Show cover of A Pumpkin Patch, a Typewriter, and Richard Nixon: The Hiss-Chambers Espionage Case

A Pumpkin Patch, a Typewriter, and Richard Nixon: The Hiss-Chambers Espionage Case

The Hiss-Chambers case gripped the nation in 1948 and still provokes controversy. Take a deep factual dive into the story of two brilliant, fascinating men, sensational Congressional hearings, spy documents hidden in a dumbwaiter shaft and a pumpkin, the trial of the century, and the launch of Richard Nixon’s career.


Chapter One: Introduction and Alger Hiss
Meet Alger Hiss: Johns Hopkins, Harvard Law, Supreme Court clerk, left Wall Street to join a New Deal farming agency, counsel to a Senate Committee at age 30, aide to president Roosevelt at Yalta, Secretary General of the UN’s founding conference, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace . . . and the most highly placed traitor in American history? Further Research: Episode 1: About Hiss’s life before the HUAC hearings, see his own autobiography, Recollections of a Life (Seaver Books 1988) at 1-148; the definitive book on the Case, Perjury:  The Hiss-Chambers Case by Allen Weinstein (Hoover Inst. Press 2013) at 81-92, 107-10, 152-69, 211-46, 281-83, 369-96; AlgerHiss’s Looking-Glass Wars:  The Covert Life of a Soviet Spy, by G. Edward White (Oxford University Press 2004) at 3-39; Alger Hiss: The True Story, by John Chabot Smith at 1-151; and, especially concerning Hiss’s years at The State Department, Christina Shelton, Alger Hiss:  Why He Chose Treason (Threshold Editions 2012) at 11-137.
13:32 06/25/2021
Chapter Two: Whittaker Chambers - Communist
Picture: Library of Congress   Meet Whittaker Chambers: brilliant, melodramatic, painfully sincere, perpetually discontented and idealistic, and physically hard to forget; writer of controversial poems, plays, short stories, and communist journalism; and, as spymaster for Soviet Military Intelligence, traitor to the United States.     Further Research Episode 2: About Chambers’ early and communist years, here are some references:  1) Chambers’ autobiography Witness, the first 450 pages.  The book is still in print and, like most books about this case, can be found on Amazon and eBay.  One reviewer said that Chambers’ description of his middle class family’s wreckage was heart-breaking.  One might compare it to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman or Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night.  Chambers’ description of his life in the Communist movement (above ground and underground and his attempt to escape) has been compared to Dante’s Inferno. 2) Professor Weinstein’s Perjury (referenced above) at 92-106, 110-42, 148-64, and 325-33. 3) Friendship and Fratricide: An Analysis of Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss, by Meyer M. Zeligs, M.D.  This is a psychobiography of Hiss and Chambers, painting Chambers in a lugubrious light.  See pages 27-132, 201-74.  I have no expertise in psychiatry or related fields, but to me this book seems a relic of 1950s/60s psychiatry, when Freud was compared to Aristotle and Copernicus.  The eminent liberal intellectual Lionel Trilling (an admirer of Chambers), wrote that “no other work does as much as this one to bring into question the viability of the infant discipline of psycho-history.”  I include it here, not only because it may have some value today, but mostly because it shows that the real facts of Chambers’ life can be used, by skillful hands and a determined mind, to make him seem lunatic.  
20:16 07/05/2021
Chapter 3: Whittaker Chambers - Ex Communist
Whittaker Chambers tries to have a peaceful life, working a farm and becoming a high-paid and powerful editor at Time Magazine.  But his past in the Soviet underground won’t go away.  Stalin’s pact with Hitler impels him to inform the government about the underground.  Worse, from time to time government investigators ask him for more and more information.  Chambers tries to expose the conspiracy without ruining his own career or the friends who shared his treason.  How long can he continue threading the needle?   If you were Chambers, how would you walk the tightrope, trying to alert the government about the Soviet underground without exposing your own role in its crimes and incriminating your best friend in those years, with whom you committed those crimes? If Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers both witnessed an event and gave different accounts of it, which one would you be more inclined to believe?  Hiss, the public man, has the resume to die for and all The Top People vouching for him.  Chambers, the creature of the underground, has been a professional liar for years and loves to tell melodramatic tales.  But is there something too good to be true about Hiss?  Do you wonder who is the real man behind the resume?  And while no one would say that Chambers is the embodiment of moderation, he is painfully honest in many ways and he does not hide all his past sins.  Even if your first inclination would be to believe Hiss, what would make you change to put more faith in Chambers? Further Research: Episode 3:  Professor Weinstein’s book and Chambers’ memoir, referenced above, contain much about what Chambers called “the tranquil years.”   Re Chambers’ emergence from the Communist underground, interesting memoirs are “The Autobiography of Mark Van Doren” by Mark Van Doren at 218-19 (Harcourt Brace & Co, 1958), “Navigating the Rapids 1918-1971: From the Papers of Adolf A. Berle” edited by Beatrice B. Berle & Travis B. Jacobs at 249-50 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1973), and “Eyewitness to History: Memoirs and Reflections of a Foreign Correspondent for Half a Century” by Isaac Don Levine at 179-200 (Hawthorn Books 1973).  Levine was the journalist who accompanied Chambers to see Berle the day World War II began. The best books about Chambers’ career at Time are “Harry & Teddy: The Turbulent Friendship of Press Lord Henry Luce and His Favorite Reporter, Theodore H. White” by Thomas Griffith (Random House 1995) and “One Man’s America: A Journalist’s Search for the Heart of His Country” by Henry Grunwald (Doubleday 1997).  Look in each book’s index for references to Whittaker Chambers. Concerning the disillusionment with Communism by intellectuals who had been bedazzled by it, see “The God That Failed,” edited by Richard Crossman (Columbia Univ. Press 2001, first published in London in 1950), “Up From Communism: Conservative Odysseys in American Intellectual History” by John P. Diggins (Harper & Row 1975), and “A Better World: The Great Schism: Stalinism and the American Intellectuals” by William L. O’Neill (Simon & Schuster 1982) 259-368 passim.  Chambers’ admirer in Columbia and later a great Comparative Literature Professor there, Lionel Trilling, wrote a novel about leftist disillusionment with radical leftism.  Originally published just before the Hiss-Chambers scandal broke, it was reissued in 1975 (around the time of President Nixon’s disgrace).  “The Middle of the Journey” by Lionel Trilling (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich 1975).     A major character in the novel, Gifford Maxim, is based on Chambers and the 1975 reissue contains an introduction by Trilling that describes his long relationship with Chambers.  
12:38 07/15/2021
Chapter 4: Communism in the 1930s
Photo: Craig Whitehead on Unsplash The backdrop of this case is American Communism — infatuation with it and disillusionment with it.  Communism predicted a violent upheaval that would produce a better life.  In actual practice, it produced only drab, poverty-stricken dictatorships that killed and starved millions.  Around 1935, the American Communist Party stopped acting revolutionary and posed as “liberals in a hurry.”  It got a few hundred Americans to join the Communist underground and work secretly for the Soviet Union.  The issue is whether Hiss was one of those people.   Further Research Episode 4:  Podcast 4:  The great book of Communism is Das Kapital, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.  I’ve always found it impenetrably dense and boring; to follow it you have to know a lot about 19th century factories.  The best short (and readable) works expounding Communist theory and action plans are two by Marx, The Communist Manifesto and The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte.  Among the many works from the Soviet Union describing Communism, the best short ones, in my opinion, are Lenin’s “What Is To Be Done?” and Stalin’s “The Foundations of Leninism.”   The best books about the reality and results of Communism are the short “Communism: A History,” by Richard Pipes and the long “The Black Book of Communism: Crimes, Terror, Repression,” by Stephane Courtois and others. Two excellent descriptions of what it felt like to live in the 1930s and lose faith in laissez-faire Capitalism, and perhaps briefly to fall for Communism, are (1) Alistair Cooke's book about the Case, "A Generation on Trial: U.S.A. v. Alger Hiss" (Knopf 1950 and 1952), the first Chapter, titled "Remembrance of Things Past: The 1930s," and (2) Murray Kempton's essays about the radicals of the 1930s, "Part of Our Time: Some Ruins & Monuments of the Thirties" (Simon & Schuster 1955 and The Modern Library 1998), the first chapter, titled "A Prelude." All these books are available on Amazon. Questions:  What do you think was the appeal of Soviet Communism in the 1930s?  What did Communism have that fascism, socialism, and The New Deal lacked? If you came to believe in Communism, what would make you lose your confidence in it?  The obvious lack of democracy in the Soviet Union, the American Party’s slavish adherence to every 180 degree change in the Party line from Moscow, the purge trials of 1936-38, and Stalin hopping into bed with Hitler in their 1939 Non-Aggression Pact?  Does Communism sound like a secular religion — with its all-encompassing philosophy, sacred texts, worshipped founders, and martyrs? Might part of Communism’s appeal in the 1930s, compared to conventional religion, be that (1) it claimed to be rational, even scientific, (2) it promised paradise here on earth in just a few years (you don’t have to wait for heaven), (3) you don’t have to work for it (it’s on the inevitable ‘timetable of history’), and (4) it frees the individual from any sense of personal sin? If you devoted your life to Communism and the Party and became disillusioned, what would you do?  Decide you had a bad picker when it came to politics and move on to baseball or real estate?  Remain a Marxist but not a Party member — hope another group will form and be “real Communists”?  Become a Socialist, or ‘get real’ and join the Republicans or the Democrats?  Or, like Chambers and a few others, make anti-Communism the mainspring of the rest of your life?  
