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Robert Lamphere’s Interview – Part 1

Manhattan Project Locations:

FBI agent Robert Lamphere supervised many investigations of Soviet spies during the Cold War. His early espionage cases focused on those who attempted to infiltrate the Manhattan Project, including David Greenglass, Harry Gold, and the Rosenbergs. In this interview, he recalls his interrogation of Klaus Fuchs in London, as well as his impressions of Fuchs and Gold. Lamphere also discusses the network of spies living in the US, their motivations, and the nature of the commands that they received from Moscow.

Date of Interview:
May 31, 1994
Location of the Interview:


Robert Lamphere: One of the British newspapers speculated about allowing the FBI into see this guy [Klaus Fuchs], because we might actually use the third degree against him – which we thought was funny as hell. But right off the bat, he wasn’t sure he wanted to tell me anything, because of what we filed against ‒ particularly his sister, Kristel Heineman, and her husband, and others. So he and I fenced a little bit back and forth before we ever showed him the pictures or anything else. As to whether he was going to talk at all‒

Richard Rhodes: He didn’t have to, right?

Lamphere: No. We couldn’t force him to say anything.

Rhodes: In a sense you have to negotiate his sister.

Lamphere: I can’t play the game if he thought we were the bastards, because he didn’t particularly like me and his sister was in trouble. I never said that, but I started talking about how cooperative she’d been with us. I had no reason to believe that anything might happen to her. Of course, I didn’t expect him to say anything that would mean anything, so why was he concerned about this stuff? Finally I said, “We’ve come clear across the ocean to see you. We’ve got some photos here. You’ve been shown photos in the past that we sent over to Mr. [William] Skardon here. Would you look at some photos?” That broke the ice.

But, of course, it’s been speculated that it wasn’t until he saw photographs of [Harry] Gold in our Philadelphia office that he decided, “Hey, they know this is the right guy,” and that’s when he decided to begin opening up. After that it was all Gold, except I’ve never interviewed anybody that wouldn’t go beyond answering that question.

Rhodes: You did it the way one does a hostile deposition.

Lamphere: Although he was reasonably ‒ you read the thing. He furnished a lot of information, and we were getting information on the other side from Gold. So the cables were going back and forth. The only thing he lied about was trying to protect his sister by adding in an extra ‒ well, I say the only thing he lied about. He may have held back on other things.

Rhodes: Yes, the question that you and I talked about on the phone of whether he might have passed more information while he was still in the United States, maybe to Lona Cohen. Because it makes so little sense to me with [Lavrentiy] Beria just taking over the Russian bomb program, that they’re wanting to get a lot of information together, that their best source would have suddenly stopped being contacted and supplied until he got to England.

Lamphere: Of course, the [Igor] Gouzenko defection and the Elizabeth Bentley defection just shook the KGB and the GRU to the roots. It changed everything for a time.

Rhodes: Then, of course [Antoly] Yatskov stopped seeing Gold for almost a year, ten months.

Lamphere: Yes.

Rhodes: It’s again curious. What was Gold supplying Yatskov after his last contact with Fuchs? Because he went to see him again at the end of the year, and he was supposed to see him in February and he didn’t show up. Then they met again that following December.

Lamphere: The one thing I am sure of is that Gold told us the complete truth as far as he could remember it.

Rhodes: But would they have had routine meetings if there was nothing to meet about?

Lamphere: I think so.  

Rhodes: That’s curious.

Lamphere: No, I don’t think he had any further assignments. It’s almost impossible to understand this goof of allowing Gold to contact Greenglass. It was authorized, according to this book, by Moscow.

Rhodes: That’s the one thing that I think does make it plausible, because at that particular time, their program was just churning over. They had just heard about the high explosive lenses, which was a crucial piece of information. But they didn’t know more than just that they existed. It was lenses specifically that [David] Greenglass‒

Lamphere: Yeah, he was working on it. 

Rhodes: I think they got too eager, if that’s possible. 

Lamphere: You always wonder why it was Ann Sidorovich. Even so, I guarantee you it was Moscow that did it. It wasn’t Yatskov. It wasn’t [Semyon] Semyonov. It was Moscow, because everything like that was authorized by the Center.

