National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1947-1954: We struggle to preserve freedom in a dangerous world

August 3, 1948
Ex-Communist Whittaker Chambers testifies against Alger Hiss of State Department

Whittaker Chambers

Whittaker Chambers (1901-1961)

He Identified Communists In Government

Whittaker Chambers, a former Communist agent, was the chief witness against Alger Hiss in the House Un-American Activities Committee’s hunt for Communist infiltrators in the federal government. From 1932 through 1938, Chambers shuttled information between his Soviet handlers and their moles in the U.S. government. Hiss, a senior State Department official, was one of those moles.

Chambers broke with the Communists in 1938 and the following year, when World War II erupted, reported his activities to the State Department.

Chambers’ accusations were not investigated until 1948. Pushed by Richard Nixon, an unknown California congressman, the House dug into reports of hidden Communists in the government. Chambers’ story came to light. Hiss, who denied it in sworn testimony, was sent to prison for perjury.

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