08:42 07/22/2021
Chapter 5: The First HUAC Hearing
Above, Elizabeth Bentley, who gave evidence at the first HUAC hearing. Pic: Library of Congress In 1948, Whittaker Chambers is Time Magazine’s Senior Editor.  He is forced against his will to testify to the House Un-American Activities Committee about his past in the Communist underground.  He names seven names, but the Committee zeroes in on one of them — Alger Hiss.  With this begins the doom of both men, major climate change in American politics, and the career of a future President. Further Research: Episode 5:  The best book about the colorful House Un-American Activities Committee is Walter Goodman’s “The Committee:  The extraordinary career of the House Committee on Un-American Activities” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 1968).  Goodman was a liberal, mildly mocking of HUAC, but even he had to admit that 1948 was HUAC’s “Vintage Year.”  Pages 247-67 concern the Hiss-Chambers hearings.   Chambers’ account of his testimony is at pages 535-50 of the 1980 Regnery Gateway edition of “Witness.”  Other accounts are in Alistair Cooke (1952) at 55-59 and Weinstein (2013) at 13-18.    A lacerating review of Alistair Cooke’s book (the 1950 edition) was written by the great British feminist and essayist Rebecca West, was published in the University of Chicago Law Review in 1952, and is available at  I commend Mr. Cooke’s book especially for the narration of the trials, which I believe he covered for The Manchester Guardian.  His verbal sketches of the courtroom scenes — the judges, lawyers, and witnesses — are almost worthy of Henry James.  Unfortunately, however, Mr. Cooke retained so much of his English detachment that he fell for Hiss’s pose as an honorable gentleman; and Cooke simply does not get the red-hot Chambers.  Cooke’s courtroom descriptions are wonderful, but my opinion is that Ms. West’s criticisms are correct.  By the 1952 edition of his book, which covers Hiss’s claims of “forgery by typewriter” (Podcast #25), Cooke seems to have concluded that Hiss was guilty. Richard Nixon, though he was almost silent during Chambers’ first testimony, recorded his impressions of Chambers in the first chapter of his 1962 book “Six Crises” (“Never . . . was a more sensational investigation started by a less impressive witness.”).  The transcript of most of HUAC’s 1948 Communist hearings was published in 2020 by Alpha Editions.  “Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage in the United States Government, Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eightieth Congress, Second Session, Public Law 601 (Section 121, Subsection Q(2)).”  Chambers’ first testimony is at 563-84.  I find these transcripts fascinating because you see HUAC’s members first believe Chambers, then Hiss, and then slowly conclude that Hiss  is, as Representative Hebert said, the greatest actor that America has ever produced. Questions:  Imagine you are Whittaker Chambers.   You are forced in 1948 to testify about your underground  Communist past.  Do you talk about the chat group only, or the spy ring, too?  The first was silly, the second was a crime.  Do you name names, including the brilliant man who was your only friend in those years? About naming the names of your co-conspirators, you had less than 24 hours notice before your testimony.  There was no time to reach out and call them.  Maybe they reformed shortly after you did and are leading upstanding lives like you are. Before Congressional committees, there are no rules of evidence.  Any question may be asked and any answer may be given.  What questions can you anticipate?  If you testify only about the chat group and you are asked point blank about spying, what answer will you give?  Reveal the crime of spying, or commit perjury?  How do you say something, something to alert the government and the public to the truth, without ruining your life and your friends’ lives? Based just on this first testimony, do you find Chambers generally believable?  Totally believable?  Do you fear that, while telling the truth most of the time, he may succumb to the temptation to brighten pastel shades into primary colors to make his story more dramatic?  What is his motive to tell the truth?  What is his motive to lie?  Does he seem a reluctant witness?  Do you have a feeling that, once he got the subpoena, he thought to himself, “OK, let ‘er rip.  There’s gonna be a big scene and I want to be the star”?  Do the questions and comments of the HUAC members and staffers, especially Chief Investigator Stripling, give you confidence in HUAC as a finder of fact?  What is your impression of the Acting Chairman, Karl Mundt, and of Hiss’s chief defender, the racist, anti-Semite, Democrat, and ardent New Dealer from Mississippi, “Lightnin’ John” Rankin?   
13:42 07/29/2021
Chapter 6: Hiss' Denial
Richard M. Nixon, Library of Congress  Alger Hiss calmly and patiently denies Whittaker Chambers’ two charges: that the two of them were in the Communist underground in 1934-37 and that they became close friends.  The Commie-hunters on the House Un-American Activities Committee are swept away by his poise and simplicity and tell him what a wonderful witness he is.  Only two listeners smell something fishy in Hiss’ carefully phrased testimony: a staffer named Robert Stripling and a freshman Republican Representative named Richard Nixon.  The two form a team of rivals (each claiming credit for the tall thinking and smart talking) and change history.  All four men are now inextricably intertwined in a scandal that will rock the nation.   Further Research Episode 6:  Robert Stripling’s book (largely ghostwritten by the popular writer Bob Considine) is “The Red Plot Against America” (Bell 1949); it describes Hiss’s testimony and reactions to it at 110-16.  More accounts of Hiss’s first testimony are; Nixon at 5-11; Smith at 161-83; Toledano at 151-54; and Weinstein at 21-28.  The full transcript of Hiss’s testimony is in the Alpa Editions reprint of the HUAC hearings at 642-59. Alger Hiss’s memoir of the Case, “In the Court of Public Opinion” (Knopf 1957) describes at 3-14 Hiss’s reaction to Chambers’ accusations and his first testimony in response.  This book is so dry (in it, Hiss never once describes having a feeling) that it has been called the only boring book ever written about this Case.  More interesting pro-Hiss reading is the John Chabot Smith book referenced above and a pro-Hiss book that focuses on Nixon’s misstatements and craftiness (a territory almost as target-rich as Hiss’s testimonies), “A Tissue of Lies:  Nixon vs. Hiss” (McGraw Hill 1979) by Morton and Michael Levitt.   Questions:  You’re Alger Hiss, President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a minor luminary of America’s post-War foreign policy establishment.   Whittaker Chambers testifies to HUAC that the two of you were in a secret Communist chat group 10-15 years ago and that you two became best friends.  What do you do? Several options:  (1) Do nothing, because no one who matters to your life cares a fig for what goes on at HUAC; (2) appear before the Committee with both guns blazing, in the style of the Hollywood Communists (but remember they came to a sticky end); (3) admit, sheepishly, that back in the dark days of the Great Depression, when you were just out of grad school and had more youthful idealism than good judgment, you did something very foolish that, fortunately, did no harm in the long run and you stopped doing it years ago; and (4) calmly deny Chambers’ charges like a gentleman who will not stoop to wrestle in the mud; tough it out, hope Chambers gets tangled up in melodrama, and that, with your sterling reputation and friends in high places, you can emerge in two weeks as fabulous as always and with the added sheen of having repulsed a despicable smear campaign.  Hiss chose #4. If you were Hiss, would your choice depend much on whether Chambers’ charges were true?  What if they were true and you knew that you two had also been in a spy ring, a major league crime that Chambers could blackmail you with for the rest of your life if you admitted to the chat group and the friendship?  But since he was in the spy ring, too, you could blackmail him for the rest of his life. Extra Credit Question:  I assume that by now you have read parts of Hiss’s testimony and its dissection by Nixon and Stripling.  As you read Hiss for the first time, did you notice any of the suspicion-raising bits that Nixon and Stripling saw?    
12:55 08/05/2021
Chapter 7: Chambers' Secret Testimony
Members of the House Un-American Activities Committee visit the home of Chairman John Parnell Thomas; (l-r) Rep. Richard B. Vail, Rep. Thomas, Rep. John McDowell, Robert Stripling, chief counsel, and Rep. Richard M. Nixon] Picture: Library of Congress Were Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss good friends from 1934 through 1937?  Chambers says ‘yes’ and Hiss says ‘no.’  In this podcast, HUAC staffer Bob Stripling and Representative Nixon get Chambers under oath, in secret, and fire questions at him about Hiss’s daily life back in the day.  And Chambers pours forth details (or what he says are details) for two and a half hours.  Stripling and Nixon stop when they simply can’t think of any more questions.  It’s obvious that Chambers is telling the truth and that the polished Harvard man, New Deal wonder boy, and aid to two Presidents is lying.  By inference, Hiss was also, at least long ago, a secret Communist.  The young Congressman’s gamble may just pay off, prove that the Democratic Party enabled treason in high places, and make him the most famous first term Representative in American history.   Further Research Episode 7:  The account of Chambers’ secret interrogation is in HUAC at 662-72.   Can you think of a good reason that the interrogation lasted two and a half hours but the transcript is only 11 pages long?  I can think of two.  First, at 671 they go ‘off the record,’ evidently for two hours.  It’s been known to happen — I made my share of mistakes in litigation, but never this one — that you go ‘off the record’ for some reason and, when that’s done, you forget to tell the stenographer to start recording again.  Hours later someone notices that the stenographer is still doing a crossword puzzle.  In this case, it would have been too late to go back ‘on the record’ and re-ask what had been asked in the last 2 hours — Stripling and Nixon had been asking about whatever popped into their heads and they all wanted to get back to Washington for dinner with their families (this was Saturday, after all).  Second, some of the matters that arose were ones about which, especially among upper middle class WASPS, their was still enormous social stigma in 1948 — Mrs. Hiss’ previous marriage that ended in divorce and the possibility that the son of that marriage was gay.  Chambers himself said on the record that he dreaded Mrs. Hiss’s first husband learning what he had just disclosed, which was that Mrs. Hiss despised her ex (page 670). Other first hand accounts of Chambers’ secret interrogation are Chambers (the 1980 edition of Witness) at 558-73, Nixon (Six Crises (1962 edition) at 15-18 and his post-Presidential memoir “RN:  The Memoirs of Richard Nixon” at 55-56), and Stripling at 117-19. I think it indicates a close friendship that the Hisses were willing to tell Chambers about Mrs. Hiss’s previous divorce and the possibility that her son by that marriage was gay.   Stripling, who was ‘a good judge of horseflesh,’ said in later testimony and interviews that when Chambers said that Hiss’s alleged car transfer to the Communist underground ‘should be traceable,’ he was suspicious.  I had learned, Stripling said, to be suspicious of what people told me should be traceable.  Did you plant the traces for me to find?  Stripling also noted that every time Chambers testified to HUAC, he was on the next train back to New York.  He never came back to the office and ‘chewed the fat’ or offered further juicy revelations.  From this and other impressions which I state in the podcast, Stripling was left with the hunch that Chambers was telling the truth, but not the whole truth. Questions:  If you wanted to know whether Chambers knew Hiss very well 10-15 years ago, what questions would you ask him?  Perhaps matters that could be checked in public records, such as residences (both where they lived and the layout of their apartments and houses), cars, dog licenses, charge accounts at stores.  Also, maybe the kind of private stuff you know about your best friends — family secrets, sleeping arrangements, favorite foods, hobbies, childhood memories, quirks of personality?  Anything else?      
08:44 08/12/2021
Chapter 8: Nixon Takes the Plunge
Campaigning for the US Senate, 1950. Pic - Library of Congress In this 8th podcast, we explore the thinking of Richard Nixon.  Put yourself in his position.  You’re 35, elected to the House in a Republican wave year from a district that is usually safely Democratic.  Your plum Committee assignment was Education and Labor.  But, on HUAC, this throbbing blob of a Case has come rolling in the door.  You and Bob Stripling saw possibilities that no one else saw and now The Case is all yours.  You have satisfied yourself that Hiss is lying and Chambers is telling the truth.  Now, for you, the issue is how far do you take this.  Do you risk everything (your whole career) for it?  How to prevent The Establishment from rallying around its fair haired boy Alger?  How to convince them that Hiss is lying and they should give you free rein?  How to satisfy yourself that Chambers will not crack under the pressure of public scrutiny and Democrat attacks, that he’ll convince typical Americans, that there’s nothing fishy in his past, that his love of melodrama will not carry him away into fantastication?  If anything goes wrong, in six months you’ll be back in Whittier doing slip and fall cases.  In this podcast, you’ll hear about the inner turmoil and external events that made up the mind of the future President.  Further Research: Episode 8:  Speculating about the thinking of Richard Nixon has been an indoor sport for people who knew him and the American intelligentsia for decades.  In his own writings about this moment in the Case, he is unusually candid about how uncertain and anxious he was.  See Six Crises at 19-23; see also Weinstein at 36-37.  Nixon sent his brother Ed and his Mother to chat with the Chamberses.  Ed Nixon & Karen Olson, “The Nixons: A Family Portrait” (2009) at 137-38.  Nixon also consulted a reporter for the leading liberal Republican newspaper, The New York Herald Tribune.  This Reporter, Bert Andrews, had been very critical of HUAC and other security agencies for being sloppy in recent investigations.  Nixon used him as a sounding board and devil’s advocate in this Case and Andrews became a fascinated eyewitness to these and later crucial moments.  Andrews’ posthumous memoir, “A Tragedy of History:  A Journalist’s Confidential Role in the Hiss-Chambers Case,”  by Bert and Peter Andrews (1962) at 72-77 describes Andrews’ first chats with Nixon and Chambers.  Andrews says that Chambers, when he needed time to shape his answers to questions, paused for 30-40 seconds and looked like he had gone into a trance.  Nixon, by the way, did not include Stripling in his deliberations at this phase. Questions:  You’re Richard Nixon.  How do you decide whether to risk your whole career by supporting Chambers all the way?  How do you verify or discredit all the (alleged) facts about the Hisses’ life in 1934-37 that Chambers divulged in his secret testimony?  Use HUAC’s staff, obviously.  How else?  How do you get to know Chambers and form an opinion about his honesty (and perhaps sanity)?  Remember, he doesn’t have to talk to you if he doesn’t want to.  How can you investigate his past and see if there’s anything fishy there?  How do you deter the natural pro-Hiss inclination of the Republican Establishment, which is itself invested in Hiss?  (Hiss’s mentor at the Carnegie Endowment is John Foster Dulles, chief foreign policy advisor to Republican Presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey.)  Assuming you decide to ‘bet the farm’ on Chambers, how do you get the news media involved so that this Case becomes Nixon’s Triumph and not HUACs?  How do you separate yourself in the public mind from HUAC and launch a spectacular career of your own without earning the undying hatred of those you leave behind — Bob Stripling and the other members of HUAC?      
