Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi Alger Hiss, Perjurer

By Sue Schuurman

JANUARY 25, 1999: 

On Jan. 21, 1950, a jury found former State Department aide Alger Hiss guilty of two counts of perjury, and four days later he was sentenced to a five-year prison term. This was the second trial charging that the famous Cold War figure lied to the House Committee on Un-American Activities when he denied giving secrets to Communist spies. Hiss was released after a little more than three years and always asserted his innocence. After his death in 1996, U.S. intelligence documents were released that to date have yet to definitively establish his guilt or innocence. The question thus lingers: Was Alger Hiss a victim of red paranoia or a traitor to his country?

U.S. Jury Weighs Data in Second Alger Hiss Trial. Prosecutor Labels Ex-State Department Official a Traitor

"NEW YORK--The Alger Hiss jury was locked up at 10:45 p.m. tonight after failing to reach an agreement. ... The eight women and four men must decide whether Hiss lied when he denied stealing State Department secrets for a Communist spy ring in prewar Washington. Last July, the jury in his first trial could not solve the question and was discharged. ...

"By the time Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas F. Murphy completed his final denunciation of Hiss there were about a million and a quarter words on the record for and against the defendant. For two hours and 46 minutes, the towering, mustached prosecutor put the verbal lash to Hiss. And at the end, he pointed to government documents in evidence--documents allegedly turned over by Hiss to Whittaker Chambers, former Soviet spy courier. Said Murphy: 'What do they prove? They prove treason. That is the traitor. Come back with the courage of your conviction and tell the world that our faith in the American jury system is justified.' Yesterday Defense Attorney Claude B. Cross made his last effort to save Hiss, with a day-long attack on Chambers. He called Chambers a liar with a 'dishonest bad hope' of framing Hiss."

Jury Finds Hiss Lied in His Denial of Aiding Spies

"NEW YORK--Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury today. The jury's verdict branded him a traitor to his country and stripped him of a brilliant, hard-won reputation.

"Hiss, a Yalta aide to President Roosevelt, was found guilty of lying in his denial that he sold out his once-high State Department office to prewar Communist spies. ...

"The jury's double-barrelled guilty finding upheld the story of Chambers, who was Hiss' chief accuser. Throughout two long, dramatic trials, it was [Whittaker] Chambers' word of Communist intrigue against Hiss' cool, stubborn denial. ...

"During both trials the defense branded Chambers a chronic liar, a petty little man voicing ridiculous charges against a brilliant lawyer and Government servant."

Source: Albuquerque Journal;
Jan. 21 & 22, 1950

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