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Robert Lamphere’s Interview – Part 2

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FBI agent Robert Lamphere supervised investigations of Soviet atomic spies during the early years of the Cold War, including David Greenglass, Harry Gold, and the Rosenbergs. He also interrogated Klaus Fuchs in London in 1950. In this interview, Lamphere explores the Soviet espionage network in the U.S. and the roles of the various spies. He also shares his thoughts on J. Robert Oppenheimer’s security hearing, and recalls his collaboration with cryptanalyst Meredith Gardner to break the Soviet code.

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


Robert Lamphere: They said that he [Klaus Fuchs] annoyed some of the people because he wanted to keep certain [inaudible]. That’s a little point of irony. 

Richard Rhodes: Although, again, there was one guy who later thought, “Well, maybe he was pushing to find out what was the most valuable information.” Which I hadn’t thought of until I saw that comment.

Lamphere: I did not remember that at all. Don’t remember covering it in my interview.

Rhodes: I don’t remember that you did. There was quite a bit of checking out that we saw. One of the things that I think is amusing about the [Jerrold and Leona] Schecter book [Special Tasks], as I’m calling it – because it looks to me like they wrote that chapter, the Schecters, not [Pavel] Sudoplatov. They make so much out of [Robert] Oppenheimer having had dinner with Fuchs in England. Well, when Fuchs came over here, he had dinner with [Edward] Teller’s wife twice. If that means anything, then‒

Lamphere: Doesn’t mean anything.

Rhodes: Doesn’t mean anything at all.

Lamphere: One of the photos I’ve seen of that group back in England – they were all good friends. They all intermixed with another. They socialized. Who else were they going to socialize with? They were all the same type, really: scientifically, at least.

Rhodes: I can even believe Oppenheimer invited Fuchs to come to the Institute for Advanced Study.

Lamphere: I felt rather bad about Oppenheimer losing his clearance back when he did. I think he made some bad mistakes in trying to protect people around him, et cetera, but he was the father of the A-bomb in many senses. To take away his clearance, essentially, because he wasn’t in favor of the H-bomb.

Rhodes: Yes, that’s right. The Air Force really was very angry at him for the kind of advice that he gave about “Let’s take some of the materials and make tactical weapons for the Army.” There was an awful lot of politics involved in that play.

There’s an interview at his security hearing with a wonderfully outspoken physicist named Isidor Rabi. Rabi says, “Do you know? He gave you the atomic bomb. What do you want, mermaids?”

Lamphere: That’s very good. Well, it wasn’t in my realm. They say that [J. Edgar] Hoover was in favor of it. I read that recently. I don’t know whether he was or wasn’t. I don’t remember one way or the other.

Rhodes: I was just reading David Lilienthal’s journals, and in early 1947, when Lilienthal took over the AEC [Atomic Energy Commission], the first thing Hoover did was send him the Oppenheimer file, and point out that Oppenheimer’s brother had been a communist, and his wife had been a communist, his mistress had been a communist.

Lamphere: Oh, that’s Hoover, or somebody down the line with Hoover’s approval.

Rhodes: Right. It came with Hoover’s signature on the letter, anyway.

Lamphere: Oh, sure. But everything that went out came under Hoover’s signature, everything that was ever written. It was a one-man thing, so even if Hoover never saw the letter – which many of mine he never saw – they were signed by somebody in the reading room. God help you if there was a grammatical error in it. It resulted in the letter censored. 

Rhodes: Oh, really.

Lamphere: Grammatical error, result: letter censored. Some of them used to be pretty close points.

Rhodes: Who reviewed those? Did he?

Lamphere: No, but he had people in the reading room. If they caught an error, it then got referred over to somebody who then decided whether it was an error, grammatical error. The letter censor came out, which precluded a job grade raise.

Rhodes: Sounds like a difficult place to work sometimes.

Lamphere: The closer you got to the top of the throne, the more chances you had of getting in trouble. Well, the safest guy was the guy out in Butte, Montana, somewhere. I was always handing some of the hottest cases.

Rhodes: How did you get into this? You were such a young man, and you were handling these very important cases.

