In the last decade of the twentieth century, newly opened classified archives revealed a series of “sacred secrets” that survivors of the Cold War had sworn to carry to their graves. These revelations have challenged our understanding of significant historical events. In Sacred Secrets, Jerrold and Leona Schecter add documents recently obtained in Russia and information from original interviews to cast new light on the reasons for the attack on Pearl Harbor, atomic espionage, Alger Hiss, McCarthyism, and the Rosenberg case, among others. The Schecters also reveal details of their own exposure to the world of sacred secrets.
From Sacred Secrets, the reader emerges with a startling awareness of the profound influence that an aggressive Soviet intelligence service exerted on U.S. domestic and foreign policy. We now know, for example, that Harry Dexter White, the chief architect of the U.S. economic policy that proved so provocative to Japan and contributed to its decision to attack Pearl Harbor, was a Soviet intelligence asset committed to deflecting Japan’s aggressive aims away from the Soviet Union. The Schecters provide the missing pieces of historical puzzles, demonstrate the importance of long-forgotten memoirs, rehabilitate reputations, and condemn others, rewriting recent U.S. history.
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Leona Schecter is a historian and a literary agent. With Pavel and Anatoli Sudoplatov, the Schecters wrote Special Tasks, the milestone book of KGB revelations. The Schecters are married and live in Washington, D.C.
Jerrold Schecter is a historian, a journalist, and an award-winning author. He spent eighteen years with Time, including service as the bureau chief in Tokyo and in Moscow, as the White House correspondent, and as a diplomatic editor. He also served on the National Security Council for the Carter administration. He is the author of or collaborator on eight books, including Khrushchev Remembers: The Glastnost Tapes and The Spy Who Saved the World.
Former Time editor Jerrold Schechter and historian Leona Schechter mine the Soviet archives and U.S. documents declassified in the 1990s, most notably the famed Venona intercepts meant to decrypt Soviet messages, in an effort to shed light on some Cold War mysteries and assess the impact of Soviet espionage on U.S. foreign policy. The usual suspects the Rosenbergs, Harry Dexter White, Alger Hiss, and Whittaker Chambers all put in appearances. The book is a touch oversold, however. While it adds some details to the historical literature, little new ground is actually broken. The Schechters do a good job, for instance, in clearing up the riddle of who started the Korean War. (Kim Il Sung did; Stalin agreed, fearing that a resurgent Japan would resume its bid for dominance on the Korean peninsula and thus menace the Communist bloc.) Such insights make the book worthwhile. Yet overall, it is less a path-breaking work than an incremental addition to the Cold War literature pioneered by Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes's Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America. Recommended for all academic collections. James R. Holmes, Ph.D. candidate, Fletcher Sch. of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts Univ., Medford, MA
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