Rhodes: You or someone else pointed out in the book that to a degree that it was almost absurd, every fine detail had to be approved from the Center.

Lamphere: Yeah, one of the things that I’ve always sort of smiled about in that same era was that guys like me ran espionage cases directing every damn thing that was done, and here’s Moscow doing the same thing. My own personal view was never to try to tell the FBI agents in the field how to conduct the investigation. Tell them what you want and then let them go after it. But there was a great tendency with J. Edgar Hoover: if there was any important development, he was going to make the decision. We’d write a little short memorandum and it’d go up, and he would say yes or no. Then if it didn’t turn out right, somebody was obviously responsible, even if he wanted to do it. Then here’s Moscow ‒ the KGB Center is directing every little fine detail.

Rhodes: Although, again with Beria in charge of that operation, if you made a mistake, it was worth your life and your family’s life. I can see why no one would ever want to take any responsibility at all.

Lamphere: Yeah, sure. You would get fired in the FBI, but you didn’t lose your life.

Rhodes: There’s a story that I haven’t gotten to in this book yet that is typical of that whole deal. Beria never was quite sure that the scientists weren’t cheating him somehow, tricking him.

Lamphere: You touch it once.

Rhodes: When you get to the bomb test in 1949, he had the two guys he’d sent to Bikini come out to the test site in Kazakhstan and watch the test. Afterwards he said, “Was it really an atomic bomb?” He thought these guys were going to blow up some high explosives.

And only after they said, “Yes, Comrade Beria. It really was an atomic bomb. It was like the one in Bikini,” did he call Stalin. So under those paranoid circumstances I can see why everything would be centrally controlled. It was the disaster of that whole system.

Lamphere: You know, the fact that Fuchs went to the GRU, unknowing of course, but anyway. The GRU was running him until he came to the United States, and then Yatskov takes over the KGB. That always puzzled me. But apparently Beria by then had taken over the running of both sides.

Rhodes: Yeah, apparently that change came about that time.

Lamphere: There’s Arthur Adams, whom you don’t hardly touch. Do you touch him at all?

Rhodes: I don’t know the name. Arthur Adams?

Lamphere: He was GRU as far as we knew, right in New York there. He got information from Hiskey, Clarence Hiskey, at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory. 

Rhodes: Oh, my God, I’d forgotten that information. Yes, Arthur Adams.

Lamphere: Alan Nunn May, GRU.

Rhodes: Yes.

Lamphere: Those were the two GRUs. Those were two attempted – or more than attempted – penetrations.

Rhodes: I think Nunn May was more important than the other books have said so far, because I think that whole batch of material, as you know from my book, from the chapters that I sent you, came from him. The one that summarized where all of the locations were, and it talked about what they were doing here and there. They are kind of overview documents, seemed to be timed right for the one that [Igor] Gouzenko describes passing.

Lamphere: He got off pretty light.

Rhodes: It was hard to know, I would think, at that point just how important all of this stuff was. No one in a historical study has really said, “We gave them the bomb” in so many words, except the Russians have now said that. And even they hesitate. They’re really embarrassed that they had to use our design. They claimed they had a better design on the drawing boards, and they may have.

Lamphere: Well, I always knew we gave them the bomb.

Rhodes: Lock, stock, and barrel. The plans. 

Lamphere: Fuchs alone. Forget everybody else. You take Fuchs alone.

Rhodes: Absolutely. No question at all. It was enormously valuable for the plutonium information most of all, because that changed their program. That’s what’s clear now.

Lamphere: But I think something you don’t develop quite as much in your book, or maybe I missed it, I don’t know ‒ this attitude of the Soviet scientists now as to who did it as compared to the KGB, as to how important their information was. I ran into it a little bit in Moscow. I heard a little bit about this conflict between the two sides, with the scientists really not wanting to give full credit to what they got.

