Diana West

Roughly three years earlier, in 1945, Bentley walked into an FBI office to inform the U.S. government that she had spent 10 years in the Communist Party underground, half of them as a courier for a secret Soviet espionage network that operated in Washington, D.C., and New York City. By the time my Bentley photo was snapped, she had begun testifying publicly about the U.S. government officials who were in and around the ring with her.

These included Lauchlin Currie, one of FDR's top White House assistants, as well as White at Treasury. There were multiple OSS agents (the OSS was the precursor to the CIA) including Duncan Lee, top assistant to OSS chief William "Wild Bill" Donovan, and many other officials from elsewhere in the government. In all, Bentley would correctly identify 150 secret Soviet network members and collaborators -- identifications subsequently documented by intelligence historians working with Soviet archives.

For all her trouble -- for all her truth -- Bentley would be publicly smeared as a crank and a fraud, or, as in her 1963 New York Times obituary, effectively dismissed because public officials she identified were not convicted of espionage. (Therein lies another tale of American betrayal.)

In "Spies," a landmark 2009 intelligence history by John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr and Alexander Vassiliev, the authors completely vindicate Bentley. They call her defection to the FBI "the single most disastrous event in the history of Soviet intelligence in America," and point out that "FBI investigations and voluminous congressional testimony supported Bentley's story." Soviet archives and deciphered KGB cables, they further note, "demonstrate unequivocally that Bentley told the truth." And she stuck to it, even after the fur began to fly.

So why doesn't this truth-telling American woman have a statue somewhere? Her alma mater, Vassar, would do for starters. Just as Yale pays monumental homage to its own renowned spy, Nathan Hale, Vassar should pay homage to Bentley. Why doesn't it?

The answer, of course, is obvious: The American college campus remains an outpost of Marxism, the very ideology that animated so many of the Kremlin agents Bentley exposed. Indeed, this long-tenured Marxist influence over academia largely accounts for the anti-anti-Communist stranglehold on the historical narrative that skips or smears the truth-tellers, and thus the truth. Meanwhile, not only is Elizabeth Bentley reviled in academia, but some campuses even memorialize Soviet agents and collaborators, including Alger Hiss!

It's time to give the truth-tellers their due and learn what really happened in the past, especially if we hope to prevent it from happening again.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).