J Edgar Hoover palled around with a suspected commie spy


Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.

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Dickstein was not a “Supreme Court Justice,” at least not in the way you think when you read that. He was a Justice of the Supreme Court of New York - which is New York’s state trial court. Thus, he was at the bottom of a state court system, not the top of the federal court system.


Who suspected Dickinson was a spy? Was this suspected at the time, or is it something someone suspects now? This lack of actual information in this article is stunning.

His Wikipedia page says two authors made that claim in 1999 based on Soviet documents.

I’m just surprised that this is the first time I’ve heard that the House Committee on Un-American Activities was founded by one of the communist spies it was ostensibly supposed to expose (or maybe I just forgot?). I guess we can file this alongside segregationist Strom Thurmond knocking up an African-American teenager and all those gay homophobes.


Yeah, but wasn’t everybody a “suspected” commie spy back then?

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Seriously! From this side of history, it sounds like all you need to do to be suspection of Treason, is disagree with your government about things that matter. Only these days, it’s the no-fly list. Some things never change…

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I have a book I love called “Our Fair City” about civic corruption in American cities in the 1930s and 40s, Edited by one Robert S, Allen, reporter and war guy who was also implicated by Vassiliev as being on the soviet payroll for one year during the early 1930s. Allen wrote a column “Washington Merry-go-Round” and worked for Patton during WW2. This was before the cold-war when being a friend to the Soviet Union was not such a bad thing, especially when confronting Fascism…

Could be worse.

MI5 was probably run by a soviet spy at the time.

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James Jesus Angleton, head of the CIA’s counterintelligence staff from 1954 to 1975, was friends with (and often had lunch with) Kim Philby, the infamous Soviet mole within British intelligence. While Angleton later tried to spin the story to the effect that he was monitoring Philby as a suspect, it really looks like he had no idea of Philby’s Soviet connections. The Soviet Union was lacking in a lot of ways, but they did intelligence work far better than the West.

Yeah, I dunno if the Soviet spies were much better or not (surely they must have been just as hamfisted in their own way, but I haven’t really read the lit on the KGB). But whenever I read a book about the CIA (usually in relation to the cultural cold war), I do get the sense that everyone involved had this whole cloak and dagger, super theatrical mentality going on. Frances Stonor Saunder’s book really sort of exemplifies this.

One little tidbit from the book brings all this home - the organization that preceded the CIA during the war, the Office of Strategic Services had a funny nickname - “Oh So Social” - because of how the spies acted and essentially who they were (kind of upper class, college educated, socialites looking to contribute to the war effort, without getting on the front lines).

But you get the sense from reading some of this stuff that all the spies on both sides kind of knew each other, or suspected each other, and warily moved around one another in very sort of elite settings.

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What troubles me most, is the very real possibility - on a social level - that agents find they have more in common with each other than they have with the civilians they supposedly protect. At some point, they don’t even need to “turn” to go bad, the whole system has turned. (Or maybe that’s the way it’s always been, and once in a while the sheep look up)


In the UK, they deliberately hired from Oxbridge, got left wing academic types during the war, which worked because they were naturally inclined to oppose Nazis - but meant that they had a natural affinity for communism, so rapidly Blunt, Philby et al turned out to be liabilities.

Spycatcher is a pretty crappy book and I don’t take Wright at his word, but Chapman Pincher’s books are worth reading. As, indeed, are Le Carre’s, who was at MI5 until Philby exposed him. I love his books, you really get a sense that MI5/6 were practically run by the KGB/GRU, and utterly incompetent.

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On the contrary, I’d consider Spycatcher a pretty good book. If only for the descriptions of RAFTER and the Thing.

Edit: For the connoisseurs of the intelligence, check out the Thing-related chapters in Wright’s Spycatcher and Wallace/Schlesinger’s Spycraft. The differences in points of view are fun!

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