Jump to content
The Education Forum

Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg


Recommended Posts

A group of historians are currently involved in a lawsuit seeking the release of papers in the Rosenberg case. The historians especially want the transcripts of those two crucial interviews with David and Ruth Greenglass. They are refusing to do this but did provide information that Ruth had died under an assumed name on 7th April 2008.

In 1942 David Greenglass joined the United States Army. Promoted to the rank of sergeant, he was transferred to Los Alamos, where attempts were being made to develop the atom bomb. In 1945 Greenglass left the army and open a small machine shop in Manhattan with his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg. However, the business did badly and Greenglass left the partnership.

On 5th September 1945, Igor Gouzenko, a KGB intelligence officer based in Canada, defected to the West claiming he had evidence of an Soviet spy ring based in Britain. Gouzenko provided evidence that led to the arrest of 22 local agents and 15 Soviet spies in Canada. Some of this information from Gouzenko resulted in Klaus Fuchs being interviewed by MI5. Fuchs denied any involvement in espionage and the intelligence services did not have enough evidence to have him arrested and charged with spying. However, after repeated interviews with Jim Skardon he eventually confessed on 23rd January 1950 to passing information to the Soviet Union. Six weeks later Fuchs was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

In June 1950 the FBI arrested Harry Gold, who confessed to helping Klaus Fuchs in his espionage activities in the United States. He named David Greenglass as being a member of the spy ring. In July 1950 Greenglass was arrested by the FBI and accused of spying for the Soviet Union. Under questioning, he admitted acting as a spy and named Julius Rosenberg as one of his contacts. He denied that his sister, Ethel Rosenberg, had been involved but confessed that his wife, Ruth Greenglass, had been used as a courier.

Julius Rosenberg was arrested but refused to implicate anybody else in spying for the Soviet Union. Joseph McCarthy had just launched his attack on a so-called group of communists based in Washington. J. Edgar Hoover saw the arrest of Rosenberg as a means of getting good publicity for the FBI. Hoover sent a memorandum to the US attorney general Howard McGrath saying: "There is no question that if Julius Rosenberg would furnish details of his extensive espionage activities it would be possible to proceed against other individuals. Proceeding against his wife might serve as a lever in these matters."

Hoover ordered the arrest of Ethel Rosenberg and her two children were taken into care. Julius and Ethel were put under pressure to incriminate others involved in the spy ring. Neither offered any further information.

Ten days before the start of the trial of the Rosenbergs the FBI re-interviewed David Greenglass. He was offered a deal if he provided information against Ethel Rosenberg. This included a promise not to charge his wife, Ruth Greenglass, with being a member of the spy ring. Greenglass now changed his story. In his original statement, he said that he handed over atomic information to Julius Rosenberg on a street corner in New York. In his new interview, Greenglass claimed that the handover had taken place in the living room of the Rosenberg's New York flat.

In her FBI interview Ruth Greenglass argued that "Julius then took the info into the bathroom and read it, and when he came out he told (Ethel) she had to type this info immediately. Ethel then sat down at the typewriter... and proceeded to type info which David had given to Julius".

The trial of Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg began on 6th March 1951. David Greenglass was questioned by the chief prosecutor's assistant, Roy Cohn. After Greenglass testified to his passing sketches of a high explosive lens mold he provided incriminating detail of the Rosenberg's espionage activity.

Ruth Greenglass testified as to how she was asked by Julius Rosenberg to inquire of her husband, recently stationed in Los Alamos, whether he would be willing to provide information on the progress of the Manhattan Project. She also testified that Ethel Rosenberg spent a January evening in 1945 typing her husband's handwritten notes from Los Alamos.

The Rosenberg's defense attorney, Emanuel Bloch, argued that Greenglass was lying in order to gain revenge because he blamed Rosenberg for their failed business venture and to get a lighter sentence for himself. (He did not know about the deal done with Ruth Greenglass.)

In his summation, the chief prosecutor, Irving Saypol, declared: "This description of the atom bomb, destined for delivery to the Soviet Union, was typed up by the defendant Ethel Rosenberg that afternoon at her apartment at 10 Monroe Street. Just so had she, on countless other occasions, sat at that typewriter and struck the keys, blow by blow, against her own country in the interests of the Soviets."

Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death and remained on death row for twenty-six months. Nobel prize-winner, Jean-Paul Sartre, called the case "a legal lynching which smears with blood a whole nation". The Rosenbergs remained on death row for twenty-six months. They both refused to confess and provide evidence against others and they were eventually executed on 19th June, 1953. As one political commentator pointed out, they died because they refused to confess and name others.

