Lauchlin Currie

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Lauchlin Currie, Administrative Assistant to President Roosevelt
and KGB spy.
Lauchlin Bernard Currie (8 October 1902 - 23 December 1993) was Administrative Assistant to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and a Soviet spy.

Early Life and Career

Currie was born in West Dublin, Nova Scotia, the Son of Lauchlin and Alice (Eisenhauer) Currie. He attended the London School of Economics and received a B.S. Degree in 1925. In 1931, he received a Ph.D. Degree from Harvard. He married Dorothy York Bacon in 1927, and had two children, Lauchlin Morgan Currie and Roderich Bornish Currie. Currie first came to the United States in 1925, and was naturalized in 1934. He was an instructor and a tutor at Harvard University from 1927 to 1934. Paul Sweezy was one of his students. He was also a professor of international economics at Fletcher Graduate School of Law and Diplomacy, West Medford, Massachusetts, from 1933 to 1934. During this same period of time he was employed as a consultant by the Kendall Company, a cotton products concern in Boston. Currie served as a trustee of the William Alanson White Psychiatric Foundation, a member of the American Economic Association, and the author of a book entitled The Supply and Control of Money in the United States published in 1934, which became a standard work on the subject.

New Dealer

During the latter part of 1934, Currie was appointed Senior Analyst by Secretary Henry Morgenthau working with Harry Dexter White in Treasury's Division of Research and Statistics and was later made Assistant Director of Research and Statistics for the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System, which position he retained until 1939, also reportedly won enthusiastic recognition.

In 1938, he began to give evidence of his growing importance. In that year he put forward a plan to solve railroad troubles by a lease-lend procedure through which the railroads would get equipment in much the same way that Britain gets war goods under the Lend-Lease Act. In that same year, he wrote an "influential memorandum" on the causes of the recession in which he discussed, among other things, Social Security taxes, and pointed out that compensatory Federal spending to stimulate heavy industry might be more flexible if concentrated outside the regular budget.

In May 1939, Currie gave testimony before the Temporary National Economic Committee. He reportedly showed that investments follow production and since 1932 State and local governments have been piling up savings so that the net Federal investment must be at least one billion dollars to provide equivalent purchasing power. Currie became Administrative Assistant to President Franklin Roosevelt in July 1939,[1] and was empowered to coordinate "the work of the various departments in their relations to the Executive." [2]

Whittaker Chambers, a former affiliate of the Soviet Secret Intelligence Service in Washington, D. C., for the purpose of developing a government underground, stated that Lauchlin Currie was a 'fellow Traveler' who helped various Communists. This statement was made to a representative of the State Department when Chambers was questioned relative to individuals in the Government who were allegedly active in behalf of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union.

KGB operative

In 1939, defecting GRU courier Whittaker Chambers identified Currie to Assistant Secretary of State (in charge of security) Adolf Berle as a "fellow traveler" who "helped various Communists" in the underground but "never went the whole way"[3] of becoming a Communist Party member.[4]

In 1945, defecting NKVD courier Elizabeth Bentley told the FBI of her impression that Currie had "something to do" with Soviet agent Nathan Gregory Silvermaster getting a position in the Bureau of Economic Warfare, and said Currie was "actively assisting in passing information" to her network—including informing Soviet agent George Silverman that the United States was "on the verge of breaking the Soviet code."[5] Currie was indeed an NKVD agent[6] in the White House;[7] he would later admit that he "might have heard about such codebreaking developments," and "would have had no problem telling Silverman that type of information" (though, as Robert L. Benson and Cecil Phillips note, Silverman had "obviously no need to know regarding the Russian problem.")[8]

A senior government official who worked closely with Currie during the war told the FBI that in 1944 Currie admitted to him that he had “tipped off” the Russians that the U.S. had “broken the Soviet diplomatic code.” A second person who worked closely with Currie during the war recalled that Currie told her that the U.S. had broken the Soviet code.[9]

Soviet archives likewise identify Currie as a Soviet intelligence source. In 1948, Anatoly Gorsky identified Currie in the "Gorsky memo"as the Soviet agent code-named "PAZh/Page,"[10] who is recorded in Venona giving information to Akhmerov and "handing over documents" to Silvermaster.

