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Friday, June 17, 2005

agent Jurist

Harry Dexter White was positively identified as agent Jurist in an FBI memorandum dated 16 October 1950.

White became involved with Soviet intelligence espionage in May of 1941. One of the most valuable assets to Soviet intelligence was his ability to infiltrate the United States Department of the Treasury with persons the Silvermaster spy ring wanted to have assinged there. Among the other American citizens and government employees acting as Soviet agents were Lud Ullman, William Henry Taylor, and Sonia Gold.

On December 4, 1945, the FBI transmitted to the White House a report entitled "Soviet Espionage in the United States." The report summarized White's espionage activities. Copies of the report were sent to Attorney General Tom Clark also. The evidence indicated a substantial spy ring operating within the Government and involving White. Given the secrecy of the Venona project materials, the president went ahead six weeks later and nominated White for appointment to head the newly created International Monetary Fund.

White was summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee in August of 1948. Elizabeth Bentley told the FBI White that had been involved in espionage activities on behalf of the Soviet Union during World War II. Whittaker Chambers earlier had testified of his association with White in the Communist underground secret apparatus up to 1938. White, recovering from a series of heart attacks, proclaimed his lifelong commitment to the principles of democracy and the ideals of President Roosevelt's New Deal. He died of a heart attack three days later and HUAC. The positive identification of Harry Dexter White as agent Jurist came two years after his death.

Below is the text of that memorandum from the FBI's Venona project file released under the Freedom of Information Act.


DATE: October 16, 1950

TO: The Director
FROM: Mr. Ladd

PURPOSE: To advise you of the positive identification of agent Jurist (the cover name of a Soviet agent operating in 1944 and named by Venona project) as Harry Dexter White, deceased. White was formerly the Administrative Assistant to former Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau.

DETAILS: You have previously been advised of information obtained from [Venona project] regarding Jurist who was active during 1944. According to the previous information received from [Venona project regarding Jurist, during April, 1944, he had reported on conversations between the then Secretary of State Hull and Vice President Wallace. He also reported on Wallace's proposed trip to China. On August 5, 1944, he reported to the Soviets that he was confident of President Roosevelt's victory in the coming elections unless there was a huge military failure. He also reported that Truman's nomination as Vice President was calculated to secure the vote of the conservative wing of the Democratic Party. It was also reported that Jurist was willing for any self-sacrifice in behalf of the MGB but was afraid that his activities, if exposed, might lead to a political scandal and have an effect on the elections. It was also mentioned that he would be returning to Washington, D. C., on August 17, 1944. The new information from [Venona project] indicates that Jurist and Morgenthau were to make a trip to London and Normandy and leaving the United States on August 5, 1944.
On the basis of the foregoing, the tentative identification of Harry Dexter White as Jurist appears to be conclusively established inasmuch as Morgenthau and White left the United States on a confidential trip to the Normandy beachhead on August 5, 1944, and they returned to the United States on August 17, 1944.

You may recall that Harry Dexter White was named by Whittaker Chambers in his statements as having been a source of information for Chambers in his work in Soviet espionage until Chambers broke with the Soviets in 1938. Chambers produced a handwritten memorandum that White had given him and our Laboratory established this memorandum as being in White's handwriting. The Treasury Department advised that parts of the material were highly confidential, coming to the Treasury Department from the Department of State.
In addition to the foregoing, Elizabeth T. Bentley in November, 1945, advised that she had learned through Nathan Gregory Silvermaster that White was supplying Silvermaster with information which was obtained by White in the course of his duties as Assistant to the Secretary of the of the Treasury.


There is attached hereto a blind memorandum which has been prepared for the information and assistance of [redacted] setting forth this identification. There is also attached a memorandum to the Field giving them the new information from [Venona project] which establishes conclusively the identity of White as Jurist.


FBI Venona file pgs. 17-18
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