Ouverture des archives : Michael Meeropol innocente Ethel et Julius ROSENBERG

Initiative Communiste est très honoré d’accueillir dans ses colonnes et ses pages Michael Meeropol pour rétablir la vérité sur la tragique de Julius et . Ethel et Julius sont à jamais dans les cœurs de l’Humanité


“Un espion qui a accusé et fait arrêter sa famille”: Revisiter David Greenglass et l’affaire

par Michael Meeropol *

Ceci est un manuscrit accepté pour publication par Taylor & Francis dans l’HISTOIRE COMMUNISTE AMÉRICAINE le 31 mai 2018, disponible en ligne: à https://doi.org/10.1080/14743892.2018.1467702

“Sans doute, si ce témoignage [Greenglass] était ignoré, les condamnations n’auraient pu être confirmées.”

(Avis de la Cour d’appel du circuit américain confirmant les condamnations de Julius et Ethel Rosenberg)

 

* Professeur émérite d’économie, Western New England University. Bien que je sois le fils aîné d’Ethel et de , cet article se réfèrera à eux à la troisième personne en accord avec le caractère professionnel de cet effort. Je tiens à remercier Gerald Markowitz, Philip Deery, Jeffrey Trachtman, Jeff Kisseloff, Robert Meeropol et Ann Meeropol pour avoir lu différentes versions de cet article et l’avoir amélioré avec leurs suggestions. Cependant, aucun d’eux ne devrait être tenu pour responsable de la version finale.

En 1953, Ethel et Julius Rosenberg sont exécutés en raison du témoignage du frère et de la belle-soeur d’Ethel, David et Ruth Greenglass. Le procureur allègue qu’ils s’étaient servi de David Greenglass pour voler le secret de la . Parce que Greenglass avoue et implique les Rosenberg, le juge Irving Kaufman le condamne à 15 ans de prison. En 1960, après avoir servi 10 années en prison, il est libéré, change son nom et disparaît de la vue du public. Plus de 40 ans plus tard, le 5 décembre 2001, il refait surface sur l’émission de télévision “60 Minutes II”. Il est déguisé et ne révèle pas son nouveau nom. En réponse à une question sur la façon dont il aimerait qu’on se souvienne de lui, il déclare : «En tant qu’espion qui a accusé et fait arrêter sa famille». Il ajoute être d’accord avec ce jugement et bien dormir la nuit. Avant l’interview de « 60 Minutes », il avait passé plus de 50 heures à raconter son histoire au journaliste du New York Times, Sam Roberts.

Au procès, le couple Greenglass disent quelques vérités et quelques mensonges. Dans les interviews avec Roberts, David Greenglass a continué ce même comportement.

L’argumentaire de cet article est d’abord qu’Ethel Rosenberg n’était pas une espionne, et que les récits des Greenglass la condamnant étaient des parjures et, deuxièmement, que Julius Rosenberg avait tout au plus une participation très lointaine quant à l’espionnage atomique et que le juge et le président Eisenhower ont tous deux utilisé cette fausse accusation pour justifier la peine de mort. Un témoignage crucial par les Greenglass sur l’implication de Julius dans la communication de secrets atomiques était une parjure fabriquée pour détourner l’attention d’un rôle beaucoup plus important des Greenglass eux-même impliqués dans l’espionnage atomique.

LES SOURCES PRINICIPALES DEVIENNENT DISPONIBLES

À partir de 1975, des milliers de pages de documents du gouvernement des États-Unis sont rendues publiques à la suite d’une action en partiellement réussie en vertu de la Freedom of Information Act. En 1995, le « Projet Venona »,  jusqu’alors tenu secret dans lequel le gouvernement américain décrypte les communications soviétiques de la Seconde Guerre Mondiale, est rendu public et de nombreuses communications, certaines liées à l’affaire Rosenberg, deviennent accessibles.

En 1994, il y a une brève ouverture des archives de l’ex-Union Soviétique. Un chercheur russe, Alexander Vassiliev, a accès à certains documents. Ses cahiers sont traduits et mis en ligne en 2009. Ces documents sont la base du livre « The Haunted Wood » co-écrit par Vassiliev et l’historien américain Allen Weinstein, publié en 1999. Les ajouts les plus récents aux sources principales sont faits en 2008 et 2015 avec la levée du secret sur le témoignage du Grand Jury de Ruth et David Greenglass. Tous ces nouveaux documents nous permettent de finalement distinguer les vérités des mensonges racontés par David et Ruth Greenglass lors du procès et depuis. Certains corroborent les points de vue établis sur l’affaire, mais beaucoup contredisent les témoignages des Greenglass.

Premièrement, nous devons revoir l’histoire racontée par les Greenglass lors du procès des Rosenberg en 1951. Selon cette histoire, en novembre 1944, alors que David (un machiniste de l’armée) est stationné au site du « Projet Manhattan » à Los Alamos au Nouveau-Mexique, Ruth Greenglass est approché par Julius et Ethel Rosenberg qui lui demandent de recruter son mari afin d’espionner pour les soviétiques. Après avoir exprimé sa réticence, Ruth est convaincue, en particulier par Ethel, «au moins de le dire à David.» Lorsque Ruth rejoint son mari à Albuquerque, elle lui transmet la demande des Rosenberg. Au début, David refuse, mais finit par accepter.

En janvier 1945, David donne à Julius quelques croquis et d’autres informations. Julius aurait coupé une boîte de « Jello » (poudre pour faire une sorte de flan dessert) en deux, pour qu’elle soit utilisée comme un outil de reconnaissance si un agent venait au Nouveau-Mexique pour prendre des informations cueillies par David. David fait également un court trajet en voiture avec “un russe” qui lui pose des questions techniques auxquelles il ne peut répondre. En juin 1945, un agent soviétique, Harry Gold, arrive à l’appartement des Greenglass à Albuquerque, au Nouveau-Mexique, avec l’autre moitié de la boîte de Jello. Gold se fait connaître avec le code, “Je viens de la part de Julius.” David lui donne quelques croquis. (Gold confirme le récit de Greenglass au procès, mais témoigne qu’il n’a jamais rencontré Rosenberg.) En septembre de 1945, David prépare un croquis d’une coupe transversale de la bombe atomique de type implosion et plus tard la remet à Julius Rosenberg dans son appartement avec une description physique de la façon dont la bombe fonctionne. Le couple Greenglass témoignent qu’Ethel Rosenberg aurait dactylographié les descriptions de David.

Ce témoignage décrit la totalité de l’activité d’espionnage atomique alléguée de Julius et Ethel Rosenberg.

Alors, qu’est-ce qui est vrai dans le témoignage des Greenglass ?

Entre 1951, date de la fin du procès, et 1975, date à laquelle les premiers documents du gouvernement des États-Unis sont rendus publics, toute l’affaire repose sur la crédibilité des témoignages des Greenglass. Avant même l’exécution des Rosenberg, les témoignages des Greenglass, démontrent un certain nombre de parjures possibles. Bien qu’étant important en tant que stratégie juridique pour attaquer la crédibilité des principaux témoins de l’accusation, ces parjures alléguées ne présentent aucune preuve réfutant spécifiquement leur témoignage, ou présentant des alternatives plausibles aux histoires racontées par les Greenglass sur les Rosenberg. Pour cela, les chercheurs doivent attendre la première publication de documents provenant des archives du gouvernement fédéral.

LE CAS D’ETHEL ROSENBERG

Avec la publication de la première série de ces documents en 1975, une contradiction apparaît entre le témoignage du procès sur l’implication d’Ethel Rosenberg et ce que les Greenglass racontent au FBI pendant les mois entre les arrestations et le procès. Les entrevues menées par l’un des procureurs, Myles Lane, avec David et Ruth Greenglass en août 1950, ne mentionnent pas qu’Ethel a dactylographié des documents. En fait, David Greenglass était catégorique sur le fait qu’il n’avait jamais parlé à Ethel de ses activités d’espionnage. Le témoignage sur la dactylographie est élaboré quelques semaines avant le procès, au début de 1951, lorsque Ruth Greenglass « se souvienne » qu’Ethel avait dactylographié des documents.

Ensuite, David modifie ses déclarations antérieures pour confirmer les dires de Ruth. Une autre révélation très importante est la publication d’une déclaration de James McInerney, chef de la division criminelle du ministère de la Justice (opinion qu’il avait rendue au moment de l’arrestation de Julius Rosenberg), selon laquelle les preuves étaient insuffisantes pour arrêter Ethel Rosenberg, mais qu’il pourrait être possible de les utiliser pour qu’elle fasse pression sur son mari.

Les documents publiés dans les dossiers de la Commission de l’Energie Atomique cette même année, comprennent la transcription auparavant secrète d’une audience devant le Comité mixte du Congrès de l’énergie atomique en février 1951 (cinq mois après l’arrestation d’Ethel Rosenberg). Lors de cette audience, Lane reconnaît que « l’affaire n’est pas trop solide contre Mme Rosenberg. Mais … je pense qu’il est très important qu’elle soit condamnée, elle aussi, à une peine sévère. »

Des décennies plus tard, le journaliste Sam Roberts retrouve David Greenglass et le persuade de parler. Déjà au milieu des années 80, Greenglass était un homme libre depuis 1960. Roberts écrit ensuite son livre, intitulé « The Brother ». Roberts demande à Greenglass d’admettre pour mémoire qu’il avait commis une parjure lors du procès dans son témoignage au sujet de la dactylographie d’Ethel. Dans l’émission mentionnée ci-dessus, « 60 Minutes II », Greenglass reconnaît qu’il ne se souvenait même pas de l’existence d’une dactylographie. Il remarque que Roy Cohn, l’un des procureurs, devenu célèbre ultérieurement en tant qu’avocat du sénateur Joseph McCarthy, l’avait confronté sur la question du changement de témoignage fait par Ruth, qui prétend qu’Ethel dactylographiait des documents. Cohn dit à David Greenglass qu’il pouvait, soit corroborer l’histoire de Ruth, soit dire qu’elle mentait. Maintenant, le témoignage du procès – l’histoire que David Greenglass lui-même savait (ou voyait) Ethel faire de la dactylographie – était confirmé comme une parjure documentée, soupçonnée dès 1975, avec la première communication de certains documents du FBI.

Ceci remet en question même le témoignage important de Ruth Greenglass selon lequel Ethel l’aurait encouragé « au moins à le dire à David … et à le laisser décider lui-même » à répondre positivement à la demande de Julius de commencer à donner des informations à l’Union Soviétique.

Dans une des interviews de David avec Sam Roberts :

Roberts: « Quand Ruth a recruté David, est-ce qu’elle citait Ethel ou Julius »? [David répond] « Elle citait Julius ».

Avant l’admission de David Greenglass sur « 60 Minutes II », en 1995 , les communiqués de Venona avaient révélé plus de preuves appuyant l’avis selon lequel, quelle qu’ait été le rôle de son mari dans l’espionnage soviétique, Ethel Rosenberg n’était pas une espionne.

Bien que Julius Rosenberg et plus tard David et Ruth Greenglass aient été identifiés par leurs noms de code, Ethel Rosenberg n’en a jamais reçue. Plus important encore, le seul document qui décrit Ethel, affirme qu’elle «connaissait» le travail de son mari avec deux de ses contacts d’espionnage et avait une certaine connaissance de la politique, mais que «en raison de sa santé délicate, elle ne travaillait pas». La linguiste Meredith Gardner écrit un mémo sur le « Projet de Venona », précisant que dans ce contexte, «ne travaille pas», signifie qu’Ethel Rosenberg n’était pas une espionne.

