Hiss, Alger, 1904-96, American public official, b. Baltimore. After serving (1929-30) as secretary to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hiss practiced law in Boston and New York City. He then was attached to the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (1933-35) and to the Dept. of Justice (1935-36). He entered the Dept. of State in 1936 and rose rapidly to become an adviser at various international conferences and a coordinator of American foreign policy. In 1947, he resigned his government post to become president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. In Aug., 1948, Whittaker Chambers, a magazine editor and former Communist party courier, accused Hiss of having helped transmit confidential government documents to the Russians. Hiss denied these charges; since, under the statute of limitations, he could not be tried for espionage, he was indicted (Dec., 1948) on two counts of perjury. When he was first brought to trial in 1949, the jury was unable to reach a decision. At a second trial Hiss was found guilty (Jan., 1950) and sentenced to a five-year prison term. His trial created great controversy; many believed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had tampered with evidence in order to secure a conviction. Hiss was released from prison in Nov., 1954, his term shortened for good conduct. In 1957 he wrote In the Court of Public Opinion, in which he denied all charges against him. Hiss maintained his innocence to his death; Soviet files made public in 1995 convinced most observers that he had been guilty, but controversy lingers.

See W. Chambers, Witness (1952, repr. 1983); R. Seth, The Sleeping Truth: The Hiss-Chambers Affair Reappraised (1968); A. Weinstein, Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case (1978).

Hiss may refer to:

  • An onomatopoeia for a type of noise comparable to white noise, such as the release of air brakes, or a noise made by snakes.
  • Tape hiss, high frequency noise present on analogue magnetic tape recordings
  • Electronic circuit hiss, white noise present at low level in all electronic circuits


  • Alger Hiss, a U.S. State Department employee and alleged spy for the Soviet Union
  • Donald Hiss, younger brother of Alger Hiss
  • King Hiss, the villainous king of the Snake Men in Mattel toyline Masters of the Universe
  • Mike Hiss, a former driver in the USAC Championship Car series
  • Sir Hiss, Prince John's fictional sidekick in the 1973 animated Disney movie Robin Hood


  • Honda Ignition Security System

See also

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