Events

LIVE WEBCAST/Book Launch--Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case

June 08, 2004 // 3:30pm5:00pm

To watch the video of this event, follow the links to the right of this screen in the See Also box.

Author Bruce Craig examines the controversial case of Harry Dexter White and explores the "ambiguities" that have haunted it for more than half a century. Historians Kai Bird and James Boughton will provide comments.


About the participants

Bruce Craig is the director of the National Coalition for History, a Washington D.C.-based advocacy organization that represents the historical and archival community on Capitol Hill. He is also adjunct faculty at the American University.

Craig received his Ph.D. from American University in 1999 and an MA in Public History in 1982 from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Craig has authored numerous scholarly and popular articles and has a regular column in the American Historical Association's "Perspectives", the Organization of American Historian's "Newsletter", and the Society of American Achivist's "Archival Outlook". His weekly electronic newsletter--the "NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE"--is widely read and highly regarded in historical and archival circles. Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Espionage Case is his first book. He is currently working on a screen adaptation of the Russian literary classic "Faithful Ruslan" and on a biography of Alger Hiss.

Craig was the plaintiff in a landmark court decision that affirmed that federal courts may unseal grand jury records for historical research. Following the Craig v. USA decision, he played a major role in the successful court petition from major historical and archival organizations to unseal the Alger Hiss grand jury records. Craig also played a major role in the opening up of the records of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 2001.

Kai Bird is a biographer under contract to Alfred A. Knopf and Simon & Schuster. He is the co-author with Martin Sherwin of the forthcoming J. Robert Oppenheimer: An American Life (2005). He is also the author of the critically acclaimed biography, The Chairman: John J. McCloy, The Making of the American Establishment (1992) and, The Color of Truth: McGeorge and William Bundy, Brothers in Arms (1998. He is also co-editor of Hiroshima's Shadow: Writings in the Denial of History and the Smithsonian Controversy published by Pamphleteer's Press in 1998. A contributing editor for The Nation, Mr. Bird has written essays and book reviews for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, Foreign Policy, The Journal of Diplomatic History, and Tikkun magazine among others. He is the recipient of numerous fellowships, including a Guggenheim, a MacArthur writing fellowship and an Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship. In 2001-2002 he was a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

James Boughton, Historian of the International Monetary Fund, holds a Ph.D. in economics from Duke University. Before joining the staff of the IMF in 1981, he was Professor of Economics at Indiana University and had served as an economist at the OECD in Paris. His publications include a textbook on money and banking, a book on the U.S. Federal funds market, two IMF books that he co-edited, and articles in professional journals on international finance, monetary theory and policy, international policy coordination, and the history of economic thought. He has published several articles on the life and work of Harry Dexter White, including "Politics and the Attack on FDR's Economists: From the Grand Alliance to the Cold War" (with Roger Sandilands), in Intelligence and National Security (Autumn 2003). His latest book is Silent Revolution, on the history of the IMF from 1979 to 1989. He is currently working on a sequel.


From the publisher

Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley shocked America in 1948 with their allegations that Communist spies had penetrated the American government. The resulting perjury trial of Alger Hiss is already legendary, but Chambers and Bentley also named Harry Dexter White, a high-ranking Treasury official. When White died only a week after his bold defense before Congress, much speculation remained about the cause of his death and the truth of the charges made against him. Armed with a wealth of new information, Bruce Craig examines this controversial case and explores the "ambiguities" that have haunted it for more than half a century. The highest ranking figure in the Roosevelt and Truman administrations to be accused of espionage, White played a central role in the founding of the United Nations' twin financial institutions, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. For years after his death, White was a target of red-baiting by FBI director J. Edgar Hoover and Eisenhower's attorney general Herbert Brownell. Two Republican-controlled Senate committees even held White accountable for formulating the "pro-Russian" Morgenthau Plan for post-war Germany and for orchestrating the loss of mainland China to the Communists. Craig draws heavily on previously untapped or underused sources, including White's personal papers, Treasury Department records, FBI files, and the once secret Venona files of decrypted Soviet espionage cables. Interviews with nearly two dozen key figures in the case, including Alger Hiss and former KGB officer V. G. Pavlov, also help bring White's story to life. Sifting through this mountain of evidence, Craig retraces White's rise to power within the Treasury Department and confirms that White was involved in a "species of espionage"—but also shows that the same evidence contradicts Bentley's charges of "policy subversion." What emerges is an evenhanded portrait of neither a monster nor a martyr but rather a committed New Dealer and internationalist whose hopes for world peace transcended national loyalties-a man who saw some benefit in cooperating with the Soviets but had no affection for dictatorship. Although it still remains unclear whether White leaked classified information vital to national security, Craig clearly shows that none of the most serious allegations against him can be substantiated.

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