Les éléments finaux, qui, pour beaucoup d’observateurs, prouvent que les témoignages de David et Ruth Greenglass au procès sont faux, sont d’abord la communication du témoignage au Grand Jury de Ruth Geenglass en 2008 et ensuite, en 2015, la publication du témoignage de David Greenglass au Grand Jury. Aucun des deux ne mentionne qu’Ethel dactylographiait des textes. David Greenglass répète ce qu’il avait dit à Myles Lane en août 1950, c’est-à-dire qu’il n’avait jamais parlé à Ethel de ses activités d’espionnage avec Julius Rosenberg.

Sur la base de ce volume de preuves, mon frère et moi avons rassemblé l’information, et l’avons soumise au gouvernement des États-Unis en novembre 2016, demandant que le président Obama publie une proclamation invalidant à la fois le verdict du jury sur Ethel Rosenberg, ainsi que la sentence. Nous avons demandé au président de proclamer publiquement qu’elle avait été condamnée à tort, et que sa condamnation et son exécution étaient des injustices. Nous avons utilisé comme modèle la Proclamation de 1977 du gouverneur Michael Dukakis du Massachusetts à propos de Nicola Sacco et Bartolomeo Vanzetti – deux anarchistes exécutés en 1927 pour un double meurtre. Dukakis avait proclamé que toute culpabilité devait être retirée de la mémoire de ces deux hommes en raison de l’injustice du procès, de la partialité du juge de première instance, et des preuves recueillies depuis leur procès initial.

À la fin de décembre 2016, à l’issu de trois années d’études, le Centre Seton Hall pour la politique et la recherche à la Faculté de droit de Seton Hall publie un rapport intitulé «L’otage du gouvernement: la condamnation et l’exécution d’Ethel Rosenberg». Le rapport est basé seulement sur les documents du gouvernement des États-Unis, sans mentionner les communiqués de « Venona » ni les documents provenant des carnets de Vassiliev. Après avoir soigneusement examiné tous les documents publiés par le gouvernement américain, le Centre est arrivé à la conclusion que l’arrestation, la condamnation et l’exécution d’Ethel Rosenberg n’avaient rien à voir avec sa culpabilité ou son innocence. Au lieu de cela, comme l’a révélé le mémo du FBI en juillet 1950, elle a été utilisée comme un «levier» contre Julius Rosenberg dans le but de l’amener à avouer et à donner des noms. Un fait nouveau qui n’avait pas été noté dans les travaux antérieurs sur cette question était qu’entre les arrestations et le procès, le FBI n’avait fait aucun effort pour interroger les personnes questionnées sur l’implication possible d’Ethel Rosenberg. Cela suggère fortement qu’ils savaient n’avoir aucun cas contre elle, mais espéraient que la stratégie du «levier» fonctionnerait. Bien que les auteurs du rapport ne se soient pas prononcés sur la culpabilité ou l’innocence d’Ethel Rosenberg en fonction de l’accusation générale de complot en vue de commettre l’espionnage, leurs recherches ont corroboré de manière indépendante, les documents que nous avons soumis au président Obama.

Le président Obama a quitté son poste sans prendre de mesures suite à  notre demande. Cela ne change pas le jugement historique fondamental. Ethel Rosenberg a été accusée d’un crime qu’elle n’a pas commis dans le but de faire pression sur Julius Rosenberg pour qu’il avoue et donne des noms. David et Ruth Greenglass ont modifié les premières versions de leurs témoignages. Les nouvelles versions étaient des parjures conduisant à une condamnation injuste et à une peine. Lorsque Julius et Ethel Rosenberg ont refusé de répondre aux attentes du gouvernement, le gouvernement a tué l’otage, Ethel Rosenberg.

LE CAS DE JULIUS ROSENBERG

Nous passons maintenant au témoignage des Greenglass concernant Julius Rosenberg. Après la publication des décryptages de « Venona »  en 1995 , la plupart des observateurs arrivent à la conclusion que Julius Rosenberg était bel et bien un espion soviétique. Même Walter et Miriam Schneir, qui avaient cru à l’innocence totale des deux Rosenberg, ont changé d’avis. Mon frère et moi étions sceptiques quant à l’entière véracité des décryptages de « Venona ». Nous avons soutenu que les agences de renseignement qui les diffusaient avaient les motifs, les moyens et l’occasion de les «ajuster» pour soutenir les grandes lignes de la thèse du gouvernement contre nos parents.

Lorsque le présumé officier de contrôle soviétique de Julius Rosenberg, Alexander Feklisov, fait surface et visite les États-Unis, nous avons maintenu notre scepticisme. Il s’agissait d’un agent retraité du KGB qui raconte des histoires de guerre sur ses nombreux contacts avec Julius Rosenberg – pour  en tirer de l’argent. Lorsque « The Haunted Wood » est publié, nous continuons à être sceptique. Nous avons reconnu que les informations contenues dans les décryptages de « Venona » et dans les souvenirs personnels de Feklisov pouvaient être vraies et nous avons spéculé là-dessus – Robert dans son livre « Une exécution dans la famille » et moi dans le film d’Ivy Meeropol, « Héritier d’une exécution ». Cependant, nous avons maintenu une position de doute  parce que nous n’étions pas du tout prêt à valider les allégations de la CIA et de la NSA.

Tout cela a changé avec l’aveu de Morton Sobell en septembre 2008, selon lequel il avait effectivement été impliqué avec Julius Rosenberg dans une aide rendue à l’Union soviétique pendant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale. Nous n’avions aucune raison de douter de la véracité de Morton. Le doute que nous avions exprimé depuis la publication des documents de « Venona »  avait disparu. Julius Rosenberg aurait bel et bien espionné pour l’Union soviétique.

Peu de temps après, j’ai lu le manuscrit de ce qui allait devenir l’ouvrage de Walter Schneir, publié à titre posthume, « Final Verdict ». Il s’agissait de ce qui s’est vraiment passé dans l’affaire Rosenberg. J’en étais convaincu. Après la mort prématurée de Walter pendant que son épouse et collaboratrice, Miriam Schneir, préparait son manuscrit pour publication, les carnets de notes de Vassiliev et Weinstein, « The Haunted Wood », ont été rendus publics sur Internet. Miriam Schneir a travaillé avec les cahiers pour corroborer ce que Walter avait déjà tiré d’une lecture attentive des sections de « The Haunted Wood » concernant l’affaire Rosenberg. Walter avait pu conclure que Julius Rosenberg s’engageait dans l’espionnage militaro-industriel au profit de l’Union Soviétique, mais qu’il n’était que marginalement impliqué dans l’espionnage atomique. Une grande partie de ce que David et Ruth Greenglass ont dit au procès et une grande partie de ce que David Greenglass a dit à Sam Roberts étaient fausses. Ce qui suit est un résumé de ce que l’histoire a révélé sur les vérités et les mensonges des deux Greenglass.

LE RECRUTEMENT DES GREENGLASS PAR JULIUS ET ETHEL ROSENBERG

Rappelons que le témoignage du procès de Ruth et David Greenglass  affirme qu’ils étaient des recrues réticentes. Selon leur témoignage, c’est Ruth la première qui devait être persuadée par Ethel « de le dire au moins à David … et le laisser décider pour lui-même” et lorsque Ruth le demande, dans un premier temps David refuse. Des années plus tard, dans des interviews avec Sam Roberts, David Greenglass raconte une version différente. Selon cette nouvelle version, Ruth était initialement réticente à l’idée de commencer à recueillir des informations pour les soviétiques, mais lui ne l’était pas. Roberts cite David racontant que Ruth a dit: « Ecoutes, c’est ton choix, ça ne me plaît pas vraiment » Roberts demande pourquoi et Greenglass répond : « Eh bien, parce que, vous savez, sa pensée n’était jamais vraiment proche des communistes. Politiquement, elle était lprogressiste. Une progressiste, c’est ce qu’elle était ».

Cette histoire racontée à Roberts n’est pas tout à fait vraie non plus. Dans « The Haunted Wood », Ruth Greenglass donne une réponse entièrement différente.

«Tout d’abord, Julius demande à Ruth ce qu’elle pense de l’Union Soviétique et du communisme en général. Elle répond sans hésitation que, pour elle, le socialisme était le seul espoir du monde et qu’elle a la plus profonde admiration pour l’Union Soviétique. Julius souhaite alors savoir si elle serait disposée à aider l’Union Soviétique. Elle répond très simplement et sincèrement que ce serait un privilège; quand Ethel parle de David, elle nous assure qu’à son avis, David pensait la même chose ».

Les lettres échangées entre les Greenglass au cours de cette période indiquent qu’ils étaient tous deux amoureux de l’Union Soviétique et qu’ils soutenaient l’idéologie du Parti communiste. Cela correspond à une acceptation enthousiaste de l’opportunité d’aider l’Union Soviétique lorsque Julius Rosenberg propose leur de le faire. Ceci, est, en contradiction, bien sûr, aussi bien avec le témoignage du procès qu’avec ce que David Greenglass dit à Roberts.

LA RÉUNION DE JANVIER 1945 ENTRE LES GREENGLASS ET LES ROSENBERG

Sur la base des décryptages de « Venona »  et du matériel des carnets de Vassiliev, il est permis de conclure que la réunion de janvier 1945, dans l’appartement des Rosenberg, décrite par Ruth et David Greenglass au procès, a bien eu lieu. Cependant, presque tous les détails fournis par les Greenglass au procès, sur ce qui s’est passé lors de cette réunion, sont contredits par des informations tirées des cahiers de Vassiliev et de « The Haunted Wood ».

Premièrement, il n’y a rien sur la transmission d’un croquis à cette réunion, ce qui correspond aux premières déclarations de David et Ruth Greenglass au FBI, ainsi qu’au témoignage de Ruth Greenglass devant le Grand Jury. Seul David, dans son témoignage au Grand Jury, raconte qu’il avait donné des croquis à Julius Rosenberg. Nous avons déjà précisé comment  jusqu’en février 1951, il n’y avait aucune déclaration sur Ethel dactylographiant des documents.

Deuxièmement, le témoignage du procès sur cette réunion fait référence à la boîte de Jello coupée en deux à utiliser comme dispositif de reconnaissance au cas où un autre agent viendrait au Nouveau-Mexique pour recueillir des documents de David Greenglass. Les deux Greenglass racontent cette histoire au Grand Jury mais « The Haunted Wood » et les carnets de Vassiliev la contredisent.

De quelle manière? En février 1945, les soviétiques ont relevé Julius Rosenberg de ses fonctions d’espionnage. On lui dit d’arrêter de surveiller les différents membres de son groupe. La raison en était que le même mois, le FBI avait rapporté aux services de renseignements de l’armée que Julius Rosenberg était un communiste. Il est donc renvoyé de son travail dans le Corps des transmissions de l’armée américaine. Les soviétiques craignent que le FBI ne découvre ses activités d’espionnage et ils lui ordonnent « d’arrêter ses fonctions de chef de groupe, et la direction de toutes ses sources (y compris vraisemblablement les Greenglass), qui sont données à d’autres agents ». Cette déclaration est précédée d’une longue section d’un message de Moscou à New York qui est cité à la fois dans «  Le Verdict Final » de Schneir et « The Brother » de Sam Roberts.

