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Announcements, New Releases

The Scholarly Publishing Office of the University of Michigan Library is pleased to announce the publication of Successful Strategic Deception: A Case Study, a digital publication featuring a new analysis of the controversial case against Alger Hiss, a  U.S. State Department official suspected of spying for the Soviet Union, and ultimately convicted of perjury in 1950. Hiss had been a rising star in the liberal foreign policy establishment, accompanying President Roosevelt to Yalta, hand-delivering the UN charter to President Truman, and serving as President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (1947-9).

The heart of the project is a scholarly essay by Stephen W. Salant, professor of economics at the University of Michigan, who documents for the first time that the chief investigator hired by Hiss’s attorneys to help prepare Hiss’s libel suit was in fact an undercover Army spy-catcher—a special agent in the Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC). Salant draws on evidence from nearly 175 primary and secondary source documents, which are hyperlinked from the essay and available online in a searchable digital archive.

“Most work on the Hiss case addresses the question of his guilt or innocence,” Salant says.  “My interest is instead in the pursuit of Hiss by U.S. counterintelligence. I believe they found a way to neutralize a suspected active agent of Soviet Military Intelligence without compromising their ability to monitor other spy suspects.” By illuminating the role of the CIC in espionage investigations during and after World War II, Salant fills an important gap.

At the conclusion of his trial, Alger Hiss charged that the spy documents traced to his typewriter had been forged.  Forensic experts retained by Hiss confirmed this and he petitioned for a new trial. His motion was denied and, 30 years later, so was his coram nobis petition. Both judges pointed out that Hiss’s accuser lacked the resources and skill to produce the forgeries and to position them properly. Salant’s discovery of the involvement of Military Intelligence makes Hiss’s contention more plausible.

Salant’s work on the Hiss case spans decades. He has corresponded with military historians, Hiss case scholars, and the family of the spy-catcher. Previously he tracked down the microfilm evidence used in the case and secured public access to it in 1975 by suing the Justice Department. Salant hopes this digital publication will catalyze the declassification of more files, and that “young, energetic researchers will review my preliminary findings critically in light of these additional files, correct my mistakes, extend my insights, and reach their own conclusions. I look forward to reading what they learn.”

“I’m very happy that MPublishing is supporting the publication of Professor Salant’s essay,” said Maria Bonn, associate university librarian for publishing. “It is an important historical investigation, and it is especially interesting to me in its rich interplay of sources and analysis. In providing readers with access to documents amassed during a long and laborious research process, Professor Salant engages in an act of scholarly generosity that invites and enables further research and discussion.”

Salant, professor of economics at University of Michigan since 1986, holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania. Previously, he worked as an economist for both the Federal Reserve Board and the Rand Corporation. His research in the area of applied microeconomic theory and applied game theory has appeared in journals such as the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, and the Quarterly Journal of Economics as well as Ecology, Behavioral Ecology, SIAM Journal of Applied Mathematics, Michigan Law Review, and Operations Research.

See also: a Q&A with the creator of the project, Professor Stephen Salant.

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