Robert Menaker

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This article is part of the
Venona
series.

Secret apparatus
Socialist Workers Party
KGB
Perlo group

Robert Owen Menaker was an American citizen who worked for Soviet intelligence during World War II. Menaker was the son of a Russian immigrant who was imprisoned for revolutionary activity in Russia. Menaker’s family were noted radicals and one of Menaker's nieces, Katherine was married to Victor Perlo, head of the Perlo group.

Menaker was identified by Arlington Hall cryptographers in sixteen Venona messages. Menaker assisted Floyd Miller's infiltration of the Socialist Workers Party. Several Venona messages are related to Menaker’s employer, Michael Burd, for whom Menaker worked at the Midland Export Corporation of New York. In 1944 and 1945, Menaker traveled to Chile to represent Midland Export. While in Chile he met the Chilean diplomat Christian Casanova Subercaseaux. Burd and Subercaseaux were also both Soviet intelligence agents.

After returning from his 1944 Chile trip, Burd complained to the New York KGB office that Menaker alienated several companies they did business with. KGB Officer Pavel Ivanovich Fedosimov reported to Moscow that “allowances should be made’’ working with Menaker since he had not been thoroughly trained or screened prior to assignment.

In a later Venona transcript, the KGB speculates about the possibility that Laurence Duggan, another source who had recently resigned from the U.S. State Department, might go to Chile in place of Menaker or do some unspecified work with him. A cable from October references work with Joseph Katz, owner of the Tempus Import Company in Manhattan and one of the KGB's most active agents. The decrypt requests instructions regarding Menaker's salary, and noted someone would be paying him thirty thousand dollars but that he might not receive it for a year. Menaker, like his friend Floyd Miller, may have cooperated with the FBI to some extent in the 1950s.

Venona

Menaker, whose code names as deciphered by Arlington Hall cryptographers is BOB and CZECH, is referenced in the following Venona project decryptions:

694 KGB New York to Moscow, 15 May 1943; 1044 KGB New York to Moscow, 2 July 1943; 1185 KGB New York to Moscow, 21 July 1943; 1031 KGB New York to Moscow, 24 July 1944; 1143–1144 KGB New York to Moscow, 10 August 1944; 1313 KGB New York to Moscow, 13 September 1944; 1337 KGB New York to Moscow, 19 September 1944; 1430 KGB New York to Moscow, 10 October 1944; 1470 KGB New York to Moscow, 17 October 1944; 1512 KGB New York to Moscow, 24 October 1944; 1522 KGB New York to Moscow, 27 October 1944; 1613 KGB New York to Moscow, 18 November 1944; 1637 KGB New York to Moscow, 21 November 1944; 1716 KGB New York to Moscow, 5 December 1944; 77 KGB New York to Moscow, 17 January 1945; 55 KGB Moscow to New York, 10 January 1943.

Reference

  • Daniel Menaker, The Old Left, (New York: Knopf, 1987).
  • Earl M. Hyde, Bernard Schuster and Joseph Katz: KGB Master Spies in the United States, International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Volume 12, Number 1, 1 March 1999.
  • Alexander Vassiliev, Notes on Anatoly Gorsky’s December 1948 Memo on the Failed American Network, Translation of KGB file 43173 vol. 2 (v) pp. 46-55 (2003).
  • John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), pgs. 266–267, 284.
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