As a reward for his co-operation, Greenglass was only sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released after only serving ten years. Greenglass went to live with his wife under an assumed name.

In December 2001, Sam Roberts, a New York Times reporter, traced David Greenglass, who was living under an assumed name with Ruth Greenglass. Interviewed on television under a heavy disguise, he acknowledged that his and his wife's court statements had been untrue. "Julius asked me to write up some stuff, which I did, and then he had it typed. I don't know who typed it, frankly. And to this day I can't even remember that the typing took place. But somebody typed it. Now I'm not sure who it was and I don't even think it was done while we were there."

David Greenglass said he had no regrets about his testimony that resulted in the execution of Ethel Rosenberg. "As a spy who turned his family in, I don't care. I sleep very well. I would not sacrifice my wife and my children for my sister... You know, I seldom use the word sister anymore; I've just wiped it out of my mind. My wife put her in it. So what am I going to do, call my wife a xxxx? My wife is my wife."

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USArosenberg.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USArosenbergE.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAgreenglass.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAgreenglassR.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A group of historians are currently involved in a lawsuit seeking the release of papers in the Rosenberg case. The historians especially want the transcripts of those two crucial interviews with David and Ruth Greenglass. They are refusing to do this but did provide information that Ruth had died under an assumed name on 7th April 2008....

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USArosenberg.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USArosenbergE.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAgreenglass.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAgreenglassR.htm

For some essential context and much-merited scepticism, see William A. Reuben's The Atom Spy Hoax (NY: Action Books, 1954).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What about the Verona (IIRC) intercepts? Did they mention only Julius, or did they mention Ethel as well?

The Venona decrypts of 1940s cable traffic to Moscow from the Soviet Consulate in New York, and previously unavailable Soviet sources, suggest that Julius Rosenberg (believed to be codenamed "Liberal" in the Venona transcipts) was involved in the spy network. However, according to the KGB, Ethel Rosenberg was never part of the conspiracy. The issue is not whether Julius Rosenberg was guilty of being part of a plot to pass the Atom Bomb secrets to the Soviets. They believed, that if the Soviets had the bomb, it would stop the US from using it against them. Therefore they were involved in a conspiracy to maintain world peace. Who can say that this did really stop the US from dropping atom bombs on the Soviet Union. It was definitely one of the reasons JFK refused to do this in 1962 in the dispute over the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Rosenberg definitely deserved to be sent to prison. For example, Klaus Fuchs, the scientist who was at the centre of this conspiracy, was sentenced to 14 years in prison (served 9 years). Others in the spy ring who played larger roles than Rosenberg, like Harry Gold, Martin Sobell, David Greenglass, etc. also received prison sentences. The only reason that the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death was because they were unwilling to name others. This is of course the essence of McCarthyism. Julius Rosenberg refused because of his sense of morality (as did others like the "Hollywood Ten"). Ethel Rosenberg did not confess because she was innocent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, thank you. My limited knowledge said that Julius was definitely guilty, but little is ever said about Ethel. Reading William Stevenson's INTREPID'S LAST CASE, he implies that H Montgomery Hyde's book "The Atomic Bomb Spies" says that if they had confessed, they would have avoided execution.

Is this correct in member's opinions? Did either one ever confess? if not, do people think a confession would have led to any leniency?

From my own reading of the period, I doubt would it have done any good. The paranoia of the era - on the part of some people - would have meant that a confession would merely confirm their guilt, and not avoided any particular penalty.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, thank you. My limited knowledge said that Julius was definitely guilty, but little is ever said about Ethel. Reading William Stevenson's INTREPID'S LAST CASE, he implies that H Montgomery Hyde's book "The Atomic Bomb Spies" says that if they had confessed, they would have avoided execution.

Is this correct in member's opinions? Did either one ever confess? if not, do people think a confession would have led to any leniency?

From my own reading of the period, I doubt would it have done any good. The paranoia of the era - on the part of some people - would have meant that a confession would merely confirm their guilt, and not avoided any particular penalty.

H. Montgomery Hyde is of course right. Greenglass, Gold and Sobell were all spared after they gave the names of other conspirators, including the names of people who were not in the plot. This is why the rest of the world was horrified by the way the US prosecuted the Rosenbergs. Eisenhower was himself deeply ashamed of the way the prosecution used Ethel Rosenberg. In the words of Hoover to the US attorney general Howard McGrath: "There is no question that if Julius Rosenberg would furnish details of his extensive espionage activities it would be possible to proceed against other individuals. Proceeding against his wife might serve as a lever in these matters."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For some essential context and much-merited scepticism, see William A. Reuben's The Atom Spy Hoax (NY: Action Books, 1954).

