Tyler Kent was born in China in 1911. His father was a member of the U.S. Diplomatic Corps. Kent was educated at Princeton, the Sorbone, the University of Madrid and George Washington University. Kent, who spoke French, Greek, German, Russian, Italian and Spanish, joined the State Department in 1934 as a clerk in the Foreign Service and was posted to Moscow.
While in the Soviet Union Kent was accused of helping White Russians to smuggle into the United States various Imperial Russian treasures. It was later revealed that he was also passing on documents to Nazi intelligence while in Moscow.
Kent was transferred to London to work as a cypher clerk at the American Embassy. His arrival in England in the company of Ludwig Matthias, a Gestapo agent, brought him to the attention of MI5. Kent, later admitted, that he had"anti-Semitic tendencies for many years." He also believed that "all wars are inspired, formented and promoted by the great international bankers and banking combines which are largely controlled by the Jews."
In February 1940, Tyler met Anna Wolkoff. Her father, Admiral Nikolai Wolkoff, was the former aide-to-camp to the Nicholas II in London. After the Russian Revolution Wolkoff decided to remain in England. The Wolfoff family ran the Russian Tea Room in South Kensington, a place where members of the secret society, the Right Club, used to meet. Wolkoff introduced Tyler to Archibald Ramsay, the leader of the organization. Wolkoff, Kent and Ramsay talked about politics and agreed that they all shared the same political views.
MI5 agent, Joan Miller, had infiltrated the Right Club. She later recorded that "he appeared strongly anti-Communist and pro-Fascist in outlook." Kent was concerned that the American government wanted the United States to join the war against Germany. He said he had evidence of this as he had been making copies of the correspondence between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Kent invited Wolkoff and Ramsay back to his flat to look at these documents. This included secret assurances that the United States would support France if it was invaded by the German Army. Kent later argued that he had shown these documents to Ramsay in the hope that he would pass this information to American politicians hostile to Roosevelt.
On 13th April 1940 Anna Wolkoff went to Kent's flat and made copies of some of these documents. Joan Miller and Marjorie Amor were later to testify that these documents were then passed on to Duco del Monte, Assistant Naval Attaché at the Italian Embassy. Soon afterwards, MI8, the wireless interception service, picked up messages between Rome and Berlin that indicated that Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence (Abwehr), now had copies of the Roosevelt-Churchill correspondence.
Soon afterwards Wolkoff asked Miller if she would use her contacts at the Italian Embassy to pass a coded letter to William Joyce (Lord Haw-Haw) in Germany. The letter contained information that he could use in his broadcasts on Radio Hamburg. Before passing the letter to her contacts, Miller showed it to Maxwell Knight.
On 18th May, Knight told Guy Liddell about the Right Club spy ring. Liddell immediately had a meeting with Joseph Kennedy, the American Ambassador in London. Kennedy agreed to waive Kent's diplomatic immunity. Tyler Kent was arrested on 20th May, 1940. According to Joseph E. Persico, the author of Roosevelt's Secret War (2001): "They found 1,929 U.S. embassy documents, including secret correspondence between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. The content of these messages was such that their exposure to the public could harm the President and the Prime Minister, and jeopardize America's presumed neutrality in the European war. What they revealed could also influence the upcoming U.S. presidential election."
The Special Branch officers also found duplicate keys to the embassy code room. The officers were also shocked to find that in Kent had what became known as Ramsay's Red Book. This book had details of the supporters of the Right Club and had been given to Kent by Archibald Ramsay for safe keeping.
Anna Wolkoff was also arrested and charged under the Official Secrets Act. The trial took place in secret and on 7th November 1940, Wolkoff was sentenced to ten years. Kent, because he was an American citizen, was treated less harshly and received only seven years.
In December 1945 Tyler Kent was deported to the United States. Surprisingly, his former employer the Department of State decided not to prosecute him for working as a spy for Nazi Germany. He was however, the subject of six FBI investigations from 1952 to 1963.
After marrying a wealthy woman, he became a publisher of a newspaper that supported the Ku Klux Klan. In the early 1960s Kent condemned President John F. Kennedy as a communist. After the assassination of Kennedy he claimed that he was killed by agents of the Soviet Union because he was abandoning his communist beliefs.
Tyler Kent died in poverty in a Texas trailer park on 20th November 1988.