White, Harry Dexter

(1895–1948)
   The most senior American civil servant to cooperate with Soviet intelligence, White was one of the most brilliant economists of his age. As a senior official in the Treasury Department, White helped establish American financial policy during the last years of World War II. He and John Maynard Keynes were the architects of the historic Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, and he was the first chief of the International Monetary Fund. The evidence from former communists such as Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley, as well as Soviet intelligence messages, indicates that as White progressed through the Treasury Department, he had a long and informal relationship with the NKVD.
   White evidently never was a member of the Communist Party, though he was clearly a sympathizer. He began working with the NKVD in the mid-1930s, but he stopped reporting after Chambers’s defection in 1938 became known. In the 1940s White again provided the NKVD rezidentura with information on American foreign and monetary policies. He advised Moscow on America’s policy toward the Nationalist regime in China and toward the evolving situation in Poland. He is mentioned in a number of Venona messages as an important source with the code names of “Lawyer” and “Richard.”
   White, according to these messages, was handled personally by senior Soviet intelligence officers. He apparently never considered himself a spy or agent; he was apparently never paid but cooperated for personal reasons.
   In 1948 White was named as a Soviet spy by Chambers. Following interviews with FBI special agents, he died of a heart attack. To many of his friends and colleagues, White was a victim of a witch hunt. A modern scholar has portrayed him as a radical New Dealer who believed he was furthering American policy through his private diplomatic initiatives. The Russian intelligence traffic suggests that White was a very important agent who provided Moscow with a source of significant political intelligence. White’s motivation is difficult to understand; the damage he did to U.S. interests is not.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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