I have not been able to get a copy of this book. Any chance of a summary?

William A. Reuben. The Atom Spy Hoax (NY: Action Books, December 1954; this edition, May 1955), 504pp.

Contents:

Book I: The Secret

Chapter I: Hiroshima: There Is No Atom Secret 1

Chapter II: Canada: The Atom Spy Plot That Never Was 16

Chapter III: Canada: The Atom Spy Plot That Never Was (Continued) 37

Chapter IV: Canada: The Atom Spy Plot That Never Was (Continued) 84

Book II: The Blueprint

Chapter V: Lt. Redin: An A-Spy Is Still Born 113

Chapter VI: What Helps Business Helps You 119

Chapter VII: Dr. Condon: If At First You Don’t Succeed 129

Chapter VIII: A-Spies and the 1948 Elections:…Try Again 137

Chapter IX: Within Weeks An Explosion Occurred 148

Chapter X: Bentley, Budenz and Chambers, Unlimited 158

Book III: Reaction

Chapter XI: Peace Is a Four-Letter Word 203

Chapter XII: Klaus Fuchs 210

Chapter XIII: Harry Gold: “I Lied Desperately” 246

Book IV: Chain Reaction

Chapter XIV: Summer, 1950: Ninety Days That Changed The World 289

Chapter XV: Alfred Dean Slack: An “Atom Spy” Who Recanted 299

Chapter XVI: David Greenglass: The FBI Loosened His Memory 327

Chapter XVII: Julius Rosenberg: A Jello Box-Top Was The Clue 370

Chapter XVIII: Brothman-Moskowitz: Public Library Espionage 406

Chapter XIX: Ethel Rosenberg: Even the Charges Were Secret 422

Chapter XX: Ruth Greenglass: Not What She Bargained For 439

Chapter XXI: Morton Sobell: Case History of a Hoax 457

In Malcolm P. Sharp’s Was Justice Done? The Rosenberg-Sobell Case (NY: Monthly Review Press, 1956), Appendix 4 (pp.205-216), reprints Sharp’s review, New Light on the Rosenberg Case (Monthly Review, December 1955), of Reuben’s Atom Spy Hoax and John Wexley’s The Judgment of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (NY: Cameron & Kahn, 1955). Extracts follow:

Mr. Reuben spends a large portion of his book in outlining the course of the leading spy cases, beginning with the publication of Gouzenko’s accusations in 1946, and their relationship to the Canadian cases, and continuing through the Rosenberg-Sobell cases. It is Mr. Reuben’s view that the excitement over the spy cases was deliberately exaggerated throughout and was a principal means of bringing on the cold war. His book is a valuable stimulus to observation…

On the evidentiary problems about the spy scare in general, Mr. Reuben deserves respectful consideration. Historians, political scientists, and students of law will need to come to his presentation with an open, as well as a critical, mind. He is committed to a position, and the need for a critical mind will be apparent at the start. His first part deals with the Canadian cases. He reminds us of the acquittals and reduces the convictions to their natural size. He is more sceptical about the confession of Alan Nunn May than is Mr. Wexley, who fully shares Mr. Reuben’s and Dean Wigmore’s doubts about the dependability of confessions in general. Mr. Reuben is writing argumentatively. His bias perhaps appears most clearly in a much later chapter where, in dealing with an alleged American spy, Alfred Dean Slack, he presents the defense position, together with a citation to the report which gives a clue to a court’s strongly reasoned contrary view, which, however, he does not present…

Both Mr. Reuben and Mr. Wexley raise grave doubts about the reliability of the confessions of Fuchs, Harry Gold, and the Greenglasses, which are the basis of the proceedings against the Rosenbergs…

Other books & pamphlets by William A. Reuben:

Footnote on an Historic Case: In Re Alger Hiss, No. 78 Civ. 3433. NY: The Nation Institute, 1983:1st issue. Light blue printed wraps. 65+ pp.)