09:43 08/19/2021
Chapter 9: Hiss' Second Testimony
Alger Hiss, like Chambers, gives secret testimony to Nixon’s HUAC Subcommittee.  He is outraged that they are thinking of trusting Chambers, whom Hiss labels a Communist and a traitor (Hiss pre-channeling Senator McCarthy).  When confronted with Chambers’ detailed knowledge of his domestic life 10-15 years ago, Hiss drops his claim that he never knew Chambers.  Oh, now it’s all coming back to me, . . .  There was a man whom I knew back then, a self-styled freelance journalist who went by the name George Crosley.  He was disheveled, had shockingly bad teeth, and seemed sometimes to live in a fantasy world of dramatic escapades.  He became our subtenant, living under the same roof with us for a while, and stiffed us for the rent.  Maybe Chambers and Crosley are the same man.  Does this new story, which Hiss stuck to till the day he died, sound believable to you?  Or is he just coming up with a more complicated lie to defeat Chambers and the truth? Further Research Episode 9:  Hiss’s secret testimony starts at HUAC at 935; the George Crosley recollection starts at 948-49, gets into depth at 955, and continues off and on until 970.  (Congressional hearings frequently hop from one topic to another as individual Representatives arrive, chime in, think of new lines of questioning, and leave the room to attend to other business.)  Hiss’s recollections of his secret testimony, and of Crosley in general, are in his memoir “In the Court of Public Opinion” at 15-32 and in his late-in-life autobiography, “Recollections of a Life” (1988) at 207-08.  Chambers’ analysis of Hiss’s secret testimony is at “Witness” at 580-81 and 593.  See also Weinstein’s Perjury at 39-44.  Nixon’s recollections are in “Six Crises” at 23-29 and “RN” at 58-60.  There is a wonderful essay on this Case by the professor and literary critic Leslie Fiedler, “Hiss, Chambers, and the Age of Innocence,” in his book “An End to Innocence” (1952).  In it, at 9, Fiedler describes Hiss here as “uncertainly feeling his way into the situation, cautiously finding out at each point how much he will have to admit to escape entrapment.” Questions:   How does Hiss’s new “George Crosley” story sound to you?  Obviously a fabrication, or plausible but we need to learn more, or has ‘the ring of truth’; to it?  How would you learn more?  Ask members of the Nye Committee staff if they remembered a man named George Crosley (evidently poor and with memorably bad teeth) hanging around the Committee’s offices?  Ask the Hisses’ household servants and social friends if they remembered a shabby looking man with bad teeth named George Crosley socializing with the Hisses back then?  Did Hiss ever mention to a deadbeat pest he’d finally gotten out of his life?  Look for magazine articles published by “George Crosley” in the mid-1930s?  Find pictures of Chambers in those years, show them to all the above-mentioned people, and ask them if the remember this man?    
08:51 08/25/2021
Chapter 10: HUAC Reacts
In Podcast 10, Nixon’s HUAC Subcommittee reacts skeptically to Hiss’s new George Crosley story.  Hiss, like Captain Renault in Casablanca, is shocked, shocked that the Representatives would even think of taking the word of the Communist and traitor Chambers over that of a distinguished personage such as himself.  Representative Hebert suggests that Hiss return to his first, helpful and respectful attitude.  But Hiss blows him off — not a smart move with the only member of the Subcommittee who is of Hiss’s Party.  Hiss then corroborates 90% of what Chambers had told the Subcommittee about his personal life 10-15 years earlier, including the prothonotary warbler and the hand operated windshield wipers on the old Ford.  Nixon, now almost certain that Hiss is lying, orders Stripling to arrange a face-to-face meeting of the two men in secret the next day, to the complete surprise of both of them.  Nixon wants to catch Hiss off guard and deny him more time to make his George Crosley tale fit the facts. Further Research Episode 10:  See references to Episode 9  Questions:  If you believe, as I do, that Hiss is guilty, what is he to do at this stage?  Do what he did — stick with the “innocent as the day is long” story (with the George Crosley variation) although it is obviously not convincing his current audience?  Do you think, as one of his acquaintances did, that if he were innocent he would have gotten angry before this?  If he had openly ‘lawyered up’ at this stage and refused to answer any more questions, would it have saved him any of the later traumas he endured?  Or was he stuck with his original “innocent as the day is long” attitude?  Before President Clinton admitted lying about Ms. Lewinsky, has any public figure denied everything indignantly, then changed his story by admitting wrongdoing, and ’gotten away with it’?  It didn’t work for Governor Cuomo.  What do you think of Representative Hebert telling Hiss ever so politely that HUAC is simply behaving as any competent investigator would?  What did Hebert want Hiss to do?  How stupid was Hiss to offend Hebert, the only member of his Party on the Subcommittee?  How much of Hiss’s conduct at this stage is explained by his (in my opinion) arrogant belief that his IQ was so much higher than any of his interrogator’s that he could bluff his way around them?  
09:19 09/02/2021
Chapter 11: Face to Face
 Pic: Library of Congress In Podcast 11, Nixon and Stripling pull off another tactical masterstroke.  They bring Hiss and Chambers together, to the surprise of both of them, in a hotel room in New York City.  Despite the locale, it’s a formal hearing of Nixon’s HUAC Subcommittee and there is a transcript (not to mention half a dozen memoirs).  Nixon asks Hiss, once and for all, if Chambers is the man he knew as George Crosley 10-15 years before.  What happened next has been called “bizarre and even incredible” and “a bit like a Henry James story, . . . full of subtleties and ambiguities.”  Hiss and Stripling were both there and, although they agreed on very little, each in his memoir used the exact same phrase to describe what happened — “something out of a dream.” Further Research: Episode 11:  The descriptions of the scene in Suite 1400 of the Commodore Hotel in New York City in the principals’ memoirs are Chambers at 599-615 (at 603 “I felt what any humane man must feel when, pursuing an end he is convinced is right, finds himself the instrument of another man’s disaster”), Hiss at 81-99 (at 99, “I resented the Committee’s callous and ruthless procedures.  . . .  [T]he Committee and I were now at war.”), Nixon (Six Crises at 31-37, (RN at 61-63 (at 61), “I do not think that I have ever seen one man look at another with more hatred in his eyes than did Alger Hiss when he looked at Whittaker Chambers.”), Stripling at 126-32 (at 128, when Chambers entered the hotel sitting room where Hiss was, “Hiss did not turn around, did not change his expression.  I suppose I expected him to leap up, wheel around, and demand why this man — whom he had testified he did not know — had made these astounding charges against him.”).   See also Weinstein at 45-49 and  Alistair Cooke (at 73-84) describing (at 74) the scene as one that “began circumspectly enough and ended in a naked and desperate scramble for reputation.” Hiss brought along a friend, Mr. Charles Dollard, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  Chambers writes (Witness at 603) that Dollard “hovers at the edge of the ensuing scene like the ‘first attendant, friend to the Duke’ in a Shakespeare play.  Most of the time he  lurked in one corner of the room . . . with a curiously fixed smile on his face, which Hiss’s loftier jibes turned incandescent with amusement.  . . .  I am not alone in supposing that this by-play was intended to convey the sense that these two beings were native to another atmosphere, were merely condescending, a little impatiently, to the summons of the earthlings in the room.”   Dollard later told Hiss’s attorneys that “Alger behaved very badly.”  (Weinstein at 49 (footnote).) Questions:  Do you think, as I do, that when Hiss asked to speak with Chambers’ dentist, he was just trying to abort the hearing, to close down the scene because he had no idea what to do — ‘get me the hell out of here,’ ‘beam me up, Scottie!’  Do you sympathize with Chambers, who wrote that “I felt somewhat like a broken-mouthed sheep whose jaws have been pried open and are being inspected by wary buyers at an auction”?  (Chambers at 606.)       
19:47 09/09/2021
Chapter 12: Setting Up the Public Confrontation
Republican members of the House un-American  Activities Committee (HUAC). (Library of Congress)  Sandwiched between the drama of the Commodore Hotel (last week’s Podcast) and the equally sensational televised confrontation of Hiss and Chambers (next week’s), this Podcast #12 is a backgrounder on the political climate of 1948, the setting which was shaken to its foundations by this scandal.  There were four views of the world.  Old-style conservatives wanted to return to isolationism and viewed domestic Communists as minor nuisances.  Ultra-left intellectuals saw The Century of the Common Man dawning and thought, incredibly in retrospect, that the Soviet Union under Stalin was some kind of human progress.  American capitalists thought that capitalism, tempered by some kind of safety net and led by the USA, was the wonderful and unopposed future of the human race.  The capitalists, like the isolationists, dismissed domestic Communists as a minor problem.  Fourth and last, fearful conservatives (including ex-Communists like Chambers) saw domestic subversion — traitors in our midst — as an unsolved crisis for the country; and they saw Communism on the march as a disaster-in-the-making for the whole world. This Case vindicated this last group, educated the old isolationists and the triumphant capitalists, and disgraced the ultra-left intellectuals. Further Research:  Episode 12:  Two works are cited by name in this Podcast.  Harold Laski’s book — ‘Faith, Reason, and Civilization:  An essay in historical analysis’ — was published by Viking in 1944.  Vintage copies are available on Amazon (thank you, Mr. Bezos).  Henry Luce’s famous essay, ‘The American Century,’ is available on the Internet at (not secure).   Also on the Internet, the essay is debated to this day.  For more on the political climate of 1948, I recommend reading roughly the pages cited above in the above-cited works of Alistair Cooke, Leslie Fiedler, Walter Goodman, and  Murray Kempton.  Most books about the politics of this era, sad to say, fall into two extreme camps.  One says there were secret Commies everywhere (FDR and Truman may have been in on it).  The other says there were no Commies; but if there were, they never did any harm; but if they did harm, their hearts were in the right place; and if their hearts were black, they were all victims of political persecution.  The single best broad view of the political climate of 1948 is James F. Nagle’s '1948:  The Crossroads Year,’ most recently published in 2007 by BookSurge. Questions:  Was there factual evidence supporting each of the four groups identified in this Podcast?  Which group, in your opinion, got the most right and the least wrong?  Which one got the least right and the most wrong?  Does the fluid climate of 1948 remind you of America’s decade-long ‘holiday from history’ after the fall of Communism and before 9/11?  Do you remember “The End of History”?  Had you heard of Usama Bin Laden before 9/11?    
