Famous spies in history
February 21, 2001
Web posted at: 12:22 p.m. EST (1722 GMT)
American patriot captured and hanged by the British in 1776 while trying to bring to Gen. George Washington notes and drawings of British troop deployment in New York. A former schoolteacher turned soldier, Hale went on the solo mission behind British lines because he wanted to make a more significant contribution to the American cause. The 21-year-old spy may or may not have uttered a famous quote attributed to him at his hanging — «I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.»
Spied for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Captured and imprisoned by the United States but married a Union naval officer before the end of the war.
Dutch nude dancer accused of being a double agent for the French and German armies during World War I and executed by the French in 1917. Margaretha Geertruida Zelle was hired by the French Secret Service to get information from the Germans during her European tours. Unlike Hale, Mata Hari proclaimed her innocence.
Journalist Whittaker Chambers hinted to assistant Secretary of State Adolf A. Berle Jr. in 1939 that Hiss, then a Roosevelt State Department official, had been an active Communist. Berle found no evidence to support the vague hints. But Chambers returned with clearer hints before the House Un-American Activities Committee eight years later. Hiss denied the charges. Chambers agreed to submit to a lie detector test. Hiss said he remembered subletting his apartment in 1934 to someone who might have been Chambers, calling himself George Crosley. In a face-to-face meeting, Hiss identified Chambers as Crosley. The committee, pushed forward by freshman Rep. Richard Nixon, declared Chambers «forthcoming» during the hearings and Hiss «evasive.» Hiss sued Chambers for slander after Chambers issued his charges on a radio program after the hearings had ended. After Chambers produced papers he said Hiss provided to hand over to the Soviets, Hiss was charged with perjury — the statute of limitations had run out on spy charges. Hiss was eventually found guilty and served 44 months. Chambers died a hero of the American right in 1961 and was given a posthumous Medal of Freedom in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan.
The Cambridge Spies — Burgess, Blunt, Maclean and Philby
Guy Francis de Moncy Burgess, Anthony F. Blunt, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby met while at school at Cambridge in the 1930s — and were recruited to work for the Soviet KGB at that time. They were active, on one level or another, for the Soviet Union for 30 years. All four held high positions, at one time or another, within the British government, including British spy agencies. All were eventually exposed but none was ever caught. Burgess and Maclean defected to Russia in 1951, Philby in 1963. Blunt confessed a year later, after being granted immunity, but never gave a clear accounting of his activities or cohorts.
Ethel and Julius Rosenberg
The Rosenbergs were arrested in 1950 and convicted and executed in 1953 at the bottom of a long and winding spy trail that began with Los Alamos nuclear scientist Klaus Fuchs. None of the others involved in the case received more than 30 years. The Rosenbergs steadfastly proclaimed their innocence — that they had not passed on secrets of the atomic bomb to the Soviets. Fuchs, incidentally, was sentenced to 14 years by a British court for violating Britain’s Official Secrets Act. He was released from prison in 1959 and went to East Germany, where he eventually became the director of the Institute for Nuclear Research.
Famous spies in history