to the blacks in Los Angeles. Our own investigation showed the articles to be bogus; as did investigations by The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and The New York Times. The latest development in this story is the discovery that Webb stands to profit handsomely from his disputed story, raising questions of journalistic ethics. This involves "Freeway Rick" Ross, the convicted Los Angeles crack cocaine kingpin, who was a central figure in Gary Webb's stories. Ross, who was getting advice from Webb, decided to claim that Nicaraguans working for the CIA sold him crack and used the profits to support the Nicaraguan Contras. Facing a possible life sentence, Ross used this to try to get a new trial, submitting Webb's articles to support his appeal. The federal judge turned him down, saying she was not impressed "by any so-called tenuous ties to the CIA." She sentenced him to life in prison.

    TOUCHSTONE, A DIVISION OF WALT DISNEY STUDIOS, WANTS TO MAKE A MOVIE ABOUT "Freeway Rick" and Gary Webb. On October 3, Jody Hotchkiss, who is with a New York literary agency, wrote a letter to Ross saying, "The one and only movie offer for your life story is good. Touchstone, a division of Wait Disney Studios, is offering you the following money for dramatic rights to your story .... $25,000 for 18 months, during which time a screenplay will be written. Plus $25,000 more for another 18 months if they need more time to write the screenplay, plus $125,000 when they make the movie." Hotchkiss said Gary Webb had accepted the same deal for the dramatic rights to his story. Ross was urged to sign the agreement quickly, warning that it might be withdrawn if he took too long to sign.

    ROSS'S PROSECUTOR, ASST. U.S. ATTORNEY L. J. O'NEALE, MADE A VERY VALID POINT IN A court filing that criticized the deal. He wrote, "Ross and Webb share more than a passion for this story; they also share a business interest in promoting it ....They seem to share an agent, just as they seem to share an agenda. Each stands to gain from spreading the CIA story, but only so long as it lasts. If the story is discovered to be false, each loses." This confronts the Mercury News and its owner, Knight-Ridder, with ethical problems. Knight-Ridder's code of business ethics states that no employee "should become involved in any situation where he or she might profit or benefit as a result of any relationship or act that is not in the best interests of Knight-Ridder." It is hard to see how it can be in the best interests of Knight-Ridder for one of its reporters to enter into a deal that involves a convicted drug kingpin and a movie that will give still greater currency to charges that every investigation except Gary Webb's has found to be false. The Mercury News reportedly intends to nominate Webb's series for a Pulitzer Prize, which suggests that its editors think the Pulitzer judges have standards as low as its own.

    THE MEDIA HAVE NOT PROBED A POSSIBLE TIE BETWEEN THE $160,000 DONATION TO THE Democratic National Committee in the name of Sam Domb and the notorious Grigori Loutchansky. John V. Esposito of Intra-State Investigative Services of Marlboro, N.Y. has sent us some interesting information about Sam Domb. It appears that he emerged as a big donor to the DNC only after Loutchansky's dinner and photo op with Clinton. Domb's other political gifts have been to the campaigns of the mayor of New York. Domb, a New York City real estate operator, has had problems with city hall. Last year he owed the city $950,000 and was in trouble for failing to comply with rules relating to a building renovation. Those weren't problems the DNC could help resolve. But his friend, Loutchansky, is bigger and aims higher The N.Y. Post reported he had offered $5 million to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, but the offer was rejected. His invitation to a second dinner with Clinton last year suggests that the DNC knew the source of the big bucks.


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