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A pair of researchers say they have uncovered files in Moscow that prove the Communist Party of the United States did the bidding of Soviet spymasters before and during World War II.

Among their discoveries, the historians said Monday, was a network of American Communists that was assigned to penetrate the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb.Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes said the new data should force extensive revision of that era's history. A book they co-authored says that the "dominant perspective" among academic historians in the past 20 years - that the U.S. party was simply a home-grown, populist group with radical views - is no longer valid.

"What historians think about American communism in the 1930s is the premise for how they write about anti-communism in the Cold War era," said Haynes, a Library of Congress historian and expert on archives.

Klehr, Haynes and Fridrikh Igorevich Firsov, a Russian historian and archivist, co-wrote "The Secret World of American Communism," one of two new books published by Yale University and presented at a news conference. The second book, "Stalin's Letters to Molotov," reveals what its editors said was important new material on the Soviet dictator.

Klehr, a professor of politics at Emory University in Atlanta, said some of the material on American Communists was previously known or rumored but is now supported by documents for the first time.

The researchers uncovered about 150 million documents from 1919 to 1943 that originally were in central files of the Soviet Communist Party. Haynes said the documents were meticulously kept and indexed in ways that make forgeries a virtual impossibility.

Among what the authors said were new or confirmed discoveries:

- Documents support Whitaker Chambers, the government's key witness against accused spy Alger Hiss. Although Hiss' name is not mentioned, the documents back up Chambers' claims about a Communist underground in Washington in the 1930s.

- The American Communist party, despite claims to the contrary, was very much a part of the Communist International group founded by Lenin in 1919 to encourage and support communist activities in other countries.

- Earl Browder and Eugene Dennis, who successively chaired the U.S. Communist Party from 1934 to 1959, maintained a "Secret Apparatus" for espionage that answered to the Soviet NKVD, forerunner of the KGB.

- The American party's underground maintained secret "informant and influence" groups in U.S. government agencies, copying confidential documents sent to President Roosevelt and State Department officials.

- The authors said they found no reference to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the two Americans executed as spies in 1953 for stealing U.S. atomic secrets.

With fewer than 100,000 members at its peak in the 1930s through the 1950s, Klehr said, the Communist Party of the USA had foreign ties that were always "deeply disputed."