Rhodes: I learned so much from the Harry Gold material that was in the FBI files, and from Harry Gold’s documents as well, was that the attitude that bothered him so much was that they never wanted speculative material. They always wanted plans for existing systems and factors, because that perfectly parallels what they did with the bomb. Scientists were working on their own ideas. Their next bomb was half the diameter of the Fat Man. They knew what they were doing very quickly. They were good, competent guys. But Beria said exactly what Harry Gold was always being told, “I don’t care about your speculative stuff. I want a design that works. If we know it works, it may not be as efficient, but that’s what we want.” That taught me a great deal about where this decision came from. 

Lamphere: I can’t imagine Harry Gold way back when, working for a sugar company, copying down formulas, which squares with what you said.

Rhodes: I like most of all with Harry ‒ the business that he was independently thinking about their whole diffusion as the technology. [Laughter] That must have been very confusing.

Lamphere: You surprised me with that. I either didn’t remember it, or know if I ever knew some of that. And Fuchs’s arrogance that this know-nothing guy was asking him those kinds of questions.

Rhodes: Yes, and in general Fuchs had said that he didn’t want to be associated with this man.

Lamphere: Actually, they picked a pretty good guy to be in liaison with him, something more than just a courier.

Rhodes: He was technologically pretty competent.

Lamphere: Yes. 

Rhodes: He was a chemist instead of a physicist.

Lamphere: When we were looking for him first ‒ we knew from Fuchs that the guy had some kind of a chemistry background. We were looking to see how many chemists were in New York City. There was fifty thousand or seventy-five thousand or some such number. The description seemed to fit about two million American men. The instructions that were coming down to me from on high: “What are you doing to find this guy? What’s taking you so long?”

Rhodes: Was it really the wife and twin children that put the pieces together?

Lamphere: No. It was really the information that brought them – Elizabeth Bentley. Early on, we sent a raft of photos over to anybody that ever had been associated in any way with KGB operations that were any way close description-wise to him. One of the early photos we sent was Harry Gold, which Fuchs either didn’t recognize or didn’t choose to recognize, but I would be inclined to think he didn’t recognize ‒ you know, it wasn’t that good of a photo.

But Ernie Van Loon, who now lives up here in Phoenix and who I’d given the case to, he was a real digging kind of guy. He kept pouring over it and pouring over the information, and then he came to me and said, “I think I know who that guy is.” We talked a lot. I was real skeptical at first, but he just kept pushing and pushing and pushing. Ernie said, “Let’s get some more photos.” I sent instructions to the Philadelphia office and we began surveilling.

The more we read ‒ that thing with [Abe] Brothman ‒ that had been handled on a special basis by another group of agents. They didn’t do as good a job as they should have done. Both these guys were lying before the grand jury. They just convinced them. That’s when Ernie really got me convinced that he had the right guy. Then you’ve got to prove it. In the meantime, there’s a big fight going on between the U.S. and Britain on, “When do we get an opportunity to interview this guy?” Two things sort of came together: our concentration that we had the right suspect and the right for me to go over and interview him.

Rhodes: I’m confused about [Alexander] Feklisov’s connections with Fuchs after the war. Didn’t Fuchs go back to Sonia [Ursula Kuczynski]? Wasn’t she once again his contact?

Lamphere: Not as I understand it. I never got a chance to interview Feklisov, but I’m pretty sure that he took over control.

Rhodes: I guess I’m going on one of the British writers’ version, where he says that Fuchs talked a lot to someone in prison who was passing information to British security. Once Sonia got back to East Germany, Fuchs said, “Yes, she was my contact.” There’s no documented evidence about that.

Lamphere: I wonder how you could prove that, one way or the other. I’ve forgotten exactly when he got back. 1946?

Rhodes: Summer of 1946. August, I think, or July.

Lamphere: Yes, he was arrested four years later.

Rhodes: Yes, and it seems plausible to me that he didn’t stop passing information. In fact, I have a hard time crediting that whole story he told about “My conscience. I love the British.” The fact is he went to East Germany as soon as he got out of prison and became director of an institute.

Lamphere: The thing he was so mad about, either when I was there or just after I was there, was when they took away his British citizenship. That irritated him.

