Michael Straight (code name: "Nigel") was a NKVD
agent in much the same vain as Laurence Duggin
. That meant he spied for the Soviet
s simply for his romantic Communist ideal
s. And as the NKVD
would later find out, Straight could only be pushed so far.
Straight was born into a wealthy family. Both of his parents were New Deal democrats. His father was involved in banking, and his mother helped found the liberal political journal The New Republic . Through the magazine the family formed a close friendship with FDR.
Michael's communist ideals took shape while he was studying at Cambridge. He was first approached by one of his communist friends, Guy Burgress, on behalf of Soviet intelligence. (At the time, NKVD London station was quite productive. They could boast of a circle of intellectuals known as the Cambridge group who were spying for them. This group included: Burgress, Donald MacLean, Harold "Kim" Philby and Anothny Blunt.) Burgress, and then later Blunt, persuaded Straight to give up his known communist party attachments (he was the Cambridge Communist Party's spokesman) and publicly condemn communist activities so he could do secret work.
Straight returned to the United States and began working for Soviet intelligence. He took several months to adjust to Washington, and then met with FDR (who had been following Straight's studies through his mother). Eleanor Roosevelt suggested that Straight take a post with the Agricultural Adjustment Agency (AAA), which he rejected. He really wanted to work at either Treasury or at the Federal Reserve Board, since he studied economics at college. However, FDR's suggestion to take a post National Reserve Board was the final decision.
However Straight remained there for only several months and then took a job at the State Department at the suggestion of a friend. Although he worked at the State Department, Straight turned out to be something of a underachiever as a spy, only passing on information that was too old to be of use to the Russians. Despite this Moscow still wanted to hold onto him because of his close ties to the White House.
But on August 23, 1939 all of that changed. On that day, Stalin signed the Nazi-Soviet pact. Straight was livid with his Russian handlers. He informed them that he was not spying because of a deep love for Russia; he was spying because he was anti-fascist.
Shortly thereafter, Straight broke off all contact with the NKVD and went to work at the New Republic, feeling disillusioned, much like Laurence Duggin.
Source: The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America – The Stalin Era
By Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev