New Info on Rosenberg Case
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Thu Dec 6 08:24:25 MST 2001
December 6, 2001
Rosenberg betrayed by her brother
He spied, lied, doesn't care
Philip Delves Broughton
The Daily Telegraph
NEW YORK - The brother of Ethel Rosenberg, the only woman executed in the
United States for espionage, has admitted he lied under oath to protect
himself and effectively sent his sister to the electric chair in 1953.
David Greenglass, now 79, said he feels no remorse over his actions in the
Rosenberg case, which remains one of the most controversial events of the
Cold War. ''As a spy who turned in his family ... I don't care,'' he said.
''I sleep very well.''
During the Second World War, Mr. Greenglass worked as a scientist on the
U.S. atomic bomb project in Los Alamos. He was said by prosecutors at the
trial to have been persuaded by his sister and her husband Julius to give
them top-secret data relating to atomic weapons, which was then transmitted
Though they never confessed to spying, the Rosenbergs were undone by Mr.
Greenglass's testimony. He told the court Ethel Rosenberg transcribed her
husband's notes on a portable Remington typewriter before the information
was sent to the Soviet Union. This made her a conspirator. Mr. Greenglass's
wife, Ruth, corroborated his testimony, which made up the bulk of the
prosecution case against Ethel.
But now Mr. Greenglass says he said whatever he thought would lessen his
Mr. Greenglass says that Roy Cohn, who was then a prosecutor on the case,
encouraged him to lie and he took his advice. (Mr. Cohn went on to become
Joseph McCarthy's right-hand man.)
''I don't know who typed it, frankly,'' he said in an interview with 60
Minutes II broadcast last night, ''and to this day I can't remember that the
typing took place. I had no memory of that at all -- none whatsoever.''
The typed notes contained little that Soviet authorities cannot have known,
but for prosecutors they turned Ethel Rosenberg into a spy.
According to a new book about the case, The Brother by Sam Roberts,
prosecutors hoped they could force Ethel to testify against her husband. She
By refusing to confess to spying, Mr. Greenglass believes the Rosenbergs
contributed to their own death sentence. Asked why they refused to confess,
Mr. Greenglass says: ''One word -- stupidity.''
He says that while he still thinks about the case, which resulted in him
serving seven years in prison, ''my wife says, 'Look, we're alive'.''
When the FBI took Mr. Greenglass in for questioning in 1950, he confessed
almost immediately, and quickly implicated Julius, Ethel and his own wife,
Ruth. David and the Rosenbergs were arrested. Ruth was never charged.
He says he had a deal with the prosecution. The deal: ''My wife was not
gonna be indicted. She's never gonna be prosecuted and she wouldn't have any
problem at all from the government. And I said 'OK, now I'll tell you what I
have to know.' And I told them.''
Mr. Greenglass says that his wife was more involved than Ethel was.
Top secret Soviet cables -- decoded by American intelligence -- confirm that
Julius, David and Ruth were spies, code-named ''Liberal,'' ''Kalibr'' and
''Osa.'' Ethel was never given a code name. In 1997, Alexander Feklisov, a
retired Russian intelligence officer, publicly confirmed that Julius
Rosenberg had reported to him. He said Ethel played no part in the
Mr. Greenglass lives under an assumed name in the New York area and has
never met the Rosenbergs' two sons, but said if he did, he would say ''sorry
your parents are dead'' but not apologize. ''I had no idea they would give
them the death sentence,'' he told CBS.
The Rosenbergs were arrested in 1951 and convicted in 1953. Their defenders
say they never stood a chance given the prevailing anti-communist spirit at
the time and that the death sentence was an excessive punishment for what
they say was mostly amateur espionage.
They say the Rosenbergs were made an example of by a political and legal
system desperate to win support for the war against communism in Korea. Many
have also suggested that the Rosenbergs were victims of anti-Semitism.
In sentencing the Rosenbergs, however, Judge Irving Kaufman said he
considered their crime ''worse than murder.''
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