Through a surreptitious and out of process means Currie secured Comintern operative Owen Lattimore as the personal appointment of President Roosevelt as American adviser for Kuomintang Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, who at that time in 1941 was engaged in a desperate struggle with Japan in the Second Sino-Japanese War.[11]

In the early part of 1941, Currie was sent to be Head of the Economic Mission to China as personal envoy of the President to confer with Chiang Kai-shek and other leading executives of the Kuomintang. Currie studied Chinese arsenals, military training schools, and industrial cooperatives while in China. Although his report had not been made public, he appears to have studied the economic structure in general and its special problems of currency and transportation. Currie later spent a few days in New Delhi, India, and returned to the United States on August 20, 1942.

During the Hatch Act investigation of Nathan Gregory Silvermaster, an employee of the Department of Agriculture, Lauchlin Currie was interviewed. Silvermaster denied any Communist links and appealed to Under Secretary of War Robert Patterson to overrule the security officials. Currie personally phoned Patterson and urged a reconsideration of Silvermaster’s case.[12][13]

When asked to comment upon Silvermaster's political philosophy, Currie stated that in his mind conclusive evidence of whether or not a person is Communistically inclined was the individual's attitude up to June 23, 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Inasmuch as Silvermaster, according to Currie was an advocate of war prior to that time, Currie did not regard him as Communistic and stated that he was a "liberal" and "New Dealer in his political leanings." [14] Silvermaster subsequently received two promotions and pay raises. During the course of the investigation the Office of Naval Intelligence furnished information indicating that Currie and Silvermaster were associates and friendly. In 1943-1944 Currie ran the Foreign Economic Administration where he played a major role in recruiting or recommending economists and others throughout the Washington administration, prominent examples are John Kenneth Galbraith, Richard Gilbert, Adlai Stevenson, and William O’Dwyer. John Carter Vincent is also listed as an Acting Special Assistant to the Administrator.

After the death of Jacob Golos, KGB Case Officer Iskhak Akhmerov urged Silvermaster to arrange for direct KGB contact with Currie, but Silvermaster resisted. Currie sent a warning that American cryptanalysts were on the verge of breaking the Soviet diplomatic code.[15] An August 1943 Venona cable reports to Moscow that Currie had given George Silverman a memorandum involving the State Department. In June 1944, the New York KGB reported receipt of two items from Currie. One was information on President Roosevelt's reasons for keeping Charles de Gaulle at arm's length. The other told the Soviets that Roosevelt was willing to accept Stalin's demand that the USSR keep the half of Poland that it had received under the Nazi-Soviet Pact and that FDR would put pressure on the London Polish government-in-exile to make concessions. President Roosevelt had personally assured Polish-Americans, prior to the 1944 election, of his support for the Polish cause. Currie's private information let Stalin know that he could disregard these public stands and need not make serious concessions to the Poles. It was about this time Currie also met with Oskar R. Lange in Chicago.

Pavel Fitin, head of KGB foreign intelligence, told its New York office in March that it wanted more out of Currie. Fitin acknowledged that “[Currie] trusts [Silvermaster], informs him not only orally, but also by handing over documents”. But, said Fitin, “up to now [Currie's] relations with [Silvermaster] were expressed, from our point of view, only in common feelings and personal sympathies. [unrecovered code groups] question of more profound relations and an understanding by [Currie] of [Silvermaster's] role. If [Silvermaster] does not get [Currie's] transfer to our worker, then he [unrecovered code groups] raising with [Currie] the question of [Currie's] closer complicity with [Silvermaster].”

In April 1944, an anonymous letter was received by the FBI, the writer was subsequently identified as Katherine Perlo, wife of Victor Perlo. This letter, directed to the White House, listed the names of approximately twenty-five persons whom the writer designated as members of the Communist group in Washington or contacts thereof. Among those names listed was that of George Silverman with the following parenthetical notation alongside this name: "Railroad Retirement Brd. — works thru close friends who are indebted to him — Lauchlin Currie - Harry White, etc. –"

In late 1945, the FBI opened an investigation of Anatoly Gorsky, a KGB officer operating out of the Soviet embassy in Washington under the guise of being a Soviet diplomat. A report on the investigation in February 1946 cited several meetings between Gorsky and Currie. Currie admitted to the FBI in 1947 he had met at least four times with Gorsky in 1945.[16] Years later it was discovered that Currie also met with Vasily Zarubin in August 1943 which coincides with mysterious "Mr. Guver" letter in which a Soviet KGB officer stated that Zarubin “has some high level agent in the office of the White House.” [17]

Lauchlin Currie was one of the Federal employees listed as an affiliate of subversive organizations by the Dies Committee in a memorandum submitted to the Attorney General. It was stated he was a member of the Washington Committee to Aid China.

An article appeared in the October 31, 1944, New York Daily Mirror reporting a speech by Governor Bricker stating that he declared Lauchlin Currie was a Federal employee with a subversive record. Currie was one of seven individuals named in Bricker's speech to "conclusively prove Roosevelt and the New Deal are in the hands of the radicals and the Communists."

Owen Lattimore wrote a letter of introduction for Haakon Chevalier to Lauchlin Currie. Chevalier was attempting to obtain a Government job during this period of time. Chevalier is a known Soviet Secret Intelligence Service (NKVD) contact and was associated with numerous members of the Communist Party on the West Coast.

Amerasia scandal

Currie was listed as one of the individuals who attended the Institute of Pacific Relations Conference held at Mont Tremblant, Canada, from December 5 to 19, 1942. In the early part of September 1943, Currie was appointed as Acting Deputy Administrator and he remained until the early part of 1945. He then resumed his former White House duties.

It was Currie who recommended Owen Lattimore to President Roosevelt to serve as a special advisor to Jiang Jieshi(Chiang Kai-shek).[18]

In connection with inquiries conducted with respect to Michael Greenberg, it was learned Greenberg at one time was assigned to work with Currie at the White House on matters pertaining to Chinese affairs.

In the late summer of 1950, Currie emigrated to Colombia and a few years later renounced his American citizenship.[19]

On September 9, 1950 and June 14, 1951, Senator Joseph McCarthy publicly discussed the case of Currie and the fact that he was a security and loyalty risk.[20]

In December 1952, Currie gave evidence in New York to a grand jury investigating Owen Lattimore's role in the publication by Amerasia magazine of secret State Department documents.