Lamphere: I sometimes wonder myself. Well, I was a good writer. I could write in the style that they liked, and I never had any trouble making decisions. I tell a story on myself about when I was first transferred in as a case supervisor. Which is exactly what it is: you supervise cases, sitting at your desk in a particular time.

I had a little clerical kid working for me, nice little gal, Alice Manning, from the Boston area. She decided she wanted to go out to California. She said, “Before I leave, Mr. Lamphere, would you get my successor down? I’d like to work with her a little bit before I leave.”

Somehow it didn’t get done, so the last day, Alice showed up. I said, “I’m sorry, Alice. I goofed on it. I did do some things, but I never got your successor down.”

“Well,” she said, “I really wanted you to, because I wanted to tell her not to be afraid of you. I was terrified of you for the first three months.”

I said, “You were terrified of me for the first three months?”

She said, “Yes.”

That was the first time I ever really understood I was the boss. [Laughter] I’ve had 175,000 people under me at one time, but it took that awakening to understand that I was the boss and it woke me up in some ways.

Rhodes: Was there a standard pattern in the FBI, where you would start out in the field and work in to headquarters?

Lamphere: You were supposed to be brought into headquarters only if you were judged ready for further promotion. The cycle then went that you spent X time at headquarters while you were under observation. You then became an inspector’s aide, of inspecting field offices, and if you passed that thing, they would sent you out to a small office like Albuquerque, for example, as the assistant special agent in charge.

If you made out all right there and they transferred you somewhere else, then maybe you became a special agent in charge. Even if they ultimately brought you back into headquarters, you had to go through this cycle. Hoover and his top people believed that every agent should be capable of handling everything. In other words, if you were good on bank robberies, you ought to be good on espionage cases – which was, of course, silly.

I was brought in not because anybody thought I was ready for greater things, but because I was considered a good espionage investigator. After I had this big breakthrough through cracking into the cipher system, the guy that was assistant director came to me, and he said, “Bob, we’re going to increase the number of guys on your unit.”

I said, “Fine, I’ve been talking about it.”

He said, “Well, you name them and we’ll get them.”

I said, “Who are you kidding?”

“What do you mean who we’re kidding?”

I said, “It doesn’t work that way. You know damn well it doesn’t work that way, Al.”

He said, “God damn it, Bob, I just told you. You name them, we’ll get them!”

I named them and he got them. I had the best group of guys. I thought I was the world’s greatest expert at picking people, you know. They were so good I couldn’t hang onto them. The next group I picked, I made about three errors in the thing and I realized I wasn’t the world’s greatest selector of people. Although, I think over my whole career in government business, I proved pretty good, picking good people and giving them their head to do a job. I think that’s the whole answer of management.

Rhodes: Wish more managers felt that way.

Lamphere: 1949, you’ve got [John] Cairncross, that about Cairncross. To me, he’s more likely than [Donald] Maclean as that first source.

Rhodes: Did I suggest that Maclean was the first source?

Lamphere: Well, others have. I don’t know whether you’ve done it.

Rhodes: No, I say Cairncross. I think it’s pretty clear.

Lamphere: I think you’re right.

Rhodes: That it’s Cairncross.

Lamphere: I think it’s Cairncross.

Rhodes: Even Sudoplatov’s book says Maclean, and I know where they got it. It’s from a particular Russian document. I think it’s wrong.

Lamphere: Right. I’ve seen that Russian document, I think, and I questioned it back when I was over there with this film producer. Maclean later on, well, you’ve got him at that meeting, for example, certainly after he got at the embassy and the First Secretary of the embassy. Certainly, he was involved back then and was supplying. I think it was sort of convenient for him to say he was that first source, if there was a first source. I’m not even sure of that.

Rhodes: I’m not sure they were just aware that Cairncross had been exposed. The information may not have seeped over yet.

Lamphere: I’m having trouble with my pages here. Well, anyway, I think it’s pretty clear that [Rudolf] Peierls was the guy that actually got Fuchs on the British Mission there, and this idea, the Sudoplatov thing that it was Oppenheimer, is a bunch of malarkey. I hate to say this, but I sometimes get mixed up with Sudoplatov, and mention what I’ve been recently going over.