Ainsi, quand le moment arrive de trouver comment envoyer un agent à Albuquerque pour récupérer des documents auprès de David Greenglass, Julius Rosenberg n’est plus dans le réseau. Dans un rapport de février 1945 , reproduit dans « The Haunted Wood », nous apprenons que :

« “.. dès qu’elle reçoit un billet de chemin de fer, [Ruth Greenglass] ira vivre à Albuquerque … Avant son départ, nous lui demanderons de nous donner des mots de passe matériels et verbaux au cas où nous devions rétablir le contact avec elle … Nous supposons que le séjour de [Ruth] à Albuquerque nous permettra de mieux étudier les procédures de travail et les personnes travaillant au camp et, au cas où [David] aurait des données importantes, elle pourra venir à [New York] pour nous en informer ».

Il est important de noter que cette déclaration rend invraisemblable l’histoire de la boîte de Jello qui a été juré à la fois par les Greenglass devant le Grand Jury et le jury du procès. L’histoire de la boîte de Jello coupée en deux (le « mot de passe matériel” dans le rapport à Moscou) et un “mot de passe verbal” (ici “verbal” signifie oral bien sûr) n’est pas encore inventée quand Ruth et David Greenglass sont dans l’appartement des Rosenberg. En outre, une mention dans un des carnets de Vassiliev, non citée dans « The Haunted Wood », explique que Ruth Greenglass avait communiqué avec un agent soviétique Yatskov indiquant «qu’elle aimerait le rencontrer fin mai ou juin ». C’est Harry Gold qui cherchera des documents à Albuquerque. Cela correspond au fait qu’à cette époque, Julius Rosenberg n’est plus dans le réseau d’espionnage.

LA RÉUNION DE JUIN 1945 ENTRE LES GREENGLASS ET HARRY GOLD

Nous savons maintenant que Harry Gold était un agent soviétique et qu’il est allé à Albuquerque pour récupérer des documents de David Greenglass. Le premier indice que cette histoire était vraie et non une fabrication est venu de la recherche qui a donné le livre « Bombshell » de Joseph Albright et Marcia Kunstell. Le livre se concentre principalement sur les activités d’espionnage du scientifique Theodore Hall et de son agent, Lona Cohen. Mais il fait également mention, en passant, des activités du scientifique britannique Klaus Fuchs, de Gold et Greenglass. Le livre identifie des inventaires du ministère soviétique de l’énergie atomique – des inventaires de documents qui sont arrivés des États-Unis. Un ensemble de documents, décrit comme « modèles » d’expériences menées à Los Alamos, et les dates, confirment que Harry Gold a bien reçu ces documents de David Greenglass en Juin 1945. Il est peu probable que les documents trouvés par Albright et Kunstell étaient fabriqués. Pour croire cela, il faudrait croire que quelque part dans le ministère soviétique de l’énergie atomique, quelqu’un fabriquait des fausses informations afin de prouver que Harry Gold et David Greenglass avaient été des espions. Parce que c’était un scénario très improbable, l’idée que Harry Gold n’ait pas inventé sa carrière d’espionnage de manière totalement inédite – comme un personnage fictif – a commencé à prendre forme en 1997.

Cependant, le mot de passe prétendument utilisé par Gold quand il rencontre les Greenglass, « je viens de la part de Julius », reste problématique. Dès 1973, lors de la diffusion du documentaire « The Unquiet Death of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg », dans une interview, un agent du FBI raconte que Gold pensait initialement que le mot de passe était « Bob m’a envoyé » ou « Benny m’a envoyé ». Dans des interviews avec Myles Lane en août 1950, le code était « Je transmet des salutations de Ben à Brooklyn » (version Gold) tandis que David Greenglass témoigne que Gold venait de se présenter comme « Dave de Pittsburgh ». Il a fallu une réunion entre Gold et Greenglass en décembre 1950, des mois après qu’ils aient tous deux jurés devant le Grand Jury, sur différentes versions de la salutation, pour créer le témoignage du procès disant que le code était « Je viens de la part de Julius ». Le fait que le code aie été créé par Ruth Greenglass après février, 1945, soutient fortement l’idée que ce n’était jamais « je viens de la part de Julius ».

SEPTEMBRE 1945: LE SCHEMA DE LA BOMBE A IMPLOSION

En raison de la décision prise par les soviétiques en février 1945 de relever Julius Rosenberg de ses fonctions de chef de réseau d’espionnage, la prétendue réunion de septembre 1945 où le soi-disant secret de la bombe atomique de type implosion aurait été transmis à Julius Rosenberg, devient moins probable. Dans le témoignage du Grand Jury de Ruth Greenglass, on lui  demande précisément si son mari avait donné des informations à Harry Gold ou à Julius Rosenberg après la visite de Gold, en juin 1945, à Albuquerque. Ce à quoi, elle répond non.

Lors de son témoignage au grand jury, David Greenglass raconte qu’ à la réunion de septembre 1945, il donnait du matériel à Julius Rosenberg, décrit  comme «une description de la bombe atomique». Mais ni Ruth, ni David n’avait fait mention d’une réunion dans l’appartement des Rosenberg. David Greenglass n’a pas développé sa brève déclaration. Il n’a fait aucune mention du fameux croquis en coupe transversale qui a fini par être présenté comme pièce numéro 8 au procès. Et bien sûr, comme mentionné ci-dessus, David n’a pas dit qu’Ethel Rosenberg était présente quand cela s’est produit, et ni David, ni Ruth ont fait référence à Ethel dactylographiant des documents.

Le carnet de Vassiliev corrobore le fait que Julius Rosenberg était sans contact avec ses supérieurs dans le réseau d’espionnage depuis deux ans. Cela remet en question la véracité du témoignage des Greenglass sur la prétendue réunion de septembre 1945.

Comme indiqué ci-dessus, les Greenglass avaient décidé de ne jamais partager un certain fait avec le FBI. Bien que dans sa déclaration initiale au FBI, David Greenglass ait été vague sur la question de savoir s’il avait rencontré un « russe » en janvier 1945 ou à l’automne, plus tard il se met d’accord avec Ruth, pour définir la date de janvier, s’assurant de ne jamais reconnaître qu’une réunion eut lieu entre David Greenglass et Yatskov en septembre 1945. David n’a pas reconnu cette rencontre dans ses entretiens avec Sam Roberts non plus.

Voici comment Yatskov décrit la réunion de septembre 1945 dans un télégramme à Moscou :

« La réunion était assez courte … Dans notre conversation, il a été établi que [Greenglass] travaillait dans les ateliers secondaires de la “Réserve naturelle”, produisant des outils, des instruments pour la “Réserve naturelle” et parfois des détails pour le ballon [la bombe atomique] . Ainsi, par exemple, des détonateurs pour l’amorce de l’explosif du ballon ont été fabriqués dans leur atelier, et [Greenglass] nous a passé l’amorce pour un tel détonateur. [Il] n’a pas accès au ballon lui-même ni aux magasins principaux. …. [Greenglass] devait rassembler des caractéristiques détaillées sur les personnes qu’il estimait valable pour notre travail. En outre [on lui donne] la responsabilité de collecter des échantillons de matériaux utilisés dans le ballon, tels que l’alliage de tubes, explosifs, etc… Les matériaux viennent parfois à l’atelier de [Greenglass] ».

Après avoir cité le télégramme, les auteurs de « The Haunted Wood » écrivent: « De l’avis de Yatskov, il aurait été préférable d’envoyer Lona Cohen à Albuquerque pour recueillir ce matériel le 21 décembre, date fixée pour la réunion suivante avec David Greenglass. Au lieu de cela, on dit à Ruth Greenglass de tout recevoir de David ».

L’importance de la date du 21 décembre est soulignée par les résultats d’Albright et Kunstall. Ils découvrent que le schéma prétendument donné à Julius Rosenberg en septembre (reproduit plus tard pour le procès en tant que pièce numéro 8) n’est arrivé en Union soviétique que le 27 décembre 1945. Cette date correspond au fait que Yatskov avait fixé au 21 décembre la rencontre suivante pour prendre contact et transmettre de l’information. Ni la date du 27 décembre indiquée comme l’arrivée du schéma, ni le matériel descriptif l’accompagnant, correspondent au témoignage du procès au sujet d’un transfert en septembre.

Selon Walter Schneir, en réunissant les informations du livre de Albright et Kunstall avec du matériel de « The Haunted Wood »:

 

« Yatskov aurait rencontré David Greenglass à New York en septembre 1945. David aurait informé Yatskov que des détonateurs pour l’amorce de l’explosif de la bombe atomique ont été fabriqués dans l’atelier de Los Alamos où il travaillait. À une date non précisée, David aurait fourni «une amorce pour un tel détonateur». Yatskov aurait fixé au 21 décembre 1945 la date de la réunion suivante avec Greenglass et chargé Ruth de recueillir auprès de David tout document qu’il voulait transmettre aux Russes. Une réunion a vraisemblablement eu lieu le 21 décembre. Nous le savons parce qu’un mémo écrit à Moscou le 27 décembre 1945, énumérait les articles reçus de New York … « des documents en anglais sur la construction d’une bombe atomique » et un échantillon « d’un électrodétecteur de la bombe ».

 

Un deuxième document rédigé à Moscou résume le rapport d’espionnage transmis. Appelé « Notes sur la construction d’une bombe atomique, description de la construction d’une bombe à implosion », il contient une erreur marquante, faite par David, qui parle de trente-six lentilles, au lieu de trente-deux, le numéro correct. Ainsi, il semblerait que le 21 décembre 1945, Ruth Greenglass, reçoit de son mari, la description d’une bombe à implosion – destinée à rentrer dans l’Histoire – avec l’amorce d’un détonateur qu’il avait volée et sortie en cachette des gardes à Los Alamos pour les donner au KGB ».

CONCLUSION

 

La preuve rassemblée par Walter Schneir pour écrire « Final Verdict » (complétée par les recherches de Miriam Schneir dans les carnets de Vassiliev) nous permet, de façon plausible, d’arriver aux conclusions suivantes :

– d’abord, Ethel Rosenberg n’était pas un espion. Le gouvernement savait qu’elle n’avait pas de nom de code et que le témoignage contre elle au procès avait été inventé.

– Deuxièmement, Julius Rosenberg a demandé à Ruth Greenglass de recruter David Greenglass pour transmettre des informations. Les Greenglass étaient des recrues enthousiastes et non réticentes.

– Troisièmement, lors d’une réunion en janvier 1945, David Greenglass a donné à Julius Rosenberg des informations sur la disposition des bâtiments à Los Alamos et sur les noms de certains scientifiques. Il a également rencontré un russe (probablement Yatskov) brièvement, et n’a pu répondre à aucune des questions techniques posées. Il n’a donné aucun croquis à Julius Rosenberg, aucune boîte de Jello n’a été coupée en deux.

– Quatrièmement, en février 1945, Julius Rosenberg a été démis de ses fonctions de chef de groupe de divers espions. Elles ont été réaffectées à d’autres personnes et il est resté en dehors du réseau jusqu’en 1946 au moins.

