Born in East Elmhurst, New York, Perlo was the son of Russian-Americans who had both emigrated in their youth from Omsk in Siberia. He received a BA and MA in mathematics and statistics from Columbia University in 1933.
Perlo served in various New Deal government agencies including the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board. Perlo also was an original member of the Ware group. In 1937 Perlo left government to work in the Brookings Institution, and rejoined the government in 1939. He reentered government through the United States Department of Commerce in 1939 to gather data on basic economic decisions he presented to Harry Hopkins, Secretary of Commerce. In 1940 Perlo moved to an agency that became the Office of Price Administration (OPA). By 1943 he was chief of the Aviation Section of the War Production Board. The Perlo group of spies, which he headed, included a Senate staff director, and supplied the Soviet Union with United States aircraft production figures and shipments to various fronts.
In 1943 Perlo divorced his second wife, Katherine Perlo, who told the FBI Perlo "delighted in tormenting their child and in engaging in big talk concerning what he would like to do to Government officials."
Perlo was called before several Congressional Committees investigating Soviet and Communist infiltration, subversion, and espionage within the United States government in the 1930s and during World War II. Perlo told the House Committee on Unamerican Activities (HUAC) he was "helping in my humble way to carry out the great New Deal program under the leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt."(2)
After leaving government Perlo wrote American Imperialism.
- Victor Perlo
- Edward Fitzgerald, War Production Board
- Harold Glasser, Director, Division of Monetary Research, United States Department of the Treasury; War Production Board; Advisor on North African Affairs Committee
- Alger Hiss, Director of the Office of Special Political Affairs United States Department of State
- Charles Kramer, Senate Subcommittee on War Mobilization; Office of Price Administration; National Labor Relations Board; Senate Subcommittee on Wartime Health and Education; Agricultural Adjustment Administration; Senate Subcommittee on Civil Liberties; Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee; Democratic National Committee
- Sol Leshinsky, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
- Harry Magdoff, Statistical Division of War Production Board and Office of Emergency Management; Bureau of Research and Statistics, WTB; Tools Division, War Production Board; Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, United States Department of Commerce
- George Perazich, Foreign Economic Administration; United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
- Allen Rosenberg, Board of Economic Warfare; Chief of the Economic Institution Staff, Foreign Economic Administration; Senate Subcommittee on Civil Liberties; Senate Committee on Education and Labor; Railroad Retirement Board; Councel to the Secretary of the National Labor Relations Board
- Donald Wheeler, Office of Strategic Services Research and Analysis division
Under the leadership of Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev, the era of Glasnost shed new light on the activities of Soviet intelligence directed against its Allies during World War II. The KGB Archives were opened, and many long hidden secrets came to light. Perlo by this time was openly serving in the leadership of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA), an organization he had denied any association with for decades prior. Perlo became a vociferous critic of Gorbachev and his successor, Boris Yeltsin, for their efforts to democratize the former communist state. Perlo wrote several articles for various Communist publications and denounced Gorbachev and Yeltsin for betrayal and treachery.
Victor Perlo's code name in Soviet intelligence is "Raider", and is referenced in the following decrypts:
- 588 KGB New York to Moscow, 19 April 1944
- 687 KGB New York to Moscow, 13 May 1944.
- 769, 771 KGB New York to Moscow, 30 May 1944, p. 1.
- 769, 771 KGB New York to Moscow, 30 May 1944, p. 2.
- 769, 771 KGB New York to Moscow, 30 May 1944, p. 3.
- 1003 KGB New York to Moscow, 18 July 1944
- 1015 KGB New York to Moscow, 22 July 1944
- 1214 KGB New York to Moscow, 25 August 1944
- 79 KGB New York to Moscow, 18 January 1945, p. 1
- 79 KGB New York to Moscow, 18 January 1945, p. 2
- 1823, 1824, 1825 KGB Washington to Moscow, 30 March 1945
- 3707 KGB Washington to Moscow, 29 June 1945
- 3708 KGB Washington to Moscow, 29 June 1945
- 3713, 3715 KGB Washington to Moscow, 29 June 1945
- Note (2): Perlo testimony, “Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage in the United States Government,” U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Un-American Activities, 80th Cong., 2d sess., 699–700
- John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press
- The Economic and Political Crisis in the USSR, Victor Perlo Political Affairs, August 1991.
- Lessons from Cuba, then and now, Victor and Ellen Perlo People's Weekly World, 31 January 1998.
- War and the US Economy, Vic Perlo Political Affairs (US), July 1999.
- The Case Against Intelligence Openness, Thomas Patrick Carroll International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence, Volume 14, Number 4 / October 1, 2001.