After Venona messages had been deciphered, NSA discovered that the KGB (the Soviet Union’s intelligence service) had engaged in a wide range of counterintelligence activities. Many of these operations had been directed at the FBI, the US agency responsible for domestic intelligence gathering.

Elizabeth Bentley (1908-1963)

  • Originally a KGB agent who spied for the Soviet Union for seven years.
  • Codenamed “Good Girl” in Venona messages.
  • While working undercover as a librarian, collected and passed information concerning pro-Fascist activity.
  • Conducted low-level espionage for Jacob Golos, her handler and lover.
  • Worked as a secretary for conservative businessman, Richard Waldo; became a valued “agent in place” as she secretly monitored his contacts, conversations, and movements.
  • Copied and then supplied US government documents to other agents.
  • Became convinced that her superiors wanted her terminated.
  • In August 1945, Bentley approached the FBI field office in New Haven, CT, and became a “walk-in”—a defector who declares his or her intentions by walking into an official installation and asking for political asylum or volunteering to work in-place.
  • Provided details of spy networks from New York City to Washington, D.C., including names of federal government officials.
  • Her information was supported by Venona decrypts.
  • Her defection precipitated changes in Soviet espionage techniques and created concern throughout America that communists had infiltrated the US government at every level.
elizabeth bentley
Elizabeth Bentley
Photo Credit: University of San Diego

ethel and julius rosenberg
David and Ruth Greenglass
Photo Credit: National Archives

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Ethel Greenglass Rosenberg (1915-1953)

  • Agent for the KGB; operated with her husband.
  • Recruited other agents and communist supporters in the US.
  • Turned in by close relatives, David and Ruth Greenglass.
  • Venona messages showed evidence of the Rosenbergs’ involvement in espionage activities targeting the Manhattan Project.
  • Executed on June 19, 1953 in a Sing-Sing prison.
  • The National Archives has twenty-five items relating to the case that can be viewed online, including more photos and pieces of evidence used in the trial.

Ethel Rosenberg mug shots when arrested
Ethel Rosenberg's mug shots
Photo Credit: National Archives
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