– Cinquièmement, après février 1945, Ruth Greenglass a donné des «mots de passe matériels et verbaux» à un agent soviétique avant de partir pour Albuquerque rejoindre son mari.

– Sixièmement, en juin 1945, Harry Gold est arrivé à Albuquerque pour recueillir des informations auprès de David Greenglass. Le code d’identification n’était probablement pas “Je viens de la part de Julius ».

– Septièmement, en septembre 1945, David Greenglass a rencontré Yatskov et ils ont organisé la réunion du 21 décembre. David Greenglass n’a donné aucun schéma à Yatskov. La réunion d’espionnage décrite au procès dans l’appartement des Rosenberg avec tous les quatre (Julius, Ethel, David et Ruth) n’a jamais eu lieu.

Finalement, le fameux schéma avec le matériel descriptif qui représentait en fin de compte le témoignage soi-disant explosif du “secret de la bombe atomique” au procès (y compris la pièce numéro 8), est arrivé à Moscou le 27 décembre 1945. Cela correspond à un échange du 21 décembre et non pas en septembre comme le témoigne Greenglass au procès.

Ainsi, l’accusation du procureur selon laquelle les Rosenberg avaient volé le secret de la bombe atomique « à travers David Greenglass » était fausse, même si les informations scientifiques contenues dans la pièce numéro 8 et le matériel descriptif qui l’accompagnait étaient utiles au programme de bombe soviétique. Julius Rosenberg, le prétendu «espion atomique» n’était en fait absolument pas un espion atomique.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published [ON LINE] by Taylor & Francis in AMERICAN COMMUNIST HISTORY on May 31, 2018 , available online: at https://doi.org/10.1080/14743892.2018.1467702

“A Spy Who Turned His Family In”:  Revisiting David Greenglass and the Rosenberg Case

—- Michael Meeropol*

“Doubtless if that [Greenglass] testimony were disregarded, the convictions could not stand.”

(Opinion of the US Circuit Court of Appeals affirming the convictions of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg)

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed in 1953 because of the testimony of Ethel’s brother and sister-in-law, David and Ruth Greenglass.[1]    The prosecutor claimed they had used David Greenglass to steal the secret of the atomic bomb.   Because Greenglass confessed and implicated the Rosenbergs, Judge Irving Kaufman sentenced him to 15 years in prison.  He served 10, was released in 1960, changed his name and disappeared from public view.   Over 40 years later, on December 5, 2001, he reappeared on the television show “60 Minutes II”.[2]  He was in disguise and did not reveal his new name.   In answer to a question as to how he expected to be remembered, he stated, “As a spy who turned his family in,” and added that he was okay with that judgement – that he slept well at night. [3]  Before the 60 Minutes interview, he had spent over 50 hours telling his story to New York Times reporter Sam Roberts.

At the trial, both Greenglasses told some truths and some lies.   In the interviews with Roberts[4], David Greenglass continued the same pattern.

This article will argue first, that Ethel Rosenberg was not a spy, and that the Greenglasses’ stories which convicted her were perjuries and, second, that Julius Rosenberg had

.* Professor Emeritus of Economics, Western New England University.   Though I am the older son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, this paper will refer to them in the third person in keeping with the professional character of this effort.  I would like to thank Gerald Markowitz, Philip Deery, Jeffrey Trachtman, Jeff Kisseloff, Robert Meeropol and Ann Meeropol for reading versions of this article and improving it with their suggestions.  None should be held accountable for the final version however.

at most a very peripheral involvement in the atomic espionage that both the Judge and President Eisenhower claimed justified the death sentence.   Crucial testimony by both Greenglasses about Julius’ involvement in the passing of atomic secrets was perjured testimony concocted to divert attention from a much more active role for both Greenglasses in atomic espionage.

PRIMARY SOURCES BECOME AVAILABLE

Beginning in 1975, thousands of pages US government  documents were released as a result of a partially successful Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. [5]  In 1995, the hitherto secret Venona project by which the US government decrypted Soviet communications from the World War II era was declassified and numerous communications, some related to the Rosenberg case, were released.[6]

In 1994 there was a brief opening of the archives of the former Soviet Union.   A Russian researcher, Alexander Vassiliev, was given access to some of the documents.  His notebooks were translated and placed on line in 2009.[7]  Those materials were the basis of the book The Haunted Wood co-authored by Vassiliev and the American historian, Allen Weinstein, which was published in 1999.[8]    The most recent additions to the primary sources came in 2008 and 2015 with the unsealing of the Grand Jury testimony of first Ruth and then David Greenglass.[9]   All this new material enables us to finally separate the truths from the lies as told by David and Ruth Greenglass both at the trial and since.  Some of it corroborates the received views of the case, but much contradicts the Greenglasses’ stories.

First, we need to review the story that the Greenglasses told at the Rosenbergs’ trial in 1951.   In November of 1944, while David (an army machinist) was stationed at the Los Alamos, New Mexico site of the Manhattan Project, Ruth Greenglass was approached by Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and asked to recruit her husband into Soviet espionage.   After expressing reluctance, Ruth was convinced, especially by Ethel, to “at least tell it [Julius’ request] to David.”   When Ruth joined her husband in Albuquerque, NM, she conveyed the Rosenbergs’ request to him.   At first, David refused, but then he agreed.   In January of 1945, David gave Julius some sketches and other information.   Julius cut a Jello box in half to be used as a recognition device should a courier come to New Mexico to receive further information from David.   David also had a brief car ride with “a Russian” who asked him technical questions which he could not answer.   In June of 1945, a Soviet agent, Harry Gold, arrived at the Greenglass apartment in Albuquerque, New Mexico with the matching half of the Jello box.  Gold identified himself with the code, “I come from Julius.”   David gave him some more sketches.  (Gold corroborated Greenglass’ story at the trial, but testified that he had never met either Rosenberg.)   In September of 1945, David prepared a sketch of a cross-section of the implosion-type atomic bomb and later gave that and a physical description of how the bomb worked to Julius Rosenberg at the Rosenberg apartment.   He and Ruth testified that Ethel Rosenberg typed up David’s descriptive material.   That testimony described the totality of the alleged atomic spying activity of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. [10]

So how much of the Greenglass testimony was true?

Between 1951 when the trial ended and 1975 when the first US government documents were released, the entire case rested on how far the Greenglass testimony could be believed.   There were a number of possible perjuries alleged about the Greenglasses’ testimony even before the execution of the Rosenbergs.[11]   Though important as a legal strategy to impugn the credibility of the key prosecution witnesses, these alleged perjuries do not present any evidence to specifically refute and present plausible alternatives to the stories told by both Greenglasses about the Rosenbergs.  For that, researchers had to await the first release of materials from the archives of the federal government.[12]

THE CASE OF ETHEL ROSENBERG

With the release of the first batch in 1975, a contradiction emerged between the trial testimony about Ethel Rosenberg’s involvement and what the Greenglasses told the FBI during the months between the arrests and the trial.    Interviews conducted by one of the prosecutors, Myles Lane, with David and Ruth Greenglass in August of 1950 made no mention of Ethel undertaking any typing.  In fact, David Greenglass was emphatic that he never even spoke with Ethel about any of his espionage activities.   The testimony about the typing was developed just weeks before the trial in early 1951 when Ruth Greenglass “remembered” that Ethel had done typing.  David then changed his earlier statements to corroborate her. [13]  An equally important revelation was the release of a statement from James McInerney, the head of the criminal division of the Justice Department (an opinion he rendered at the time of Julius Rosenberg’s arrest), that there was insufficient evidence to arrest Ethel Rosenberg but that “it might be possible to use her as a lever against her husband.”[14]

Papers released from the Atomic Energy Commission files that same year included the previously secret transcript of a hearing before the Joint Congressional Committee of Atomic Energy in February of 1951 (five months after Ethel Rosenberg’s arrest).   At that hearing, Lane acknowledged that “The case is not too strong against Mrs. Rosenberg.  But … I think it is very important that she be convicted, too, given a stiff sentence.”[15]

Decades later, journalist Sam Roberts located David Greenglass and persuaded him to talk.   Already in his mid-80s, Greenglass had been a free man since 1960.  The result was Roberts’ book The Brother.[16]    Roberts got Greenglass to admit for the record that he had committed perjury at the trial when testifying about Ethel’s typing.[17]  On the above-mentioned show, 60 Minutes II, Greenglass acknowledged that he did not even remember if any typing occurred at all.   He noted that one of the prosecutors, Roy Cohn, later to achieve fame as a counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, had confronted him with the change in Ruth’s testimony which introduced Ethel’s alleged typing.  Cohn told Greenglass he could either corroborate Ruth’s story or call her a liar.   Thus, the trial testimony – the story that Greenglass himself knew about (or saw) Ethel do the typing  –  was now a documented perjury,  one that had been suspected as early as 1975 with the earliest release of some of the FBI documents.

Even Ruth Greenglass’ important testimony that Ethel had urged her to “at least tell it to David … and let him decide for himself” whether to respond positively to Julius’ request to start giving information to the Soviet Union[18] is called into question in one of David’s interviews with Sam Roberts.

“Roberts:   When she recruited David, was Ruth quoting Ethel or Julius?   [David answers] ‘She was quoting Julius’.”[19]

Before David Greenglass’ admission on 60 Minutes II, the Venona releases in 1995 had revealed more evidence in support of the view that, whatever had been her husband’s involvement with Soviet espionage, Ethel Rosenberg was not a spy.

Although Julius Rosenberg and later David and Ruth Greenglass were identified by their code names, Ethel Rosenberg was never given one.   Even more important, the one document that describes Ethel states that she “knew” of her husband’s work with two of his espionage contacts and was well developed politically, but that “due to delicate health” she “does not work.”[20]  The chief decryptor on the Venona project, the linguist Meredith Gardner, wrote a memo in which he made clear that in this context, “does not work,” means that Ethel Rosenberg is not an espionage agent. [21]

The final elements, which to many observers, prove that David and Ruth Greenglass’ testimony at the trial was false, was the unsealing of first, Ruth Geenglass’ Grand Jury testimony in 2008 and then, in 2015, the unsealing of David Greenglass’ Grand Jury testimony.   Neither mentioned Ethel doing any typing.  David Greenglass reiterated what he had told Myles Lane in August of 1950, that he never even spoke to Ethel about his espionage activities with Julius Rosenberg.

Based on this volume of evidence, my brother and I assembled the information and submitted it to the United States government in November 2016 requesting that President Obama issue a proclamation in effect nullifying both the jury’s verdict on Ethel Rosenberg and the sentence.  We asked the President to proclaim publicly that she had been wrongfully convicted and that her conviction and execution were injustices.[22]  We used as our model, the 1977 Proclamation of Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts about Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti – two anarchists executed in 1927 for a double murder.   Dukakis had proclaimed that all taint of guilt should be removed from the memory of these two men because of the unfairness of the trial, the bias of the trial judge and evidence gathered since their original trial. [23]

In late December of 2016, culminating three years of study, the  Seton Hall Center for Policy and Research at the Seton Hall University School of Law released a report entitled:  “The Government’s Hostage: The Conviction and Execution of Ethel Rosenberg,”[24]   The report relied only on US government documents, not referencing any Venona releases nor material from Vassiliev’s notebooks.   As a result of carefully scrutinizing all of the documents released by the US government this group came to the conclusion that the arrest, conviction and execution of Ethel Rosenberg had nothing to do with her guilt or innocence.  Instead, as revealed in the July, 1950 FBI memo, she was used as a “lever” against Julius Rosenberg in an effort to get him to confess and name names.   One new fact that had not been noted in previous work on this issue was that between the arrests and trial, the FBI made no effort to question people they interviewed about Ethel Rosenberg’s potential involvement.   This strongly suggests that they knew they had no case against her but were hoping the “lever” strategy would work.   Although the authors of the report did not take a position on the guilt of innocence of Ethel Rosenberg on the broad charge of conspiracy to commit espionage, their research gave independent corroboration of the materials we submitted to President Obama in pursuit of our request.

