Commission on
Protecting and Reducing
Government Secrecy
Washington, D.C.

April 23, 1996


Dear Mr. Brent:

I write to express my admiration for the exceptionally important work in which you and your colleagues at the Yale University Press are engaged. Your arrangement to publish, through your "Annals of Communism" series, a comprehensive account of the records that gradually are being made available from the former Soviet archives is, as my friend William F. Buckley, Jr. recently put it, essential to our "understanding of the most important political phenomenon of the century, the rise and fall of the communist international movement."

Because of your ongoing commitment to publish these records, historians and other scholars both here and abroad will be engaged for many years to come in an enormous reappraisal of the role of the Soviet leadership, and that of members of Communist parties in this country and elsewhere, in attempting to influence a wide range of critical domestic and international policy decisions. The efforts of the Yale University Press in this regard, combined with the important work being done at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Cold War International History Project here in Washington, thus are critical and warrant the encouragement and support of all persons interested in developing a more complete understanding of the 20th century.

Might I simply note, on a personal level, that your accomplishments already have had important consequences for the work of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy. Our two-year, bipartisan Commission is charged with analyzing and making recommendations concerning the system of classification of national security information and the procedures for handling security clearances. (I have enclosed additional information on the Commission’s primary objectives, work plan, and membership.) To my mind, any understanding of how the "secrecy system" that by and large remains in place today was established in the years following World War II requires an adequate recognition of the activities of the Communist Party in this country during that time period – and the Federal government’s reaction.

Toward that end, in addition to inviting a cross-section of experts on classification and personnel security to meet with our Commission over the past several months, I made certain that among our first visitors -- at our second formal meeting on May 17, 1995 – were Drs. Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes. Each of the twelve Commissioners received a copy of their remarkable volume, The Secret World of American Communism, part of your Annals of Communism series.

The discussion that ensued on May 17 concerning what the newly-opened archives in Moscow and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union revealed of the activities of the CPUSA was hugely helpful to the Members of the Commission. And it in turn led our Commission, which includes four Members of Congress and the Director of Central Intelligence John Deutch, to assume an important role in pressing for additional disclosures from long-closed American archives – in particular, the release of the so-called "VENONA intercepts" by the National Security Agency. The VENONA releases, which should be completed by the end of this year, also are prompting a long-overdue reevaluation of Communist activities in this country, most notably with respect to the theft of atomic secrets at Los Alamos.

All of us who care to ensure that this generation and future ones possess an adequate understanding of what transpired between 1917 and 1991, and in particular during the terrible decade following the end of World War II (when, as Edward Shils put it, "[t]he American visage began to cloud over"), are in debt of the Yale University Press for your efforts and contribution. I look forward to doing whatever I can to ensure that your important work is neither thwarted nor diminished in any way owing to a lack of sufficient financial support.


Daniel Patrick Moynihan