Rhodes: So have I. Great detail.

Lamphere: I wrote Teller, complimented him on it.

Rhodes: Good.

Lamphere: I wrote Schecter, too, who was a correspondent of mine, took him apart in sort of a nice way. I cut it back a little from what I originally intended to say.

Rhodes: I’m afraid Schecter really‒

Lamphere: Well, he had asked me for my comments on that chapter.

Rhodes: Before he published it?

Lamphere: When it first hit the papers.

Rhodes: But, you know, he should have checked with everyone before he published it.

Lamphere: Right.

Rhodes: That would have been an honest, credible thing to do. But, obviously, they were so afraid someone else would scoop them.

Lamphere: Somebody wrote a column—you may have seen it—saying that this was a last-minute idea to make this book really salable. Was to come up with this atomic spying chapter, which would sort of make sense.

Rhodes: The Schecters, in a sense, say that in the introduction to the book. They say that Anatoly [Sudoplatov], the son, came to them with an outline for this book. They said to them, “None of those atomic spies are going to mean anything to Americans.” Then Anatoly went back and came back with all this sensational stuff.

Lamphere: But, you know, the dates are just‒

Rhodes: Oh, it’s all just absurd. It really is.

Lamphere: I feel sorry about it in a way, but some of my former associates were in touch with me right away. “Have you seen this?”

One of them said, “Boy, this sure puts a different light on it.”

I said, “Are you sure it’s accurate?”

“Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes.”

Rhodes: I was really angry about it, because I’ve just been through this exercise and trying to understand what is true. For this story now to cloud the history, because it will.

Lamphere: I’ve said here—what was your source on Perseus?

Rhodes: [Anatoly] Yatzkov’s.

Lamphere: Articles?

Rhodes: Articles in Russian, yes. I think I’m going to have to revise that early kind of discussion about Perseus. I’m less convinced than I was when I wrote that.

Lamphere: Well, I am, too. I’m not convinced either way.

Rhodes: No, I’m not either.

Lamphere: I’m not convinced either way. I don’t seem to have—well, I got Morris Cohen here on this page. Did I tell you earlier about going over to Albuquerque to be filmed several years back by a Russian film crew?

Rhodes: No.

Lamphere: Originally, they wanted me to go to Santa Fe. But there was no way I could get to Santa Fe in one day’s flight and get back the same day, which is what they wanted and what I wanted. So, we ultimately met at the Albuquerque airport in a room, and they filmed me. They were all up on this. The whole thing was to be built around Lona Cohen and Lona Cohen’s doings. They had her as a courier to Fuchs. I said, “That’s nonsense.” 

The only good thing they liked: where they, near the end, asked me, “What was the most efficient intelligence agency around?”

I said, “Without a doubt, the KGB.”

“Oh, oh, oh, oh.” [Laughter]

That’s the only thing they liked about the whole interview. I understand it’s been shown in England and it’s pretty bad, I don’t know. Nevertheless, here, they were pushing this Morris and Lona Cohen bit several years back.

Rhodes: Before Yatzkov’s documents, which were published in‒

Lamphere: Before his documents.

Rhodes: 1991.

Lamphere: Before his documents.

Rhodes: Hmm, interesting. There’s obviously more to all that.

Lamphere: Well, and there was no talk about any high-level scientists or anything else, because that would have got my immediate interest. I’ve very suspicious of these people that they’ve had under their control for twenty, thirty, forty years, that they can have them say anything they want. Who’s to find the difference?

It’s too bad the Cohens’ really true stories have never really come up, because I’ve never really understood why they ran when they ran. See, what my own theory is, that Colonel [Rudolf] Abel came over after Yatzkov, after their concern out of [Elizabeth] Bentley’s disclosures and [Igor] Gouzenko’s disclosures, and our beginning to break in as a result and cipher things. That they stopped running cases out of their official establishments – embassies, consulates, et cetera – which we were covering with a blanket. They began to rely on illegals. Matter of fact, I prophesied ahead of time they were going to use illegals more than they had in the past. 

Rhodes: Abel was an illegal.

Lamphere: I think that Abel may have been the controller of the Rosenbergs, and that the Cohens were the link between Abel—it’s just a theory. I have no evidence‒

Rhodes: Was Abel here during the war?