The Honorable Mr. Nixon and the Alger Hiss Case (NY: Action Books, 1956)

The Mark Fein Case: The complete Story of a Young Millionaire Accused, Tried and Convicted of Murdering His Bookie (NY: Dial Press, 1967).

http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?author=W...st=sr&ac=qr

Reuben’s pamphlet, To Secure Justice in the Rosenberg Case, based on his August 1951 National Guardian series, led to the formation of the National Committee to Secure Justice in the Rosenberg. It can be read online here:

http://archive.lib.msu.edu/DMC/AmRad/secur...cerosenberg.pdf

Guide to the William A. Reuben papers, 1923-2003

http://dlib.nyu.edu/findingaids/html/tamwag/reuben.html

Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Elmer Holmes Bobst Library

70 Washington Square South

New York, NY 10012

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html...agewanted=print

January 24, 1999

'The Haunted Wood'

To the Editor, NYT:

Joseph E. Persico writes, ''What emerges . . . is proof of the guilt of certain Americans whose spying for the Soviet Union has been the subject of debate for over half a century.'' The fact that the texts of K.G.B. files purportedly summarized or copied by Allen Weinstein and Aleksandr Vassiliev are not available for independent verification must prevent any respectable historian from reaching any such conclusion.

I can testify personally that another statement by Persico is false. He writes, ''The K.G.B. archives further detail Moscow's nearly total control and orchestration of the failed worldwide public relations campaign to save Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.''

It was I and five friends who organized this campaign. No Russian or Communist agents ''orchestrated'' our activity; no such people exerted control over us. I had written a series of articles about the Rosenbergs' trial, the first of which appeared in The National Guardian on Aug. 15, 1951. Readers all over the United States wrote in response, enclosing $1, $2, $5 and $10 bills that amounted to close to $3,000 as contributions ''to the committee.'' No such committee then existed. We created it in my Manhattan apartment in October 1951, six months after the end of the trial. We used the contributions to publish the trial record and my Guardian articles in pamphlet form.

The worldwide campaign on behalf of the Rosenbergs was caused not by Moscow or its agents but by the shocking facts of the case. The Communist Party of the United States took no action on behalf of the Rosenbergs until October 1952.

William A. Reuben, New York

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m113...ag=artBody;col1

A serious flaw in Kovel - response to W. H. Locke Anderson's review of Joel Kovel's book 'Red Hunting in the Promised Land', May 1994

William A. Reuben

To disagree with a review in Monthly Review by its Associate Editor of a book that is dedicated to Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff (and to Alger Hiss) is not a task to be taken lightly. But, in as comradely a spirit as I can muster, I would like to take issue with W. H. Locke Anderson's review (MR, May 1994) of Joel Kovel's Red Hunting in the Promised Land.

My main difference with Anderson's review is that he evades the meaning of the data Kovel has put together. The review is largely taken up with a tabulation of the book's contents, with Anderson mainly taking exception to what he calls Kovel's "expositional strategy." Anderson maintains that the author "seems to be saying that America's obsessional anticommunism derived from a mass confusion in the national psyche."

IN my reading of this work Kovel is saying something quite different, namely that the uniquely U.S. brand of anticommunism has enriched and made all-dominant in the governance of this land an elite few; and that the sole objective in the war against Communism was (and is) to save wealth and preserve power. As I understand his overall design (not explored in Anderson's review), Kovel has sought to come to grips with anticommunism's "black hole effect"--the demonization of those people and groups who represent "political opposition to the status quo," and how this has made robust, rational discourse on national affairs all but impossible.

Kovel's book grew out of a 1988 conference at Harvard University, "Anticommunism in the United States: History and Consequences." Although the particular topics of Red Hunting in the Promised Land have already been intensively studied and explored, there has been virtually nothing peviously written on anticommunism as an all-embracing syndrome. However, despite Kovel's keen insights and socialist sympathies, his study is based, admittedly, on no original investigation. This, in my opinion, has seriously flawed his work.

