Saturday, April 11, 2015

Adolf Berle: Assistant Secretary of State

A child prodigy who entered Harvard at age 13, Adolf Berle was also the youngest person to ever graduate, in 1916, from Harvard Law School at the age of 21.

(He’d stopped between his bachelor’s degree and law school to get a master’s degree. Otherwise, he’d have been even younger when he got his law degree!)

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Adolf Berle served as Assistant Secretary of State for President Franklin Roosevelt. In this capacity, he received information from Whittaker Chambers, who up until 1938 had been working for the Soviet Union, gathering information about the United States and sending it to Moscow.

Chambers told Berle about two brothers, Alger and Donald Hiss, who were also Soviet agents, and who were endangering the security of the United States by sending classified information to the various Soviet intelligence agencies, and by influencing policy decisions within the Roosevelt administration.

Concerned about a security problem, Berle attempted to alert other members of FDR’s administration. Ann Coulter reports the results:

Berle also told Dean Acheson, then Roosevelt's undersecretary of the Treasury, what Chambers had said about the Hiss brothers. As Berle described the meeting, Acheson "said he had known the family and these two boys since childhood and could vouch for them absolutely." When Acheson later became assistant secretary of state, he immediately requested Donald Hiss as his assistant. Berle again stepped in to remind Acheson that Chambers had identified Donald Hiss as a Soviet agent.

When Acheson appointed Hiss to a position with access to classified information, he executed a casual and pro forma investigation of Donald Hiss.

He asked Hiss if he was a Communist, Hiss denied it, and Acheson sum­marily announced that "the matter was closed."

Apparently, Berle felt torn between his loyalty to the Roosevelt administration and his horror about its “non­chalance about Soviet agents on their staffs was scandalous.” While privately warning other members of the administration about these national security threats, he publicly defended the administration.

In public, Berle would downplay the Roosevelt administrations’s

promotion of two traitors with an inane straw-man argument: "The idea that these two Hiss boys … were going to take over the United States govern­ment did not strike me as any immediate danger."

Yet, despite his respect for FDR, it was clear to Berle that the president’s attention to detail was impaired by his declining health, and that some of the president’s appointees were either not troubled by, or refused to entertain the possibility of, the fact that there were Soviet operatives at high levels within the State Department.

As even Berle admitted, "We were all trying not to tell anything that ought not be told, and there were pretty consistent leaks whenever anything went through [Alger Hiss's] office."

Decades later, it would proven by the Soviet Union’s own records that the Hiss brothers were on Moscow’s payroll.

The deaths and horrors caused by the Soviet Union’s domination of Poland and other eastern European nations are directly attributable to Alger Hiss’s influence on FDR. Hiss gave advice to the president about how to negotiate with Stalin.