58 Facts About Elizabeth Bentley


Elizabeth Terrill Bentley was an American spy and member of the Communist Party USA.


Elizabeth Bentley served the Soviet Union from 1938 to 1945 until she defected from the Communist Party and Soviet intelligence by contacting the Federal Bureau of Investigation and admitting her own activities.


Elizabeth Bentley became widely known after testifying in a number of trials and before the House Un-American Activities Committee.


In 1952, Bentley became a US informant and was paid by the FBI for her participation in investigations and frequent appearances before Congressional committees.


Elizabeth Bentley exposed two spy networks, ultimately naming more than 80 Americans who she said had engaged in espionage.


Elizabeth Bentley's parents moved to Ithaca, New York in 1915 and, by 1920, the family had relocated to McKeesport, Pennsylvania.


Elizabeth Bentley's parents were described as straight-laced Episcopalians from New England.


Elizabeth Bentley attended Vassar College, graduating in 1930 with degrees in English, Italian, and French.


In 1933, as a graduate student at Columbia University, Elizabeth Bentley won a fellowship to the University of Florence.


Elizabeth Bentley was influenced by Mario Casella, her anti-fascist faculty advisor with whom she had an affair at Columbia.


Elizabeth Bentley became active in espionage in 1935, when she obtained a job at the Italian Library of Information in New York City; the library was Fascist Italy's propaganda bureau in the United States.


Elizabeth Bentley reported her employment to CPUSA headquarters, informing them about her willingness to spy on the fascists.


The Communists were interested in the information Elizabeth Bentley could provide, so NKVD officer Jacob Golos was assigned as her contact and controller in 1938.


Golos needed someone to take charge of the day-to-day business of the United States Service and Shipping Corporation, a Comintern front organization for espionage activities; Elizabeth Bentley took on this role as well.


The contacts in Golos's and Elizabeth Bentley's extended network ranged from dedicated Stalinists to, in the words of Elizabeth Bentley biographer Kathryn Olmsted, "romantic idealists" who "wanted to help the brave Russians beat the Nazi war machine".


Elizabeth Bentley expanded her spy network when Browder gave her control of another group of agents: the Perlo group, with contacts in the War Production Board, the United States Senate, and the Treasury Department.


Since her days in Florence, Elizabeth Bentley had experienced bouts of depression and alcohol abuse.


Elizabeth Bentley missed work at US Service and Shipping, and neighbors described her as drinking "all the time".


Elizabeth Bentley later said that this was what turned her against Communism in the United States.


Elizabeth Bentley testified to a grand jury in 1948: "I discovered then that Earl Browder was just a puppet, that somebody pulled the strings in Moscow".


Elizabeth Bentley's biographers suggest that her objections were not ideological, but were related more to a lifelong dislike of being given orders and a sense that the reassignments of her contacts left her with no meaningful role.


Elizabeth Bentley was ordered to give up all of her remaining sources later in 1944, and her Soviet superior told her that she would have to leave her position as vice president of US Service and Shipping.


In 1945, Elizabeth Bentley began an affair with a man who she came to suspect was an FBI or Soviet agent sent to spy on her.


Elizabeth Bentley became angry with Gorsky, called him and his fellow Russian agents "gangsters", and obliquely threatened to become an FBI informant.


Elizabeth Bentley soon realized that her tirade might have put her life in danger.


Budenz had not yet revealed his knowledge of espionage activity, but he knew Elizabeth Bentley's name and knew she was a spy.


Imperiled from multiple directions, Elizabeth Bentley decided to defect and returned to the FBI on November 7,1945.


Philby's breach of the secrecy surrounding Elizabeth Bentley's defection foiled a year-long attempt by the FBI to employ her as a double agent.


Additionally, because of the shutdown of Soviet espionage activity, FBI surveillance of the agents Elizabeth Bentley had named turned up no evidence which could be used to prosecute them.


About 250 FBI agents were assigned to the Elizabeth Bentley case, following up leads she had provided and investigating people she had named.


