The Agony of Waiting
The waiting was agony, made worse by the fact that they were an ocean apart. She bombarded him with special delivery letters, telegrams, and telephone calls testifying to her unwavering love and support. “You are finer, better, more loveable, more attractive, deeper, nicer, nobler, cleverer, stronger and more wonderful [than other men],” she wrote. “I am so damned lucky even to know you, much less (or more) to be married to you.” Privately, she felt fear bordering on panic. She was on pins and needles all the time. She was terribly worried about Paul’s health. The FBI interrogation had been “a horrible experience for him.” Every day he remained under suspicion was exacting a toll on him, emotionally and physically. He was having difficulty sleeping and was dependent on what he called his “goldfish”—tiny, brightly hued pills prescribed by a local doctor—for the little rest he got. His stomach, weakened by too many bouts of intestinal parasites contracted during the war, was in a dreadful state. She could not help thinking the worst. Paul could be fired or detained or dragged through endless months of loyalty hearings like some they knew. How was it that Jane Foster, of all people—smart, funny, talented Jane—had ended up on McCarthy’s list of “Communists in the State Department”? Jane was a painter. She was not even employed by the government anymore. What, if anything, could she possibly have done to bring this calamity down on all their heads? The whole thing would have been laughable if it were not so terrifying.
On April 21, Paul was reinterviewed about Jane Foster, this time by one of USIS’s own security officers. Paul again provided a detailed account of all his interactions with Jane while employed by the OSS in Ceylon, as well as every subsequent encounter. He again maintained that although the closest of friends they had never been romantically involved, and had kept up only an intermittent friendship. After the war, he had not laid eyes on Jane again until the spring of 1946, when he happened to run into her on the street in Georgetown and they stopped to have a brief conversation. That was the only contact he had had with her in the United States. He had next seen her in 1952, sometime after he had joined the staff of the embassy in Paris. At that time, he had met her husband, a Russian American named George Zlatovski. Over the next few years the two couples had occasionally met for dinner, though Paul estimated it was probably not more than ten times. He had last seen her and her husband in the fall of 1954, when they had spent a few hours visiting together. Neither she nor George seemed to be particularly interested in politics, nor had they ever expressed any interest in his government post or in USIS policies. They had never even given any indication that they were sympathetic with the Communist Party. No, he had never heard any gossip to the effect that they were Communists or Communist sympathizers. No, he had never seen any Communist literature lying around their apartment in Paris. Paul observed dryly that he had always thought Jane was “too disorganized to become interested in any organization.”
The only question that gave him pause was the last one: Would he recommend Jane Foster Zlatovski as a loyal American who could be trusted with confidential information? Paul considered this for moment. He felt boxed in by the loaded nature of the question. He wanted to be honest without being incriminating. He had “no reason to question her loyalty,” he ventured, adding somewhat hesitantly that he did not think he could trust her absolutely. When pressed, he explained that Jane was “a glib talker” and “somewhat irresponsible.” As much as he hated to say anything against her, he would not trust her with confidential information because of her “indiscreetness.”
At all times during his questioning, Paul tried to be perfectly frank, and to show by his attitude that he had nothing to be ashamed of or to conceal. He felt “untainted,” he wrote Julia that weekend, because he was “completely cleared and completely blameless.” Still, he could not let it go. The whole business ate away at him, poisoning his gut. “I’m afraid I hate the system,” he agonized, wondering if he would ever again feel in control of his career, let alone his life. “What the Hell are they investigating Foster for, anyway? Or was that really a dodge to investigate me? Damned if I know.” What he wanted, above all, was an explanation that made some sense of the whole thing, that would tell him what had gone wrong, so he would know how to go on from there. How else was he to avoid the pitfalls ahead? And protect Julia, himself, and his career from further harm? But clearly no such enlightenment would be forthcoming. He was on his own.
Paul had cooperated fully. He had told them everything he knew, which amounted to precious little at the end of the day. When he finished, he requested that a written clearance be placed in his permanent record. When informed that it would take time to process his clearance because of the thirty-day requirement for Special Inquiries, he went straight to the head of the USIS Office of Security and demanded that the rule be waived. He was advised that it would be wiser to wait and stick to protocol “so it wouldn’t look strange.” Paul assured the security chief that it could not possibly look any stranger than it already did. He also told him that if they kept him in Washington another month with nothing to do, then “by God everybody and his mother would know what was going on.”
As soon as he received a copy of his clearance, Paul wired Julia: INVESTIGATION CONCLUDED SUCCESSFULLY FOR ME. He told friends he believed he had “weathered the storm.” He was “almost a virgin,” he wrote Julia, “a monument of innocence.” No apology was forthcoming, nor did he expect one. Perhaps to make it up to him, the powers that be had decided to send him to Brussels so that he could pick out the site for the American exhibition in the upcoming 1958 World’s Fair. It was a minor perk, given what they had put him through, but it was nonetheless a token of their esteem and Paul appreciated it. On April 26, he wrote Julia of his Brussels assignment, fairly crowing with triumph. Furthermore, he had applied for, and received, permission to fly back via Paris. If everything went according to plan, he would meet her there at the end of the month. At which time, he added, “I shall allow myself to be congratulated by a thoroughly prejudiced woman of my acquaintance.”
As far as Julia and Paul were concerned, that put an end to the Jane Foster affair. They had no way of knowing then that it was far from over.