In debriefings, Bentley eventually named more than 80 Americans, some in the United States government, who were working for Soviet intelligence. The Myrna Group was also formerly the «Sound» group, prior to Jake Golos (cover name «Sound») death («Zvuk and Umnitsa» groups). The United States Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive Counterintelligence History says Venona decryptions confirm the accuracy of Bentley’s story. Among them were,
- Rae Elson, an active Communist, and courier of the CPUSA underground, was chosen by Joseph Katz to replace Bentley at the organization, U.S. Shipping and Service Corporation.
- Frederick V. Field, Executive Secretary American Peace Mobilization
- Irving Goldman, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs
- Michael Greenberg, Board of Economic Warfare; Administrative Division, Enemy Branch, Foreign Economic Administration; United States Department of State
- Joseph Gregg, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs; United States Department of State
- Irving Kaplan, United States Department of the Treasury Foreign Economic Administration; United Nations Division of Economic Stability and Development; Chief Advisor to the Military Government of Germany
- Charles Kramer, Senate Subcommittee on War Mobilization; Office of Price Administration; National Labor Relations Board; Senate Subcommittee on Wartime Health and Education; Agricultural Adjustment Administration; Civil Liberties Subcommittee, Senate Committee on Education and Labor; Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee; Democratic National Committee
- Bernice Levin, Office of Emergency Management; Office of Production Management
- Harry Magdoff, Chief of the Control Records Section of War Production Board and Office of Emergency Management; Bureau of Research and Statistics, WTB; Tools Division, War Production Board; Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, United States Department of Commerce; Statistics Division Works Progress Administration
- Jenny Levy Miller, Chinese Government Purchasing Commission
- Robert Miller, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs; Near Eastern Division United States Department of State
- Willard Park, Assistant Chief of the Economic Analysis Section, Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs; United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
- Victor Perlo, chief of the Aviation Section of the War Production Board; head of branch in Research Section, Office of Price Administration Department of Commerce; Division of Monetary Research Department of Treasury; Brookings Institution
- Bernard Redmont, head of the Foreign News Bureau Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs
- William Remington, War Production Board; Office of Emergency Management
- Bernard Schuster
- William Taylor, Assistant Director of Monetary Research, United States Department of Treasury
- Lee Tenney, Balkan Division Office of Strategic Services
- David Weintraub, United States Department of State; head of the Office of Foreign Relief and Rehabilitation Operations; United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA); United Nations Division of Economic Stability and Development
At this point, Bentley thought she was spying solely for the American Communist Party. In fact, Golos was one of the Soviet Union’s most important intelligence agents in the United States. At the time when he and Bentley met, Golos was involved in planning the assassination of Leon Trotsky, which would take place in Mexico in 1940. Bentley and Golos soon became lovers, although it would be more than a year before she learned his true name, and, according to her later testimony, two years before she knew that he was working for Soviet intelligence.
Conflicts with Soviet spymastersEdit
Bentley had been noted as suffering from bouts of depression and having a drinking problem since her days in Florence. Now, despondent and lonely after the death of Golos and under increasing pressure from Soviet intelligence, she began to drink more heavily. She missed work at U.S. Service and Shipping, and neighbors described her as drinking «all the time.»
In early June 1944, Browder gave in to Akhmerov’s demands and agreed to instruct the Silvermaster group to report directly to the NKGB. After her defection, Bentley would describe this as the event that turned her against Communism. «I discovered then that Earl Browder was just a puppet, that somebody pulled the strings in Moscow,» she would say. Her biographers suggest that Bentley’s objections, rather than being ideological, were more a lifelong dislike for being given orders and a sense that the reassignments left her with no meaningful role. Late in 1944 Bentley was ordered to give up all of her remaining sources, including the Perlo group she had recently acquired. Her Soviet superior also told her she would have to leave her position as vice president of U.S. Service and Shipping.
