Last modified on 26 June 2016, at 23:50

Samuel Dickstein

Samuel Dickstein (February 5, 1885 - April 22, 1954) was a Democratic Congressional Representative from New York, a New York State Supreme Court Justice, and a Soviet agent. He played a key role in establishing the committee that would become the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

Early life and career

Dickstein was born near Vilnius in present-day Lithuania, and immigrated to the United States in 1887 with his parents, who settled in New York City. There he attended public and private schools in New York City, the College of the City of New York, and graduated from the New York City Law School in 1906. He was admitted to the bar in 1908 and commenced law practice in New York City. He served as special deputy attorney general of the State of New York from 1911-1914, member of the board of aldermen in 1917, member of the State Assembly 1919-1922. He served as a member of the Democratic County Committee and was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-eighth Congress and was reelected eleven times. He resigned from Congress on December 30, 1945. He served as Chairman on the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization (Seventy-second through Seventy-ninth Congresses).

Soviet agent

In 1934, Dickstein introduced the "Dickstein Resolution" (H.R. 198) calling for the establishment of a special committee of the U.S. House of Representatives to investigate "un-American activities."[1] Under the pretext of investigating U.S. fascists,[2] he used the so-called "McCormack-Dickstein committee" to launch a series of "witch hunts" or inquisitions, persecuting and smearing anti-Communist American businessmen,[3] Soviet refugees[4] and Trotskyites[5] (whom Stalin had labeled "agents of fascism").[6] Dickstein was a Soviet agent at the time,[7] code-named "Crook."[8] For his services, the NKVD paid him more than $12,000[9] in the depths of the Great Depression—equivalent to more than $180,000 today.[10]

Further material

Dickstein was a spy for the Soviet Union while a sitting member of Congress. The Soviet NKVD case handlers code-named him “Crook” due to his greedy compensation demands. Dickstein gave Moscow information on fascist groups in the U.S. and war budget materials. He is the only Congressman known to have spied for the Soviet Union while a member of Congress. He was instrumental in establishing and serving as vice chairman of the temporary Select Committee on Un-American Activities (the Dies Committee) in 1938 to investigate fascist and Nazi groups in the United States. After the Nazi-Soviet pact, the same committee was made into a permanent committee of the House, renamed the House Committee on Un-American Activities, and expanded its attention to include Communist organizations. Dickstein was paid $1250 a month from 1937 to early 1940 by the Soviet spy agency the KGB, which hoped to get secret Congressional information of anti-Communist and pro-fascist forces. When Dickstein left the Committee the KGB dropped him from the payroll.[11]

Dickstein later served as a Justice on the New York State Supreme Court until his death in New York City.


  1. "On January 3, 1934, the opening day of the 73d Congress, Dickstein introduced a resolution calling for the formation of a special committee to probe into un-American activities in the United States." An Inventory to the Samuel Dickstein Papers, Manuscript Collection No. 8, 1923-1944. 12.1 Linear ft. (Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives)
  2. Alexander Vassiliev, Black Notebook, Original, p. 78; Translated, p. 155
  3. "National Affairs: Plot Without Plotters," Time, December 3, 1934
  4. Justin Raimondo, "Seeing Reds," The American Conservative, August 1, 2009
  5. John F. Fox Jr., "What the Spiders Did: U.S. and Soviet Counterintelligence before the Cold War," Journal of Cold War Studies, Vol. 11, No. 3, Summer 2009, pp. 206-224. Cf. John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), ISBN 0300123906 475-476
  6. Michael A. Riff, Dictionary of modern political ideologies (Manchester University Press ND, 1990) ISBN 071903289X, p. 52
  7. Joseph E. Persico, "The Kremlin Connection," The New York Times, January 3, 1999
  8. Lynnley Browning, "Spy vs. spy vs. spy," The Boston Globe, February 14, 1999
  9. Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America—the Stalin Era (New York: Random House, 1999), ISBN 0375755365, pp. 140-150
  10. Inflation Calculator, Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor
  11. Complete Idiot's Guide to Spies and Espionage, Alpha. April 1, 2003. ISBN 0028644182, p. 36: "Among the early Soviet recruits [was]...U.S. Congressman Samuel Dickstein, who demanded such high payments that the Soviets gave him the code name "Crook." Details of these and other Soviet spies were not revealed until decades later, when some of the archives of the KGB were made available to researchers.", p. 156-157: "Code-Name: Crook Another of the unusual cases was Congressman Samuel Dickstein. Dickstein headed the House Committee on Un-American activities in 1937, which then focused on the activities of fascist groups in in the United States. Dickstein met with the Soviet ambassador, and offered to sell information uncovered by the committee regarding pro-facist Russian groups in the United States. The KGB assigned Dickstein the code name Crook. Dickstein asked for $2,500 a month to supply information and after the Soviets offered $500 a month, he counter-offered at $1,250 a month. When Congress selected Martin Dies to head the committee, Dickstein's value to the Soviets fell off. After a series of arguments over the value of his continued services, the Soviets broke off contact with him in January 1940. Altogether, Dickstein (Crook) had received $12,000, estimated by historian Allen Weinstein, who published the story later in 1997, to be the equivalent of more than $133,000 in dollar value of that year...The activities of strange characters like Martha Dodd, Samuel Dickstein, and Michael Straight were not fully understood until years after their espionage careers, with the opening of Soviet archives and the research of diligent historians like Allen Weinstein", p. 274: "However, even if American traitors made amateurish spies, several of them inflicted serious damage to American security. Some, like Samuel Dickstein (Chapter 10) or John Walker (Chapter 17), went undiscovered for years."