About the Author
I was born in North Hollywood, California, in 1954 and attended local schools in the San Fernando Valley. My undergraduate years were spent at CSU Northridge where I majored in history and archaeology. After working briefly on the 1976 presidential campaign of independent candidate Eugene McCarthy, I returned to school and was selected as a member of the first graduate class in Public Historical Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara, where I earned my M.A. in history.
My professional career began shortly thereafter, as a park ranger at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia. The National Park Service’s 1976 Bicentennial celebrations were at the forefront of the nation’s focus on history and heritage, making Independence NHP, with its Liberty Bell pavilion and Independence Hall, an exciting place to work amongst the crowds of visitors and VIPs.
My subsequent positions with the NPS took me to such places as Boston National Historical Park and Channel Islands National Park. After being selected for the coveted Freeman Tilden Outstanding Interpreter of the Year Award, the NPS transferred me to the Stephen T. Mather Training Center in historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. As one of its team of instructors, I helped train park rangers, interpreters, and historians.
After fourteen years with the NPS, I began a second career as a non-profit manager. I served as a regional director for National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), as executive director of the National Park Trust (NPT), and as a manager of several other park support organizations before becoming the executive director and Washington representative of the National Coalition for History (NCH). NCH is an organization whose mission is to strengthen history, archives, and funding for the arts and humanities. My work as a lobbyist for a non-profit association gave me a glimpse into the high-stakes world of Washington politics and provided me with the opportunity to have an impact upon the national issues and trends affecting historical and archival organizations.
While working for NPCA, I became involved in a controversy that surrounded a proposal by conservatives within the Reagan administration to designate the Maryland home of Whittaker Chambers as a National Historic Landmark. Chambers’s autobiography, Witness, written at Pipe Creek Farm, tells the story of his work on behalf of the American Communist Party, including his work as an underground agent for the Soviet Union. In 1948 Chambers accused Alger Hiss, a one-time high-ranking State Department official of being a Soviet spy. His allegation gave rise to one of the most celebrated Cold War espionage trials of the 20th century. Their story became my new-found passion. My fascination with the espionage cases of Harry Dexter White and Alger Hiss, in particular, led to my decision to pursue a doctorate in history at The American University in Washington, D.C.
Since earning my doctorate in 1999, my research efforts have focussed on several high-profile espionage cases. Some of my notable achievements include my participation in several landmark legal cases to unseal closed records relating to Cold War era espionage. In 1997 I sued the U.S. Department of Justice seeking access to Harry Dexter White’s 1948 grand jury testimony. The suit resulted in a precedent-setting federal court decision (Craig v. USA) that affirmed that federal courts may unseal grand jury records exclusively for the purpose of scholarly historical research. Following that landmark decision, I also played a major role in preparing two additional successful court petitions — one for the American Historical Assocation et al. that opened the Alger Hiss grand jury records to the public (1999) and the other for the National Security Archive’s successful effort (2008) to force open the grand jury records of the Ethel and Julius Rosenberg espionage case. I also take special pride in the successful effort that I led to unseal the records of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).
I have written two biographies: Treasonable Doubt: The Harry Dexter White Spy Case, a biography of the co-founder of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and an accused Soviet spy, and I’m now putting the final touches on a biography of American State Department official Alger Hiss. The book The Lives of Alger Hiss: The Myths, The Masks, The Man is currently in my agent’s hands.
Upon moving to Canada in 2007 I embarked on a new career as a professor of history at theUniversity of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). Today, as an independent historian, biographer, and teacher, I maintain affiliations not only with UPEI but with the University of New Brunswick (Fredericton) Gregg Centre for the Study of War and Society, where I am a Fellow. I also served as president of the Canadian Association for Security and Intelligence Studies (CASIS) in 2012.
In addition to my academic interests, I have also maintained an abiding interest in philanthropic pursuits. For four years I served as president of the Conservation and Preservation Federation of America, which raised over $14 million for various non-profit organizations in the United States. In 2012 my wife Patricia and I created the Terra Nova Fund and Endowment of Prince Edward Island (PEI) in association with the Community Foundation of PEI. This organization champions worthy causes that have a lasting impact on the quality of life of people who live and work in PEI and Atlantic Canada. Under the auspices of the Terra Nova Fund, we are currently working to partner with other groups and foundations to establish a writers’ retreat on Prince Edward Island.