President Obama left office without taking action on our request.   That does not change the basic historical judgement.   Ethel Rosenberg was framed for a crime she did not commit in an effort to pressure Julius Rosenberg to confess and name names.  David and Ruth Greenglass altered their original stories.   The new stories were perjuries which led to an unjust conviction and sentence.  When Julius and Ethel Rosenberg refused to go along with the government’s desires, the government killed the hostage, Ethel Rosenberg.[25]

THE CASE OF JULIUS ROSENBERG

We now turn to the Greenglasses’ testimony concerning Julius Rosenberg.  The release of the Venona decryptions in 1995 led most observers to conclude that Julius Rosenberg was indeed a Soviet spy.  Even Walter and Miriam Schneir, who had believed in the total innocence of both Rosenbergs, changed their minds.[26]   My brother and I were skeptical that the Venona decryptions were 100 percent accurate.   We argued that the intelligence agencies releasing them had motive, means and opportunity to “adjust” them to support the broad outlines of the government’s case against our parents.[27]   When Julius Rosenberg’s alleged Soviet control officer, Alexander Feklisov, surfaced and visited the United States, we maintained our skepticism.   Here was a retired KGB agent telling war stories about his many contacts with Julius Rosenberg — and making money from it.   We maintained the same level of skepticism when The Haunted Wood was published.   We recognized that the information in the Venona decryptions and in Feklisov’s personal memories might very well be true and we speculated on that – Robert in his book  An Execution in the Family, and I in Ivy Meeropol’s film, Heir to an Execution.[28]   However, we maintained a stance of agnosticism because we were not about to validate the CIA’s and NSA’s claims for them.

That all changed with Morton Sobell’s admission in September of 2008 that he had indeed been involved with Julius Rosenberg in helping the Soviet Union during World War II.   As we stated immediately after, we had no reason to doubt Morton’s veracity.[29]   The agnosticism we had expressed since the release of the Venona documents was gone.  Julius Rosenberg had spied for the Soviet Union.

Soon after, I read the manuscript of what would become Walter Schneir’s posthumously published work Final Verdict;  What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case.[30]  I was convinced.   After Walter’s untimely death while his wife and collaborator Miriam Schneir was preparing his manuscript for publication, the notebooks from which Vassiliev and Weinstein wrote The Haunted Wood were made public on the internet.   Miriam Schneir worked with the notebooks to corroborate what Walter had already gleaned from a careful reading of the sections of The Haunted Wood that related to the Rosenberg Case.   Walter had been able to conclude that Julius Rosenberg engaged in military-industrial espionage in aid of the Soviet Union, but that he was only peripherally involved in atomic espionage.  Much of what David and Ruth Greenglass said at the trial and much of what David Greenglass told Sam Roberts was false.  What follows is a summary of what the historical record has revealed about the truths and falsehoods told by both Greenglasses.

THE RECRUITMENT OF THE GREENGLASSES BY JULIUS AND ETHEL ROSENBERG

Recall that the trial testimony of Ruth and David Greenglass asserted that both of them were reluctant recruits.   They testified that first Ruth had to be persuaded by Ethel to “at least tell it to David … and let him decide for himself” and when Ruth asked, David at first refused.   Years later, in interviews with Sam Roberts, David Greenglass told a different story.   According to this version, it was Ruth who was initially reluctant for him to begin collecting information for the Soviets but he wasn’t.  Roberts quotes David saying Ruth said “Look, that’s your choice.  I’m not really happy with it” …”Why not?” asked Roberts.   Greenglass replied, “Well, because she felt, you know, she was never really tight with communists.  Politically she was a liberal.  A liberal, that’s what she was.”[31]

That story told to Roberts was not quite true, either.  In The Haunted Wood we see an entirely different response from Ruth Greenglass.

“First of all Julius inquired of Ruth how she felt about the Soviet Union and how deep in general her Communist convictions went, whereupon she replied without hesitation that, to her, socialism was the sole hope of the world and the Soviet Union commanded her deepest admiration.   Julius then wanted to know whether she would be willing to help the Soviet Union.  She replied very simply and sincerely that it would be a privilege; when Ethel mentioned David, she assured us that in her judgement this was also David’s understanding.”[32]

The letters the Greenglasses exchanged among themselves during this period indicated that they both were enamored of the Soviet Union and supportive of Communist Party ideology.  This is consistent with an enthusiastic embrace of the opportunity to help the Soviet Union when presented with the opportunity by Julius Rosenberg.[33]   It is, of course, inconsistent with both the trial testimony and what David Greenglass told Roberts.

THE JANUARY, 1945 MEETING BETWEEN THE GREENGLASSES AND ROSENBERGS.

Based on the Venona decryptions and the material from the Vassiliev Notebooks, it is safe to conclude that the January, 1945 meeting in the Rosenberg apartment described by both Ruth and David Greenglass at the trial did take place.[34]   However, almost every detail provided by the Greenglasses at the trial about what transpired at the meeting is contradicted by information from Vassiliev’s Notebooks and The Haunted Wood.

First, there is nothing about the passing of a sketch at that meeting.[35]   This fits the original statements David and Ruth Greenglass gave to the FBI as well as Ruth Greenglass’ testimony before the Grand Jury.   Only David, in his Grand Jury testimony, said he gave Julius Rosenberg some sketches.[36]  We have already detailed how there were no statements about Ethel being a spy typist until February 1951.

Second, the trial testimony about this meeting described the cutting of the side of a Jello box to be used as a recognition device should a courier come to New Mexico to pick up materials from David Greenglass.   Both Greenglasses told that story to the Grand Jury but The Haunted Wood and Vassiliev’s notebooks contradict it.

In what ways?   In February of 1945, the Soviets relieved Julius Rosenberg of his espionage duties.   He was told to stop supervising the various members of his group.  The reason was that in that same month, the FBI reported to army intelligence that Julius Rosenberg was a Communist.  He was therefore fired from his job with the US Army Signal Corps.   The Soviets feared that the FBI was uncovering his espionage activities as well and they ordered him “released from his duties as a group handler, directed that all his sources (presumably including the Greenglasses) be transferred to other controllers.”[37]  This statement is preceded by a long section of a message from Moscow to New York which is quoted both in Schneir’s Final Verdict and in Sam Roberts’ The Brother.[38]

Thus, when it came time to work out how to send a courier to Albuquerque to pick up material from David Greenglass, Julius Rosenberg was out of the loop.   In a report from February, 1945 reproduced in The Haunted Wood, we learn that

“… as soon as she receives a railroad ticket, [Ruth Greenglass] will go to live in Albuquerque … Before her departure, we will ask her to give us material and verbal passwords in case we need to restore contact with her … We assume that [Ruth’s] stay in Albuquerque will allow us to study better the working procedures and people at the camp and, in case [David] has valuable data, she can come to [New York] to inform us. ”[39]

Significantly, this statement renders implausible the story of the Jello box that was sworn to by both Greenglasses before the Grand Jury and the trial jury.   If there was a cut Jello box (the “material” in the report to Moscow) and a “verbal password” (here “verbal” means oral of course) it had not yet been thought up when Ruth and David Greenglass were in the Rosenberg apartment in January of 1945.[40]  Furthermore, an entry in one of Vassiliev’s Notebooks, not quoted in The Haunted Wood states that Ruth Greenglass had communicated with a  Soviet agent Yatskov indicating “she would like to meet in late May or June.”   Yatskov requested that Harry Gold be sent to pick up material in Albuquerque.[41]  This fits with the fact that Julius Rosenberg was out of the espionage loop at that time.

THE JUNE, 1945 MEETING BETWEEN THE GREENGLASSES AND HARRY GOLD

We now know that Harry Gold was a Soviet courier and he did, in fact, go to Albuquerque to pick up material from David Greenglass.   The first hint that this story was true and not a fabrication came from the research that led to the book Bombshell by Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstell.   The book focused primarily on the espionage activities of the scientist Theodore Hall and his courier Lona Cohen.   However, it also mentioned in passing the activities of the British scientist Klaus Fuchs, Gold and Greenglass.  The book identified inventories from the Soviet Ministry of Atomic Energy  – inventories of material that arrived from the United States.  One set of documents were described as “molds” from experiments conducted at Los Alamos and the date of arrival was consistent with Harry Gold having obtained those materials from David Greenglass in June of 1945.[42]  It is pretty unlikely that the material Albright and Kunstell located was fabricated.   To believe that, one would have to believe that somewhere in the Soviet Ministry of Atomic Energy, someone was creating false information in order to prove that Harry Gold and David Greenglass had been spies.   Because this was a most unlikely scenario, the idea that Harry Gold had not fabricated his espionage career out of whole cloth – as a “Walter Mitty” figure – began to take shape in 1997.[43]

However, the password allegedly used by Gold when he met the Greenglasses, “I come from Julius,” remained problematic.   As early as 1973, when the documentary “The Unquiet Death of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg” was aired, an FBI agent had told an interviewer that Gold initially thought the password was “Bob sent me” or “Benny sent me.”[44]   In interviews with the Myles Lane in August of 1950, the code was “I bring greetings from Ben in Brooklyn” (Gold’s version) while David Greenglass testified that Gold had just introduced himself as “Dave from Pittsburgh.”[45]   It took a meeting between Gold and Greenglass in December of 1950, months after they had both sworn to different versions of the greeting before the Grand Jury, to create the trial testimony that the code was “I come from Julius.”[46]   The fact that the code was created by Ruth Greenglass sometime after February, 1945 strongly supports the idea that it was never “I come from Julius.”

SEPTEMBER, 1945:  THE DIAGRAM OF THE IMPLOSION BOMB .[47]

Because of the decision by the Soviets in February, 1945, to relieve Julius Rosenberg of his duties as a group espionage leader, the alleged September, 1945 meeting where the so-called secret of the implosion type atom bomb was passed to Julius Rosenberg becomes less likely.  In Ruth Greenglass’ Grand Jury testimony, she was specifically asked if her husband had given any information to either Harry Gold or Julius Rosenberg after the June, 1945 visit of Gold to Albuquerque.  She answered no.[48]

David Greenglass’s Grand Jury testimony was that he gave material to Julius Rosenberg which he described as “a description of the Atom Bomb,” in September of 1945.   Neither Greenglass testified about a meeting in the Rosenberg apartment. [49]  David Greenglass did not elaborate on his brief statement.   He made no mention of the famous cross section sketch which ended up being introduced as exhibit 8 at the trial.   And of course, as noted above, David did not say that Ethel Rosenberg was present when this occurred, and neither referred to her doing any typing.

