11-25-2016 | Distant Roar
On September 29, 1944, FBI agents burglarized the New York apartment of a middle-aged man who worked at a record company selling Communist songs. He want by the name of Arthur Alexandrovich Adams, and he was a skilled mechanical engineer. He had probably come to the United States in the 1920s, and he may have been one of the first deep-cover Soviet spies in America. He was certainly the first the FBI ever found.
The black-bag job produced a bonanza.
Adams had notebooks that made little sense to the FBI agents who saw them. "He was in possession of a document that talked about some type of water," FBI agent Donald Shannon, a member of the Bureau's Soviet espionage squad, said in an oral history interview six decades later. "We weren't sure of the information so we turned it over to the Atomic Energy Commission for evaluation." Upon expert review, the notes revealed intimate knowledge of highly technical and deeply secret phases of the Manhattan Project. They included work on heavy water, a linchpin of secret research into the atomic bomb.
"We were informed that the person who had his certainly had some information on America's atomic research," Shannon said. Adams soon was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York under the foreign agents registration law -- and the State Department ordered him deported.
Eighteen months had passed since the FBI's first clue that Stalin's spies were trying to steal the bomb. The second clue was now in hand.
Hoover understood in broad terms what the Manhattan Project was about. The War Department had told him about its own search for spies at Los Alamos. He began to realize that control of the bomb was not simply a matter of winning the war. It was about national survival after the war was won.
Not long before Pearl Harbor, Hoover and his aides had written about the wartime goals of British intelligence: "to be in a position at the end of the war to organize the world." Hoover thought that role rightfully belonged to the United States. The atomic bomb would be the key to its supremacy.
-- Tim Weiner, Enemies: A History of the FBI