Silvermaster Group


Silvermaster Group
   One of the earliest and most effective espionage rings in the United States was established in the early 1930s by Nathan Gregory Silvermaster. Born in imperial Russia in 1898, he came to the United States in 1914 and earned a Ph.D. in economics at the University of California. In 1935 he moved to Washington to take part in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal program. He also began his work as a Soviet recruiter and agent handler at about the same time.
   Silvermaster acted as one of Joseph Golos and later Ishak Akhmerov’s principal agents. Among the agents he helped the NKVD rezidentura run were Harry Dexter White in the Treasury and Lauchlin Currie, a White House aid to President Franklin Roosevelt. Silvermaster, his wife Helen Witte Silvermaster, and her son Anatole Volkov worked as agent handlers and as couriers moving between agents in the federal bureaucracies and Soviet intelligence officers. Silvermaster personally handled a number of agents in the War Department. He used these agents to manipulate War Department policies on security to allow other communist agents greater access to information. According to unclassified U.S. government documents, Silvermaster handled 27 different agents in seven departments in Washington.
   The Silvermaster ring was undone in the 1940s by a series of events. Elizabeth Bentley, who had served the ring as a courier, defected to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and made a full confession of her espionage activities. The decryption of Soviet intelligence messages provided the FBI with corroboration for Bentley’s statements, identifying Silvermaster as “Robert” and his wife as “Dora” in dozens of messages. The messages also showed that the NKVD paid Silvermaster for managing the espionage ring and carefully monitored the agents he ran in Washington.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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