Vassiliev’s notebook corroborates that Julius Rosenberg had been out of contact with his espionage superiors for two years.[50]    This further calls into question the veracity of the Greenglasses’ testimony about the alleged September, 1945 meeting.

As noted above, there was one fact that both Greenglasses determined never to share with the FBI.   Though in his initial statement to the FBI, David Greenglass was vague about whether he met with “a Russian” in January of 1945 or later in the Fall,[51] he and Ruth later settled on the January date, making sure never to acknowledge that a meeting took place between David Greenglass and Yatskov in September, 1945.   David did not acknowledge that meeting in his interviews with Sam Roberts either. [52]  Here is how Yatskov described the September, 1945 meeting in a cable to Moscow:

“The meeting was quite short …. In our conversation, it was established that [Greenglass] worked in secondary workshops of the “Nature Reserve” [the New Mexico atomic camps], producing tools, instruments for the “Nature Reserve” and sometimes details for the balloon [the atomic bomb].   Thus, for example, detonators for the fuse of the balloon’s explosive were made in their workshop, and [Greenglass] passed to us a cartridge for such a detonator.   [He] doesn’t’ have access to the balloon itself or the main shops.  …. [Greenglass] was assigned to gather detailed characteristics on people he considered suitable for drawing into our work.  In addition [he was given] the task of samples of materials used in the balloon, such as tube alloy, explosives, etc.  Materials sometimes come to [Greenglass’s] workshop.”[53]

After quoting from the cable, the authors of The Haunted Wood write, “It would have been preferable, in Yatskov’s opinion to send Lona Cohen[54] to Albuquerque to collect this material on Deember 21, the assigned date for the next meeting with David Greenglass.  Instead, Ruth Greenglass was told to receive all of it from David.”[55]

The significance of the December 21 date is underscored by the findings of Albright and Kunstall.[56]  They discovered that the diagram allegedly given to Julius Rosenberg in September (later reproduced for the trial as Exhibit 8) did not arrive in the Soviet Union until December 27, 1945.   This date is consistent with fact that Yatskov had set December 21 as the next time for contact and the handover of information.   The December 27 arrival of the diagram and accompanying descriptive material is inconsistent with the trial testimony about a September handover.[57]

According to Walter Schneir, putting the information from Albright and Kunstall’s book together with material from The Haunted Wood,

“Yatskov met with David Greenglass in New York City in September of 1945.  David informed Yatskov that “detonators for the fuse of the [atom bomb’s] explosive” were made in the Los Alamos shop where he worked.  At an unspecified date, David provided “a cartridge for such a detonator.”   Yatskov set December 21, 1945, as the date for the next Greenglass meeting an assigned Ruth to collect from David whatever material he wanted to pass on to the Russians.   A meeting presumably did take place on December 21.  We know this because a memo was written in Moscow on December 27, 1945 which listed the items received from New York … “materials in English on the construction of an atom bomb” and a sample of “an electrodetonator of the bomb.”   A second document written in Moscow summarized the transmitted spy report.  Labeled “Notes on the Construction of an Atom Bomb, Description of the Construction of an Implosion Bomb,” it contains David’s signature error, a reference to thirty-six lenses, as oppose to the correct figure of thirty-two. …Thus, it appears that on December 21, 1945, Ruth Greenglass, having collected from her husband a description of an implosion bomb – destined to become the stuff of history – along with a detonator cartridge that he had stolen and sneaked past the Los Alamos guards, delivered these to the KGB.”[58]

            CONCLUSION

The evidence that Walter Schneir  assembled to write Final Verdict (supplemented by Miriam Schneir’s research in Vassiliev’s Notebooks) permits us, plausibly, to reach the following conclusions.[59]

First, Ethel Rosenberg was not a spy.  The government knew she did not have a code name and that the testimony against her at the trial was fabricated.

Second, Julius Rosenberg did get Ruth Greenglass to recruit David Greenglass to give information.   The Greenglasses were enthusiastic not reluctant recruits.

Third, at a meeting in January of 1945, David Greenglass gave Julius Rosenberg some information about the layout of the buildings at Los Alamos and the names of some scientists.   He also met briefly with a Russian (probably Yatskov) and could not answer any of the technical questions asked.   He gave no sketches to Julius Rosenberg, no Jello box was cut.

Fourth, in February, 1945, Julius Rosenberg was relieved of his duties as a group leader of various espionage contacts.  They were reassigned to other people and he remained out of the espionage loop through 1946 at least.

Fifth, sometime after February, 1945, Ruth Greenglass gave “material and verbal passwords” to a Soviet agent before she left for Albuquerque to join her husband.

Sixth, in June of 1945, Harry Gold arrived in Albuquerque to pick up information from David Greenglass.   The code for identification was probably not “I come from Julius.”

Seventh, in September of 1945, David Greenglass met with Yatskov and they arranged for the next meeting to be on December 21.   David Greenglass gave no diagram to Yatskov.  The espionage meeting described at the trial in the Rosenberg apartment with all four (Julius, Ethel, David and Ruth) present never happened.

Finally, the famous diagram with descriptive material that ultimately was the supposedly bombshell testimony about the “secret of the atomic bomb” at the trial (including Exhibit 8) arrived in Moscow on December 27, 1945.   This was consistent with a December 21 exchange but not with the Greenglass trial testimony about a September exchange.

Thus, the prosecutor’s charge that the Rosenbergs “through David Greenglass” had stolen the secret of the atomic bomb was false, even if the scientific information contained in Exhibit 8 and the accompanying descriptive material was helpful to the Soviet bomb program.  Julius Rosenberg, the alleged “atom spy” was in fact not an atomic spy at all.

[1] For the full transcript of the trial and the decision of the Court of Appeals affirming the convictions, see  U.S. vs. Rosenbergs, Sobell, Yakovlev and Greenglass (Cr. No. 124-245).  [Yakovlev is the name the Soviet Agent Yatskov used while on assignment in the US.]   A reprint in eight paperback pamphlets was created by the National Committee to Secure Justice in the Rosenberg Case from the submission to the US Supreme Court (filed on June 7, 1952).   References to the transcript are usually to the pagination in this reprinted version.  The Judge’s sentencing speech is on pages 1612-1616; the decision of the Court of Appeals is on pages 1644-1682).   Subsequent references to the trial will be identified as Record.

[2] Except for an interview he and Ruth granted to journalist Sol Stern and historian Ronald Radosh (See “The Hidden Rosenberg Case” The New Republic June 23, 1979, Vol. 180 Issue 25.) David Greenglass had been absent from the public eye all of those years.

[3] For a report (with quotes) on the 60 Minutes II show broadcast December 5, 2001, see https://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-traitor/

[4] And with Stern and Radosh – see note 2 above.

[5] See Meeropol v. Meese 790 F 2nd 942 (DC Circuit 1986).   For the decision which includes a summary of the history of the litigation from initial request in 1975 till final judgement was entered in 1986, including a summary of the materials made public, see http://openjurist.org/790/f2d/942/meeropol-v-meese-iii. In addition to being available from the FBI’s FOIA-Privacy division, there is a complete set of the material won as a result of the litigation as a subsection of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Collection at Boston University’s Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.  The sub-section is entitled “Rosenberg Prosecution Documents.”

[6] See Robert Louis Benson and Michael Warner, edd.  Venona:  Soviet Espionage and the American Response, 1939-1957.  (Washington, DC:  National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, 1996).  Venona documents that mention either Julius or Ethel Rosenberg are on pages 275, 301, 327, 335, 341 (the first reference to Ruth Greenglass and the first mention of Liberal’s (Julius Rosenberg’s) wife – also first reference to David Greenglass being stationed in Los Alamos at the Manhattan Project), 365, 381 (information on Ethel Rosenberg), 385, 387-9, 393 (David Greenglass agrees to provide information to help the Soviet Union), 395-6, 413.

[7] The Vassiliev notebooks were digitized and made available at http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/collection/86/vassiliev-notebooks.

[8] The Haunted Wood, Soviet Espionage in American – The Stalin Era (Random House, 1999).

[9] Ruth Greenglass’ Grand Jury testimony is available at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20080911/rosenbergcasefiles-greenglass-ruth-pg9132to9161.pdf

David Greenglass’ Grand Jurty testimony is available at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20150715/Greenglass.pdf

[10] David Greenglass’ testimony is in Record:  394-406, 438-66, 489-500.  Ruth Greenglass’ testimony is in Record:  677-715.   Testimony about the alleged secret of the atomic bomb as well as the sketch introduced as Exhibit 8 was impounded at the trial and thus was not part of this record.   In 1966, it was unsealed and made part of the public record.   That unsealed transcript with the accompanying sketch is available at Sobell v. U.S., 66 Civ. 1328 D.C.S.D.N.Y., Appellant’s Appendix on Appeal, 66a-71a.  It is quoted in Gerald E. Markowitz and Michael Meeropol, “The ‘Crime of the Century’ Revisited:  David Greenglass’s Scientific Evidence in the Rosenberg Case,” Science and Society, 46 (Spring, 1980), 5-8.  One witness (Max Elitcher) described Julius Rosenberg’s (unsuccessful) attempt to recruit him into Soviet espionage while another (Elizabeth Bentley) testified she received phone calls from someone named Julius setting up espionage meetings with her spymaster – but she never met the man on the phone.  Elitcher’s testimony is available at Record:  197-320, 328-373, 394.  Bentley was a star witness at many Congressional hearings.   Her testimony before Grand Juries never resulted in any espionage indictments despite the long list of individuals she accused of spying.  Her main role at the trial was as a government described expert witness on the proclivity of Communists to be spies for the Soviet Union.  Her testimony is at Record:  964-1024.  The Court of Appeals found that Elitcher’s testimony insufficient to sustain a guilty verdict as evidenced by their conclusion that the case against the Rosenbergs rises and falls with the testimony of the Greenglasses.  Since Bentley never met the “Julius” from whom she allegedly received phone calls, that testimony had no role in determining the guilt or innocence of the Rosenbergs.

[11] The two major secondary sources on the campaign to refute the government’s charges against the Rosenbergs during the period between 1951 and 1975 remain Walter and Miriam Schneir, Invitation to an Inquest (New York:  Pantheon, 1983), 175-253 and Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton, The Rosenberg File (New York:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1983), ch. 24.

[12] Invitation to an Inquest was initially published in 1965.  The authors were able to find serious contradictions between the trial testimony of Harry Gold and recordings he made with his attorneys.   Investigating the government exhibit that allegedly proved that Gold had been to Albuquerque in June of 1945 to pick up material from David Greenglass, the Schneirs made a strong case that the hotel registration card was an FBI forgery.   They made a number of other arguments that once again cast strong doubt on the veracity of both Gold and the Greenglasses.   For a summary of the case that the Rosenbergs were totally innocent, see Schneir and Schneir:  ch. 23.   See also, Robert and Michael Meeropol, We Are Your Sons:   The Legacy of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, 2nd Edition (Urbana, Ill:  Unieversity of Illinois Press, 1986),  345-361.   Some of these allegations were also explored in a public television documentary, The Unquiet Death of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg which was published in book form with the same title (Lawrence and Hill, 1975).   Needless to say, both the Schneirs and my brother and I have changed our positions since the 1970s.

