John Abt

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John Abt was the Chief of Litigation, Agricultural Adjustment Administration from 1933 to 1935, then assistant general counsel of the Works Progress Administration in 1935. Later he served as chief counsel on Senator Robert La Follette, Jr.'s LaFollette Committee from 1936 to 1937, then special assistant to the United States Attorney General, 1937 and 1938. In 1948 he worked with the Progressive Party of former Vice President Henry A. Wallace. In 1950-53, he unsuccessfully defended the Communist Party before the Subversive Activities Control Board, which found that the party was required by law to register as an agent of a foreign power.[1]

Abt was also a member of the Ware group, a group of American governmental employees in the 1930's also belonging to the Communist Party of the United States which advocated the violent removal of the United States government. After the groups founder, Harold Ware, was killed in an automobile collision in 1935, Abt married Jessica Smith, Ware's widow.

Perlo group

In late 1943 Jacob Golos, who headed the Communist Party of the United States secret apparatus, was referred to group of CPUSA members by General Secretary of the party, Earl Browder. This group of government employees had been engaged for sometime in espionage for Browder, and held regular clandestine meetings at John Abt's apartment. In early 1944, Golos sent Elizabeth Bentley to make contact with the group at Abt's apartment. In attendance were Abt, Victor Perlo, Charles Kramer, Harry Magdoff and Edward Fitzgerald. They discussed paying party dues to Bentley, the various types of information each would be able to deliver, and the type of information other members not in attendance would also be willing to deliver.

In late 1943 the FBI opened an investigation of Abt. Its surveillance showed frequent meetings in the early months of 1944 between Abt and a man then known as Alexander Stevens, one of the several pseudonyms used by Josef Peters, who at one time headed the CPUSA secret apparatus but was still involved in clandestine activities.

Abt turned the Perlo group over to the KGB in 1944.

Abt is referenced in Venona decrypts #588 KGB New York to Moscow, 29 April 1944 and #687 KGB New York tp Moscow, 13 May 1944.

Lee Harvey Oswald

It is noted that during Lee Harvey Oswald's interrogation by the Dallas Police on the evening of 22 November 1963, after his arrest for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, he requested the services of Mr. Abt:

"I want that attorney in New York, Mr. Abt. I don't know him personally but I know about a case that he handled some years ago, where he represented the people who had violated the Smith Act, [which made it illegal to teach or advocate the violent overthrow of the U.S. government] . . . I don't know him personally, but that is the attorney I want. . . . If I can't get him, then I may get the American Civil Liberties Union to send me an attorney"

See also


  • John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, Yale University Press
  • New York FBI report, 9 April 1944, John Jacob Abt FBI file 100-236194, serial 6.
  • The Warren Commission Report, Volume X - Testimony of John J. Abt
  1. 83d Cong., 1st sess., Document No. 41 Subversive Activities Control Board, Herbert Brownell, Jr. Attorney General of the United States, Petitioner vs. Communist Party of the United States of America, Respondent: Report of the Board, April 23, 1953 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office: 1953), pp. 1, 132 (PDF pp. 9, 140)