15:41 09/16/2021
Chapter 13: The Public Confrontation
This is the Podcast of the public hearing at which Chambers and Hiss sat a few feet apart and testified against each other for six hours.  It was one of the big stories of 1948.  A history of HUAC says it was the most dramatic and crowded event of the Committee’s public history.  One newspaper blared that it was “C Day” — C for Confrontation.  People wanting spectator seats were lined up out the building and around the block — and the Old House Office Building is a big building on a long block.  Nixon played the role of patient, plodding prosecutor, with an occasional assist from Stripling.  The other HUAC members chimed in with their reactions, like the chorus in an ancient Greek drama.  Hiss had become extravagantly cautious.  He bobbed, weaved, and ultimately exasperated even his friends in the audience.  Chambers occasionally reveled in the melodrama, warming his friends’ hearts and convincing his enemies that he was mentally ill.  Most telling, however, was evidence from disinterested third parties indicating that Chambers’ story was the truthful one and that Hiss’s was mostly lies.  See what you think of the two men and their stories. Further Research: Episode 13:  The August 25 HUAC hearing occupies 131 pages (beginning at 1075) of the Alpha Edition transcript of HUAC hearings cited in the discussion of Episode 5 above.  Hiss’s first memoir covers the hearing at pages 100-49; it is as defensive and meticulous Hiss was at the hearing.  Chambers’ covers the hearing at pages 625-95 of Witness.  At 693, he sympathizes with Hiss:  “the spectacle of that man, hopelessly baited by questions, although in a trap of his own contriving, . . . tormented me as much, or more, than anything I felt about myself.”  For Nixon’s recollections, see Six Crises at 41-44 and RN at 63-66. Dispassionate observers said that Chambers’ testimony was notably more direct and plausible than Hiss’s (Walter Goodman at 258); that Hiss’s “caution, . . . in the opinion even of his friends, hurt his case” (Bert Andrews at 148, quoting James Reston of the New York Times); and that Hiss had been “swarmed with well-wishers” after his first HUAC testimony” but “stood alone” after the August 25 hearing (Nagle at 126, quoting Chambers with approval).  Professor Weinstein’s book covers the hearing at 55-62, saying at 61 that Hiss’s manner was nervous and emotional while Cambers’ was relaxed and calm. Questions:  If you were, like Hiss, questioned by a hostile tribunal about your conduct 10-15 years ago, and you feared that mis-dating an event by one month might land you in the hell of a perjury trial, would you be willing to appear like a crook or an idiot by beginning every answer with the words “To the best of my recollection”?  That’s the choice (between two bad choices) that Hiss made.  Do Chambers’ dramatic words about the appeal of Communism and ‘a tragedy of history’ impress you as heartfelt and profound, or as over the top melodrama that makes you doubt his contact with reality?  If you were a journalist reporting on this hearing, would you ‘stick to the facts’ or add the audience’s laughter and your own impressions?  If you were an ambitious first-term member of the lower House, could you have imagined a better introduction to the American people?    
25:35 09/23/2021
Chapter 14: Hiss makes the mistake of Oscar Wilde
In this Podcast, Chambers appears on Meet The Press and repeats his accusations. Hiss sues him for libel, after assembling a Dream Team of eminent lawyers to vindicate his reputation.(Chambers was superbly represented, too.)In a pre-trial interview called a deposition, Hiss’s lawyer William Marbury asks Chambers to produce any written documents he has from Alger or Priscilla Hiss. Chambers, ever the man of mystery, travels to Brooklyn to retrieve a large manila envelope from the top shelf of a linen closet behind a bathtub in an apartment once inhabited by a local lawyer who was Mrs. Chambers’ nephew.(Chambers gave it to the lawyer when he deserted the Communist underground and told him to hide it and make its contents public if he ever disappeared. The lawyer chose the odd hiding place.)When Chambers’ deposition resumes, he produces contents from the envelope. Mr. Marbury has perhaps the worst surprise of his life and this Case becomes ten times more sensational than it had been. As one Baltimore lawyer is reputed to have said, Bill Marbury went on a fishing expedition and he brought up the whole damn sea bottom.
18:17 09/30/2021
Chapter 15: Cue the Marx Brothers
Certainly, this Case was painful for Chambers — bringing him close to prison for perjury, ending the quiet and lucrative life he had enjoyed for years and costing him the only decent and decently paying job he had ever had. All the same, Chambers loved melodrama, and can you imagine any more satisfying melodrama than, on a dark and freezing night, leading two government investigators to a pumpkin vine behind your farmhouse and presenting them with five rolls of camera film containing proof of espionage and treason by the man who personifies the governing class of the country?   Further Research:   The dramatic, and sometimes almost comic, events of the first week of December 1948 are recounted in 191-207 and 287-93 of Weinstein’s “Perjury,” still the definitive history of this Case. The memoirs of the major participants tell what happened, each somewhat differently from all the others: Bert Andrews’ “A Tragedy of History” at 174-91, Chambers’ “Witness” at 751-60, Nixon’s “Six Crises” at 46-56 and his “RN” at 67-69, and Stripling’s “The Red Plot Against America” at 141-51. The most fascinating discrepancy in the accounts concerns the auto trip that Nixon, Stripling, Bert Andrews and the stenographer Rose Purdy took from Washington to Chambers’ Maryland farm on the afternoon of December 1 to find out ‘what the hell’ had caused Hiss’s lawsuit against Chambers to blow up. Chambers, at 751 of Witness, says that Stripling came to see him — strongly implying that Stripling made the tip alone. Nixon adds himself to the trip. (“Six Crises” at 47, “RN” at 67.) Bert Andrews adds himself as the third member of the trip (at 175). Stripling mentions only himself and Nixon (at 143-44). Why would Chambers want to give the impression that only Stripling came to see him? Why would Chambers want to leave Nixon out of the scene? I don’t see how that would help him or his side. I doubt he would have forgotten about all the others.   If you go to YouTube and search for “Pumpkin Papers,” you will find a group of film clips, starting with Nixon’s and Stripling’s press conference and including excerpts from the prior HUAC hearings and later films taken on the courthouse steps during Hiss’s trials. You can find other newsreels (which were shown in movie theaters and were the only form of moving image news before TV) about this case by searching on YouTube for “Alger Hiss” or “Whittaker Chambers.” The same search requests, made on CSPAN’s web page, will yield more newsreels, lengthy films of the August 25 hearing, as well as many interviews and much commentary on this Case. I suspect that this Case, and Chambers in particular, were favorites of Brian Lamb.  Questions: Who do you think is the most likely leaker of Chambers’ first bombshell to the Washington Post? Personally, I have no idea; no evidence, no rumors, not even a theory. Do you feel sorry for Pat (“Here we go again!”) Nixon? Do you sympathize with Nixon’s rage at Chambers for not telling him, during the HUAC hearings, that he had proof that Hiss was not only a Communist, but a spy? Can you think of one or more reasons Chambers held back that fact (if it’s a fact)? Chambers gave several reasons, which he gave to the Grand Jury. For them, you will have to listen to the next Podcast.  
25:05 10/07/2021
Chapter 16: The Grand Jury
Picture: Library of Congress   With this Podcast, we leave Washington and the political boxing ring and move to New York City and the courts.  There’s still drama and tension, but no more pumpkin patches on dark and frigid nights, no more rescues of Congressmen from the high seas.  The process is more deliberate and the consequences are greater.  Starting now, Hiss and Chambers are each looking at being the defendant in a criminal trial and going to prison — punishments that no newspaper or Congressional committee can inflict.   Both men and their wives testify to a Grand Jury.  Chambers has to explain his recent denial to this same Grand Jury that any espionage was committed.  See if you accept his explanation for the 180 degree change in his testimony.  Nixon refuses to turn over the Pumpkin Papers to the Grand Jury, and they threaten him with prison!  Nixon says, “Go ahead, make my day” and a compromise is agreed to.  An FBI expert testifies that the typed spy documents that Chambers had produced were typed on the same typewriter as some letters that the FBI had obtained and that were definitely typed on the Hisses’ family typewriter.  That means that the spy documents were typed on the Hiss family typewriter.  Hiss tries to explain how, if he wasn’t a spy, 65 pages of documents, obviously prepared for spying, got typed on his home typewriter; and how, if he got Chambers/Crosley out of his life by 1936, Chambers has all this paper from Hiss (and don’t forget the four handwritten notes) dated 1938.  See if you accept his explanation.  In the last hours of its life, the Grand Jury votes to indict Hiss for perjury.  Chambers and Mrs. Hiss are not indicted.  Alger Hiss loses another round, but he is far from defeated.       REFERENCES for further research and QUESTIONS   Episode 16:  The Grand Jury proceedings (and related hallway fights and shouting matches between Nixon, the FBI, the Justice Department, and Hiss) are discussed in Weinstein at 293-324, Hiss’s memoir at 190-98, and in Chambers’ ‘Witness’ at 723-27, 761-64, and 780-84.     The only comprehensive review of the Grand Jury transcript was written by me (pardon my immodesty) and is available at   If you would like a copy, send me an e-mail at   Grand Jury transcripts are kept secret for good reasons (explained briefly in the Podcast).  What got this Grand Jury transcript published was a precedent-setting lawsuit by the American Historical Association in which I played a small part.  AHA convinced the court that the historical significance of the event overcame the usual rule of secrecy.  In addition, all the principals were dead and many of their family members and friends supported publication.  The transcript is a (to me) fascinating glimpse into the thought processes of members of the Grand Jury and the government attorneys.  Chambers, for his earlier denial of any espionage, is roasted, fried, broiled, and fricasseed.  But, in the end, they accept his explanation.  Then, slowly, they refocus their anger on Hiss as the evidence against him accumulates and their patience with his clever wording wears out.  Hiss’s Exculpatory Theory #1 — that Chambers broke into the Hiss home and typed up the spy documents himself when no one was looking and then hid them and even denied their existence under oath for ten years — finally snaps the endurance of everyone else in the room.     Questions:Do you accept Chambers’ explanation for his recent perjury to the Grand Jury?  Do you accept Hiss’s Exculpatory Theory #1?(He had two more in his back pocket, which he used in later years.). What do you think Nixon was trying to accomplish by bringing the rolls of Pumpkin Paper film into the Grand Jury room and holding them up in the air, but refusing to hand them over?  Was he maybe hoping to get arrested and be on every front page again?  If you had been on the Grand Jury, would you have voted to indict Hiss?  Mrs. Hiss (the alleged typist)?  Chambers?  All of them?        
16:37 10/14/2021
Chapter 17: You be the Lawyer. How strong is your case?