An all-pervading syndrome in the selling of the Cold War has to do with the "communist spy"--the notion that all "communists" are actual or potential spies and traitors. Kovel makes no attempt to deal with, or to understand, the alchemy of newspaper headlines (and radio and television sound bites) as an instrument to poison the public mind. Disinformation has been a vital weapon in the Cold War, and for near half-a-century the U.S. people have been bombarded with, and bamboozled by, fake and distorted and false stories about Communists and atoms and Russian spies. But Kovel seems to concede that the Establishment media's depiction of the famous Cold War "spy" cases is identical with courtroom evidence, for his textual analysis of the Cold War shies completely away from this subject (as does Anderson's review), much as if it were contaminated and dangerous to get close to. Nowhere in the text of Red Hunting in the Promised Land is there any discussion of such Cold War "communist spy" cases as Amerasia, Lieutenant Nicolai Redin, Igor Gouzenko, the Canadian "atom spies," the scores of New Deal officials headlined as part of the Elizabeth Bentley "spy" ring, Klaus Fuchs, Harry Gold, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Morton Sobell, William Remington, Judith Coplon, Jack Soble, and Dr. Robert Soblen, and the trials in New York, Pennsylvania, California, and Hawaii of some 125 leaders of the Communist Party. Reverberating for years in the media and political dialogue, it was these trials that did so much to pollute the political climate, establish in the public mind the J. Edgar Hoover-inspired notion that criminal acts of espionage were the same as communist and left-oriented ideas (thereby finessing the guarantees of the First Amendment), and create so much of the hysteria and anticommunist hatred rooted in the idea that, in a nuclear age, it was possible for one communist-minded traitor to steal and hand over to the "enemy" a "secret" that could blow up the entire Free World.

In Kovel's entire book, there is merely a one-paragraph source note that brushes over this vast subject without scrutiny while conceding that spies did steal valuable atomic secrets for the Soviets. The author found it appropriate to write that one "indisputable" case of espionage "was that of Judith Coplon, a clerk in the Justice Department who admitted passing FBI reports to her Soviet lover." Ms. Coplon never admitted to passing government documents to anyone and was never shown by any evidence to have ever done any such thing. All charges against her have been dropped and to this day she stands in law as an innocent person--simply one of the many Americans falsely pilloried by the FBI and the Establishment media as a "communist spy."

How long, Oh Lord, how long, before we on the left recognize this spy stuff for what it is: 99.9 percent pure bunkum? Kovel is not to be faulted for overlooking this counter-evidence (it is, I suppose, too much to ask of an author of such a vast panoramic work to study original court records and government documents for himself) so much as it is to be an occasion for deep sorrow that we do not have in this country anything like a real opposition press.

COPYRIGHT 1994 Monthly Review Foundation, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for that, Paul.

I don't want to derail the thread, but where are the lines drawn between various degrees of spying? If you do it for ideological reasons, does that make it any more "wrong" than one who does it purely for money? We of course stray into the realm of patriot / freedom fighter / terrorist here. A spy on the enemy staff is regarded by the victors as a hero. If the "enemy" won they'd be regarded as a traitor.

So is there any unambiguous position? is some case "right" and some case "wrong"?

Does belief in one's cause make "illegal" action... "right"?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't want to derail the thread, but where are the lines drawn between various degrees of spying? If you do it for ideological reasons, does that make it any more "wrong" than one who does it purely for money? We of course stray into the realm of patriot / freedom fighter / terrorist here. A spy on the enemy staff is regarded by the victors as a hero. If the "enemy" won they'd be regarded as a traitor.

So is there any unambiguous position? is some case "right" and some case "wrong"?

Does belief in one's cause make "illegal" action... "right"?

My own view is that Julius Rosenberg, whatever his moral reasons for his actions, deserved to be punished for breaking the law. However, there is no way that the state should have taken his life for the crime. Nor should they have executed his wife who was clearly innocent of the crime that she was accused of. Especially, as the threat of execution was based on a strategy to force him to give the names of others involved in the conspiracy.

The case also raises another moral issue. David Greenglass sacrificed the life of his sister in order to save that of his wife. He said in an interview in December 2001 he said he had no regrets about his testimony that resulted in the execution of Ethel Rosenberg. "As a spy who turned his family in, I don't care. I sleep very well. I would not sacrifice my wife and my children for my sister... You know, I seldom use the word sister anymore; I've just wiped it out of my mind. My wife put her in it. So what am I going to do, call my wife a xxxx? My wife is my wife."

Does anyone on the forum agree with his moral code?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My own view is that Julius Rosenberg, whatever his moral reasons for his actions, deserved to be punished for breaking the law.

Agreed.

However, there is no way that the state should have taken his life for the crime.

This leads to a debate about capital punishment. I am still undecided, but I think I tend to side with you... in this kind of situation. There would be some situation in which I might consider capital punishment to be an apt response.

Nor should they have executed his wife who was clearly innocent of the crime that she was accused of. Especially, as the threat of execution was based on a strategy to force him to give the names of others involved in the conspiracy.

I don't believe there is a clear case of innocence, but I don't think there was a clear case of espionage deserving of capital punishment. At most, she should have received a jail term.