  1. Testimony of Lauchlin Currie, August 13, 1948. Hearings Regarding Communist Espionage in the United States Government. Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities. U. S. Congress, House, 80th Congress, Second Session (Washington: Government Printing office, 1948) Part I, p. 852.
  2. New York Times, July 23, 1939.
  3. Adolf Berle’s Notes on his Meeting with Whittaker Chambers (John Earl Haynes, Historical Writings)
  4. John Earl Haynes, Vassiliev Notebooks Concordance: Cover Names, Real Names, Abbreviations, Acronyms, Organizational Titles, Tradecraft Terminology, 2008, p. 39
  5. Vol. 6: Statement of Elizabeth Terrill Bentley, November 30, 1945, FBI file: Silvermaster, pp. 20, 25, 43 (PDF pp. 21, 26, 44) Cf. Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (New York: Basic Books, 2000), ISBN 0-465-00310-9, p. 130; Robert Louis Benson and Michael Warner, eds., Venona: Soviet Espionage and The American Response, 1939-1957 (NSA/CIA, 1996), pp. xiv, xxiv; FBI memo: Belmont to Boardman, February 1, 1956, p. 9 (FBI file: Venona, p. 71)
  6. Robert J. Hanyok, Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust, 1939-1945, 2005, pp. 118-119 (PDF pp. 123-124), n. 185; John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), ISBN 0300077718, p. 146
  7. Frank J. Rafalko, ed., Vol. 3, Ch. 1: Cold War Counterintelligence, A Counterintelligence Reader: An American Revolution Into the New Millennium (NCIX), pp. 30-31 (PDF pp. 29-30); Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel, The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America's Traitors (Washington: Regnery Publishing, 2001), ISBN 0895262258, p. 167
  8. Robert Louis Benson and Cecil J. Phillips, History of Venona (Fort George Meade, Md.: National Security Agency, 1995), p. 37; John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America (Yale University Press, 2009) ISBN 0300123906, p. 263; Kathryn S. Olmsted, Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley (Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2002), ISBN 0807827398, p. 49
  9. Robert Louis Benson and Cecil Phillips, History of Venona (Fort George Meade, Md.: National Security Agency, 1995), pp. 37-38
  10. Alexander Vassiliev, Black Notebook, Orig. p. 40; Trans. p. 78; cf. Ronald Bachman and Harold Leich (tr.), with John Earl Haynes, Alexander Vassiliev's Notes on Anatoly Gorsky's December 1948 Memo on Compromised American Sources and Networks, History of American Communism (H-HOAC) Discussion Network, March 14, 2005; David Lowenthal with Svetlana A. Chervonnaya, Gorsky Report: Dec 23, 1949, History News Network (George Mason University), May 2, 2005
  11. Testimony of Stanley K. Hornbeck, February 15, 1952. U. S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Internal Security Subcommittee, Institute of Pacific Relations, Hearings, 82nd Congress, First Session (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1951), Part 9, pp. 3209-10.
  12. File card of Patterson contacts in regard Silvermaster, box 203, Robert P. Patterson papers, Library of Congress.
  13. General Bissell to General Strong, 3 June 1942, Silvermaster reply to Bissell memo, 9 June 1942, Robert P. Patterson to Milo Perkins of Board of Economic Warfare, 3 July 1942, all reprinted in “Interlocking Subversion in Government Departments,” 30 August 1955, 84th Cong., 1st sess., part 30, 2562–2567.
  14. Underground Soviet Espionage Organization (NKVD) in Agencies of the United States Government, 21 February 1946, FBI Silvermaster file, serial 573.
  15. Venona: Soviet Espionage and the American Response, 1939-1957
  16. Report on Currie interview, 31 July 1947, FBI Silvermaster file, serial 2794.
  17. "Mr. Guver": Anonymous Soviet Letter to the FBI, Anonymous Russian letter to J. Edgar Hoover, 7 August 1943, reproduced in Robert Louis Benson and Michael Warner, eds., Venona: Soviet Espionage and the American Response, 1939–1957 (Washington, D.C.: National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 1996), 51–54.
  18. Communism at Pearl Harbor, How the Communist Helped to Bring on Pearl Harbor and Open Up Asia to Communization, Anthony Kubek, University of Dallas, p. 2 -4.
  19. John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), p. 150.
  20. Buckley, Jr., William F. and Bozell, L. Brent, McCarthy & His Enemies, The Record And Its Meaning (Regnery Publishing Inc., 1954), pp. 366-367.
  • United States. National Counterintelligence Center. A Counterintelligence Reader, Vol 3 Chap 1. NACIC. no date. pg. 31.
  • Lauchlin Currie testimony, 13 August 1948, U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Un-American Activities, 80th Cong., 2d sess., 851–877.
  • Michael Warner and Robert Louis Benson, “Venona and Beyond: Thoughts on Work Undone,” Intelligence and National Security 12, no. 3 (July 1997), 10–11.
  • Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev, The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America--the Stalin Era (New York: Random House, 1999), 161–63, 168, 243, 274.
  • Robert J. Hanyok, Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust, 1939–1945. Ft. Meade, MD: National Security Agency, Center for Cryptologic History, 2005; "Currie, known as PAZh (Page) and White, whose cover names were YuRIST (Jurist) and changed later to LAJER (Lawyer), had been Soviet agents since the 1930s. They had been identified as Soviet agents in Venona translations and by other agents turned witnesses or informants for the FBI and Justice Department. From the Venona translations, both were known to pass intelligence to their handlers, notably the Silvermaster network."

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