Pic: Library of Congress   Alger Hiss is going on trial for perjury.  This Podcast is a survey, at 23,000 feet, of the possible arguments for The Prosecution and for The Hiss Defense.  Of each side’s possible arguments, which are strong and which are weak?  This may be of special interest to real trial lawyers, or to the inner Perry Mason who lurks within each of us.   If you were The Prosecution, what would you emphasize to the jury? What are Chambers’ strengths as a witness? What are his weaknesses? You also have all the documents Chambers produced, of course.  Do you have anything else — any other witnesses you would call?  When you cross-examine Hiss, is there anything you would like him to admit to?   Suppose you were The Hiss Defense and you decided to mount a fighting defense (not resting on the presumption of innocence that is the right of every criminal defendant).  Would you concentrate on attacking Chambers (who is a target-rich environment)?  Or would you emphasize building up Hiss’ sterling past acts and glowing character references?  Can you give Chambers a plausible motive for lying about Hiss?  Can you explain Chambers’ possession of documents by Hiss and his wife, obviously prepared for espionage in 1938, that Chambers produced in 1948?  The Grand Jury didn’t buy Hiss’s Exculpatory Theory #1.  What is your Exculpatory Theory #2?      Further Research:   This Podcast is about the arguments for The Prosecution, and the arguments for The Hiss Defense, in the upcoming trial of Alger Hiss for perjury.     Suppose you were The Prosecution.  Two crucial points to bear in mind: first, you must prove BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT that Hiss lied when he denied passing government documents to Chambers in 1937 and 1938.  The jury must be left with no doubt, based in reason, that Hiss did that.  Also, something called The Federal Perjury Rule says that the testimony of one witness — Chambers, obviously — is not enough.  The Prosecution must have two witnesses, or one witness plus independent corroboration.  Assuming Chambers is your only witness, what is your independent corroboration?  How do you make Chambers credible, overcoming his strangeness, his being a confessed traitor, his possibly disreputable ratting out of his best friend, and his past denials under oath that any spying took place?  Is there some way you can make Hiss look worse than Chambers?  How would you prove that the handwritten documents were in Hiss’s handwriting and that the typed documents were typed on the Hiss home typewriter?   There is almost no record of what The Prosecution was thinking about these matters. Much about the FBI’s factual investigations, of which there are extensive (and sometimes hilarious) records, is described in a much later Podcast, #37, about what did not come out at the trials.   Suppose you were The Hiss Defense? You need do absolutely nothing — The Prosecution has the burden of proof and Hiss is innocent until proven guilty.  But suppose you want to mount a fighting defense. How can you weaken The Prosecution’s Case?  Other than Chambers’ weaknesses that were just described, would you dredge up his past strange behavior and try to make him seem insane, or mentally ill, or at least not believable BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT?  Would you introduce evidence that Chambers was a homosexual?  (Remember this is 1948, not today.). How do you explain Chambers’ possession in 1948 of documents, obviously prepared for spying, in Hiss’s handwriting and typed on the Hiss home typewriter?  Hiss’s Exculpatory Theory #1 didn’t work before The Grand Jury.  What’s your Theory #2?  Might Chambers be concealing a real Soviet spy in the State Department, someone who had access to the papers in Alger’s office? Would you, like The Prosecution, search for the Hiss home typewriter?   The limited history of the internal strategic deliberations of The Hiss Defense is in Marbury’s above-cited 1981 law review article beginning at page 85, in Smith’s book at 272-90, and in Weinstein’s book at 399-424.  It’s fascinating reading for any lawyer who has ever planned or carried out strategy in a complicated high-profile case in which both sides have great strengths and great weaknesses.  One fact that makes the thinking of Hiss’s counsel relatively available is that they were in different cities.  In the 1940s, long distance telephone calls were expensive and conference calls were a minor nightmare to arrange.  So, many opinions that would normally be spoken over coffee were, in Hiss’s case, committed to paper.
30:24 10/21/2021
Chapter 18: The Lawyers, the Judge, and the Jury
Federal Courthouse, NY, 1938 This is a short podcast to acquaint you with the actors about to come on stage in the drama of Alger Hiss and Whittaker Chambers. They are the government Prosecutor Thomas Murphy, Hiss’s principal defense lawyer Lloyd Paul Stryker, Judge Samuel Kaufman, and the jury.   Additional Research   Murphy, a 6’ 4” muscular giant of a man with an enormous walrus mustache, tried to come across as the quiet, somewhat plodding, but totally competent and honest government attorney just doing his job.  He knew he could not match Hiss’s barrister Lloyd Paul Stryker, the greatest criminal defense lawyer in the country and a dramatic actor who could resemble a July 4 fireworks display if he wanted to.  Also, prosecutors’ excessive drama can create sympathy for defendants.  In later years, Murphy was briefly Police Commissioner of New York City (appointed by a reform Mayor) and for decades afterwards was a judge, appointed by President Truman, in the court where the Hiss trials occurred — the federal District Court for the Southern District of New York.  A lawyer/friend who practiced before him told me that Murphy was a very quiet, laid back, passive trial judge and that these traits reflected his inner total self-confidence and sense of his own competence.  My friend said that no matter which side of a case you were on you were always happy when you got Murphy as trial judge. He would let you put on your case as you wished and wouldn’t be interrupting your choreography to preen before the jury, comment on the evidence, or audition for higher office   Lloyd Paul Stryker was a magnificent performer, a real barn-burner.  He might be out of place in today’s cool culture.  To him, his client was all things good and the other side was pure evil.  It was that simple.  He tended to ‘swing for the bleachers,’ ignoring details and endlessly pounding away at one or two simple points in Shakespearean English.  He had a one man office, employing very young lawyers for a few years and then letting them go (with the benefit of having worked for a grand master).  Among the books he wrote (in his spare time!) are laudatory biographies of our first impeached President, Andrew Johnson, and the famous 18th-19th century liberal British barrister Thomas Erskine, and two legal treatises — all available on Amazon.  By the time of this trial, he was approaching old age.  He had made a lot of money but I think he had spent most of it.   Little is known about the judge at the first trial, Samuel Kaufman.  He must have been good to become a judge in the prestigious Southern District, but he left no mark and was thought by some to be a hack from the Manhattan Democratic Party’s ‘machine’ in Tammany Hall, which was still quite powerful in the 1940s.  He was so small physically that, when he leaned back all the way in his swivel chair up on the bench, he sometimes disappeared from view.   About the jury, the important thing is that, judging from their occupations, none of them had been to graduate school and perhaps none of them had been to college.  They were the kind of people who can’t afford to live in Manhattan any more.  This trial took them into an unfamiliar world, of conceptual policy making and political ideology.   Questions:  Do you think Murphy and Stryker were well suited for the roles in which fate cast them?  If you were one of them, how would you use the other’s character traits to your advantage?  If you were Murphy or Stryker, how would you take the jury into the foreign (to them) world of the State Department and espionage for the Soviet Union in a way that made your side look good and the other side look bad?  How would you make your man, Hiss or Chambers, seem to someone on the jury as just an honest ordinary person like me?    
06:36 10/28/2021
Chapter 19: The Opening Statements
Pic: Prosecutor Thomas Murphy   In this Podcast, I deliver, in my best courtroom voice, short versions of Prosecutor Murphy’s down-to-earth opening statement for the government and Lloyd Paul Stryker’s incandescent overture for the Hiss defense.  See which one you think is more impressive — Murphy’s calm, rational promise of convincing evidence or Stryker’s dazzling contrast of Saint Alger and the “moral leper” Chambers.     FURTHER RESEARCH:   Episode 19:  Strangely, neither Hiss nor Chambers in his memoir spends many words on the opening statements of the two great trial lawyers, Murphy and Stryker.  Indeed, Hiss’s description of the trials is all about the evidence, with nothing about appearances, gestures, or his personal reactions.  See Hiss at 213.Chambers, equally remarkably, covers both trials in only four pages at the back of his 799-page autobiography.  Witness at 789-92.He does refer to Stryker as ‘spinning and flailing like a dervish” (791).     More detailed accounts of the opening statements are in Weinstein at 437-41, Smith at 299-303, and Cooke at 109-18.  Cooke’s description (at 107-08) of Hiss’s physical appearance in court on the first day is positively rhapsodic:  “He had what anyone must envy who has come to know that youth is a bloom that sags and vanishes . . . .  He had one of those bodies that without being at all imposing or foppish seem to illustrate the finesse of the human mechanism.. . .  [H]e was of that species which exists in the teeth of the American democratic theory and is yet another proof of the superiority of matter over mind:an American gentleman . . .”  As I wrote about a previous Podcast, Cooke just didn’t get Chambers at all.  Given his inclinations, it must have been a long ands painful journey for Cooke to conclude, as he did, that Hiss was guilty.  See Nick Clarke, “Alistair Cooke:A Biography” (Arcade Publishing 1999) at 288.   Questions:  If you were on the jury, which opening statement would leave the better impression on you?  Certainly, Stryker was the superior orator.  Would you want to side with his client, Saint Alger?  Would you feel pity or hatred for Stryker’s Chambers:  the professional liar, mentally ill malcontent, and flouter of every standard of civilized humanity?  After the smoke and music of Stryker’s performance had dissipated, however, would you be left wondering about the evidence?  That’s what Murphy talked about in his opening statement:  Chambers’ testimony that Hiss passed him confidential State Department papers in 1937 and 1938 and the 100 or so such papers he would introduce into evidence.  Stryker didn’t say a word about the documents in Hiss’s handwriting and typed on the Hiss family typewriter, which were created and in Chambers’ possession long after Hiss said he had kicked Chambers out of his life.    
12:55 11/04/2021
Chapter 20: The Prosecution - Whittaker and Esther Chambers
Lloyd Paul Stryker, Hiss's Defense Atty (Digital Commons) Whittaker Chambers, and then his wife Esther, testify in court.  Both their direct testimonies were rocky due to Stryker’s objections and Judge Kaufman’s rulings.  Their cross-examinations by Stryker were brutal. Chambers sat there and passively took blow after blow, but Mrs. Chambers shouted back at Stryker as forcefully as he had shouted at her.  But each got to say what needed to be said — that Hiss passed Chambers State Department documents in 1937 and 1938 and that the two families were friends.  At the second trial, both Chamberses were more relaxed and forthcoming because they had been through it all before (isn’t everything easier the second time?) and because the judge at the second trial gave all the witnesses more leeway.  Everyone agreed their testimonies at the second trial were more effective.     FURTHER RESEARCH:    Episode 20:  Lengthy accounts of the Chamberses’ direct and cross examinations are in Weinstein at 440-56 (first trial) and 499-501 (second) and Cooke at 121-48 (Mr. C, first trial), 151-61 (Mrs. C, first trial), 287-91 (Mr. C, second trial) and 295-96 (Mrs. C, second trial).  Mrs. Chambers, who has not appeared much in these Podcasts until now, is described by Weinstein (at 451) as “small, slim-boned, plain faced” and by Cooke (at 151) as “a small severe figure . . . , a very dark, thin-lipped woman in spectacles who sat nervously back in the witness chair.”  Chambers, in his memoir "Witness," describes (at 232) Stryker’s cross-examination of her as “brutal bullying.”   Chambers also describes meeting his future wife at a textile workers’ strike at Passaic, New Jersey, in 1930.  He describes her as brave, forthright and militant, with “dark brown eyes . . . of a candor and purity such as I had never seen in any other woman in the Communist movement.”  He was surprised to learn that she was a pacifist.  (Witness at 231-32.  See also Weinstein at 118-19.)   Questions:  Do you think that Stryker went too far with his brutal cross-examination of Mrs. Chambers?  In 1948, women were “The Fair Sex” and men were supposed to be gentlemen.  But what choice did he have after she had corroborated most of her husband’s testimony?   The trials were the first time that anyone heard Mrs. Chambers tell her story.  She professed ignorance of her husband’s spying.  But most significantly, she described an extensive social relationship with Mrs. Hiss — lots of get-togethers typical for young married wives and mothers in the mid-1930s, at specific locations in Washington (Mount Vernon, Haynes Point, and Georgetown) and Baltimore (various squares and parks and Hutzler’s Department Store).  Any pro-Hiss juror must have wondered — was Mrs. Chambers just as insane as her husband, or was she lying in perfect harmony with her husband’s lunacy?  Did not her details lend credibility to her story, and by inference to her husband’s?  