Lamphere: Came in 1948.

Rhodes: But, the Rosenbergs were—you mean, controlled the Rosenbergs after the war.

Lamphere: The Rosenbergs were still active when we broke into it in 1950. 

Rhodes: Oh, oh, I didn’t realize.

Lamphere: Yes, they were still active. Regardless, whatever period, after Yatzkov left ‒ somebody kept on running that network. When you figure that the Cohens disappeared right at the height of the arrests in the Rosenberg case. Why? Because we didn’t know them: we didn’t know anything about them until the Abel case broke a few years later. It’s a theory. I don’t know that it’s true.

Rhodes: Is it credible to you that Lona Cohen might’ve been coming down to Albuquerque, as she said she was?

Lamphere: Yes, I think it’s credible.

Rhodes: Because it certainly would explain whom Fuchs might have been in touch with after Cohen, if he was.

Lamphere: Well, I didn’t know there was another contact until reading your thing. I thought, “Well, sounds logical, it could’ve been.”

You’ve got on page 97, you’ve got this: “[Yulii Borisovich] Khariton asserts one should not overestimate the importance of the Soviet intelligence community.” This is a suggestion that – you build that up somewhat.

Rhodes: I think it’s something I want to come back to as we get closer to the bomb, because in 1948, they officially decided to go with the Fat Man design. I think that says it all.

Lamphere: I think it’s fascinating that there is this debate going on between the scientists and the intelligence guys on how much credit.

Rhodes: There’s a corollary that we’ve been pursuing this week, which is that Khariton and his gang are very, very concerned to get the American physicists to admit that that 1953 bomb [Joe-4] was a hydrogen bomb. All the American scientists I talked to say, “No, no, no, it wasn’t a true hydrogen bomb.”

I take the Soviet part, the Russians’ story, to the Americans and there’s the same sort of debate. They would like us to believe that that was a hydrogen bomb. It was a hydrogen bomb, but the Americans still won’t agree.

Lamphere: They don’t want to agree?

Rhodes: No, because it wasn’t the two-stage bomb that could be infinitely enlarged. But, the truth is—it had as much of fusion yield as most of the American hydrogen bombs have ever had.

Lamphere: On [page] 137, I’m dubious about the [George Racey] Jordan/[Alger] Hiss thing. Matter of fact, I was always a little dubious, but I don’t know why, about Jordan. That’s how his information—

Rhodes: I’m trying to remember the context. 

Lamphere: Well, yes, go ahead.

Rhodes: Excuse me, I’ll just glance.

Lamphere: You know, he was the guy at Great Falls and mostly saw all that stuff.

Rhodes: Are you dubious about Jordan in general, or about seeing a Hiss file?

Lamphere: I’m dubious particularly about Hiss, but I’m somewhat dubious about Jordan having been this lone defender at the borders against all this stuff going out.

Rhodes: The one corroboration I found was in [Victor] Kravchenko’s description of putting together these suitcases in Washington, and also of his saying so-and-so left at such-and-such a time, and that matched up with Jordan’s information. There must have been some place where they would—I mean, they were, indeed, spiriting tons of documents out of the United States.

Lamphere: Oh, yes. Some of it was unbelievable—the stuff they would take that we couldn’t figure out what use it could be to anybody. But, it was hard, of course, to know how far technologically advanced they were as compared to our country. Industrial espionage—sugar formulas is a perfect example.

Rhodes: Well, when you get to that last chapter that I just sent you. You find out that as late as 1947, they were using gaskets cut out of old inner tubes, and didn’t have any decent electronics and had to dig them out of German aircrafts that they shot down during the war.

Lamphere: Oh, the next one is – I got a kick out of this. [Page] 156, Klaus Fuchs’s arrogance about—it’s really just a comment. [Page] 157, you get into the cipher break. You say, “The State Department asked the FBI to ask cable companies to hold up message transmissions long enough to copy them.” 

I didn’t look up your source on that, but let me explain that I don’t know whether it was the State Department. I would think more the Army Security Agency. The FBI made arrangements through the cable companies to supply the Army Security Agency with the cable, not the FBI getting the cables. Then the war came along and the U.S. Censorship Act was passed. However the form was, I’m not sure.

