Secrets, Lies and Atomic Spies (2002)
In 1995 the National Security Agency began to declassify the Venona transcripts, which revealed the depth with which Soviet spies had penetrated the U.S. government during the Cold War. By and large, our media and academic elites have refused to acknowledge these revelations. Secrets, Lies and Atomic Spies, a PBS “Nova” documentary produced by Tug Yourgrau, is a first step in the revision of our understanding of the Cold War based on these transcripts. The Venona project was a 1940s top-secret effort to break the Soviet codes sent from the KGB's Moscow Center to its American agents. It was highly successful until compromised in 1948 by a Soviet operative working for U.S. Army intelligence.
The film focuses on the personal stories of the American agents the code-breakers uncovered. Highlighted is Theodore Alvin Hall, a Harvard-educated scientist who passed secrets about the atomic bomb to the KGB. Because Venona's existence had to be kept secret, Hall couldn't be prosecuted and fled to England, where he continued his scientific career unmolested.
War heroes are inspired by a variety of motives. Alvin York, a celebrated World War I Congressional Medal of Honor winner, was a religious pacifist who eventually found a reason to fight. Sergeant York dramatizes this Tennessee country boy's interior journey from alcoholic and troublemaker to brave patriot. York (Gary Cooper) is a sharp-shooting hunter who's converted to Protestant Christianity by Pastor Rosier Piles (Walter Brennan). But his previous bad reputation temporarily derails the courtship of his true love, Gracie (Joan Leslie), who lives on a nearby farm. When drafted, York at first claims conscientious objector status and refuses to serve. After a change of heart, he's shipped overseas.