Breaking with the SovietsEdit
Things did not improve for Bentley in 1945. She began an affair with a man whom she came to suspect was either an FBI or a Soviet agent sent to spy on her, and her Soviet contact suggested that she should emigrate to the Soviet Union—a move Bentley feared would end with her execution. In August 1945, Bentley went to the FBI office in New Haven, Connecticut and met with the agent in charge. She did not immediately defect, however. Instead she seemed to be «feeling out» the FBI, and it would not be until November that she began to tell her full story to the FBI. In the meantime, her situation continued to worsen. In September she met with Anatoly Gorsky, her latest NKGB controller, and arrived at the meeting drunk. She became angry with Gorsky, called him and his fellow Russian agents «gangsters,» and obliquely threatened to become an informer. She soon realized that her tirade could have put her life in danger, and in fact when Gorsky reported to Moscow his recommendation was to «get rid of her.»
The public first became aware of Bentley when she testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1948. Bentley testified at the trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Newspapers referred to her as the «Red Spy Queen.» She became a celebrity ex-communist and published an autobiography entitled Inside the Russian Spy Organization.
Bentley died in Connecticut in December 1963. She never knew about the Venona secret, or about the way in which her testimony assisted the program. Before she died, she had been denounced as a traitor, a liar, and a criminal by everyone from her old comrades to a former President of the United States. The controversy over her testimony was only a skirmish in the national debate over the true extent of Soviet espionage, and over the federal government’s attempts to balance competing requirements of civil liberties and internal security.
Ironically, over 30 years after she died, her bona fides as a Soviet spy were verified by Pavel Sudoplatov, who had been a two-star general in the NKVD. He said in his autobiography, Special Tasks, that:
- «For the FBI to utilize the disclosures by Guzenko, and later by Elizabeth Bentley, an American NKVD agent, to penetrate and destroy our agent networks was not an easy job.»
thereby confirming that she really was an NKVD agent, and really did blow real agents/sources to the U.S. authorities.
- , p. 100
- Lauren Kessler’s biography spells Bentley’s middle name ‘Turrill’. , p. 14
- , p. 15
- , p. 1
- , p. 122
, p. 40
- , p. 18
- , p. 63
- , p. 22
, p. 77
- , p. 150
- , p. 45
- , pp. 50, 51
, pp. 63–65
- , p. 67
- Grand jury testimony in «United States of America vs. Alger Hiss,» quoted in , p. 69
- , p. 69, , p. 100
- , p. 78
- , p. 93
Weinstein, Allen and Vassiliev, Alexander (2000). The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—The Stalin Era. Modern Library. p. 102. ISBN 0-375-75536-5.
- Amy W. Knight, (Carroll & Graf, 2006) ISBN 0-7867-1816-1, p. 93
- , p. 105
Weinstein, Allen and Vassiliev, Alexander (2000). The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—The Stalin Era. Modern Library. pp. 106–108. ISBN 0-375-75536-5.
- , pp. 106–107
- , pp. 144–147
- , p. 117
- , p. 134
, p. 161
- , pp. 102, 163
- , p. 195
Craig, R. Bruce (2004). Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case. University Press of Kansas. p. ch. 5. ISBN 0-7006-1311-0.
- , p. 241
- , p. 187
- , p. 186
Craig, R. Bruce (2004). Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case. University Press of Kansas. p. 245. ISBN 0-7006-1311-0.
- Schecter, Jerrold L. (2002). Sacred Secrets: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History. Potomac Books. p. 122. ISBN 1-57488-522-7.