The case also raises another moral issue. David Greenglass sacrificed the life of his sister in order to save that of his wife. He said in an interview in December 2001 he said he had no regrets about his testimony that resulted in the execution of Ethel Rosenberg. "As a spy who turned his family in, I don't care. I sleep very well. I would not sacrifice my wife and my children for my sister... You know, I seldom use the word sister anymore; I've just wiped it out of my mind. My wife put her in it. So what am I going to do, call my wife a xxxx? My wife is my wife."

Does anyone on the forum agree with his moral code?

It's a terribly grey area, IMO, perhaps a case of "the lessor of two evils"? Perhaps he chose what he considered to be the lessor, and lived with the consequences? It's a moral dilemma which, IMO, has no right or wrong answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The case also raises another moral issue. David Greenglass sacrificed the life of his sister in order to save that of his wife. He said in an interview in December 2001 he said he had no regrets about his testimony that resulted in the execution of Ethel Rosenberg. "As a spy who turned his family in, I don't care. I sleep very well. I would not sacrifice my wife and my children for my sister... You know, I seldom use the word sister anymore; I've just wiped it out of my mind. My wife put her in it. So what am I going to do, call my wife a xxxx? My wife is my wife."

Does anyone on the forum agree with his moral code?

It's a terribly grey area, IMO, perhaps a case of "the lessor of two evils"? Perhaps he chose what he considered to be the lessor, and lived with the consequences? It's a moral dilemma which, IMO, has no right or wrong answer.

I disagree. He lied to save his wife. If he had told the truth he would have saved his sister.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But that is, as I said, a moral dilemma. Is there any right or wrong answer?

After 9/11, we were briefed by some ex-RN people who really brought home some truths.

For instance, you return home to find people holding your wife and children hostage. They tell you that you have to do what they say, or your wife and children will die. A sleepless night follows.

The people tell you to drive your car to work as normal. You are to park it, then walk away. You will be watched. If you deviate from instructions or try to alert security forces, your wife & children will be killed.

You know your car has some type of bomb in it. You see at least two cars following you on the way to work. You see listening devices planted in the car. You know that if you follow instructions, many of your workmates will be killed. You also know that if you disobey, your family will be killed.

What do you do? A moral dilemma.

I think either case (both my hypothetical and the Rosenbergs)lead to no "right" answer.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for that, Paul.

I don't want to derail the thread, but where are the lines drawn between various degrees of spying? If you do it for ideological reasons, does that make it any more "wrong" than one who does it purely for money? We of course stray into the realm of patriot / freedom fighter / terrorist here. A spy on the enemy staff is regarded by the victors as a hero. If the "enemy" won they'd be regarded as a traitor.

So is there any unambiguous position? is some case "right" and some case "wrong"?

Does belief in one's cause make "illegal" action... "right"?

If your cause is 'right' or just of course it is 'right'. Not only that, it may be your moral and ethical obligation as a human being to go against your nations laws. To blindly follow any law just because it exists is to abdicate any claim to being a rational human being. Do I stop at red lights? Yes. Because the consequences of not doing so would cause danger to myself and others. Do I tell the truth all the time. Most of the time I do as I like to have clear and straightforward communication with people and develop relationships based on trust which would be undermined if there was doubt about the veracity of my words. If I see a frightened person run past me and hide in a doorway then see another person run by me with an axe in their hand and ask me if I have seen anyone run past this way do I say yes, there right over there in that doorway or do I say no haven't seen anyone come this way? In that situation it is clear for me that I would not tell the truth. You may have to think about it Evan :blink: If my nation is engaged in the secret but wholesale slaughter of a people do I obey the laws of my nation where it requires me to be a party to this? No. Do I try to stop this from happening? Yes. I am a human being not a sheep or lemming. I am kind of astounded that anyone would ask this question. Do you sleep in your uniform Evan? I mean this in the best possible way but maybe you need to get out more Evan and mix with others from the outside world. Scary I know. The military life can exist within is a total institution and your question shows signs to me of a limited institutional mindset. Sorry but please read what you wrote. The legalities are clear. There are penalties for breaking the law whether that be spying or traffic offenses. A person who spies for money will never be fully trusted by the buyer of their information. They will sell to the highest bidder who ever that may be. A person who spies for ideology cannot be bought for cash. Where the lines are drawn will depend on how (and if) you think about any given situation. It takes a little effort but is usually well worth it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A group of historians are currently involved in a lawsuit seeking the release of papers in the Rosenberg case. The historians especially want the transcripts of those two crucial interviews with David and Ruth Greenglass. They are refusing to do this but did provide information that Ruth had died under an assumed name on 7th April 2008.