Rhodes: You know Rudy Peierls’s story about when he asked Fuchs, “How could you believe all of that garbage of Marxist Leninism?”

Fuchs said, “I really didn’t, but I thought after they win I would stand up and tell them what was wrong with their system.” Peierls thought that was the most amazing thing he had ever heard anybody say.

Lamphere: If you look at [Donald] Maclean, [Guy] Burgess, [Kim] Philby, [John] Cairncross, [Anthony] Blunt, that whole gang there, and then you look at the Rosenbergs and look at Fuchs you’d say, “How could these people be so stupid?” Particularly the Rosenbergs ‒ they died for this guy Stalin, the greatest anti-Semite next to Hitler that ever existed. They had an impact on history. 

Rhodes: A big impact on history [inaudible].

Lamphere: I always thought when we got rid of the Communists and the people that believed in Communism, Soviet spying would go downhill fast. All we ended up was – people would do it for money.

Rhodes: Yes. The KGB people must have been amazed at these people walking in the door and saying, “I’m in love with your country. I will do all of these things for you.”

Lamphere: And to be careful with your money. Greenglass was willing to get money, but the Rosenbergs lived in poverty. They should have been willing to supply them with at least modest amounts of money.

Rhodes: Gold was always broke. Poor man, he was running around doing all these things.

Lamphere: One of the funniest was when he was still working for ‒ I think before Semyonov. It’s costing him money.

Rhodes: Yes, to copy.

Lamphere: Finally they said, “We’ll pay for the copy.”

Rhodes: It’s not funny, but it’s funny. Let me dig out these notes. I just had a few questions that I thought of along the way.

This is just curiosity, but do you remember – Gold was trying to remember the name of Fuchs’s New York telephone contact, the one that Fuchs called to alert them that he was at Los Alamos. Gold remembered the name as maybe “Keplon,” with a “J” first initial. Did you suspect that to be Judith Coplon at the time? She would have been working in New York in the summer of 1944. This is when they lost contact with Fuchs.

Lamphere: Yeah, I know when you’re talking about. I’m just trying to figure out when she got out of Barnard.

Rhodes: She graduated from Barnard in 1943 and was working in the Economic Warfare section of the Justice Department.

Lamphere: You know, I’ve never thought of that. That’s interesting. It could have been, because they certainly recruited her then. My sister-in-law in Seattle was in the same class with her and knew her, because she hated me.

Rhodes: I’ll bet she hated you. [Laughter] I was left wondering the extent about things like that, that Gold would have known about this sort of thing from reading the papers. Did he make stuff up? Did you have a sense that he really was exaggerating what he had to say?

Lamphere: No.

Rhodes: He seems like a very credible witness always.

Lamphere: There’s a document that he wrote.

Rhodes: Yes, I’ve got several that he wrote.

Lamphere: A fairly long kind of thing.

Rhodes: It was Circumstances of My Becoming a Spy.

Lamphere: Yes. That is a great document, I think.

Rhodes: Yes, it is.

Lamphere: That shows the honesty of the man. To me, it shows how he poured out his heart in a lot of ways. It was too bad it didn’t get published back then.

Rhodes: I quote a lot of it in the chapters you looked at.

Lamphere: Yes. I wondered when I read some of that whether it was from that.

Rhodes: Yes. He also wrote a very helpful gloss on the Schneir book, Walter and Miriam’s Schneir’s book that claims that you guys made all of this up. You planted all of those thousands of documents in the FBI files. That the signature was forged –

Lamphere: On the registration card. Walter Schneir called me last year or the year before and wanted to know if we could get together. Do something together.

Rhodes: You mean write something together?

Lamphere: Yeah. I don’t know quite what he had in mind, but he didn’t get very far in this conversation. I said, “Why would I want to deal with the man who in effect accused me and other FBI agents of framing two innocent people and sending them to their deaths?” I think he and [Joel] Barr have been in touch.

Rhodes: Oh. He talked to Lona Cohen before she died. It was quoted in The Washington Post, their conversation. He asked her, “You saw another scientist at Los Alamos?” 

