By JEFF MACKLER
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were electrocuted 49 years ago on the false charge of “conspiracy to commit espionage.”
The real charge against them, unproven and whipped up to fever pitch during the Joseph McCarthy/Cold War era, was that they gave the Russians the secret to the atomic bomb. Because the formal indictment was “conspiracy,” however, proof of their actually stealing or delivering anything was neither presented nor required for their conviction.
The Rosenbergs maintained their innocence to the end, rejecting all offers to save their lives by admitting guilt. The chief witness against them, the brother of Ethel Rosenberg, David Greenglass, now 79, has recently admitted that he lied when he testified that Ethel was present at the time (he alleges) he gave Julius a so-called sketch of the cross-section of the bomb.
“As a spy who turned his family in … I don’t care,” said Greenglass in a television interview broadcast Dec. 5 on CBS’s news show, “60 Minutes II.”
The Greenglass TV segment was supposedly based on the new book on the case, “The Brother: The Untold Story of the Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent His Sister Ethel Rosenberg to the Electric Chair.” It is authored by veteran New York Times reporter Sam Roberts, who brokered a deal wherein a share of the profits would go to Greenglass-who provided him with 50 hours of tapes.
Roberts’ book, unlike some of the recent reportage on it, repeats the core of the lies that Greenglass and his wife Ruth presented to convict the Rosenbergs in 1951 in return for a light sentence for Greenglass (he was sentenced to 15 years in prison and served about nine) and for no prison time for his wife.
The mass of evidence of government complicity in the Rosenberg frame-up is absent from “The Brother,” although the TV broadcast has Greenglass stating that assistant government prosecutor and later Joseph McCarthy aide Roy Cohen encouraged Greenglass to lie.
Roberts’ thesis is that the Rosenbergs were guilty.
When he was first arrested in June 1950, Greenglass made no mention of any involvement of Ethel. Eight months later, Greenglass changed his version of the fabricated meeting and testified that Ethel was present when he delivered the so-called atomic bomb secrets and that she typed up the notes he had brought.
I use the term “so-called” secrets because scientists for decades have affirmed that the diagram provided by Greenglass to the Rosenbergs revealed nothing of the “secret” of the atomic bomb. A terrified defense attorney nevertheless agreed to a government motion to, in the name of national security, keep the “diagram” out of the courtroom and from any public scrutiny.
The hoopla surrounding the latest Greenglass lies confirms what has been known for decades. David Greenglass is a liar, this time by his own admission and for financial gain.
The present media hype is designed to promote “The Brother” to Rosenberg supporters and others with the media-promoted hook that it might prove Ethel’s innocence.
Michael and Robbie Meeropol, the sons of the Rosenbergs have declined to partake in the farce other than to state that “The Brother” is “inaccurate and flawed.”