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Alger Hiss: Why He Chose Treason Hardcover – April 17, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


"A vigorous reappraisal of the Hiss-Chambers espionage affair, leaving no doubt of Hiss’s guilt.
The author makes a good case for the willful blindness practiced by pro-Hiss parties involved ...

A solid look at the specifics of the case as well as a useful overview of the ideological debate gripping America." --Kirkus 

“A timely reminder that the worries about national security and loyalty—concerns often derided as paranoiac, right-wing delusions—were entirely justified.” —Wall Street Journal

"Rigorous and carefully documented analysis...[Alger Hiss] is a rare thing: a good book about an important subject. Shelton makes a sledgehammer of a case…a sustained artillery assault." --National Review

“ A much needed book... With clarity, conciseness, and a sure hand, Christina Shelton guides the reader through what has become an otherwise nearly impenetrable jungle of controversy.”” -- Tennent H. Bagley, author of Spy Wars

“In Alger Hiss:  Why He Chose Treason, Christina Shelton ably captures the real Alger Hiss—his path to communism, his treason, and his conviction and imprisonment.  Her evidence is overpowering:  Alger Hiss was indeed a communist spy.  Shelton carefully connects Hiss to his historical context inside America’s political elite, which was chagrined and strangely baffled when Hiss’s treason was exposed.” --Burton Folsom, Jr. and Anita Folsom, authors of FDR Goes to War

“Shelton makes clear what Hiss did and the impact it had on U.S. intelligence. . . . A well-done book written by someone who knows.”

—David Murphy, retired chief of Soviet operations at CIA HQ and author of What Stalin Knew

About the Author

Christina Shelton is a retired U.S. intelligence analyst. She spent twenty-two years working as a Soviet analyst and a Counterintelligence Branch Chief at the Defense Intelligence Agency. She has also been a staff analyst at various think tanks.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Threshold Editions; First Edition edition (April 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451655428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451655421
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,054,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Alan F. Sewell on April 20, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Alger Hiss was a prominent State Department analyst accused of spying for the Soviet Union and working to favorably dispose American foreign policy towards the Soviets during the Roosevelt and Truman administrations. Hiss was convicted of perjury and sent to prison for lying to a Congressional Committee about his involvement in the American Communist Party.

Hiss thus played a larger-than-life role in Cold War history:

* He was the "Valerie Plame" of his day, a publicity magnet and a proxy for partisan political intrigues. Author Christina Shelton writes: "By virtue of his intelligence and highly successful academic career at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School, as well as his distinctive charming manner, grace, good looks, and sophistication, he turned himself into an exemplar of the eastern upper-class liberal establishment." He was flamboyant in making himself a cause celeb with his friends in the Liberal-aligned media.

* The perjury charges that sent Hiss to jail were originated by none other than freshman Congressman Richard Nixon. The case brought Nixon to national attention. President Eisenhower chose him as VP, propelling him into the presidential elections of 1960 and 1968. The Hiss Case also goes far in explaining why the Liberal Press detested Nixon. They never forgave Nixon for originating the perjury charges against their friend. Nixon's never-ending war with the Liberal Press would later lead directly to the Watergate scandal.

* The drama of the case drew national attention. It began when Hiss was subpoenaed by Nixon's House Un-American Activities Committee, which Democrats regarded as a partisan vendetta bent on embarrassing President Truman by questioning the loyalties of his appointees.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful By VirginiaBiker61 on April 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I know something about the Hiss-Chambers Case. I've written 3 scholarly articles about the Case and have talked about it twice at The Smithsonian.
This book is very good. For the general reader, it is an excellent, short summary of the whole Case. It is especially strong when it compares and equates Communism with Nazism; when it skewers (deservedly) the defenders of the traitor Hiss for their prejudice and blindness to facts; and when it goes through all the various incriminating documents about Hiss that have emerged from the ex-Soviet bloc. This book's largest contribution to the Case's scholarship is its description of exactly what Hiss did in the State Department in the 1940s, and at the Yalta Conference in particular. Ms. Shelton's book tells us more about these subject than any previous work; no doubt her background in government intelligence matters a lot here.
Thank you, Ms. Shelton!
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Paul Gelman on May 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book is extremely important because it does not contain so much new material but is an excellent analysis of the case. Hiss was guilty of spying for the Soviets in the name of a false and horrible ideology , namely Communism, which was responsible for the killing of tens of millions of people in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Ms. Shelton argues that Communism and Fascism were both sides of the same coin. She discusses in detail the two perjury trials of Hiss, his conviction and release and the battle Hiss conducted in order to vindicate himself, unsuccessfully. Hiss was a traitor who divulged a lot of secrets to the Stalin criminal regime, including some data on the American A-bomb.
Hiss became a secret agent of the adversary, because he was blinded by a false ideology, thus he chose to work for the GRU. As Ms. Shelton makes it clear, the case is far from being closed. The fact are that after the collapse of the Cold War, KGB archives containing relevant material on the case were opened, but GRU documents are still closed for inspection. This fact in itself limits the angle of the whole affair, in spite of the fact that so much is known.
Hiss was not alone; there were hundreds of Americans in the thirties and forties of the previous century who were spying for Stalin. The FBI secret service was impotent and could not discover them. Had it not been for Gouzenko and Bentley, there is doubt whether the extent of the Russian espionage throughout the USA would have been discovered.
The original part of the book contains evidence which was discovered quite by chance in Hungarian archives, linking Noel Field to Hiss. Field was recruited by Hiss to work for the Russians.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey J. Ward on September 23, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is certainly worth reading. The author makes the point that fascism has much more in common with the communist left wing than it has in common with the democratic societies. She is far from the first to draw that conclusion. What I think the author misses, is that the Soviet international rhetorical support for the international proletariat hid their real agenda which was a new version of the old Russian imperialism. Like the National Socialists (Nazi party), the Russian communists were a national socialist party. The Comintern demanded subservience of all of the world's communists to decisions made in Moscow. Hiss was a traitor who served at a very high level, but his allegiance was to Moscow and not the international proletariat. The author rails against those in academia and I would add especially some in politics who refuse to admit that Hiss was a spy, including the former press secretary to Hillary Clinton, Karen Finney. She makes the same old McCarthyism arguments even though the Wisconsin Senator did not embark on his spies in high places crusade until after Hiss was convicted of perjury. The identity of Hiss as a spy has been proved beyond any reasonable doubt. In his 1998 book "Secrecy", then Democratic New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan points out that the evidence of spying by Hiss had been long known by the government based on classified secret documents, including the Venona Project, but kept secret for about 50 years. The question remains whether there needs to be a fundamental reassessment of the Franklin Roosevelt administration, not just because of Soviet spies in high places, but because of the high confidence FDR placed in unqualified people like Harry Hopkins.Read more ›
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