For Hoover and a few highly-placed FBI and army intelligence personnel, the corroboration of Elizabeth Bentley's was the late-1940s-to-early-1950s Venona project decryption of wartime cables between Soviet intelligence agents and Moscow.


Elizabeth Bentley was referred to in the cables by the codename she had given the FBI, and several of her known contacts and documents she was known to have passed to the Soviets were discussed.


Elizabeth Bentley believed that the public suspicion and accusations would be enough to ruin their careers.


Elizabeth Bentley testified before this grand jury several times before April 1948, and details of her case began to leak to the press.


Elizabeth Bentley decided to reveal her full story herself to retain more control, and met with New York World-Telegram journalists Nelson Frank and Norton Mockridge.


Elizabeth Bentley was subpoenaed to testify at a public hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee on July 31,1948, a few days after the World-Telegram articles were published.


Elizabeth Bentley portrayed herself as naive and innocent, corrupted by her liberal professors at Vassar and seduced into espionage by Golos.


Elizabeth Bentley appeared on NBC Radio's Meet the Press at 10 pm on August 6,1948, on WOR.


Elizabeth Bentley did not testify at a Remington loyalty-board hearing, and NBC settled the libel suit out of court for $10,000.


Elizabeth Bentley testified in the trials of four accused spies: Remington's perjury trial, Abe Brothman's obstruction of justice trial, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's trials for conspiracy to commit espionage.


Elizabeth Bentley, peripherally involved in the Rosenberg case, was used by the prosecution to develop two points: the actions of American communists in becoming spies for the Soviet Union, and establishing a connection between Julius Rosenberg and Golos.


Elizabeth Bentley testified that she received calls from a man who identified himself as Julius, after which Golos would meet him.


Elizabeth Bentley continued to drink heavily, avoided several subpoenas, was involved in car accidents, and had a relationship with a man who severely beat her.


Elizabeth Bentley, described as calm and professional on the witness stand, was praised by prosecutors whose cases she supported.


Elizabeth Bentley said that her espionage gave her advance notice of the Doolittle Raid on Japan and the D-Day invasions of France; both claims were apparently exaggerated.


Elizabeth Bentley supplied details about Remington's involvement with her and the espionage conspiracy; his defense was that he had never handled any classified material, so could not have given any to Elizabeth Bentley.


Elizabeth Bentley testified that Harry Dexter White was responsible for passing Treasury plates for printing Allied currency in Allied-occupied Germany to the Soviet Union, which used them to print millions of marks.


Elizabeth Bentley wrote in her autobiography, Out of Bondage, that she had been "able through Harry Dexter White to arrange that the United States Treasury Department turn the actual printing plates over to the Russians".


Elizabeth Bentley elaborated in 1953 to McCarthy's Senate subcommittee, testifying that she was following instructions from NKVD New York rezident Iskhak Abdulovich Akhmerov to pass word through Ludwig Ullmann and Silvermaster for White to "put the pressure on for the delivery of the plates to Russia".


Elizabeth Bentley had not previously mentioned the printing plates in debriefings or testimony, and there was no evidence at the time that she had any role in the transfer of the plates.


Elizabeth Bentley was asked to testify before a number of bodies investigating communist espionage and influence in the US after her defection, and continued consulting occasionally with the FBI for the rest of her life.


Elizabeth Bentley began accepting payments for testimony in 1952, making her a paid FBI informant.


Elizabeth Bentley had been a successful executive with a profitable shipping company while she was with the Communists.


Elizabeth Bentley was frequently invited by Catholic groups to lecture on Communism and her experience in the Communist movement.


At age 55, Elizabeth Bentley died after abdominal-cancer surgery on December 3,1963 at Grace-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Connecticut.


Elizabeth Bentley had him subpoenaed; Chambers appeared a few days after Bentley, launching the Hiss Case.


Elizabeth Bentley exposed two networks of spies, ultimately naming more than 80 Americans who had engaged in espionage for the Soviets.


Elizabeth Bentley provided no documentary evidence to support her claims, and reporters and historians were divided for decades about the validity of her allegations.