- , pp. 112, 197–198, 200
- , pp. 147–148, 150
- , p. 203
In November 1945, fearful of Soviet surveillance in Washington D.C. and New York, Bentley walked into the New Haven Connecticut office of the FBI and defected from Soviet espionage work. On the day she walked in, at least 27 KGB operatives were still employed in the U.S. government. The FBI provided her with cover now that her life clearly was in jeopardy. FBI Code name «Gregory» was used during initial debriefings fearing a leak of the sensitive information and reprisal. This soon created a problem at the White House. Eventually Soviet controllers learned of her defection and other operatives came under investigation. Two counterintelligence debriefing memoranda with outlines of Soviet espionage in the United States were passed up to the White House, the initial debriefing with code name «Gregory» disclosing the network, and an extensive memo with her real name attached. The substance included naming names of high level administration officials. The White House, suspicious of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, was skeptical of the source. Unbeknownst to the President was the existence of the Army Signals Intelligence Service (SIS) highly secret Venona project, which also was giving information attesting to the existence in wartime of a large foreign espionage ring which had penetrated vital departments, bureaus, and agencies, within the United States government.
Eventually Bentley’s story was leaked, and when President Truman was asked at a press conference about statements she made regarding the involvement of high level administration personal, Truman responded that he believed the charges to be a «red herring». No one in the US Government was aware that evidence against the Soviets was developing on two adjacent tracks.
The causes and consequences of Truman’s remark for 50 years thereafter had a huge impact on American domestic politics.
Bentley was asked in debriefings to name persons that were most adept at infiltration and placement of subversive personnel throughout the government. She answered: «I would say our two best ones were Harry Dexter White and Lauchlin Currie. They had an immense amount of influence and knew people, and their word would be accepted when they recommended someone.»
Stephen J. Spingarn, a member of the President’s Temporary Commmission on Employee Loyalty in 1946 and 1947 later said of Bentley:
- «I have no doubt that the main thrust of what Elizabeth Bentley says was correct—I mean I believe it—but on any given peripheral individual whom she didn’t know but only heard about I would certainly want a lot more information.»
That corroborative information would be provided in 1995 with the release of the Venona project materials.
Currently, two biographies of Elizabeth Bentley have been published:
- «Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley». The University of North Carolina Press. 2002. ISBN 0-8078-2739-8
- «Clever Girl: Elizabeth Bentley, the Spy Who Ushered in the McCarthy Era». Harper Perennial. 2003. ISBN 0-06-095973-8
- Craig, R. Bruce (2004). Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case. University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-1311-0.
- Haynes, John Earl and Klehr, Harvey (2000). Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-08462-5.
- May, Gary (1994). Un-American Activities: The Trials of William Remington. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504980-2.
- Schrecker, Ellen (1998). Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-77470-7.
- Usdin, Steven T. (2005). Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10874-5.
- Trahair, Richard C.S. and Robert Miller (2008). Encyclopedia of Cold War Espionage, Spies, and Secret Operations. Enigma Books. ISBN 978-1-929631-75-9.
- Weinstein Allen, & Vassiliev, Alexander (1998/1999). The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America — The Stalin Era. Random House/Modern Library Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-375-75536-1.
Элизабет Бентли начала свою шпионскую карьеру в фашистской организации, но вскоре оказалась в коммунистическом лагере. После она покинула и его, присягнув на этот раз ФБР. Ее пример наглядно показывает классическую линию поведения женщин-шпионов, прямо или косвенно зависящих от их отношений с мужчинами-кураторами, мужьями, любовниками.
Элизабет Бентли родилась в 1908 году в НьюМилфорде, штат Коннектикут. Получив степень магистра искусств в Колумбийском университете, она в 1933 году отправилась в Италию, где, по неподтвержденным данным, имела связи с фашистами. Вернувшись в Америку, Бентли вступила в нью-йоркскую ячейку коммунистической партии США, где почти сразу познакомилась со своим будущим спутником жизни – Джэйкобом Голосом (Jacob Golos). Джэйкоб Голос являлся нелегальным резидентом ИНО ГУКБ НКВД. Она стала работать секретарем Голоса, а позже они, не регистрируя свой брак, стали жить вместе. В 1941 году Голос, перенеся сердечный приступ, потерял способность передвигаться, и Элизабет взяла на себя все его функции. В это время они жили уже в Вашингтоне, где Элизабет и начала налаживать связь с контактами Голоса. По свидетельству самой Бентли, в те дни она снабжала секретной информацией около тридцати высокопоставленных лиц в СССР, пользуясь сетью примерно из двадцати шпионов.