There was an Office of U.S. Censorship, I believe, and it was then through the Office of U.S. Censorship that all these cables were supplied to the Army Security Agency and were on file there. You’re not the only one that said the FBI had them. The FBI didn’t have them. The Army Security Agency had them.

Rhodes: Right. I think that came from a book about a history of the Army Security System of the National Security Agency.

Lamphere: [James] Bamford’s book?

Rhodes: Yes, yes.

Lamphere: Well, it’s just slightly wrong. I don’t know whether you want to get into any more or not.

Rhodes: Well, I’d like to be accurate, and this is just the first introduction. This book is all chronological, so when I come to that time when you’ll actually, actually break the codes, then I’ll go into it in more detail, right.

Lamphere: One little item I mentioned to you earlier. I get over to Moscow and they’re all saying that we never did it, except [Yuri] Modin. Modin said, “He knows all about it. You know, he knows about buying the stuff from the bins and whatever, you know.”

I said to him, “How come the supposed impenetrable system got penetrated because you used the one-time pads twice?”

Well, he wasn’t sure, but he made the suggestion, which I’ve given to another writer, incidentally, who’s doing a book on cipher break. He said it was wartime, and the German submarines were sinking ships all over the place. What he was suggesting was that they ran out of one-time pads, so they reach over into the commercial side and began using their one-time pads, which meant this dual usage. Which is sort of a logical explanation of a very major, major goof otherwise, on a very carefully handled system.

Rhodes: When you say reached over to the commercial side. They had a separate system for the military and the commercial? 

Lamphere: Well, you got code perks. Yes, the diplomats, they got a system, the KGB has a system, the GRU has a system, and the commercial had a system. So, there were at least four, and Gouzenko—remember the Gouzenko story. Gouzenko is the code clerk of the GRU system. They all were impenetrable one-time cipher pad systems. But the one-time pad is supposed to be used once, and then torn up.

Rhodes: I saw something somewhere that implied also that the problem came up when they were evacuating Moscow in October of ’43 [misspoke: 1941], and everybody, the whole place just went haywire.

Lamphere: Well, I never thought of that. That’s an interesting thought.

Rhodes: People were burning stuff in wastebaskets and it was general confusion. I can’t remember where I read that.

Lamphere: Well, in 1944, which is when we broke into it—1944 and early 1945, a limited period – the center was operating pretty effectively.

Rhodes: Well, by then it was.

Lamphere: Wherever the hell it was.

Rhodes: Some of this stuff turned up because of a “bag job”? Was there—

Lamphere: That’s what some people have said. [Laughter] Yes and no. I’m not going to say it was a bag job, but somewhere, somebody ended up with a mass of stuff like this in Russian, that related to the Soviet Government Purchasing Commission’s activities.

Rhodes: The Amtorg group.

Lamphere: Yeah, they were in the Amtorg building, I believe. What happened was I began working with Meredith Gardner at the Army Security Agency, as I say in my book. After we got to know each other a little better, one day he said to me, “Bob, is there any possibility that you could come up with the clear text of messages that were sent?” See, the one-time pads were on commercial messages and on KGB messages, the same pad. How he ever found them, I don’t know.

Rhodes: Yeah, without computers to sort.

Lamphere: Well, they had early computers that they were using back there. That was very helpful, apparently. But he said, “Is there any possibility you could come up with the clear text of some of these commercial messages?”

I said, “I don’t think so, Meredith, but let me see.”

We’re now in 1948 and we’re talking about 1944. So I sent a very carefully written memorandum to the New York office, not telling them why I wanted it, but telling them it was important if we could come up with something. Back by the next mail comes, like this, all in Russian, with only a little translation by our famous old translator up in New York, to show that it was about commercial messages. So, I shipped the whole thing over to Meredith, took it over personally, I guess, and told him, “I don’t know this will help you or not.” 

The next time I saw him, which was about two weeks, was the most excited that I ever saw him in my life. “You know what you’ve done?” We hit it right on the nose.