21:29 11/11/2021
Chapter 21: The Prosecution, the Documents
Robert Stripling & Richard Nixon  Everyone always asks about the topic of this Podcast #21: “What was in the secret State Department documents?”  These are the 126 pages that Chambers introduced as the last documents that Hiss gave him.  State Department men authenticated them as copies (or summaries or excerpts) of actual State Department documents, many marked CONFIDENTIAL and all dated between December 31, 1937, and April 1, 1938.  The documents concern many subjects, but they generally share two characteristics.  First, they had little or nothing to do with Hiss’s job, which was trade between the US and other countries.  Second, they had a lot to do with two subjects about which the US knew a lot and about which the Soviet Union knew little through its own efforts but was intensely interested in at that time.  Those subjects were what was going on in Germany and Japan, two aggressively expansionist countries bordering the Soviet Union and sworn to its destruction.  Get ready for a deep dive into what mattered to the Soviet Union in those years; and into The Robinson-Reubens Affair, an “international incident” between the US and the Soviets in early 1938 that provoked what may be the “smoking gun” document in this Case.   FURTHER RESEARCH    Episode 21:  Chambers says little about the content of the documents.  I doubt he had time to read them when he had them — they had to be photographed and returned promptly to their sources.  On his way to the photographer, on a street car in Washington or a train to Baltimore, Chambers wouldn’t want to be seen perusing State Department papers marked CONFIDENTIAL.  He did read some, however.  Of them he wrote (in Witness at 426): “I concluded that political espionage was a magnificent waste of time and effort — not because the sources were holding back; they were pathetically eager to help — but because the secrets of foreign offices are notoriously overrated.  There was little about political espionage, it seemed to me, that an intelligent man, who knew the forces, factors, and general direction of history in our time, could not arrive at by using political imagination, backed by a careful study of the available legitimate facts.”   Hiss addresses the documents in his first book, In the Court of Public Opinion (at 251-86).  He notes (at 252) that one of The Pumpkin Papers — a document on a roll of film Chambers produced, all of whose pictures were taken on one day — was a ‘working’ or (I think) carbon copy.  Hiss says that his office received the original, so he cannot have been the source of that paper or any other papers in that roll.  This misses the possibility that Hiss could have decided to pass the paper to Chambers after the original had passed from Hiss’s control.  It would have been easy for Hiss to pilfer papers from other men’s offices or from central files.  The State Department was, by our standards, incredibly lax in security up to our entry into World War II in 1941.  The British spy Kim Philby, after he skipped over the Iron Curtain in the 60s, wrote “it is nonsense to suppose that a resolute and experienced operator occupying a senior post in the Foreign Office can have access only to the papers that are placed on his desk in the ordinary course of duty.  . . .  I gained access to the files of British agents in the Soviet Union when I was supposed to be chivvying Germans in Spain.”  Kim Philby, My Silent War (Grove Press 1968) at 214.   Other analyses of the documents are in John Chabot Smith’s “Alger Hiss:The True Story” at 331-54 and in the 1952 edition of Alistair Cooke’s ‘Generation on Trial’ book at 161-67.  Rebecca West, in her critical review of Cooke’s book at pages 666-67 of the 1950 University of Chicago Law Review, makes some fun of Mr. Cooke’s analysis.  The only lengthy analysis of all the documents Chambers produced (those introduced in the trial and those that were not) is in Professor Weinstein’s book (2013 edition) at 255-81.   Lloyd Paul Stryker found the documents so boring that, as they were being read word by word to the jury, he was outside in the corridor smoking a cigar.  Cooke at 164.  I’m sure the jury envied him.     Questions:  If you were the Prosecution, could you have done more to make the presentation of the documents less narcolepsy-inducing?  If you were Mr. Stryker, might you have stayed in the courtroom, yawned and otherwise tried to make them seem trivial?  (Maybe that was his point in leaving the courtroom.) If you were on the jury, would you have, despite being bored, been impressed at the volume and seriousness of the documents?     If they were not passed to Chambers by Hiss, who else could have passed them to him?98% of them crossed Hiss’s desk in the normal course of business.  If there was a conspiracy hatched to frame Hiss in 1948, how much work and talent would it have taken, in that year, to find the originals of all the decade-old documents?  And how about the effort of photographing the Pumpkin Papers with an old camera on old film and typing up copies on a 20 year old typewriter on 20 year old paper and with a 20 year old typewriter ribbon?  
16:33 11/18/2021
Chapter 22: The Prosecution - Raymond Feehan
Photo: Now comes the witness who, in my opinion, dooms Alger Hiss.  He gives expert testimony supporting Chambers’ claim that the typed spy documents were passed to him by Alger Hiss after Mrs. Hiss typed them on the Hiss home typewriter.  Lloyd Paul Stryker did not ask this witness a single question on cross-examination.  Listen to this Podcast to learn who was the witness and how he formed his expert opinion.  After the witness left the stand, all ears waited to hear Hiss explain how dozens of documents, obviously prepared for espionage, got typed on his home typewriter but he is still innocent. FURTHER RESEARCH: As one scholar put it, you wouldn’t want to hang a man based  on the testimony of Whittaker Chambers and nothing more, but how could you disbelieve Chambers plus 64 pages of typewritten spy documents that had been typed on the Hiss home typewriter?  Herbert L. Packer, Ex-Communist Witnesses:  Four Studies in Fact Finding (Stanford Univ. Press 1962) at 22. The next witness is Raymond Feehan, sometimes called Ramos Feehan — a great multi-cultural name, perhaps only possible in 1949 in New York City.  Mr. Feehan was an FBI employee and a member of the profession of The Examination of Questioned Documents.  I have been unable to find a photo of him or any other information about him — which makes him the perfect dispassionate expert.  Alistair Cooke describes him as “a vigorous, dark-haired F.B.I. expert, . . .strictly a laboratory man . . . [who] appeared quite untouched by the emotions of the case . . . . [and had] all the basking pride of a travel lecturer much in demand.”  Alistair Cooke, A Generation on Trial (1952) at 168-69. Mr. Feehan opined that the typed spy documents and another bunch of documents, which everyone agreed had been typed on the Hiss home typewriter, had been typed on the same typewriter.  This opinion, wrote Alistair Cooke (at 168), “provoked quick intakes of breath from many casual spectators.” It is often misstated that this Case turned on a typewriter.  That’s not true.  Mr. Feehan formed his opinion before the typewriter that everyone agreed was the Hiss home typewriter had been found.  Mr. Feehan based his opinion instead on a comparison of two sets of documents — the typed spy documents and the so-called Hiss Standards, which everyone had agreed had been typed on the Hiss home typewriter.  It is as if you proved that the fingerprints on a certain glass were my fingerprints by comparing them not to my fingers, but to a fingerprints (say, in the files of the FBI) that everyone agreed were my fingerprints.  The Prosecution’s evidence, the evidence that convicted Alger Hiss, would have been exactly the same if no typewriter had ever been found. Concurring in Mr. Feehan’s opinion was the founder of the profession of The Examination of Questioned Documents, one Ordway Hilton.  Ordway Hilton, Scientific Examination of Questioned Documents (Revised Edition) (Elsevier Science Publishing Co. 1982) at  224-25, 232. Questions:  How will Hiss explain how the typed spy documents got typed on his home typewriter?  His Explanation #1, to the Grand Jury, that Chambers snuck into the Hiss house and typed them up himself when no one was looking, didn’t work.  He’ll need a damned good Explanation #2, won’t he?  You’ll have to wait for Podcast #26 to hear it.  In the meantime, can you think of a way that Chambers (or someone with more time and resources) could make a ‘fake’ typewriter and produce typewritten documents that looked exactly like documents that had been typed on the real Hiss home typewriter?  For that, you’ll need to wait for Podcast #35.
09:13 11/25/2021
Chapter 23: The Prosecution: Henry Julian Wadleigh
This Podcast is the closest the trials get to high comedy.  Dreamy, arrogant State Department economist, Henry Julian Wadleigh, worked in the same area as Hiss (several levels below Hiss).  Wadleigh testifies that he passed State Department documents to Chambers in 1937 and 1938 without authorization.  He thus corroborates Chambers’ testimony that Chambers was the hub of a spy ring in State in those years.     But might he also help Hiss?  Could it have been Wadleigh who gave Chambers all those documents?  How might Hiss make a case that it was Wadleigh who passed the papers that Chambers said he got from Hiss?  Would Chambers have any reason to falsely accuse Hiss if he could truthfully accuse Wadleigh?     Lloyd Paul Stryker’s cross-examination succeeded in making Wadliegh look like a ridiculous head-in-the-clouds dreamer.  (Just like Chambers, Stryker hints, all these commies are weirdoes unlike the solid, respectable Alger.). Wadleigh made such a fool of himself that, when once Murphy objected to Stryker’s cross-examination, Judge Kaufman couldn’t rule on the objection because he was laughing so hard that he had hidden his face in his papers.   FURTHER RESEARCH:  Back at the Grand Jury, there was a dramatic scene in the room where all the witnesses sat before being summoned to the presence of the Grand Jury.  When Wadleigh and Hiss saw each other, they exchanged pleasantries and then Wadliegh told Hiss “The F.B.I. came to see me and I got sort of panicky and told them that I had given some documents to Chambers.”  Hiss purported to be “astounded.”  (Hiss at 187.). I would love to have ten great actors perform Hiss being astounded — reactions all the way from “My God, there was a spy ring in State.  Horrors!”  to “You, too, Julian?!”  See also Grand Jury Transcript at 3949; Weinstein at 298.   Alistair Cooke wrote that Hiss might have been “a greater Wadleigh.”  Rebecca West, in her review of Cooke’s book, says that this view “speaks of chaotic moral and intellectual values.”  She supports this opinion in her memorable prose.  1950 University of Chicago Law Review at 672-73, available at    The Baltimore Sun newspaper interviewed Wadleigh shortly before he testified in the second trial.  By then he was disgraced and destitute.  The newspaper described Wadleigh as “[p]ossessed of a self-esteem amounting almost to self-deification” and “look[ing] pityingly on the remainder of humanity, . . . distressed when it so often fails to respond to his guidance from a self-erected mountain.”  Thomas O’Neill, “Wadleigh Set for New Role,” The Baltimore Sunday Sun, Nov., 27, 1949, page 5, col. 1.   Questions:  No one has ever suggested that Wadleigh was lying.  Can you think of any reason he would lie to corroborate Chambers?  After you’ve listened to this Podcast, do you agree with me that, after all was said and done, Wadleigh helped the Prosecution and damaged Hiss?  At the second trial, Wadleigh told the jury in detail how he, a mild Socialist and not a Communist, gave information to the Soviet Union because he wanted to help fight fascism, not to promote Communism.  He thought he was helping his country in the long run, not hurting it.  Do you have sympathy for Wadleigh’s intentions and/or acts?      
19:57 12/02/2021
Chapter 24: The Prosecution - Were the two families friends, and for how long?