She said, “A physicist.” But he didn’t really get much out of her, unfortunately. He certainly didn’t get Perseus’s name.

Lamphere: I thought, based upon my interviews with Fuchs and Gold, that there wasn’t anybody else. But in your manuscript there was.

Rhodes: There was someone else in Washington, I think. Yes. Early, because couldn’t those documents that [Igor] Kurchatov looked at – couldn’t have come from Los Alamos.

Lamphere: There was a meeting in Los Alamos later on with somebody else. Don’t you say that after Gold?

Rhodes: I speculate that Fuchs met with someone in the United States after Gold, just on the sheer unlikeliness that he would have put the hydrogen bomb information into his pockets, the composite core information‒and sat on it for a year.

Lamphere: Yeah. 

Rhodes: When no one had told him about Gouzenko or anything else, not that he wouldn’t have read about it in the paper. That all came out I guess that spring. Well, no, he was leaving by the time that came out.

Lamphere: Yeah, Gouzenko’s information didn’t come out right away.

Rhodes: Right. I’m not sure when. Was it February?

Lamphere: September of 1945 is when he defected.

Rhodes: Did the information come out at the time when Alan Nunn May was arrested in February? Or, would it not have come out until the Commission Report in June? I’ll have to go back and look at the papers and see.

He had no way that I can see, on the record, of knowing that everybody had gone underground. He had a lot of information. In fact, one of the ways that I think you can correlate them is that Soviet scientists in 1946 – I don’t know when in 1946, but sometime in 1946 – wrote up a little theoretical paper on how to do a hydrogen bomb and sent it to Stalin and Beria. I can’t see any obvious reason why they would have done that at the very beginning of their atomic bomb program, unless they were triggered by information coming from the United States.

Lamphere: Yeah, that’s interesting.

Rhodes: That’s when they started looking into it. [Andrei] Sakharov was fairly sure they had information from the United States as a starting point for their work that presumably came from Fuchs.

Lamphere: I remember Fuchs telling me, and you alluded to it earlier, that he began to have doubts during the H-bomb period after he was back in England. I don’t remember when he said he began to have doubts.

Rhodes: Did you credit that statement?

Lamphere: Sort of. It’s so logical to a guy like me.

Rhodes: That he would have had doubts?

Lamphere: Yes.

Rhodes: That’s true.

Lamphere: You try to keep yourself out of that kind of thing, but nevertheless it can intrude. I could always understand these people being anti-fascist, so I could always credit them. For example, one of the things that influenced my whole career in the FBI was Hede Massing. Hede Massing was the first wife of Gerhard Eisler, a Comintern agent. I interviewed Hede for a month I guess, day after day after day. The arena of her life was as a Communist in Austria and then Germany, and then a spy in the United States. Why did you believe this kind of thing?

Then I interviewed Ruth Fischer, one of the founders of the Austrian Communist Party. I didn’t spend as much time with Ruth as I had with Hede. You see the beginning of Communism and why Communism was Communism, the anti-fascist aspects of it, and the evil of Hitler, and you can understand that part of it.

Rhodes: And the fact that Fuchs’s family had been kind of like Schindler. Everybody’s so excited by the movie Schindler’s List, but his people were spiriting Jews out of Berlin under cover of – was it a rental car agency that they had?

Lamphere: I can understand somebody beginning to have doubts, and of course we dealt many times with the defectors who began to see the evils in Stalin’s system. So we dealt with them too in time. You can say, “Why didn’t some of these other people break away?”

Rhodes: Gold is very clear about having doubts after the war.

Lamphere: And never was a Communist.

Rhodes: Right, which is odd too. 

Lamphere: I thought this guy in black who was a real character, was the greatest thing. Even if he wasn’t a Communist, he certainly supported the cause.

Rhodes: There’s such a sense in Gold’s writing of his having in this way had a real impact on the world, and of course he did.

Lamphere: Oh, sure.

Rhodes: Otherwise he would have been an anonymous person during an anonymous life. We were talking to Hans Bethe and he said, “I knew one thing about Klaus Fuchs. He’s the only physicist I know who really changed history.”