What other writers have suggested is that some FBI agents must have gone in and photographed something, but we didn’t do black pack jobs, so I don’t know how it came into being. Maybe some defector inside photographed before. But, nevertheless, they were very helpful to him. They didn’t solve his problems. It’s sort of easy to make it sound like that. All it did was enlarge his initial breakthrough. He’s a little sensitive on the subject.

Rhodes: Is he still alive?

Lamphere: Yes, lives in Washington, D.C. He’s a little sensitive, I understand, right now, that too much credit might be given to this mass of material. As far as I’m concerned, Meredith was the genius that really—the value is unbelievable. I don’t want to take anything away from it at all. I have great admiration for him.

Rhodes: Sounds like an extraordinary job, especially at that point in time. Be a lot easier today than it was then.

Lamphere: Oh, boy, was it important to us.

Rhodes: Although I’m not surprised to hear they had computers. They’ve always had the best computers at the National Security Agency.

Lamphere: Yes, they had the early version of the computers, yes.

Rhodes: There was the ENIAC and the MANIAC, and those things were around in those days, and they were using them to calculate hydrogen bomb equations.

Lamphere: Very fascinating. Army Intelligence. That one book that James Bamford wrote tells part of it, The Puzzle Palace. Although Bamford is the guy that reviewed my book for the New York Times when it came out, and did a job on me, because I didn’t reveal more.

Rhodes: I’ve had that experience with the Times, unfortunately.

Lamphere: Well, at the end of the year, they listed it as one of the notable books of the year under the category of history. The Wall Street Journal, I couldn’t have written as good a review.

But, I always thought he [Bamford] wrote a very interesting book of an agency that’s almost impossible to get information on.

Rhodes: He did. He did a good job.

Lamphere: I don’t know whether I’m being very helpful.

Rhodes: Oh, yes, absolutely. You’re filling in gaps all over the place. So, the business of the codebook found on the officer in Finland was true. It sounds so James Bond-ish, or coincidental.

Lamphere: Somebody else has come out that the codebook was not—I didn’t know back at the time. I didn’t know where the codebook came from, or if I did, I’ve forgot it. It was in a book by somebody else that I think I footnote, who told that story that I used in my book. Since then, somebody has said that OSS bought from the Finns, but the Finns got it from a Soviet consulate or something or other, rather than from some battlefield. But that was the only difference.

Meredith has said—I say, I think, in my book, I’ve forgotten what the final version says – that under pressure from [Secretary of State Edward] Stettinius, they returned this material. Meredith has said since my book came out that his was the original. It wasn’t any photocopy of the codebook. I think it was singed, all right. I think I’ve seen it, but way back when.

He was building a new one. In other words, he used this book over here, which was not the right codebook. But nevertheless, if you have a sequence of words and numbers, et cetera, at least, even though they’re not in the right sequence on what you’re working on over here, it’s helpful to see that sequence of words and numbers. I can remember him. I’d give him something, which was, say, the real text of something that was in his message, and that would give him a new word in his codebook. Right away, he’s over there with his pen writing it in there. He was so pleased as a little kid. One more word.

Rhodes: It must be the same instinct that you do with crossword puzzle.

Lamphere: Yes, sort of. I’ve got here [page] 184 to 189, Oppie, military attaché. What am I talking about – something about military attaché.

Rhodes: Must be Oppenheimer talking about the contacts he was having, or people who were approaching him.

Lamphere: Oh, yes. I think that story that he tells to [Boris] Pash, which some of those other books like Oliver Pilot’s book and who was the other guy that wrote—all I’m saying, I guess, in what’s here is that I’m not impressed with the way this comes out here in your pages 184 to 189. Even though I’m on Oppenheimer’s side in a way, he was playing games back there, and I think his whole motivation was to protect people around him rather than to admit being a spy or anything. I don’t think he was, but nevertheless, I don’t think he was‒

Rhodes: So, I made him sound more forthcoming than you feel he was being.

Lamphere: I guess that’s what I’m saying to you.

Rhodes: Yes, yes. Well, you know, it’s interesting. I’ve had to keep revising my opinion of Oppenheimer. I started out with the usual liberal prejudice that this was a wonderful man who was much maligned. The more you get to know him, the less you like him.