  There were two disagreements between the Hisses and Chamberses.  First was whether Hiss had been a Communist and Soviet spy with Chambers in the mid- and late 1930s.  Who was telling the truth could not be proved.  Hiss would never confess and, from his point of view, it’s almost impossible to prove that you did not do something years ago.  As for proof by external evidence, good luck.  When you join the Communist underground you don’t sign a contract and send a copy to the Justice Department.   But on the other issue — whether (as the Hisses said) the families had had a short, unpleasant business relationship that was effectively over in 1935 or (as the Chamberses said) they had had a close personal friendship that lasted into 1938 — external evidence might be found.     This Podcast takes you through Prosecution evidence that the two families had engaged in significant financial transactions in 1935, 1936, and 1937. The transactions were documented in a small pile of regularly kept business and government records, and concerned two cars and an oriental carpet that Chambers gave Hiss.  All these indicated a close personal friendship lasting at least into 1937.   Perhaps most convincing was the chief witness about rug, the man who bought it for Chambers and sent it to Washington.  (It arrived there, according to the records of the package room at Union Station, in January 1937.). The witness was Chambers’ best friend, college classmate, European traveling companion in 1923, Associate Professor of Art History at Columbia in 1949, and soon-to-be-called the world’s greatest art historian, Dr. Meyer Schapiro.    FURTHER RESEARCH:   The details about one of the cars, the 1929 Model A Ford with the hand-operated windshield wipers and, according to Hiss, “a sassy little trunk on the back,” came out in the HUAC hearings and were discussed in Podcast #13.  (Also discussed in Podcast #13 was another transaction — evidence showing the two families being interested in the same obscure parcel of land miles away from where either of them lived.  But that was not introduced at the trials.). Concerning the other car (the one in which Chambers said he and his family fled the Communist underground), see Weinstein at 240-44; concerning the rug, see Weinstein at 230-33.   Questions:  Does it surprise you that Chambers remembered several of these incidents only after someone else brought them up?  Do Chambers’ stories, without the supporting paper, sound plausible?  How many document-fakers would it take to create all the pieces of paper supporting Chambers’ stories, and how many invisible document-planters would it take to slip them into the records of numerous banks, businesses, and government Bureaus where they were found in 1948 and 1949?  Can you think of a less likely participant in a right-wing frame up than Dr. Meyer Schapiro, a Jewish socialist Art History Professor at Columbia?  Do Hiss’s recollections of all these incidents, which are consistent with his innocence, sound plausible to you?  Might you be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt if he needed only one rococo exculpatory recollection?  But three?    Before we get to the Hiss defense, the next podcast explores a ‘sleeper’ issue in the case.  But, as of now, at the conclusion of the Prosecution’s case, has the Prosecution proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Hiss lied to the grand jury when he denied passing Chambers government documents without authorization after January 1, 1937?  If you were on the jury and the Defense put on no evidence and rested on ‘the golden thread’ of Anglo-American criminal law, the presumption of innocence, would you, based on what you have heard so far, vote Hiss guilty or not guilty?
14:16 12/09/2021
Chapter 25: Intermezzo - The Sleeper Issue of Homosexuality
  Each side in this Case had a male homosexual secret.  Remember that we’re in 1949, when conservatives thought that male homosexuality was a sin and a crime and enlightened liberals thought that gay men were tragic mistakes of nature, mentally ill, women trapped in men’s bodies, but fortunately there was talk therapy, shock treatment and, if all else fails, lobotomies.  (Homosexual men were subjected to lobotomies until recently in Communist Cuba.)   Chambers, during his years in the Communist underground, had had gay sex with men he met in public places.  And Hiss’s stepson (Mrs. Hiss’s son by her first marriage) was gay and had been discharged from the Navy in 1945 on psychological grounds, which was a polite way of eliminating gay sailors.  The precise dimensions of each side’s gay secret, how it was concealed, and how it was hinted at publicly and used covertly, is the subject of this Podcast.   Further Research:   Robert Stripling, HUAC’s Chief Investigator and Nixon’s partner in the first phase of the Case, said that it was whispered around the hearing room from Day One that Chambers was “a queer” — Stripling’s word, not mine.  He also said that, whenever an ex-Communist testified, within hours rumors began that he or she was an alcoholic or drug addict, had been to see a psychiatrist, or was a “sex pervert” — again, Stripling’s words, not mine.   The liberal historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., wrote discreetly that the “anti-Chambers whispering campaign was one of the most repellent of modern history.”  George H. Nash, “The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945” at 100 (Basic Books 1976).  Alistair Cooke used equal delicacy when, in his inventory of ‘secret explanations’ of what happened between Hiss and Chambers, he wrote “one or two other theories . . . went the rounds of Washington and New York [that] . . . so mercilessly intrude into other people’s lives that the incompleteness of this report appears a small price to pay for giving everybody so slandered the benefit of a large doubt.  The reader who is most prurient to know about such theories will be the one most apt to hit on them.”  Cooke at 334.  Dr. Weinstein, in his definitive book on this Case, deals with Chambers’ homosexual acts at 112-13, 129-30, with Hiss’s stepson’s gayness at 424-25, and with Hiss’s use of Chambers secret gay life to ‘explain’ his mentally ill lies about Hiss at 405-08 and 639-41 (section 4, titled “Chambers as Paranoid:  The Revenge Motif” in an appendix titled “Six Conspiracies in Search of an Author, 1948-1996”).    I have never seen any indication that the two sides in this Case formally agreed not to smear each other with their gay secrets.  Nor have I ever had any reason to believe that Alger Hiss was in the slightest degree gay.   Questions: If you were one of Hiss’s lawyers and the prejudices of 1949 were still widespread today, would your ethics deter you from smearing Chambers as gay (and therefore mentally ill or evil)?  Don’t you have an ethical obligation to defend your client vigorously??  If you were Prosecutor Murphy, and if you feared testimony by Hiss’s stepson, would you use your gay smear on the same grounds?  On the whole, which side do you condemn more for its use of the other side’s ‘gay secret’?   Here is a poem, titled “Lothrop, Montana” that Whittaker Chambers wrote. It was published (under Chambers’ real name) in The Nation magazine — to this day, the media headquarters of the Hiss side — on June 30, 1926, at page 726:   The cottonwoods, the boy-trees, Imberle — the clean, green, central bodies Standing apart, freely, freely, but trammeled; With their branches inter-resting — for support, Never for caressing, except the wind blow. And yet, leaning so fearfully into one another, The leaves so pensile, so tremulously hung, as they lean toward one another; Unable to strain farther into one another And be apart; Held back where in the earth their secret roots Wrap one about another, interstruggle and knot; the vital filaments Writhing in struggle; heavy, fibrous, underearthen life, From which the sap mounts filling those trembling leaves Of the boy-trees, the cottonwoods.   Is it reading too much between the lines to see in there a description of wrestling (Chambers’ college sport) by two young gay men, ending as each one’s ‘sap mounts’ within their ‘secret roots’ and ‘trembling leaves’?
16:56 12/16/2021
Chapter 26: The Defense - Alger Hiss Testifies
In Podcast 26, Alger Hiss takes the stand!  In the courtroom corridor, Hiss said: “I have been waiting for this a long time.”  (Smith at 383.). Lloyd Paul Stryker walked him through his golden resume, emphasizing all the times he had been trusted with secrets and remained loyal (as far as anyone knew).  Hiss denied every bad act of which Chambers had accused him and ended by telling the jury that he was not guilty.   If you were cross-examining Hiss, you might be tempted, given his charm and rhetorical skills, to ask him just a few questions and then let him go.  You could prove his many changes of story and his rococo accounts of his financial dealings with “Crosley” by reading Hiss’s HUAC testimony in to the record and introducing into evidence all the business records darkening or disproving what he said about the Ford with the sassy little trunk, the $400 loan, and the rug.  But Nixon, the only man who had cross-examined Hiss, warned Murphy not to do this.  Nixon got word to Murphy ‘Hiss makes a very good first impression, and you can’t let that be the impression he leaves the jury with.  You’ve got to get down in the pit and wrestle with him.'  See who you think won the wrestling match.     FURTHER RESEARCH:   John Chabot Smith’s pro-Hiss version of the trial covers Hiss’s testimony at pages 379-85.  He describes Hiss as calm and careful.  Smith observes that Hiss’s precision on the witness stand contrasted sharply with his hesitant and ever-changing testimony to HUAC.  Hiss said that since HUAC he’d had more time to remember what happened, but Smith worries that a hostile listener might think Hiss was now emitting carefully memorized lies and sticking to them for dear life.  Smith (at 383) describes Murphy’s cross-examination as calm and methodical.  Professor Weinstein (at 475) describes Murphy’s cross-examination as rapid-moving and unfocused (which may have been intentional, to throw Hiss off guard) and Hiss as remaining “almost unflappable.”  Weinstein writes (at 480) that Hiss left the witness stand “a bit battered,” but that he, like Chambers, “had held firmly to his basic story.”  Alistair Cooke writes (at 196) that Hiss “walked over to the witness stand . . . with the same nimble grace and compact charm” with which he had presided over the founding of the UN.  Cooke (at 200) describes Prosecutor Murphy, during Hiss’s direct testimony, as “mentally tapping his teeth” and (at 208) describes Hiss under cross-examination as “superlative.”  Cooke (at 213) describes Murphy as ever more frustrated and husky as the cross-examination wound on.  Hiss’s calm, graceful deportment, according to Cooke (at 209, 211), encouraged his admirers and infuriated his detractors.  Cooke wrote (at 196) that if Hiss was innocent, his “serenity could be only the deep well of security in a character of great strength and purity.  In a guilty man, . . . his detachment would be pathological in the extreme.”   Questions:  Are you one of Hiss’s encouraged admirers or infuriated detractors?  Do you think he could have done any better on direct examination?  Would it have hurt him to describe a few times in his life when he had done wrong, or had just shown imperfect judgment?  Might such an admission have made him more human and perhaps likable?  Do you think Hiss survived Prosecutor Murphy’s cross-examination without a scratch?  Or did he take one or two torpedoes?  Or did Murphy reduce Hiss to a smoking ruin?  
15:53 12/23/2021
Chapter 27: The Defense - Priscilla Hiss and the Character Witnesses
Podcast #27 is short, covering the testimony of Mrs. Priscilla Hiss and the “character witnesses.”  Mrs. Hiss corroborates her husband down the line.  However, she is notably nervous on the witness stand, and admits to changing her story in a few ways, all favorable to her husband, since The Grand Jury.  Favorable testimony by family members is risky.  It’s a “dog bites man” story, no surprise.  You don’t expect them to incriminate their loved ones, especially the family breadwinner back when women couldn’t get good jobs.  On the other hand, any slip up is a “man bites dog” story, and that can hurt the defendant.  The “character witnesses” were almost two dozen eminent personages who testified to Hiss’s good or excellent reputation for loyalty and truthfulness.  Some of them, however, slipped up a bit.  On the whole, they probably helped Hiss.   FURTHER RESEARCH: I noted in Podcast #2 that Mrs. Hiss was something of a scold, disliked by Hiss’s mother and many of his male friends.  She was ‘an uppity woman’ by the standards of her time.  She graduated from college and took some grad school courses, and was the co-author of a book “Research in Fine Arts in the Colleges and Universities of the United States.”  (I found a copy on Amazon!). William Marbury, a childhood friend of Hiss and one of his major attorneys, wrote that “[t]here was a great deal of the knight-errant in [Alger’s] make-up, and the girls to whom he attached himself . . . were almost always in some sort of difficulty.”  (Marbury at 76.). Marbury thought that Priscilla was “a rather self-assertive woman, who had no intention of letting Alger ‘steal the show.’  It almost seemed as if she resented the attention which his friends paid to him.  Like Anthony Trollope’s Mrs. Proudie, she would interrupt him when he was asked for his opinion and would answer for him.”  (Marbury at 77.). When Marbury was talking with both Alger and Priscilla in preparation of Alger’s libel suit, Marbury wrote “I found my interview with Priscilla somewhat mistifying.  . . .I got the impression that she felt that in some way she was responsible for the troubles that had come to Alger.”  (Marbury at 88.)     Concerning the character witnesses for Hiss, I pass on one ‘inside’ observation.  When I was a lawyer, I worked in the same place as an attorney who, long before, had clerked for Stanley Reed, one of the Supreme Court Justices who testified to Hiss’s reputation.  I emailed this lawyer once, noting my interest in the Case.  I also reminded him that both Reed and Felix Frankfurter had testified for Hiss, and asked if he had any memories that he wished to share with me.  He replied that Frankfurter had testified voluntarily, that Reed had insisted on being subpoenaed, and that Reed thought that Frankfurter should have insisted on being subpoenaed, too.   Questions:  Do you think Mrs. Hiss’s testimony helped or hurt the Defense on the whole?  Did her corroboration of her husband add any weight to his testimony, perhaps by adding a few facts and details that added life and credibility to her husband’s larger story?  Did her nervous manner and her slips hurt his case more than her corroboration helped it?  If she had not testified, on the other hand, would her absence have been conspicuous enough to hurt her husband?  Does it help to get five Judges (including two from The Supreme Court!), Ambassadors, and past and future candidates for President say that everyone thought the world of you?  What sort of reputation does a good spy have?  Or is that a cheap shot against so many esteemed personages?  If you were a lower middle class member of the jury with a high school education, would all this Establishment firepower bowl you over?  Or might you be offended by all the Harvard grads telling you what to think?
