I.F. Stone, Secret Agent? Spy? Mole?
Silver Spring, Md.
In an October 3, 2006, piece on The American Prospect‘s website, Eric Alterman denounced as “almost entirely bogus” the controversy over “whether [I. F.] Stone ever willingly…cooperated with the KGB in any way. He did not.”
In May 2009, Alexander Vassiliev’s notes from KGB archives became public. They show that from 1936 until the end of 1938, Stone secretly carried out specific tasks for the KGB. That is the definition of an intelligence agent, although Stone appears not to have been a particularly important one.
Vassiliev’s notes also corroborate that Stone was code-named “BLIN” and thus was the journalist whom the KGB attempted to re-recruit in late 1944, as first revealed by Venona intercepts released in 1996. Moreover, former KGB Maj. Gen. Oleg Kalugin, whose 1992 allegations instigated the controversy, stated three years ago that Stone began cooperating with Soviet intelligence in 1936. Kalugin has rightly been criticized for changing his story, but that statement has to count for something, unless one thinks it was a lucky guess.
Rather than retract his ill-advised assertion when faced with new evidence, Alterman has aggressively attacked–obfuscating the facts, denouncing the messengers and lumping together everybody who doesn’t march in lockstep with his inner convictions [“The Liberal Media,” June 22].
Because of the new evidence, I agreed to sift through all the allegations and counterclaims in an essay for the Journal of Cold War Studies, which appears in the Summer 2009 edition (mitpressjournals.org/toc/jcws/11/3). Readers can judge for themselves whether I treated Stone fairly and put his activities in context.
Alterman’s behavior is disappointing for a CUNY journalism professor who never fails to present himself as a disciple of I.F. Stone, one of the premier investigative journalists of his generation.
New York City
Neither space nor sanity allows me to regurgitate, yet again, all the holes in the arguments for I.F. Stone’s alleged espionage career made by the likes of Max Holland, or those of Ann Coulter and Messrs. Haynes, Klehr, Radosh, Horowitz, Novak, etc. They reveal far more about Stone’s accusers than about the man himself. Holland knows that the notes of Vassiliev–ex-KGB man desperate to sell his wares in the West–have never been verified and are hardly the kind of source upon which any careful historian would build a case for espionage. He also knows that the myriad self-contradictory musings of Kalugin–another ex-KGB man desperate to sell his wares in the West–have not only been successfully challenged but have changed over time, depending on who was buying. (Kalugin denied them to me personally.) He knows, further, that by the standards of Haynes, Klehr and Vassiliev, Walter Lippmann was a “Soviet spy,” as were countless other Western journalists of the period.