Lamphere: They all did though. The bomb changed history.

Rhodes: Yes.  

Lamphere: Now we worry about the North Koreans.

Rhodes: That’s who apparently may have bought some plutonium from the Russian mafia according to –

Lamphere: I wouldn’t be surprised.

Rhodes: Seymour Hersh is a friend of mine, an investigative journalist, who has a piece in this month’s Atlantic Monthly that’s very interesting about the Mafia trying to get its hands on some of those warheads and HEU [highly enriched uranium].

Lamphere: I can believe it. How old is Seymour Hersh?

Rhodes: I’d say early sixties, late fifties, a little older than I am.

Lamphere: A fine writer.

Rhodes: He does a great job of digging stuff up.

Lamphere: I haven’t seen his writings lately. 

Rhodes: He’s doing more stuff for magazines. He had a piece in The New Yorker a couple of years ago about the near nuclear war between India and Pakistan in 1990 where Pakistan actually had just about sixteen bombs loaded on F-16’s and on the runway.

Lamphere: That could happen.

Rhodes: Apparently [President George] Bush sent [Deputy National Security Adviser Robert M.] Gates on a special mission to India to say, “Would you guys back off.”

Lamphere: Yeah, I sort of remember that.

Rhodes: It might have been that close to a nuclear exchange. What was Gold’s voice like? What did he sound like?

Lamphere: Don’t know.

Rhodes: You didn’t speak with Gold?

Lamphere: Never. I’m sitting back there in Washington trying to keep my head above water. I never saw the guy. I never talked to him.

Rhodes: Amazing. I didn’t realize that, but you did of course talk to Fuchs.

Lamphere: Yes.

Rhodes: What was he like?

Lamphere: Very reserved. As I told you before our interview, he wouldn’t volunteer anything. Somewhat shy, perhaps a touch of arrogance underneath the shyness. He was a reserved kind of guy.

Rhodes: Did he pounce on any mistakes that you make, technical mistakes?

Lamphere: No. He would not have done that.

Rhodes: He just stayed back.

Lamphere: Yes. There was one little interesting episode. This was early in the interview. I’m asking him for a physical description of Harry Gold. I want a lot of detail. I’m asking him a lot of questions and finally I said, “And his name?”

Skardon laughed and quite likely had a fit later on. “He ruined your whole thing. You did one of the most clever things.”

I actually wasn’t really thinking about it. His name as far as I was concerned was the cover name by which he had known Gold. I didn’t expect him to know Gold. From that day on, he hated Skardon, and Skardon and I got along real well. But I had to keep Skardon out of it and he kept out of it. 

Rhodes: Why did you have to keep him out of it? 

Lamphere: He’d had his interviews with him and I was now running the show, and I think I did a good job of interviewing him. It was the hardest thing I probably ever did in my life, even though it went well.

Rhodes: Yeah, it did go well, because there’s a lot of information in that report.

Lamphere: And there was no third-degree. [Laughter]

Rhodes: Did you talk to Kristel Heineman?

Lamphere: No.

Rhodes: It must have been, for the men who did, very strange to be dealing with this woman who was officially mentally ill in a mental hospital.

Lamphere: I never quite did understand and still don’t how ill she was, of what the problem was. To this day I don’t know the answer to that.

Rhodes: In the records there was an indication that she was hallucinating, but you don’t recover from schizophrenia. And she apparently had a full recovery.

Lamphere: And was very cooperative with our agents. So was her husband. We were never even thinking of doing anything with Kristel Heineman. But nevertheless he [Fuchs] dreamed up this extra interview down on the [Charles] river.

Rhodes: Which I didn’t even put in. It’s obviously fictional. Oh yes, this is one that puzzled me. In the trial, Gold talked about a story that Yatskov told him about a very important person with A-bomb information who came to New York at the end of 1945, but who was being so carefully followed that Yatskov couldn’t connect with him.

Lamphere: The only guy that’s anywhere near that was not a physicist at all. He’s alive today in Russia someplace. We knew him under the name of Ignacy Witczak. We got onto him on the basis of Gouzenko’s information about the false passport, which we were able to trace down. This guy was then a professor at I don’t remember which school in California. It was one of the major universities. Let’s say USC.

