INVESTIGATIONS: The Strange Case of Amerasia

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The case differed in one important respect from the Hiss-Chambers case that was to develop more than three years later. There was no evidence that Jaffe had passed on any of the documents to the Soviet agents. As far as Government agents could tell, he was using the stolen information only to advance the cause of Communism in Asia in his magazine. Actually, his most peculiar and mostly private magazine was read with considerable respect at that time in some quarters in the State Department. One of his articles, suggesting that the U.S. encourage a Communist movement in enemy Japan and that the U.S. give military aid to Chinese Reds, had been sent to Chungking over the signature "Hull," presumably through the maneuverings of State Department men who were giving aid & comfort to China's Communists. A copy of this message was part of the FBI haul. It was among the five documents of which Republicans had caught a scent last week.

Lawyers' "Deal." With the arrest of the six began a series of curious developments. The evidence was presented to a District of Columbia grand jury.

Mitchell, Service and Gayn were allowed to testify in their own behalf, and the grand jury decided there was not enough evidence to warrant indicting them. Jaffe, Roth and Larsen were indicted—but not for espionage. The Justice Department had suddenly trimmed its accusations to cover merely stealing, receiving or concealing Government documents. The reason, Mclnerney later explained: after Justice lawyers had a look at the stolen material, they did not believe it would support a charge of espionage.

The Justice Department continued to take evasive action. Before the case went to trial, Robert M. Hitchcock, a special assistant in charge of prosecuting the case, made what he described later as a "deal" with Jaffe's lawyer. With an almost surreptitious air, the Government took the case to a Saturday morning court session (court almost never sits on Saturday morning). It was a strange hearing. Jaffe's lawyer, Albert Arent, did most of the talking. He explained to Federal Judge James Proctor that Jaffe, who was pleading guilty, had merely acted from "an excess of journalistic zeal." Hitchcock, for the Government, hastened to agree that this "in substance" was the fact. The judge asked for a probation report on Jaffe. Hitchcock blandly told the judge, in effect, he thought such a report was more trouble than it was worth. Then the court fined Jaffe $2,500, which he paid on the spot. Later Larsen was fined $500 on his plea of no defense. Jaffe also paid Larsen's fine. Justice decided that it did not have enough evidence against Lieut. Roth and the charges against him were dropped.

And that, so far as Justice was concerned, ended the case.

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