Lamphere: Is that right? Well, as I told you earlier, I felt a little sorry for him way back when, having done as much as he’d done in building the bomb and all of sudden you discredit the guy. You got House Un-American Activities or whoever throwing darts. I didn’t go for that, frankly. And yet, I thought the guy had made some bad mistakes.

Rhodes: The truth is, he shouldn’t have been tried on his advice, but his advice turns out to have been pretty bad advice. The Russians were working on the hydrogen bomb.

Lamphere: Oh, yes.

Rhodes: And they did get it.

Lamphere: Oh, it would’ve been a terrible mistake for us not to build the bomb. The whole world might’ve changed. I’m talking about the H-bomb.

Rhodes: Yes.

Lamphere: Well, I’m now up to the information on Maclean. Oh, the point I want to make here is you’ve got [Anatoly] Gromov coming over to contact Maclean. In other words, he’s that important to the KGB. How come he goes to New York to see the consulate contact there, Yatzkov or somebody else? Because, how did we get onto it? From reading the traffic out of New York.

Rhodes: New York, yes. Not Washington.

Lamphere: So, I‒

Rhodes: I picked that up from some source, so‒

Lamphere: It’s an interesting point.

Rhodes: What page is that? 

Lamphere: 195 is the start of it, 195 to 198. They’re all right. 

I’ve just got a statement here. “Stalin needed evidence the nations that called themselves his allies were colluding against him to deny him nuclear weapons while they built an arsenal. Donald Maclean could supply it. Someone did.” No trouble with that.

Oh, this is sort of an aside kind of thing. You got [General Leslie] Groves’s finding that [James] Chadwick is often better informed than he is, et cetera, et cetera, page 200. Groves was in touch with me after, when he was writing his book. He was still steaming over the British—he had asked them for clearance on these British scientists. They told him something, and he went back to them a second time, as I remember it. They again said all these people had been cleared. By the time he’s talking to me, he knows that they knew damn well that Fuchs had a communist background, just no question about it.

Rhodes: Yes, they did. They just discounted it in a sort of gentlemanly way. 

Lamphere: They looked at it totally different than we did. We looked at it from the standpoint that communists were enemies. The Brits looked at it, I think, from the fact that communists were anti-fascists, and therefore, you didn’t have to worry about them the same way. Of course, then you get into this whole thing of Roger Hollis, who’s the guy that really cleared Fuchs. I’ve seen it argued, even within my former associates. There’s no agreement whatsoever. 

Rhodes: I didn’t know how much the writer who has pursued that so vigorously was credible or not.

Lamphere: Chapman Pincher?

Rhodes: Yes, Chapman Pincher.

Lamphere: Harry Pincher.

Rhodes: Yes.

Lamphere: Good friend of mine.

Rhodes: He makes his own case.

Lamphere: Well, I am convinced that there was a high-level mole in MI5. Now, I’m not convinced that it was Hollis, except one thing pushes me in that direction. Hollis came over to interview Gouzenko. He was at [Kim] Philby’s—Philby originally was supposed to come. Philby suggested his counterpart in MI5 at the time, who was Roger Hollis.

That alone doesn’t make me suspicious, but Hollis interviews Gouzenko, who says there’s a high-level mole by the name of cover name “Elli” in MI5. Hollis buries that information for twelve years. I’ve said publicly, I think, that if I’d gone to interview Gouzenko and he had said there was a high-level mole in the FBI, there would’ve been 150 agents working on it by the time I got back to Washington. I just can’t conceive of anybody burying that kind of information.

He also wrote a memorandum discrediting Gouzenko in the light of all the information that was available, which indicated—you know, he brought out documents. How can you discredit a guy that brings out documents?

Rhodes: Sure.

Lamphere: Some of the other stuff on him doesn’t send me at all, but there’s information from at least about three or four defectors that there was a high-level mole in MI5. When you look at MI6, guys like Philby and so and so. Of course, [Anthony] Blunt—Blunt was in MI5.

Rhodes: Oh, I didn’t realize that.

Lamphere: Yes, but he wasn’t there at the time, I don’t think, that Gouzenko was talking about him.

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.