The agents had him under surveillance. He was making this trip to New York City. I mention him in my book [The FBI-KGB War], incidentally. By the time he hit New York City, either the LA agents had blown it or we blew it right off the bat because almost immediately, he was very surveillance-conscious. He got away from us once and I spent the night at Pennsylvania Station walking up and down those marble floors, waiting, watching, and waiting. There were agents at Grand Central. There were agents everywhere, and they pick him up at one of the bus stops, Greyhound or something.

We closed in tighter, and the guy was about to have a nervous breakdown, and we wanted to pick him up. FBI headquarters had an agreement with the RCMP that we would do nothing which in any way would jeopardize their case, which hadn’t broken yet. So, the answer came back no. Years later, I discussed with the RCMP in Ottawa and they said, “If we’d known exactly all the facts you just told us we would have said, ‘sure, pick him up.’” That’s the only incident I know of where there was close surveillance. We had surveillances on Arthur Adams ‒ crazy surveillance going on him all the time. That could have been a possibility, particularly if Adams [inaudible]. But the story is that somebody came into town and wasn’t‒

Rhodes: Had come to New York at the end of 1945.

Lamphere: So the only one that sounds at all likely is Witczak. Tom Bower I think of ABC ‒ you don’t know him? I think that’s who I’m talking about. He ran Witczak down in Russia last year, or the year before, and interviewed him in some way. I never did get the results of the interview, which I thought was going to be in somebody else’s book, but it isn’t in that book. Apparently Witczak’s assignment was to make enough of his name so he could get back into government. They were trying to push him all the way up into the State Department.

But he did recruit some people after he disappeared and got away. He and his wife both got away from us. We were able to run down some people he had recruited in the California area. I’ve forgotten the details, but it was a GRU case, which wasn’t my field of expertise. That’s the only guy I can think of in the right time and in the right period, but he certainly wasn’t any atomic physicist. Other than that, it hangs together some.

Rhodes: You know, it’s interesting, the more you circle around all of this, the less likely it seems to me that there was a Perseus as such, at least at Los Alamos. Bethe keeps saying, and he’s quite right, to claim that Robert Oppenheimer for example was passing information is illogical. It would have been totally redundant if Fuchs was passing everything you could possibly use.

Lamphere: There’s an interesting little piece to that that I’m not sure of. Let me just tell you. You know more about this than I do, I think. Originally it was quite compartmentalized at Los Alamos, if I remember right.

Rhodes: They started out uncompartmentalized because everything else had been.

Lamphere: And then did they get compartmentalized?

Rhodes: No. If you had a Ph.D., you could look at anything.

Lamphere: I thought they were compartmentalized, and that then pressure from the scientists came on to the point that guys like Fuchs had access to everything, but that was not initially so.

Rhodes: No, it wasn’t initially so throughout the program, but Oppenheimer insisted on it at Los Alamos.

Lamphere: When you figure Chicago, Oak Ridge, Hanford, and now Los Alamos.

Rhodes: Los Alamos was the one place where Oppenheimer insisted they not be within the fence if you had the right badge. But essentially everyone who was a Ph.D. scientist had access to all the information.

Lamphere: Then why wouldn’t Fuchs have known that little thing that Greenglass and Gold knew?

Rhodes: He did know it. It’s just that Greenglass’s contact came before Gold’s. Greenglass was back in New York in the early part of September and Gold’s connection was in late September. In fact, I just came across some information that just before he left permanently at the end of June 1946, Fuchs went in and pulled out all of the papers that were in the archives in the library on the hydrogen bomb project and reviewed them all thoroughly, which of course he would do.

Lamphere: And you’ve got him back in the U.S. at a conference attended by Donald Maclean.

Rhodes: Yes.

Lamphere: I never knew that, or if I ever knew it, I’ve forgotten it.

Copyright 1994 Richard Rhodes. This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced, or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of Richard Rhodes. Exclusive rights granted to Atomic Heritage Foundation.