[13] For David’s initial denial that Ethel Rosenberg was involved, see the “interview with David Greenglass” by Myles Lane in the FBI’s David Greenglass Headquarters File 332 (August 4, 1950).  His subsequent corroboration of Ruth’s new version is in the Julius Rosenberg Headquarters File, 813 (telegram, NY to Washington, February 26, 1951).   Utilizing FBI documents pertaining to the Rosenberg case requires identifying the name of the file (JR is Julius Rosenberg, DG is David Greenglass) the location of the file (HQ in headquarters, NY is the NY field office) and document number.

For an early reference to this information see Meeropol and Meeropol (1986):  361-363

[14] McInerney is quoted in A.M. Belmont to Ladd, July 17, 1950, JR HQ 188.

[15] Transcript of hearing before the U.S. Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, February 8, 1951:   6 (AEC documents).

[16] The Brother, The Untold Story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How he sent his Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair (New York:  Random House, 2001).   A paperback version was published as The Brother:  The Untold Story of the Rosenberg Case   (New Yorj:  Simon and Shuster, 2014).   Greenglass was induced to talk because Roberts split his advance with him.

[17] See The Brother, 482-484.

[18] See Record:  680.

[19] The Brother:  480.   Some writers (see, for example, Ronald Radosh and Stephen Usdin, “Rosenberg Redux,” The New Republic,  December 5, 2010)  https://newrepublic.com/article/79648/rosenbergs-redux-julius-ethel-communist-spies  have argued that Ruth’s trial testimony is validated by a long report from Julius Rosenberg that was quoted at length in The Haunted Wood (119).  This is also available in Vassiliev’s Yellow Notebook #1 54 – 55. (See http://digitalarchive.wilsoncenter.org/collection/86/vassiliev-notebooks.)  If Vassiliev transcribed the KGB source accurately, this quote represents an account presumably written by Julius Rosenberg in the third person explaining the successful recruitment of Ruth.   Obviously, a historian would want to see the original (perhaps handwritten) report from Julius Rosenberg to make sure the material Vassiliev was transcribing accurately reflects what Julius actually wrote.  This caution applies to all of Vassiliev’s notebooks.  (This caution is also important in assessing the details described in any of the Venona decryptions.  See, for example, the September 21 message from NY to Moscow [Benson and Warner, 341] where the report notes “Liberal and his wife recommend [Ruth Greengass] as a clever girl.”  The same information was gleaned by Vassiliev and written up in his White Notebook #1 [p. 168] and this version says only that “Liberal” has recommended Ruth Greenglass.  Both versions are reprinted in “Afterword” by Miriam Schneir in Walter Schneir, Final Verdict, What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case [NY:  Melville House, 2010, 168, 170]  We don’t know which version is more accurate as to detail but just this one contradiction indicates that, unlike, say, Grand Jury or trial testimony, the details reported in a Vassiliev notebook entry or even a Venona decyption must be viewed with a level of uncertainty.)   However, until the Russians truly open their archives (say, to the extent that the FBI has done in response to various FOIA requests and lawsuits), Vassiliev’s notebooks and Venona decryptions will have to stand as the best available approximation of Soviet era archives. Unlike the memories of KGB agents telling war stories decades later (or for that matter, David Greenglass’s interviews with Sam Roberts), they have the advantage of having been created contemporaneously. In the report from Julius Rosenberg described by Vassiliev, there are two references to Ethel, none of which involve her importuning Ruth to “at least tell it to David … and let him decide for himself.”  In one reference, Ethel “mentions” David, eliciting a comment from Ruth that he [David] shared her admiration for the Soviet Union.  The other reference reads, “Ethel interposed to stress the need for the utmost care and caution in informing David of the work in which Julius was engaged and that, for his own safety, all other political activity and discussion on his part should be subdued.”  This may be read as evidence of Ethel’s participation in the conspiracy but it could also be read as evidence that she was uncertain and emphasizing caution.  The most important point is that, contrary to the implication drawn by those who insist that Ethel Rosenberg is guilty, Vassiliev’s notebook entry does not support Ruth Greenglass’s trial testimony.  Although it should be obvious, it is probably worth reiterating that “knowledge” of a conspiracy is not the same as participating in that conspiracy.  For the further significance of this particular document, see below p. 6 and endnote 30.

[20] Benson and Warner, 381.  This document is significant for another reason.  The first line in it indicates that it is response to a query from Moscow about “Liberal’s wife.”   Some supporters of the view that Ethel Rosenberg was a spy have argued that when Julius Rosenberg recommended Ruth Greenglass as someone who would provide a safe house for photography in her apartment (See Benson and Warner:  341) he used the fact that his wife also vouched for Greenglass to increase the credibility of this recommendation.  (See John Schindler, “Rosenberg Lies Never Cease” Observer (October 17, 2016) at http://observer.com/2016/10/rosenberg-lies-never-cease/)  The logic of those making this claim is that the reference to “Liberal’s wife” shows that she was trusted by the KGB.  But the document quoted here indicates that as of September, 1944, Moscow didn’t know anything about her and, far from taking a reference to her vouching for Ruth Greenglass at face value, was asking if she (“Liberal’s wife”) could be trusted.   Shindler first shows the reader the later document quoted by Benson and Warner on page 381 which states that Liberal’s wife is “sufficiently well developed politically” in order to convince his readers that the KGB trusted her.   He then reproduces part of the earlier (September) document (Benson and Warner, 341) which includes the recommendation of Ruth Geenglass by “Liberal’s wife.”  The reader might be forgiven if the placement of the two quotes obscured the order in which these two messages were created and the reason for the creation of the later message.

[21]  On the 2002 television documentary, “Secrets, Lies and Atomic Spies” Gardner read aloud from the English version of that cable.  “She knows about her husband’s work,” it says. “In view of her delicate health, does not work.”   The narrator then explained,   “As Gardner reported, the word “work” was KGB jargon for “espionage” which would explain why Ethel was never given a cover name.”  See http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/2904_venona.html By contrast, the Soviets had no problem assigning both Ruth and David Greenglass code name.

[22] For the letter to President Obama with supporting documents, see Michael and Robert Meeropol to President Barack Obama, (Nov. 28, 2016) at http://www.rfc.org/sites/rfc.org/files/11.28.16%20letter%20to%20Pres.%20Obama%20for%20public%20release.pdf.

By the time President Obama left office, petitions in support of the exoneration effort had been signed by 60,000 people.   See http://www.rfc.org/petition

[23] See “Proclamation by Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Memorial Day” (August 23, 1977) available at https://www.rfc.org/sites/rfc.org/files/Dukakis proclamation 1977.pdf

[24] See:   Denbeaux, Mark and Dolan, Shannon M. and Graber, Robert C. and Mancuso, Elizabeth A. and Tanzer, Theodore R., “The Government’s Hostage: The Conviction and Execution of Ethel Rosenberg” (December 22, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2885448

[25] A number of critics have argued that the fact that Ethel knew about her husband’s work for the Soviets made her complicit and in the words of one writer, “a witting spy.”   This is actually an incorrect reading of conspiracy law.  To be guilty of a conspiracy there has to be an agreement among the parties to commit the crime and/or at least one overt act.   If Ruth Greenglass’s trial testimony about the discussion where Julius recruited her were to be believed that would be evidence that Ethel Rosenberg was part of the conspiracy.   Mere knowledge of a conspiracy is not evidence of participation in it. The reader must judge for him or herself whether the evidence presented here is sufficient to cast doubt on Ruth Greenglass’s assertion.   Clearly, the testimony of both Greenglasses about the typing is refuted by their explicit Grand Jury testimony.

[26] See Schneir and Schneir, “Cryptic Answers,” The Nation Aug. 14/21, 1995:  152-53.

[27] In 1995, I delivered the Matthew Vassar Lecture at Vassar College.   The text reveals me trying to remain skeptical while entertaining the idea that the information in the Venona releases might be true.   See http://www.realhistoryarchives.com/collections/disputes/matthew_vassar_lecture.htm

[28] Meeropol, Robert,   An Execution in the Family  (New York:  MacMillan, 2003) especially 202-206, 215-226.   See the extended interview with me on the “extras” part of the DVD of Heir to an Execution:  A Granddaughter’s Story, a film by Ivy Meeropol. (HBO films, 2004).

[29] Sobell had been indicted on the same one count conspiracy charge as the Rosenbergs.   However, all testimony about his involvement showed he had nothing to do with the atom bomb and that was the Judge’s reason for not sentencing him to death.   (See Record:   1620).   Until September 11, 2008, Sobell strongly maintained that he was totally innocent of the charge of espionage.   For his admission, see http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/12/nyregion/12spy.html?mcubz=0 and The Brother (2014), 506

[30] (NY:  Melville House, 2010)  Preface and Afterword by Miriam Schneir.

[31] The Brother:  (2014) 485.

[32]  The Haunted Wood:  199-200.   .  This same quote from The Haunted Wood appears in Schneir Final Verdict, 112-113  and on page 85 in The Brother (though in that book, the quotation is not footnoted so the reader does not know its source). Even though this quote from The Haunted Wood contradicts what Greenglass told Roberts, both of these quotes found their way into the paperback of The Brother, which was published in 2014 without any explanatory footnotes, etc. even though Roberts had already read Schneir’s Final Verdict  where the same quote from The Haunted Wood is emphasized and presented in full context.  Though Roberts asserted in both the original and paperback versions of his book that he never caught Greenglass lying to him, this was one place where it certainly appeared that Greenglass was lying.

[33]For details with some examples, see Schneir, Final Verdict:  108-110.  A December 16, 1944 message from New York to Moscow decrypted as part of the Venona project noted that “[Ruth Greenglass] has returned from a trip to see [David Greenglass].   [David Greenglass] expressed his readiness to help in throwing light on the work being carried on at Camp-2 and stated that he had already given thought to this question earlier.”  (Venona:  393)  [emphasis added]  (Names in brackets replace the code names used in the original document.)   In other words, a contemporaneous document refutes the idea that David Greenglass was a reluctant spy.

[34] David and Ruth Greenglass also testified before the Grand Jury and at the trial, that during that period, David met with a “Russian” on a street and drove with him in a car while the individual asked him questions that he couldn’t answer.  For that testimony, see Record,  452-3 and 651-2.  The significance of this meeting will become apparent when we discuss another meeting between David Greenglass and a Soviet agent on page 9 and endnote 51 below.

[35] See The Haunted Wood:  201-2.

[36]  For Ruth Greenglass’ Grand Jury testimony about the January, 1945 meeting, see http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20080911/rosenbergcasefiles-greenglass-ruth-pg9132to9161.pdf:

9143-50 (12-19 at the website)   For David Geenglass’ Grand Jury testimony about the same meeting, see.   http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20150715/Greenglass.pdf:  9177-83 (15-21 at the website.

[37]  See The Haunted Wood: 206

[38]  See Final Verdict:  128-9 and The Brother:  116-8.

