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Alger Hiss Trials: 1949-50

Appeal Effort Fail

Lane collected the affidavits resulting from his efforts and, arguing they provided sufficient new evidence to justify a new trial, appeared before Judge Goddard on June 4, 1952. The judge denied Lane's motion for a new trial. Lane appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals, but the judge's opinion was affirmed. The Hiss attorneys then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, or review of the lower courts' rulings. The petition was denied.

Alger Hiss served three years and eight months of his five-year sentence. After his release, he wrote a book about the trial, worked as a salesman for a stationery printer, and, after five years, separated (but was never divorced) from Priscilla Hiss. In 1976, the Massachusetts Bar, from which he had been automatically disbarred when convicted, readmitted him and he began work as a legal consultant.

In 1973, during the Watergate hearings, former Presidential Counsel John Dean told how President Nixon said to Charles Colson, "The typewriters are always the key.… We built one in the Hiss case."

At the age of 87, in 1992, Hiss asked General Dmitri A. Volkogonov, chairman of the Russian Government's military intelligence archives, to inspect all Soviet files pertaining to him, his case, and Whittaker Chambers. "Not a single document, and a great amount of materials have been studied, substantiates the allegation that Mr. A. Hiss collaborated with the intelligence services of the Soviet Union," the general reported several months later. He said the accusations were "completely groundless." Volkogonov later backed off a bit from this statement, saying that although there was no evidence in the KGB files, he couldn't speak for other Soviet intelligence agencies. He also added that many KGB documents had been destroyed over the years.

Hiss defenders still regarded Volkogonov's earlier statements as vindication of his innocence. However, in 1996, the National Security Agency released hundreds of pages of declassified material including a reference to a Soviet spy who had been working in the United States during World War II. A cable dated March 30, 1945, said the spy's code name was "Ales" and that he was "probably Alger Hiss." But the cable provided no other information to support this statement.

Alger Hiss died in 1996, asserting his innocence to the end.

Betnard Ryan, Jr. and

Ron Formica

Suggestions for Further Reading

Brodie, Fawn M. "I Think Hiss Is Lying." American Heritage (August 1981): 4-21.

Buckley, William F. "Well, What Do You Know?" National Review (November 19, 1990) 60.

Chambers, Whittaker. Witness. New York: Random House, 1952.

Cook, Fred J. The Unfinished Story of Alger Hiss. New York: William Morrow Co., 1958.

Cooke, Alistair. A Generation on Trial. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1950.

de Toledano, Ralph, and Victor Lasky. Seeds of Treason. Chicago: Regnery, 1962.

Hiss, Alger. In the Court of Public Opinion. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1957.

. Recollections of a Life. New York: Seaver Books/Henry Holt, 1988.

Hiss, Tony. "My Father's Honor." The New Yorker (November 16, 1992): 100-106.

Jowitt, William Allen. The Strange Case of Alger Hiss. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1953.

Levitt, Morton, and Michael Levitt. A Tissue of Lies Nixon vs. Hiss. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1979.

Nixon, Richard M. Six Crises. New York: Doubleday Co., 1962.

Smith, Chabot. Alger Hiss: The True Story. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976.

Tanenhaus, Sam. "The Hiss Case Isn't Over Yet." New York Times (October 31, 1992): 21.

Tiger, Edith, ed. In Re Alger Hiss. New York: Hill and Wang, 1979.

Tyrell, R.E. "You Must Remember Hiss." The American Spectator (January 1991): 10.

Ward, G.C. "Unregretfully, Alger Hiss." American Heritage (November 1988): 18.

Weinstein, Allen. Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953Alger Hiss Trials: 1949-50 - Hiss Denies Communist Link, A "bombshell," A Seaplane, A Pumpkin, A Typewriter Proves Elusive