Hiss Chambers Case
In the years after World War II, America was in the midst of a Red Scare, a fear of the growing threat of Communism and the concern that it could take root in our nation. In 1948, this hysteria culminated in accusations of espionage levied against former Director of the State Department's Office of Special Political Affairs, Alger Hiss. The accusations stated that he had spied on behalf of the Soviet Union in 1930, but the statute of limitations had expired by the time such claims were made. As such, Hiss was brought up on trial for perjury related to these alleged undercover activities.
On August 3, 1948, a former member of the United States Communist Party named Whittaker Chambers testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee that Hiss was, in fact, a double agent, working for the federal government of the United States while secretly supporting the Communist Party and, by proxy, the Soviet Union. When Chambers provided evidence of the alleged actions committed with Hiss, the grand jury brought the latter up on two counts of perjury. When Hiss was put on trial, the prosecution was unable to successfully make their case; on July 7, just a little over a month since the start of the trial, the result was a hung jury. At that point, Chambers admitted to lying under oath, including about dates that were essential to the federal case. Additionally, Hiss had a number of very influential character witnesses, including two Supreme Court justices. The second trial, again lasting just over a month, resulted in Hiss's conviction on January 21, 1950. Each count of perjury carried with it a five-year sentence; while the two were to be served concurrently, Hiss ultimately only served three-and-a-half years of his sentence. To this day, there has been no definitive evidence in the United States, or in the former Soviet Union, that Hiss was a spy.