He became a Communist in the 1930s and in the 1940s provided information to agents of the Soviet Union. Laird was recruited by the Soviets while he was at Swarthmore College in the early 1930s. Laird told the Allentown Morning Call in 1986 that he became close friends with former Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations Oleg Troyanovsky, son of Aleksandr A. Troyanovsky, the first Soviet ambassador to the United States from 1934 to 1938, while at Swarthmore. Troyanovsky was a fellow student and member of the football team, of which Laird was assistant coach. Troyanovsky later became a foreign policy assistant and interpreter for Josef Stalin and adviser to Nikita Khrushchev.
Laird was considered to be a politically well developed person by the MGB in 1944, and was being utilized as an agent. In 1949 he was living in Vic Vaud, Switzerland. His case was referred to the CIA in the fall of 1950. The story of Laird's secret life surfaced for the first time in the Venona files. Laird's code name in Soviet intelligence and in the Venona files is "Yun".
John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press, 1999.