В ноябре 1945 года Бентли, более известная как «Лиса» и «Мирна», разочаровалась в коммунистических идеалах и добилась высокой встречи с главой ФБР Эдгаром Гувером. Ее муж к тому времени уже умер, а потому идейно ранимую Бентли ничего не удерживало от того шага, который казался ей верным с гражданской точки зрения. Рассказав Гуверу о своем сотрудничестве с НКВД и выдав нескольких своих коллег, она согласилась работать двойным агентом. В июле 1948 года Элизабет Бентли предстала перед комитетом по расследованию антиамериканской деятельности. В дни процесса Элизабет Бентли назвала много имен, связанных с разведдеятельностью в пользу СССР, среди них оказались лидер американских коммунистов Эрл Браудер, правительственные чиновники Джон Абт, Лоуллин Карри, Гарри Декстер Уайт, Виктор Перло и многие другие. Общее число людей, названных Бентли, было около тридцати.
Но, несмотря на то, что ею были даны подробные показания, ничего из рассказанного двойной шпионкой не подтверждалось – доказательств весьма туманной деятельности собрать так и не удалось — многие из показаний были слишком фрагментарны. Не сумев «подшить» эти показания к делу, Комитет сделал с ними единственно возможное – предал их гласности.
Однако, ее показания положили начало «охоте на коммунистов» в США.
Bentley was born in Norwich, to Elizabeth (Lawrence) and Daniel Bentley. The latter, a journeyman cordwainer who had himself received a good education, educated Elizabeth, his only child. The family faced financial difficulties after he had a stroke in 1777 and was unable to work at his usual trade. He died in 1783, when his daughter was 16.
2 years later, Bentley reported a new-found desire to write poetry «which had no thought or desire of being seen.» Her debut collection, Genuine Poetical Compositions (1791), had an impressive 1,935 subscribers, including literary notables Elizabeth Carter, Elizabeth Montagu, William Cowper, and Hester Chapone.
After the publication of her initial volume, Bentley kept a small boarding school and did not publish much — some poems for children; an ode on the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) — for 3 decades. This hiatus ended with the publication of her Poems in 1821.
She died 9 years later in an almshouse.
Defection and afterEdit
The breach of secrecy around Bentley’s defection foiled a year-long attempt by the FBI to have her act as a double agent. Additionally, because of the shutdown of Soviet espionage activity, the FBI surveillance of the agents Bentley had named turned up no evidence that could be used to prosecute them. Some 250 FBI agents were assigned to the Bentley case, following up the leads she had provided and, through phone tap, surveillance and mail openings, investigating people she had named. The FBI, grand juries and congressional committees would eventually interview many of these alleged spies, but all of them would either invoke their Fifth Amendment right not to testify or maintain their innocence.
For J. Edgar Hoover and a few highly placed FBI and army intelligence personnel, the definitive corroboration of Bentley’s story came some time in the late 1940s to early 1950s, when the highly secret Venona project succeeded in decrypting some wartime cables sent between Soviet intelligence agents and Moscow. In these cables, Bentley was referred to by the codename she told to the FBI, and several of her contacts and documents she had collected were discussed.
However, Venona was considered so secret that the US Government was unwilling to expose it by allowing it to be used as evidence in any trial. In fact, even presidents Roosevelt and Harry Truman were unaware of Venona; when Hoover delivered intelligence reports based on Venona data, the source of the information was not named.
Still there was considerable skepticism in some quarters about Bentley’s claims. Since some of those she accused were prominent figures in two Democratic administrations, Democrats in particular were eager to have her discredited. President Truman at one point characterized her testimony as a Republican-inspired «red herring.» Republicans, in turn, accused Truman of «covering up» Communist espionage. Conflicts of this nature, along with the increasingly publicized hearings of HUAC, were setting the stage for McCarthyism, which would become a central factor in domestic American politics in the 1950s.
