September 23, 2008


The End of a Lie (Ronald Radosh, 9/22/08,

[I]t seemed that Michael and Robert Meeropol had finally accepted the truth that their father was a Soviet agent. By Friday September 19th, however, they paused and returned again to the old bromides. In a statement released to their supporters - and soon to be on their website - Robert Meeropol presented his and Michael Meeropol’s latest thinking.

First, Robert Meeropol writes that since the 1980’s he has “maintained that it is possible that my father engaged in non-atomic espionage,” but not in any activity that resulted in his obtaining or passing any A-bomb secret to the Soviets. On the face of it, this first assertion is demonstrably false. Harry Gold, the courier who took data from Julius’s brother-in-law David Greenglass at Los Alamos, went to visit him precisely to get whatever information pertaining to atomic data he could get. As it turns out and has been widely known already for decades, the crude sketch he offered confirmed to the Soviets the accuracy of the more sophisticated data they got from their other high level atomic spies, particularly Ted Hall and Klaus Fuchs. Moreover, as the late scientist Phillip Morrison told me decades ago (Morrison held the actual patent for the A-bomb in his name), Greenglass’s data was valuable because it showed the KGB that Fuchs was giving them accurate material and that it was “good corroboration.” Greenglass’ material was not on the level of that passed by others. No one has claimed it was. Clearly, had it been (and Julius Rosenberg had no way of knowing its value) Rosenberg would have passed it on, hoping that he had given the Soviets the most valuable data. As to whether Rosenberg passed on more material of an atomic nature, we will have to wait until later this winter when a new book by Harvey Klehr, John Haynes and Alexander Vasseliev is published by Yale University Press.

Second, Robert Meeropol minimizes the extent of the damage done by the “military information” he acknowledges that his father passed to the Soviets. Had he discussed the details in his press release, his readers would immediately find that it was a laundry list of top secret and dangerous military information, that in fact did much damage to the United States. The Meeropols have never dealt with the information revealed by Steven Usdin in his very important book, Engineering Communism (2005). Usdin shows that the Rosenberg network, especially his agents Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, passed on the 12,000 page blueprints for the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, airborne radars for nighttime navigation and bombing, and other new radar technology. “Rosenberg’s band of amateur spies,” Usdin writes, “turned over detailed information on a wide range of technologies and weapon systems that hastened the Red Army’s march to Berlin, jump-started its postwar development of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, and later helped Communist troops in North Korea fight the American military to a standoff.” The Meeropols’ acknowledgment that Julius Rosenberg had passed on military information is conceded by them only to make it appear that what he gave was insignificant and nowhere harmful to the United States; much as Sobell tries to do the same thing by calling the material “junk.”

Third, Robert Meeropol emphasizes the Government’s now proven overreaching in their prosecution of his mother, Ethel Rosenberg. As I reported in my analysis of the Grand Jury testimony, Ruth Greenglass clearly lied under oath when she testified that reports handed over by David Greenglass had been typed by Ethel Rosenberg and then passed on to the Soviets. In her GJ testimony, Ruth said that she had received the material and wrote it up in longhand herself. At the trial, she testified that Ethel typed it. A secret Venona decrypt dated January 8, 1945, however, notes receipt of this material and the KGB says that it was “hand-written.”

This does not mean, however, that Ethel Rosenberg was innocent and framed. Indeed, in a conspiracy indictment, the unchallenged testimony that Ethel had suggested that Ruth be recruited and urged Ruth to enlist her husband, was far and enough to include her as a defendant. But the prosecution was undoubtedly worried that a jury might not find that substantive enough as a direct act to merit a finding of guilt, not to speak of a death sentence. So the government used the fake typing incident as its trump card to get a conviction by the jury. The prosecution desperately needed Ethel indicted in order to use her as a lever to hold over Julius’ head in order to break him and get him to talk about his network. Had he done so, Ethel would have not received a death sentence; she may never have been put on trial. As militant Stalinists, however, the cause came first, and they would not bend

So here, Robert Meeropol is partially correct. The Government had Ruth Greenglass manufacture a typing incident that never happened in order to gain a conviction. They did so because they knew she was guilty (Venona could not be introduced as evidence since the Soviets would be given notice the US had broken its code) and were willing to use unethical conduct to get a conviction. But Meeropol is wrong that these sordid tactics (which I suspect came from Roy Cohn) are proof of his mother’s innocence.

Finally, in his final section, Meeropol seeks to use these new findings for his old political agenda. As he writes in bold, “the U.S. Government abused its power in truly dangerous ways that are still very relevant today.” These include, the charge that the U.S. Government “created and fueled anti-communist hysteria.”

Let us look at the implications of this first charge which is the old canard that the Rosenbergs were political dissenters, put on trial and executed because of an anti-Communist witch-hunt, “making them the focus of the public’s Cold War-era fear and anger.” These claims make little sense, since the Rosenbergs were arrested and put on trial because they were real Soviet spies, not because they were Communists. And as students of the trial know all too well, they denied - and so did their supporters - that they were Communists at all. Indeed, to call them that was immediately met by the charge of Red-baiting. As the introduction to the second edition of their death house letters, The Testament of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg (1953 and 1954) puts it, “A confession of guilt was meant to give validity to the big lie: that all who struggled for a better life were Communists, and all Communists spies and enemies of the country which gave them birth.”

So they did not confess, since in fact had they done so, it would have established that there was an actual Communist threat, and that some Communists were motivated by ideology alone to become willing and active spies, and indeed were enemies of their own country. Ironically, the book was published by the firm of Cameron and Kahn, which we know thanks to the memoir of the former KGB General, Oleg Kalugin, was itself financed by the KGB.

Perhaps we could just consider the sons to have a form of Stockholm Syndrome, having been held captive by the Left for so long that they accept its lies.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 23, 2008 7:33 AM
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