Materials on Venona

M - Z


Mark, Eduard. "Venona's Source 19 and the 'Trident' Conference of May 1943: Diplomacy or Espionage." Intelligence and National Security 13, no. 2 (Summer 1998): 1-31.

The author carefully builds a case that cryptonym 19 in Venona message No. 812 refers to Harry Hopkins. He does not, however, conclude that this means Hopkins was either a spy or an unwitting agent of influence. In fact, Mark leans toward a Sudoplatovian explanation that Hopkins dealt with Soviet officials on instruction of the President, but concludes that this single message does not answer the question of the nature of Hopkins' contacts with Soviet intelligence.

Martin, David. "The Code War: How an Army of American Cryptanalysts Solved a Theoretically Unsolvable Puzzle -- and Uncovered One of the Soviets' Most Sensitive Secrets." Washington Post, 10 May 1998, W14. [http://www.washingtonpost.com]

This is an interesting journalistic account of the Venona project. It gives some feel for the problems confronting the cryptanalysts who tackled Jade and, with help from some bad security practices by their Soviet opponents, were able to generate the volume of decrypts contained in the Venona releases. This is recommended reading for the nonspecialist.

Murphy, Star. "VENONA Conference." CIRA Newsletter 21, no. 4 (Winter 1996/97): 34-35.

Report on conference held at the National War College, Ft. McNair, Washington, DC., 3-4 October 1996.

Peake, Hayden B. "OSS and the Venona Decrypts." Intelligence and National Security 12, no. 3 (Jul. 1997): 14-34.

The focus here is the Soviet wartime penetration of OSS Headquarters. Even more specifically, Peake explores in detail the interaction between Elizabeth Bentley's revelations and the recently released Venona decrypts in terms of what is revealed about Soviet agents working in OSS' domestic components.

Although the argumentation is too finely detailed to restate succinctly, the author decides that Bentley's accusations are, in the main, supported by the information in the Venona materials. And where they are not supported, they are also not refuted. Peake concludes that "the Soviet intelligence services did a very thorough job of penetrating the domestic elements of OSS." However, the Soviets successes "pose a paradox. They were numerous and productive..., but to date there is no direct evidence of damage that affected the OSS wartime mission in the United States."

Peake, Hayden B.

1. "The Venona Progeny." Naval War College Review 53, no. 3 (Summer 2000) (http://www.nwc.navy.mil) Updated in Intelligencer 11, no. 2 (Winter 2000): 74-80.

Peake provides an excellent review of the growing literature drawn from the Venona materials. The updated version includes comments on Romerstein and Breindel, The Venona Secrets (2000).

2. "Soviet Espionage in America: The VENONA Progeny." American Intelligence Journal 20, nos. 1 & 2 (Winter 2000-2001): 75-81.

Includes book reviews of Benson and Warner, eds.; West; Ball and Horner; Haynes and Klehr; Weinstein and Vassilliev; Albright and Kunstel; and Romerstein and Breindell.

Romerstein, Herbert, and Eric Breindel. The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America's Traitors. Washington, DC: Regnery, 2000.

Peake, Intelligencer 11.2, notes that this work "places particular emphasis on the role of the Communist Party in Soviet espionage in America from the 1920s to the mid 50s.... Romerstein's forceful arguments and simple declarative style make for good reading. Undoubtedly the most controversial aspects of the book will be the portions dealing with three Americans the authors declare were Soviet agents" -- Harry Hopkins, Harry Dexter White, and Robert Oppenheimer.

For Huck, Intelligencer 11.2, The Venona Secrets is a "detailed, well-organized and well paced work." It offers "a fascinating window on the underground activities of the above-ground American Communist Party apparatus." Herken, I&NS 16.3, comments that "Romerstein and Breindel are knowledgeable guides to the labyrinthine complexities of the spy trade as the Soviets practiced it."

Schecter, Jerrold L. and Leona Schecter. Sacred Secrets: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 2002.

According to Goulden, AFIO WIN 35-02, 2 Sep. 2002, the authors believe that the activities of Soviet intelligence agents certainly affected U.S. policy and changed U.S. history. Their effort to document that viewpoint makes Sacred Secrets "an important contribution to intelligence literature." In addition, "their analysis of VENONA is the best yet published." Bath. NIPQ 19.4, sees Sacred Secrets as a "well-researched view of some of the murkier aspects of Cold War espionage." Although he is "not sure" that he agrees "with all their conclusions," the reviewer finds that "they make a plausible case."

Holmes, Library Journal, Jul. 2002, finds that Sacred Secrets "is a touch oversold.... While it adds some details to the historical literature, little new ground is actually broken.... [I]t is less a path-breaking work than an incremental addition to the Cold War literature." For Haynes, I&NS 17.4, the absence of an explanation of how the authors obtained Soviet intelligence documents opens the door for doubters to reject them but, for his part, he is willing to "accept[] them as authentic." Although "[a]n inattention to detail has allowed minor errors to creep into the text..., students of Soviet espionage ... would be foolish to ignore" this book.

See also, Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, "Special Tasks and Sacred Secrets on Soviet Atomic Spies," Intelligence and National Security 26.5 (Oct. 2011): 656-675: "In regard to Soviet atomic espionage Special Tasks and Sacred Secrets are neither reliable nor credible."

Schneir, Walter, and Miriam Schneir. "Cryptic Answers." Nation, 21 Aug. 1995, 152-153.

CWIHP 6-7, p. 289: "Former defenders of Rosenbergs say Venona decrypts of KGB messages seem genuine and indicate Julius Rosenberg indeed ran Communist spy ring, though some key evidence of atomic espionage [is] still lacking."

Warner, Michael. "Did Truman Know about Venona?" Center for the Study of Intelligence Bulletin 11 (Summer 2000): 2-4.

Given the existence of information implicating Harry Dexter White, passed by the FBI in "carefully paraphrased" form to Admiral Souers in October 1950, the author concludes that "there are two possibilities. Either Truman was not informed about the Venona messages that implicated White, or he disregarded them. In light of the timing and circumstances of this 17 October FBI report to Adm. Souers, this author votes for the former interpretation."

Warner, Michael, and Robert Louis Benson. "Venona and Beyond: Thoughts on Work Undone." Intelligence and National Security 12, no. 3 (Jul. 1997): 1-13.

The authors state their goal as follows: "Venona, incomplete as it is, opens large areas for research. This essay is intended to point scholars toward various records, individuals, and issues that need closer scrutiny." Clark comment: This goal is admirably achieved, as numerous potential research matters (some, perhaps, never knowable with certainty) are raised.

Weinstein, Allen, and Alexander Vassiliev. The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America -- the Stalin Era. New York: Random House, 1999.

Click for a representative sampling of the numerous comments on and reviews of this major work.

West, Nigel. [Rupert Allason] Venona: The Greatest Secret of the Cold War. London: HarperCollins, 1999.

The dust jacket asserts that this book is "based on the only complete set of [Venona] decrypts held in Britain outside of Whitehall, supplemented by interviews with most of the principal players.... [West] identifies for the first time the real names of several important British spies (including a famous scientist and the son of a peer) whose names have never before made public."

Peake, NWCR 53.3 and Intelligencer 11.2, notes that while the author's "primary focus is Britain, he includes the impact of VENONA on Australian security, with its links to the United States and Britain, and ... describe[s] the links to France, Finland, and Sweden." The reviewer concludes that of the books available "West gives the most comprehensive coverage of the VENONA program and provides a good place to become familiar with its scope and depth." For Herken, I&NS 16.3, West "provides a valuable across-the-Atlantic perspective on Venona."


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