Trials and credibilityEdit
Bentley’s personal life became increasingly tumultuous after her defection. She continued to drink heavily, was involved in car accidents and had a relationship with a man who beat her severely. She also avoided subpoenas on a number of occasions. These incidents, along with generally erratic behavior, led her FBI handlers to worry that she was «bordering on some mental pitfall».
Nevertheless, she was invariably calm and professional on the witness stand, earning praise from the prosecutors whose cases she was supporting. As she repeatedly testified before grand juries, congressional committees and jury trials, however, some details of her story became embellished over time. Information passed to her about a process for manufacturing synthetic rubber that was originally «vague» and «probably of no value» became «super-secret» and «an extremely complicated thing.» She would also assert that her espionage gave her advance notice of the Doolittle raid on Japan and the D-Day invasions, both claims that appeared to be exaggerated.
Occupation Currency PlatesEdit
Bentley had not previously mentioned this in any of her earlier debriefings or testimonies, and there was no evidence at the time that Bentley had any role in this transfer. Bentley biographer Kathryn Olmsted concluded that Bentley was «lying about her role in the scandal», citing historian Bruce Craig’s conclusion «that the whole ‘scheme’ was a complete fabrication»; i.e., that neither Bentley nor Harry Dexter White had a role in the plate transfer.
Later life and deathEdit
In the 1990s the Venona transcripts and some Soviet intelligence archives were made available. With these revelations there was finally a definitive and public verification of the basics of Bentley’s story, and also a new appreciation of the impact her defection had on Soviet espionage in the United States.
In 1938, while working at the Italian Library of Information in New York, Bentley met Jacob Golos, the chief of Soviet espionage operations in the United States. Bentley became Golos’ lover, providing him with information acquired during her work with the Italian government and serving as a courier. Golos encouraged Bentley to read the material she was handling, yet she never mastered the analytical skills Golos had to deliver oral briefings to Soviet . Between the fall of 1942 to November 1943 Bentley spoke several times with Julius Rosenberg by phone.
Every two weeks from 1941 to 1944, Bentley traveled from New York City to the house near Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C. shared by Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, or ‘Greg’ as he was known, his wife Helen Silvermaster, and their close friend Lud Ullman. At first, Bentley picked up stolen wartime secrets transcribed by Silvermaster longhand, but when the volume of material grew unwieldy, Ullman set up a darkroom to photograph the documents. Bentley carried the undeveloped rolls of film in her knitting bag back to Manhattan and gave them to Golos. Later the film would be shipped to Moscow via diplomatic pouches, which are not subject to border inspections.
Four days after Golos death in 1943, Bentley met with an alternate Soviet contact according to contingencies in place should something ever happen to Golos. Bentley was introduced to Iskhak Akhmerov, the Soviet «Illegal Rezident», or station chief for unregistered agents operating under deep cover. Bentley was assigned to take over running the «Golos/Bentley» group (also called the «Sound» and «Myrna» groups) of spies. This included the Silvermaster group, which had members in several U.S. government departments, including the Office of the President. Greg Silvermaster was the principal contact.
Soviet intelligence was concerned about operational security surrounding the group. The Silvermaster group was taken over in September 1944 by Iskhak Akhmerov, chief of the KGB’s illegal station in the U.S. after a bitter struggle. Bentley had opposed the KGB takeover because she felt they drove their agents too hard. Bentley’s objection was overruled by CPUSA General Secretary Earl Browder.
As a working-class poet, Bentley — «content to be the last and lowest of the tuneful train» — adopted a humble stance towards her readers and let it be known that the venture was intended to establish an annuity for her and her mother. Both her collections contained portraits of the author and accounts of her life; the account written in 1790 and published in the earlier volume is the source of most that is known of her.
Her poetry celebrates the countryside and engages in public debates on topics such as abolitionism and cruelty to animals. William Cowper compared her favorably with Mary Leapor, a working-class poet of the previous generation, citing her «strong natural genius.»