Military chief warns of “extreme caution”

In Vladivostok, Marguerite reunited with Major Faymonville, the military observer, and Edward Thomas, the Chita vice consul, who were anxious to hear about her experiences on the Amur River. American military attaches were keeping watch over the turbulent region, which promised vast business potential despite political instability. The agents asked her to write about her observations and included her report along with one they sent to Washington.

DeWitt Clinton Poole was Director of the State Department’s Division of Russian Affairs  who ran an espionage ring in Russia.

Yet, even as the State Department was accepting her information, new suspicious arose that caused leaders in Washington to urge their men to be cautious when dealing with Marguerite. On August 21, the Guardian in London revealed that she was the woman who had denounced British journalist Stan Harding. Although those with knowledge of the case knew Harding had accused Marguerite of betrayal, until the then, her name had not been revealed publicly. Now, in addition to rumors that she was a double agent, came word that she was to blame for an innocent woman’s imprisonment.

Within days, the news reached Asia. The English-language paper the Japan Advertiser published Marguerite’s photograph and a front-page story headlined, “Mrs. Harrison is Is Called Red Agent.” The lengthy article misidentified Harding, calling her Star Baker, but recounted the alarm Japanese officials felt over having spent a month cavorting with a purported Bolshevik spy.

Immediately, the charges d’ affaires of the Japanese Embassy in Washington called on Dewitt C. Poole, head of the Russian Division of the U.S. Department of State, demanding to know whether the reports about Marguerite were true. Poole told the representative that the State Department did not believe she was really a Russian spy, but added the department would take no responsibility for her because “she was a very clever woman and one could not always know just what she was about.”

Even though officials in the State Department said they did not believe Marguerite was a Bolshevik spy, the head of U.S. Army Intelligence urged his subordinates to exercise caution in dealing with her. Col. Stuart Heintzelman had received the report Marguerite gave Burnett on British plans for Siberia, and he sent a warning: “Extreme caution . . . should be taken in dealing with your informant. . . . No written documents of any kind whatsoever should be given, and confidential oral information should be carefully guarded.”

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