In 1942 David Greenglass joined the United States Army. Promoted to the rank of sergeant, he was transferred to Los Alamos, where attempts were being made to develop the atom bomb. In 1945 Greenglass left the army and open a small machine shop in Manhattan with his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg. However, the business did badly and Greenglass left the partnership.

On 5th September 1945, Igor Gouzenko, a KGB intelligence officer based in Canada, defected to the West claiming he had evidence of an Soviet spy ring based in Britain. Gouzenko provided evidence that led to the arrest of 22 local agents and 15 Soviet spies in Canada. Some of this information from Gouzenko resulted in Klaus Fuchs being interviewed by MI5. Fuchs denied any involvement in espionage and the intelligence services did not have enough evidence to have him arrested and charged with spying. However, after repeated interviews with Jim Skardon he eventually confessed on 23rd January 1950 to passing information to the Soviet Union. Six weeks later Fuchs was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

In June 1950 the FBI arrested Harry Gold, who confessed to helping Klaus Fuchs in his espionage activities in the United States. He named David Greenglass as being a member of the spy ring. In July 1950 Greenglass was arrested by the FBI and accused of spying for the Soviet Union. Under questioning, he admitted acting as a spy and named Julius Rosenberg as one of his contacts. He denied that his sister, Ethel Rosenberg, had been involved but confessed that his wife, Ruth Greenglass, had been used as a courier.

Julius Rosenberg was arrested but refused to implicate anybody else in spying for the Soviet Union. Joseph McCarthy had just launched his attack on a so-called group of communists based in Washington. J. Edgar Hoover saw the arrest of Rosenberg as a means of getting good publicity for the FBI. Hoover sent a memorandum to the US attorney general Howard McGrath saying: "There is no question that if Julius Rosenberg would furnish details of his extensive espionage activities it would be possible to proceed against other individuals. Proceeding against his wife might serve as a lever in these matters."

Hoover ordered the arrest of Ethel Rosenberg and her two children were taken into care. Julius and Ethel were put under pressure to incriminate others involved in the spy ring. Neither offered any further information.

Ten days before the start of the trial of the Rosenbergs the FBI re-interviewed David Greenglass. He was offered a deal if he provided information against Ethel Rosenberg. This included a promise not to charge his wife, Ruth Greenglass, with being a member of the spy ring. Greenglass now changed his story. In his original statement, he said that he handed over atomic information to Julius Rosenberg on a street corner in New York. In his new interview, Greenglass claimed that the handover had taken place in the living room of the Rosenberg's New York flat.

In her FBI interview Ruth Greenglass argued that "Julius then took the info into the bathroom and read it, and when he came out he told (Ethel) she had to type this info immediately. Ethel then sat down at the typewriter... and proceeded to type info which David had given to Julius".

The trial of Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg began on 6th March 1951. David Greenglass was questioned by the chief prosecutor's assistant, Roy Cohn. After Greenglass testified to his passing sketches of a high explosive lens mold he provided incriminating detail of the Rosenberg's espionage activity.

Ruth Greenglass testified as to how she was asked by Julius Rosenberg to inquire of her husband, recently stationed in Los Alamos, whether he would be willing to provide information on the progress of the Manhattan Project. She also testified that Ethel Rosenberg spent a January evening in 1945 typing her husband's handwritten notes from Los Alamos.

The Rosenberg's defense attorney, Emanuel Bloch, argued that Greenglass was lying in order to gain revenge because he blamed Rosenberg for their failed business venture and to get a lighter sentence for himself. (He did not know about the deal done with Ruth Greenglass.)

In his summation, the chief prosecutor, Irving Saypol, declared: "This description of the atom bomb, destined for delivery to the Soviet Union, was typed up by the defendant Ethel Rosenberg that afternoon at her apartment at 10 Monroe Street. Just so had she, on countless other occasions, sat at that typewriter and struck the keys, blow by blow, against her own country in the interests of the Soviets."

Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg were sentenced to death and remained on death row for twenty-six months. Nobel prize-winner, Jean-Paul Sartre, called the case "a legal lynching which smears with blood a whole nation". The Rosenbergs remained on death row for twenty-six months. They both refused to confess and provide evidence against others and they were eventually executed on 19th June, 1953. As one political commentator pointed out, they died because they refused to confess and name others.

As a reward for his co-operation, Greenglass was only sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was released after only serving ten years. Greenglass went to live with his wife under an assumed name.

