Spy-row victim Alger Hiss dies

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The Independent Online
Alger Hiss, the patrician American public servant who fell from grace in a Communist spy scandal that propelled Richard Nixon to high political office, died yesterday aged 92.

He died at Lenox Hill Hospital, Manhattan, four days after his birthday.

Hiss, who had a brilliant academic career, enjoyed a stellar rise. He clerked for the US Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, and held a number of important posts in the New Deal and the foreign-policy establishment.

But on 3 August 1948 a rumpled, overweight magazine editor named Whittaker Chambers alleged that 10 years earlier Hiss had given him State Department secrets which Chambers had, in turn, passed to the Soviet Union.

At the end of the investigations and trials that followed, after spectacular developments involving microfilm in a hollowed-out pumpkin and an ancient typewriter, Hiss was convicted on two counts of perjury and imprisoned for three years and eight months.

For the rest of his life he worked to vindicate himself, both in court and in public opinion.

He declared that it had finally come in 1992, at the age of 87, when a Russian general in charge of Soviet intelligence archives declared that he had never been a spy but rather a victim of Cold War hysteria and the McCarthyite Red-hunting era.