June 18, 2005

Oppenheimer Bio

Noted Cold War historian and expert on Soviet espionage, Harvey Klehr reviews the scholarship on atomic scientist Robert Oppenheimer in a review for The Weekly Standard.

As the McCarthy era receded, Oppenheimer's reputation rebounded. The longtime head of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, he was honored by President Johnson in 1963, just four years before his death from cancer, and lionized by historians and journalists. In the past decade, new evidence about Soviet efforts to infiltrate Los Alamos, and about Oppenheimer's own politics, has emerged; but there has been no smoking gun implicating him in espionage. Despite some efforts to link him to one of the unidentified cover names in the Venona transcripts, there is no consensus about what role, if any, he played in atomic espionage. Jerrold and Leona Schechter, using a variety of unattributed Russian sources, claimed that Oppenheimer was a valuable Soviet source. Gregg Herken concluded that he was never a spy, despite being a secret member of the Communist party. John Haynes and I argued that the strongest evidence he was not a Soviet spy was that, if he had been, the Russians would have gotten even more information about the atomic bomb than they did.

I just can't get enough of WWII-Cold War U.S./Soviet espionage stuff, whether fact or fiction.

Posted by dan at June 18, 2005 1:13 AM