In December 2001, Sam Roberts, a New York Times reporter, traced David Greenglass, who was living under an assumed name with Ruth Greenglass. Interviewed on television under a heavy disguise, he acknowledged that his and his wife's court statements had been untrue. "Julius asked me to write up some stuff, which I did, and then he had it typed. I don't know who typed it, frankly. And to this day I can't even remember that the typing took place. But somebody typed it. Now I'm not sure who it was and I don't even think it was done while we were there."

David Greenglass said he had no regrets about his testimony that resulted in the execution of Ethel Rosenberg. "As a spy who turned his family in, I don't care. I sleep very well. I would not sacrifice my wife and my children for my sister... You know, I seldom use the word sister anymore; I've just wiped it out of my mind. My wife put her in it. So what am I going to do, call my wife a xxxx? My wife is my wife."

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USArosenberg.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USArosenbergE.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAgreenglass.htm

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAgreenglassR.htm

U.S. Judge Upholds Secrecy of Rosenberg Testimony

By BENJAMIN WEISER

The New York Times

July 23, 2008

A federal judge in Manhattan, weighing the secrecy of the grand jury process against the interests of public accountability, refused on Tuesday to unseal the grand jury testimony of a critical witness in the Rosenberg atomic espionage case.

But with no objection from the government about the release of testimony from three dozen or so other witnesses, those records could be released soon.

The witness who objected to having his testimony made public, David Greenglass, the brother of Ethel Rosenberg, was a co-conspirator and a key government witness whose testimony helped convict Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. They were executed at Sing Sing on June 19, 1953.

Mr. Greenglass, now 86, is one of the most controversial figures in the enduring spy case, historians say, as years after his sister’s execution he recanted his testimony that she had typed some of his espionage notes. He had testified against her to spare his wife, Ruth, from prosecution, and is widely seen as helping to cause Ethel’s conviction and execution.

A group of historians had petitioned for the release of the still-secret testimony, running more than 1,000 pages, of the witnesses who appeared before the grand jury in the Rosenberg case and a related one in 1950 and 1951.

The government agreed to the unsealing of testimony from most of the witnesses, objecting only to that of about 10, including Mr. Greenglass, who were still alive and did not consent or could not be found.

In refusing to release Mr. Greenglass’s testimony while he is alive, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein stressed the importance of grand jury secrecy as well as accountability.

But he added that not permitting others to disclose what a witness has said before the grand jury “is an abiding value that I must respect.”

Mr. Greenglass was not in court, but his lawyer, Daniel N. Arshack, wrote to Judge Hellerstein, saying that the circumstances that led to Mr. Greenglass’s testimony were “complex and emotionally wrought,” and had thrust him and his family “into an unwanted spotlight which has dogged their lives ever since.”

“The unequivocal and complete promise of secrecy,” Mr. Arshack wrote, “provided the protection that the guarantee of secrecy is designed to provide.”

Judge Hellerstein said that he would wait to rule on the other witnesses for whom the government was still objecting until further efforts were made to track them down or ascertain that they had died.

But he made it clear that he wanted that search to occur expeditiously, saying “time is precious” for historians and researchers.

The petitioners, led by the National Security Archives, a nonprofit group at George Washington University, had argued that the significance of the case, which they called “perhaps the defining moment of the early Cold War,” should trump the traditional confidentiality rules that govern the grand jury process.

The government, while not disputing the case’s historic importance, has said that the court should abide by the views of living witnesses who objected to the release of their testimony. Otherwise, the government said, witnesses could be discouraged from speaking candidly before grand juries in the future.

David C. Vladeck, a lawyer who argued for the petitioners, praised the outcome of the case and the expected release of the other testimony. “All of this is very good news,” he said.

He added that he was disappointed in the ruling on Mr. Greenglass, but said that “at some point we’ll get the records,” alluding to the government’s position that historians can renew their request after a witness’s death.

The historians supporting the release of the Rosenberg records hold diverse political views and opinions about the case. One of the petitioners is Sam Roberts, a reporter for The New York Times, who wrote a book on Mr. Greenglass.

One scholar who was not involved in the petition, David Oshinsky, said that even without release of the Greenglass testimony, the testimony of the other witnesses should help clear up questions about the evidence against Ethel Rosenberg.

“My sense is that what this may do is further implicate Julius while to some degree further exonerating Ethel,” said Mr. Oshinsky, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian.

He added that if there turned out to be very little other evidence against Ethel Rosenberg, “then the entire case does take a turn, and that is of vital importance.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...