[39] The Haunted Wood:  202-3.   Interestingly, the underlined section of this quote is reproduced in The Brother without any indication that this directly contradicts David Greenglass’s testimony at the trial.  (The same can be said about the material Roberts quotes on pages 116-118 as well.)  The Haunted Wood was published before the first edition of The Brother.   Final Verdict, which drew heavily on The Haunted Wood to correct for David and Ruth Greenglass’s lies at the trial and David’s continuing lies to Roberts, was published before the paperback edition of The Brother.  Because of these facts, it is unfortunate that Roberts chose not to confront Greenglass with the contradictions between The Haunted Wood and David and Ruth’s testimony at the trial.  It is also unfortunate that when Roberts reviewed Final Verdict for The New York Times he failed to acknowledge the contradictions between what Greenglass had been saying all those years – and presumably continued to say to Roberts – and the information in Final Verdict that drew heavily on The Haunted Wood.   Interestingly, The Haunted Wood does not date the document quoted on pages 202-3.  Walter Schneir learned it independently and when Vassiliev’s notebooks were released, Miriam Schneir was able to find the report and confirm the date.  See Final Verdict:  183 and Black Notebook, p. 134, file 40594, v. 7, p. 49.

[40] Though the Rosenbergs’ attorney Emanuel Bloch never wavered from his public insistence that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were innocent, one should surmise that because Bloch was a politically acceptable attorney to Julius Rosenberg, he had been informed of Julius’ involvement with Soviet espionage.   Since the material in Vassiliev’s notebook and in The Haunted Wood made clear that Julius had nothing to do with the recognition signal, Emanuel Bloch’s summation to the jury indicates that he had learned from Julius Rosenberg that he had been out of the espionage loop after February, 1945.  Bloch then incorporated that knowledge into his summation to the jury:  “Now this is the story about the Jello.   Get that straight, …. Did Greenglass have half of that Jello box?   No question about that.   And when Gold got out to Albuquerque, did he have half of that Jello box?  No question about that.  Gold said he got his half from Yakovlev.  Greenglass said he got his half from Rosenberg.   …. Is to too unreasonable to infer that maybe Dave Greenglass got his one-half of the Jello box from the very man who gave the other half to Gold?”  (Record:  1480)   If Julius Rosenberg had behaved as any client who trusts his lawyer would – tell the entire complete truth – then Bloch actually knew what is revealed from the Soviet documents quoted in The Haunted Wood.   Bloch then took the simplest most logical approach and tied David Greenglass directly to the Soviet agent Yatskov – who let us recall used the name Yakovlev while on assignment in New York (see above, note 1).   By the way, another interesting “tell” on this issue comes from Julius Rosenberg, himself.   Shortly after his arrest, Julius Rosenberg was quoted as saying that the Jello box story was “fantastic – something like kids hear over the television on the Lone Ranger program.” (New York Times [July 20, 1950]:  18).   Since he had nothing to do with the recognition signal, it is possible he never learned what it was and thought the Jello box story “fantastic” as in the word “fantasy.”

[41] Miriam Schneir found this Vassiliev entry in White Notebook #1, p. 116, file 40129, v. 3a, p. 380.   See Final Verdict:  174.

[42] Albright, Joseph and Marcia Kunstel  Bombshell:  The Secret Story of America’s Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy   (NY:  Times Books, 1997).  On page 139 there is a brief description of what Greenglass allegedly gave Gold who passed it on to Yatskov later along with much more detailed information from the Fuchs.  (Gold had collected material from Fuchs and from Greenglass on the same trip to Albuquerque.)   In a long endnote on pages 337- 8 the authors describe three of the inventories from the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy archives.  These inventories describe three espionage reports, received in the Soviet Union on three separate dates.  The inventory entries correspond to 1) materials from Hall, 2)  materials Gold collected from Fuchs in June of 1945, and 3)  material from David Greenglass including the sketch that became exhibit 8 at the trial.   (For the significance of that third inventory for the atomic espionage charge against Julius Rosenberg, see below p. ­­8).    The information that there is also an inventory of what Greenglass gave to Gold in June of 1945 (information not published in Bombshell) was relayed to me over the phone by Joseph Albright sometime in 1997 or 1998.   What Mr. Albright told me piqued my interest.  It was my first inclination that perhaps Harry Gold truly was what he confessed to being – a Soviet courier.

[43] The argument that Gold was lying completely about all of his so-called espionage activity was developed initially in the book The Judgement of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg by John Wexley (Cameron and Kahn, 1955).   Walter and Miriam Schneir, in Invitation to an Inquest explored this issue in more detail.  (See chs. 12,27,28,29,32,34.)   My brother described our position as of 1985 in a chapter in the second edition of We Are Your Sons (Urbana, Ill:   University of Illinois Press, 1986):  ch.  13.  Though it is clear that Harry Gold committed perjury at the Rosenberg trial, even as he was in general correctly describing his espionage contact with David Greenglass, the judgement of Wexley, the Schneirs (in their earlier work) and my brother and me (in our earlier work) was clearly incorrect.   Gold actually was a Soviet courier.

[44] See The Unquiet Death of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (there is no pagination in this book).

[45] For Gold’s statement, see HG HQ, August 3, 1950.   For Greenglass’s version, see DG HQ 332, August 4, 1950.

[46] The FBI report on the joint interview with Gold and Greenglass never made it to headquarters.  Instead, it is referenced in the Philadelphia Field Office Harry Gold file:  3-599, December 28, 1950.   Gold did not completely sign off on this new version for his trial testimony until right before the trial:  HG HQ 799, March 5, 1951.

[47] A copy of that diagram that Greenglass drew from memory in jail before the trial was introduced at the trial as Exhibit 8.  It has been reproduced in numerous places, most recently in the picture section of the paperback edition of The Brother.

[48] Grand Jury testimony of Ruth Greenglass:   9155 (p. 23 of the file at http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20080911/rosenbergcasefiles-greenglass-ruth-pg9132to9161.pdf)

[49] The reason for the discrepancies between the two Greenglasses at the Grand Jury is worth exploring.  This is probably evidence that as they were speaking with the FBI in June, July and August of 1950, they were trying to get their stories straight.   One thing neither Greenglass wanted to admit to the FBI was that there were any other meetings between David or Ruth Greenglass and Soviet agents aside from the one January encounter.   Thus, David was already claiming that the description of “how the atom bomb worked” had to have been passed to Julius Rosenberg so as not to admit that he (or Ruth) gave it directly to some Russian.  Ruth, meanwhile, was probably telling the truth at the Grand Jury that David Greenglass gave no more material to Julius Rosenberg.   That, of course, would be consistent with what we learn from The Haunted Wood, that Julius Rosenberg was out of the espionage loop for most of 1945.

[50] See Black Notebook, p. 128, file 8619, v.1, p. 173.  There is a specific statement that Julius Rosenberg’s “connection with us [the Soviets] was interrupted for over 2 years.”   See Schneir, Final Verdict:  148, 184.

[51] See for example, David Greenglass’ interview with Myles Lane, August 4, 1950.  DG HQ 332.

[52] As, noted above in endnote 1, Yatskov is the real name of the agent who when he was in the United States used the name Yakovlev.   Recall David Greenglass’s testimony about the January meeting with “a Russian” (Record:  452-3 and 651-2).   Sam Roberts, in The Brother inexplicably suggests this meeting from January of 1945 is the “short” meeting described in The Haunted Wood as taking place in September of 1945.   In an endnote referencing page 147, Roberts writes, “Several of the participants disagreed as to whether the meeting with the Russian agent occurred in September, 1945 or in the previous January, when David was also home on leave.” (532, 2014 edition).   What Roberts fails to consider in the book is the possibility that Greenglass was accurately testifying about the January meeting at the trial and keeping the fact of the September meeting from the FBI and the government because he needed to emphasize the role of Julius Rosenberg in getting the cross section sketch of the implosion-type bomb to the Soviets.  Whereas Roberts is stating that there is disagreement as to when the meeting occurred the fact that there were two meetings is the most logical conclusion from the written record.

[53] The Haunted Wood:  213.

[54] Recall that Cohen was a courier for Theodore Hall.   Neither Hall nor Greenglass knew of each other’s espionage activities.   In fact, there is no conclusive evidence that Cohen ever met the Greenglasses.  However, when she was interviewed by Walter Schneir many years later, she acknowledged two trips to Albuquerque.  See Final Verdict, 44

[55] Te Haunted Wood:   213.

[56] Albright and Kunstel:  338.

[57] See The Brother, n146.  Unbelievably, Roberts refers to the very same memo in a footnote without giving any indication that it is the same diagram nd description drawn by Greenglass for the trial. This same reference is on the same page in the paperback version yet there is no addition to the end notes to indicate that Roberts had devoted any effort to decide whether Walter Schneir’s utilization of that document in Final Verdict creates a plausible alternative story of how this diagram actually got to the Soviet Union.

[58] Final Verdict:   136.  Before Walter Schneir died, he was the world’s most knowledgeable expert on the entire Rosenberg case.   It was his recognition that the December 27, 1945 date for the arrival of the descriptive material (and diagram) about the implosion type bomb was unusual if the September, 1945 handover had occurred as sworn to at the trial.   It was only after reading The Haunted Wood and discovering what he called Julius Rosenberg’s “pink slip” from the KGB that he was able to discern why there was such an apparent two month delay between the passing of the information and its delivery to Moscow.   For his initial thought processes, see Final Verdict:  55-61.  It is unlikely that any other person would have had enough specific knowledge of the various pieces to the puzzle to make that connection.

 

In the paperback version of The Brother, Roberts had an opportunity to re-trace his utilization of the very same quotes that Schneir used from The Haunted Wood as well as to consider the analysis Schneir made of the implications of the December 27, 1945 memo.   If Schneir is correct, Greenglass snookered Roberts by repeating lies he used to weave the story he told at the trial.  Surprisingly, given that fact, the New York Times assigned Roberts the task of reviewing Final Verdict.   Despite his having read that book closely, Roberts’ only reference to Final Verdict in the paperback edition of The Brother is on p. 509: “… in minimizing Julius’ role … [Sobell] also inadvertently implicated him in supplying atomic secrets to the Soviets – in effect, directly contradicting Walter Schneir’s Final Verdict which absolved Julius of any connection beyond hatching the plot to recruit Greenglass and then leaving David to fend for himself …. ‘I know all the details.  And when you know all the details, you know they are innocent of the main charge.  Julius was innocent of what he was change [sic] with in the sense that the sketch that he transmitted was bullshit’.”    The reader would never guess that this statement from Sobell was made to Walter and Miriam Schneir (who shared their tape with Roberts).  On the full tape the Schneirs asked Sobell to clarify whether he was speaking from personal knowledge about Julius Rosenberg’s activities or as a scientist assessing the value of the implosion bomb cross section that Greenglass claimed he gave to my father in September of 1945.  Sobell responded “as a scientist.”  The interview conducted by Walter and Miriam Schneir with Morton Sobell occurred on September 11, 2008 – after Sobell had talked with Roberts but before the story was published in the New York Times.  In earlier interviews with the Schneirs as well as in a phone conversation Sobell had with me on September 12, 2008, after Roberts’ story appeared, Sobell was clear that Julius Rosenberg never told him anything about any of his other activities.  He said the same thing in a letter to the New York Times which was published September 18, 2008

(http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/19/opinion/l19sobell.html?_r=0)

Because Roberts had the benefit of 50 hours of interviews with David Greenglass it is highly unfortunate that he missed a once-in-a-lifetime opportuniy by failing to probe the contradictions between the written record and what Greenglass was telling him.   Not long after the interviews ended, Greenglass slipped into senility (he died in July of 2014).

[59] However, new material — either currently redacted from US government released files, or still unreleased from Soviet era documents — could change our conclusions