FBI Silvermaster File


FBI Silvermaster File

The FBI’s Silvermaster file [ [http://ultra-secret.info/CSR/Holdings/Silvermaster/Silvermaster.htm FBI Silvermaster file 65-56402] ] is a 162-volume compendium of some 26,000 pages of documents relating to the Bureau’s investigation of Communist penetration of the Federal government during the Cold War.

Beginning in 1945 with the allegations of defecting Soviet courier Elizabeth Bentley (Venona cover names “Myrna” [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/23_Sep_1944_R3_m4_p2.gif1353 KGB New York to Moscow, 23 Sept. 1944, p. 2] ] ; "Umnitsa", “Clever Girl” [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/13_May_1944_R3_p1.gif687 KGB New York to Moscow, 13 May 1944, p.1] ] ), the file is also known as the Bentley file or Gregory file (“Gregory” being the FBI’s code name for Bentley). The file takes the name “Silvermaster” from Nathan Gregory Silvermaster (Venona cover names Pel [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/29-30_Jun_1943_p2.gif1017 KGB New York to Moscow, 29-30 June 1943, p. 2] ] , Pal, “Paul” [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/09_Jun_1943_m3_p2.gif888 KGB New York to Moscow, 9th June 1943, p. 2] ] ; “Robert” [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/19_Dec_1944_R3_m1_p1.gif1787 KGB New York to Moscow, 19 December 1944, p.1] ] ) of the War Production Board, whom Bentley named as head of an underground Communist network known as the Silvermaster Group. [FBI Report, [http://ultra-secret.info/PDFs/NKVD.pdf "Underground Soviet Espionage Organization (NKVD) in Agencies of the United States Government"] , October 21, 1946 ( [http://ultra-secret.info/PDFs/Silvermaster082.pdf FBI Silvermaster file, Volume 82)] , p. 12 (PDF page 17)] Among the people named in the file in connection with this group are President Franklin Roosevelt’s Administrative Assistant Lauchlin Currie [ [http://ultra-secret.info/PDFs/NKVD.pdf Ibid.] , p. 52 (PDF page 58)] (Venona cover name “Page”Robert J. Hanyok, [http://www.nsa.gov/publications/publi00043.pdf "Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust", 1939-1945] (Washington, DC: Center for Cryptologic History, National Security Agency, 2005, 2nd Ed.), p. 119 (PDF page 124)] ) and Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Harry Dexter White [ [http://ultra-secret.info/PDFs/NKVD.pdf FBI Report, op. cit.] , p. 78 (PDF page 86)] (Venona cover names “Lawyer” [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/02_sept_1944_r6_m2_p2.gif1251 KGB New York to Moscow, 2 September 1944, p. 2] ] ; “Jurist”; “Richard” [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/18_Jan_1945_R3_m3_p1.gif83 KGB New York to Moscow, 18 January 1945, p.1] ] ). Also named in the file are Victor Perlo [ [http://ultra-secret.info/PDFs/NKVD.pdf FBI Report, op. cit.] , p. 98 (PDF page 107)] (Venona cover name “Raider” [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/13_May_1944_R3_p1.gif687 KGB New York to Moscow, 13 May 1944, p. 1] ] ), chief of the Aviation Section of the War Production Board, and contacts of his Perlo group, including Alger Hiss [ [http://ultra-secret.info/PDFs/NKVD.pdf FBI Report, op cit.] , p. 108 (PDF 119)] (Venona cover name “Ales” [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/30_Mar_1945_R3_m4_p1.gif1822 KGB New York to Moscow, 30 March 1945, p. 1] ] ["This could only be Alger Hiss." ( [http://www.fas.org/sgp/library/moynihan/appa6.html Appendix A, Part 6, "The Experience of the Bomb,"] "Report of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy" (Moynihan Commission), Senate Document 105-2, Pursuant to Public Law 236, 103rd Congress, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1997)] ["Analysts at the National Security Agency have gone on record asserting that Ales could only have been Alger Hiss." ( [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/venona/dece_hiss.html PBS Nova Online: "Secrets, Lies, and Atomic Spies"] )] ), secretary general of the United Nations Charter Conference. (Like several others identified by Bentley, Hiss had been identified independently by another defecting Soviet courier, Whittaker Chambers, to Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle in 1939. [ [http://www.johnearlhaynes.org/page100.html Berle’s notes on his meeting with Whittaker Chambers, September 2, 1939] ] ) Among dozens of others named by Bentley in this file in connection with this network is Duncan Lee [ [http://ultra-secret.info/PDFs/NKVD.pdf FBI Report, op. cit.] , p. 163 (PDF page 181)] (Venona cover name “Koch” [ [http://www.nsa.gov/venona/releases/08_Jun_1943_m7_p1.gif800 KGB New York to Moscow, June 8, 1943, p. 1] ] ), confidential assistant to William Donovan, founder and director of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), wartime predecessor of the CIA.

Prosecutions

Original plans for Bentley to serve as a double agent and gather sufficient evidence to prosecute the Soviet agents identified in the Silvermaster files were ruined when her identity was inadvertently leaked and the USSR quickly shut down its operations in order to avoid embarrassing and damaging prosecutions. The Silvermaster file in combination with other secret proofs such as the Venona intercepts gave US intelligence the identity of many Soviet agents without the practical means to secure convictions. This was a significant part of the backstory of McCarthyism. Bentley's double agent career would have enabled the US to expose the spies without compromising Venona and losing that as an ongoing intelligence source.

Further reading

“Testimony of Elizabeth T. Bentley,” "Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage in the United States Government", Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eightieth Congress, Second Session, Public Law 601 (Section 121, Subsection Q [2] ), Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1948.

References


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