June 19 – The Anniversary of the Execution of the Rosenbergs

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This
death sentence is not surprising. It had to be. There had to be
a Rosenberg Case because there had to be an intensification of the
hysteria in America to make the Korean War acceptable to the American
people. There had to be a hysteria and
a fear sent through America in order to get increased war budgets.
And there had to be a dagger thrust in the heart of the left to
tell them that you are no longer gonna
give five years for a Smith Act prosecution or one year for Contempt
of Court, but we’re gonna kill ya!


Julius Rosenberg, as quoted by his attorney, Emanuel Bloch, September
22, 1953.

The
evidence (including confession) upon which certain women were
convicted of witchcraft and executed was without a flaw; it is
still unimpeachable. The judges’ decisions based on it were sound
in logic and in law. Nothing in any existing court was ever more
thoroughly proved than the charges of witchcraft and sorcery for
which so many suffered death. If there
were no witches, human testimony and human reason are alike destitute
of value.


Ambrose Bierce

Shortly
after 8 PM on June 19, 1953, a young couple, Julius
and Ethel Rosenberg were executed by use of the electric chair in
the "Sing Sing" federal prison.
They had been duly convicted in a jury trial on the charge of "conspiring
to commit espionage for the Soviet Union" and given the death
sentence by Judge Irving Kaufman. Their lawyers had made numerous
appeals to the Second Circuit Appeals Court as well as the U. S.
Supreme Court including pleas for clemency to two US
presidents. All to no avail. The country
was in a state of hysteria over various world disasters – real,
imagined, or potential – and was in no mood for charity. They left
two small children.

What
evil deeds had the Rosenbergs done that
could bring such a harsh punishment, the severity of which was last
seen in the executions that followed Lincoln’s assassination and
has not been seen since? Had they sold our secrets to the Soviets
for the lust of money and expensive gifts? Had they betrayed our
own spies in Russia? No – they were not the Aldrich
Ames
type who now is enjoying TV soap operas in some federal
prison after collecting $3 million for his efforts. No, the
Rosenbergs were driven by naive idealism.
Apparently this is worse than doing it for money (see "Disloyalty as a principle"
by Maurice Isserman).

The
Rosenberg case has been extensively studied and written about in
the last 50 years. What I hope to do in this article is provide
a directory of resources for your convenience in understanding this
complex case. And if you still can’t make up your mind, I refer
you to the great Ambrose Bierce’s quote at the beginning of this
essay in which he reaffirms that we are truly a "nation of
laws" and "due process" is surely always followed.

Backgrounds
and Summaries

There
are several web sites devoted entirely to this case, one of the
best being "The Committee
to Secure Justice in the Rosenberg Case"
. There you can
proceed from a general summary to considerable detail, as you chose.
You can also make a contribution to their cause if you like.

If
you want to read a well-written article by the author, Ronald Radosh, who says the Rosenbergs are guilty and got what
they deserve, go to "Another
Look at the Rosenberg Case"
, Frontpage
Magazine.

"The
Rosenbergs: Victims of Cold War Hysteria"
, is a nice
summary with more links to other sites.

Links
to Testimony, Biographies and Transcripts

Doug
Linder in his essay, "THE
TRIAL OF THE ROSENBERGS: AN ACCOUNT"
, provides not only
a nice summary of the complete case but also links to testimony,
etc. of the key players.

The
highly secret Venona Project, the codename used for the U.S. Signals
Intelligence effort to collect and decrypt the text of Soviet KGB
and GRU messages from the 1940′s, is now described on the internet,
courtesy of the NSA. The text of many of the messages
are now online. The government claimed that these secret
documents implicated the Rosenbergs and their cohort, Morton Sobell.
However, a son of the Rosenbergs, Robert
Meeropol, in his article, "Rosenberg Case",
points out that since only the spy’s codenames are mentioned on
the tapes, they hardly prove anything. The government’s
response? "Trust us". Watch for Robert’s memoir
now in work with the working title, Revenge, due out in
June, 2003.

A
page of pictures and biographies of the major players is online
at "Espionage
on the Manhattan Project"
.

Background
Law

"TRAITORS
AND TURNCOATS: THE LAW OF TREASON"
by Jennifer J. Hagan,
Esq., is a nice summary of the whole mess involving treason and
espionage.

"Treason
Cases and Doctrine, 1945-1970"
discusses several court
cases involving treason.

The
transcript of "UNITED
STATES v. ROSENBERG et al. – UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS SECOND
CIRCUIT, 195 F.2d 583 – January 10, 1952, Argued; February 25,
1952, Decided"
is online at the University of Missouri
site.

"ROSENBERG
ET AL. v. UNITED STATES – 1953 SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES,
346 U.S. 273"
is also online at the University of Missouri
site and at Findlaw.

Could
It Happen Today?

The
Rosenbergs were convicted of "conspiring"
to commit espionage – not espionage or treason as well explained
by the article, "The
Committee"
. I quote: "When the trial began the public
was under the impression that the defendants were being tried for
atomic espionage and treason, a capital offense. However, neither
of these crimes was charged at the trial. The indictment was only
for conspiring to commit espionage, not for passing any classified
material. And definitely not for treason."

"Conspiracy"
is a favorite charge of modern prosecutors, especially after the
passage of the RICO act.

The
conviction was primarily based on informants who snitched on Julius
and Ethel to save their own hides. In fact a key prosecution witness
was David Greenglass, Ethel’s brother!

Testimony
by paid informants is by far the most popular method of conviction
used by today’s prosecuting attorneys!

The
trial was also characterized by much secrecy and "ex parte" hearings because of the concern for "national
security". Surely you have heard plenty about that form of
justice lately!

Links
to Books, TV Shows, and Etc.

The
Man Behind the Rosenbergs
by Alexander Feklisov, a celebrated Russian
spy, is described at Enigma
Books
.

NOVA
online provides the transcript
of the show, "Secrets, Lies,
and Atomic Spies", which includes interviews of several knowledgeable
persons in this case, including the Rosenberg son, Michael Meeropol.

There’s
extensive information at the "Bombshell Atomic Espionage Website
A resource for research and commentary that has evolved over a half
a decade out of the publication of Bombshell:
The Secret Story of America’s Unknown American
Spy Conspiracy
By Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel
(Random House/Times Books, 1997)." The book is discussed and
other links provided.

A
novel, The Public
Burning
, by Robert Coover, based
on the Rosenbergs and other characters of
that time is reviewed by Jerry Bushnell.

THE
ROSENBERG FILE: A Search for the Truth
, by Ronald Radosh
and Joyce Milton, is reviewed at the NYTimes
web site.

A
video, The
Rosenberg Case: Case Closed
, is available at the Discovery.com
site.

June
19, 2002

Mr.
Felkins [send him mail]
is a retired former military officer, college professor, and computer
systems engineer. He is now an activist in the fight for the reform
of the forfeiture laws now plaguing the US and the world. He is
presently serving as the Executive Director of F.E.A.R.,
the forfeiture reform group. In addition, he maintains a web page
on Political Philosophy, “A
Rational Life”
and another on the history of politics, “The
Political Almanac.”

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