Bill Weisband

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This article is part of the
Venona
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Secret apparatus
Signals Intelligence Service
Arlington Hall

William Wolf Weisband was born in Odessa Russia in 1908 of Russian parents. Weisband emigrated to America in the 1920s and became a US citizen in 1938. From 1941 to 1942 Weisband was the agent handler for Jones Orin York who worked in the Northrop Corporation. He joined the US Army Signals Intelligence Service (SIS) in 1942 and performed signals intelligence and communications security duties in North Africa and Italy, where he made some important friends before returning to Arlington Hall and joining its "Russian Section." Although not a cryptanalyst, as a "linguist adviser" who spoke fluent Russian, he was working closely with cryptographers. The gregarious and popular Weisband had access to all areas of Arlington Hall's Soviet work. Meredith Gardner recalled that Weisband had watched him extract the list of Western atomic scientists from the December 2, 1944 KGB message.

The Soviets apparently had monitored Arlington Hall's "Russian Section" since at least 1945, when Weisband joined the unit. Weisband's earliest reports on the work on Soviet diplomatic systems were probably sketchy and might not have provided clear warning to Moscow about the exploitability of the KGB messages. Weisband passed the information on to them in 1948, although he was not discovered by counterintelligence officers until 1950. Where Weisband had sketched the outlines of the cryptanalytic success, British liaison officer Kim Philby received actual translations and analyses on a regular basis after he arrived for duty in Washington in autumn 1949.

While suspended from SIS on suspicion of disloyalty, he skipped a federal grand jury hearing on CPUSA. As a result, in November 1950 Weisband was convicted of contempt and sentenced to a year in prison. Weisband was never prosecuted for espionage because under the 1947 National Security Act "sources and methods" by law cannot be revealed. He died suddenly of natural causes in 1967.

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