08:02 12/30/2021
Chapter 28: The Defense - the Catlett Family
  Podcast #28 recounts the testimonies of three black Washingtonians named Catlett.  Claudia Catlett, the Hisses’ household servant, had only one memory of Chambers being in the Hiss house.  She’d likely have seen him more if he’d been coming by regularly to pick up spy documents.  Two of her sons, teenagers when the alleged spying occurred, did handyman jobs for the Hisses and received The Hiss Home Typewriter from the Hisses as part payment for helping them move within Georgetown, maybe in December 1937.  If the Catlett Kids had the Typewriter in early 1938 (the dates of The Typed Spy Documents), obviously The Typed Spy Documents were typed when the Hisses no longer had the Typewriter.  That exonerates Hiss, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately for Hiss, the three Catletts proved very weak on cross-examination, changing their stories often and in ways that hurt Hiss.  Their changes are excellent proof of the value of cross-examination.  And if the Typewriter was in the Catlett’s house when The Spy Documents were typed on it, how could Chambers have found it there and done the typing himself?  Can you picture Chambers sneaking into a black household and typing 64 pages of documents?  Wouldn’t someone notice a smelly white guy, missing half his teeth, banging away at the Typewriter for hours?     FURTHER RESEARCH    Two journalists who covered the trials and were sympathetic to the Hisses gave remarkably unfavorable accounts of the Catletts’ testimonies.  Alistair Cooke (at 183) describes Mrs. Catlett as “a big comfortable . . . simple, intelligent woman, a devoted servant and friend of the Hisses with a happy memory of her work with them and a grateful memory for many favors.”  Cooke, however, describes (at 187) one of her sons as embodying the extreme low point of human articulateness.  John Chabot Smith, who believed Hiss innocent, concedes (at 373) that the Catletts “didn’t remember the details very clearly” and “were too vague to stand up under Murphy’s cross-examination.”  Murphy, says Smith (at 374), shot down their story about the Typewriter “easily, and there was no way for the defense to repair the damage.”  One Catlett Kid “became more and more confused and resentful” as his cross-examination wound on.(Smith at 374.). “It was all very confusing and fatiguing, and by the time it was over there wasn’t much left of Hiss’s main line of defense.” (Smith at 377.)   The aforementioned Catlett Kid complained about his treatment by one FBI agent, and Prosecutor Murphy later had the agent testify that he had treated young Catlett fairly.  Lloyd Paul Stryker’s cross-examination of the FBI agent was a masterpiece, according to Cooke.  Over 40 minutes Stryker “insinuate[d] the sort of terrorism that would throw an illiterate colored [sic, remember we’re back in the 1940s] family into more kinds of confusion than a forgetfulness about dates.”  He tried to make the FBI’s appearance and interrogations resemble an afternoon with the KGB or The Spanish Inquisition.It was “a bravura performance . . . that probably few modern lawyers could rival, in this age of the bureaucrat and the corporation lawyer sticking prosily to his brief.  . . .  [Stryker loosed] an ack-ack crackle of insinuation that had the court reporter’s good right hand shuttling like a piston” (Cooke at 233) and “squeez[ed] every simple answer for some diabolical F.B.I. intent.”  (Cooke at 236.)     Questions:In evaluating the Catletts’ testimonies, ponder a few variables.  First, what weight do you give their very friendly association with the Hisses?  (The Hisses attended a Catlett family wedding in the 1940s and paid the Catletts money to help them find the Typewriter.). Second, can you expect anyone to remember with precision the month of an event that occurred 10 to 15 years before and that was unremarkable at the time?  Third, the Catletts were black people at a time of segregation, hundreds of miles from home and surrounded by powerful white men asking them skillfully shaded questions.  Even if it’s understandable that they gave varying answers, does that leave you able to believe with confidence any of their answers, whether favorable or unfavorable to Hiss?   This completes The Hiss Defense.  Has it (a) convinced you that Hiss was not guilty, (b) raised a reasonable doubt in your mind about Hiss’s guilt, or (c) been such a mess that, added to The Prosecution’s evidence, it strengthened the case that Hiss was guilty?  I know of a federal ex-prosecutor who says that more defendants should say absolutely nothing, put on no defense, and insist that the government has not proved its case, as it must, beyond a reasonable doubt.  He says he always rejoiced when a defendant mounted a big defense because almost always, in cross-examining the defendant’s witnesses, he proved things that were essential or helpful to The Prosecution’s case.  Do you think Prosecutor Murphy proved much with his cross-examination of Hiss’s witnesses?  On the whole, did Hiss’s witnesses help or hurt Hiss?  
15:10 01/06/2022
Chapter 29: The Summations and The Verdict
Pic: Hiss Defense Attorney Lloyd Paul Stryker At last we hear the two great trial lawyers, Lloyd Paul Stryker for The Hiss Defense and Thomas Murphy for The Prosecution, sum up the evidence and loose their rhetorical flourishes.  Stryker, remember, was going for a hung jury, just trying to get one or two jurors to hold out for a Not Guilty verdict no matter what the others thought.  Murphy had to convince all twelve.  Stryker’s speech was a masterpiece of rhetoric, which Murphy in his speech dismissed as ‘cornball stuff’ and ‘old, old.’ Murphy stuck to what he called the undisputed facts.  Ask yourself who won the final war of words before the jury got the Case.   Then . . . . hear the jury’s conclusion!   ** CHECK OUT John W. Berresford's conversation on the case with Brian Lamb of CSPAN, in this week's podcast episode of  "Booknotes" here:     FURTHER RESEARCH: Stryker and Murphy had a three day weekend (over July 4, 1949) to prepare their closing speeches to the jury.  Stryker’s speech began late one morning and ended one hour into the next morning.  He shouted until his voice was hoarse and his eyes were red.  He gestured grandly and, for the first time, moved around a lot, sometimes withdrawing from the jury and sometimes leaning on the front of the jury box.  (Cooke at 245-55; Smith at 396-97.). When at last he finished, exhausted and old, “[w]ithout any swagger or semblance of poise, [he] pattered back to his chair.(Cooke at 255.)   Murphy moved his 230-pound frame around the well of the courtroom, too, but he mostly stayed calm and leisurely.  (Prosecutors generally do not like to appear emotional, which could play into defense claims of a witchcraft trial.). His voice showed only “a rumbling contempt” for Hiss “and his face was never redder than his fine protective tan.  (Cooke at 259.). Again and again he emphasized the facts, pointed at The Spy Documents in Hiss’s handwriting and typed on The Hiss Home Typewriter, and told the jury “Those are the facts.”  (Cooke at 257-59.). As you will hear in the Podcast, he raised his voice at the end, talking briefly about the dates of the typed documents. It was a great flourish.  He closed by reminding the jury’s members that they need not follow any opinion the foreman might express. Murphy had heard second hand that the foreman (the General Motors manager) was pro-Hiss.  (Cooke at 261-65.)   Questions:  Did either speech change your mind?  Did one strengthen your pre-existing convictions?  What were the strong points of each one?  Did either advocate fail to address a weakness in his case that you felt needed addressing?    Did the jury’s conclusion surprise you?   In 1949, long, passionate, flowery speeches were still common.  They were one form of popular entertainment, and Lloyd Paul Stryker was Michelangelo.  The allegedly ‘cool’ medium of television was just starting.  Given our calm modern attitudes, would there be a place for Lloyd Paul Stryker in today’s courtrooms?  I think there would.  He was that good, in my opinion.          
18:17 01/13/2022
Chapter 30: The Second Trial - Introduction
Hede Hassing, a key witness in the 2nd trial The second trial: new Judge (an elderly Republican), a new jury (seven women!), a new lawyer for Hiss (Boston’s distinguished, quiet Claude Cross), a new strategy by each side, and a lot more witnesses.  The next three Podcasts bring you three witnesses who did not testify at the first trial, but did at the second.     One journalist wrote that the minor characters in this Case contained the raw material for a shelf of unwritten novels.  You’ve already met Julian Wadleigh.  Now meet Hede Massing, a Viennese actress, thrice married and twice divorced, and secret Communist operative (like her first two husbands) in four countries.  She testifies that she saw Alger Hiss (and even had a memorable chat with him) in Washington’s Soviet underground in the mid-1930s.  The FBI document expert Feehan gave expert corroboration for Chamber’s accusations.  If you believe Massing, she gives Chambers eyewitness corroboration.  But she may have been weakened by Claude Cross’s cross-examination, which left her “visibly flustered.”(Alistair Cooke wrote at 292.)     FURTHER RESEARCH:    Massing’s autobiography, “This Deception,” published by Duell, Sloan and Pearce in New York in 1951, is available on Amazon and eBay.  She describes her encounter with Hiss at pages 173-75.     Massing led a life of adventure, and paid the price.  Much of her secret life was incredibly boring, establishing new identities in place after place and then waiting weeks or months for a real assignment.  Her earlier testimony to The Grand Jury also makes clear the painful psychological struggles facing ex-Communist spies in the West.  There is the obvious guilt about having betrayed your country to serve another country that turned out to be worse than you dreamed possible.  There is also damage done to others.  Massing told The Grand Jury how she recruited a State Department economist to spy for the Soviet Union.  In 1948, the economist had just skipped over to the other side of The Iron Curtain and spent the rest of his life there.  Massing, in front of The Grand Jury, suddenly broke down crying and asked for a glass of water and a recess.  Later, she explained that she felt personally responsible for the economist’s ruined life.  (I think she was being too hard on herself.  What he did was his responsibility.) She also begged the U.S. Attorney’s Office to keep her identity and testimony secret, for two reasons.  First, she and her husband had found jobs but had not disclosed their past crimes, and she was terrified that they would be exposed and become unemployable.  Second — and this is something several former Soviet operatives corroborated — she said that when you have lived for years under false names, sleeping by day and working by night, moving from country to country and city to city at the KGB’s whim, “it takes all your gumption and guts to try to live an average life as I am trying to do.”  (Grand Jury Transcript at 3697-98.). Being a secret agent, in reality, is not like the James Bond movies.   Questions:  Judge Kaufman excluded Massing’s testimony at the first trial.  Judge Goddard allowed it at the second.  Was one Judge clearly right and the other clearly wrong?  Do you think Massing helped The Prosecution on the whole, or was she too damaged on cross-examination?  Does the sudden flight of the State Department economist lend credibility to her story?     As you hear more about how the second trial differed from the first, ask yourself what caused the different verdict at the latter.  There are many possible explanations.  The Cold War had gotten substantially colder by the second trial.  Hiss chose a new lawyer, whom few would say was the equal of Lloyd Paul Stryker.  Prosecutor Murphy was trying the case for a second time and did much better than at the first.  There were the three new witnesses (and more testimony allowed by the repeat witnesses).  The Judge was a Republican appointee.  There were more women on the second jury.  Take your pick.
13:25 01/20/2022