PJ Media

To The Mainstream Media, Ethel Rosenberg Was Completely Innocent

Former Adjunct Fellow
Police mugshot of Ethel Rosenberg. (Department of Justice, Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern Judicial District of New York.
Police mugshot of Ethel Rosenberg. (Department of Justice, Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern Judicial District of New York.

The mainstream media has proclaimed the innocence of Ethel Rosenberg. They are being influenced by the ongoing campaign of her sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol, to have their mother declared not guilty of “conspiracy to commit espionage.”

The Meeropols’ campaign began mid-October, when 60 Minutes devoted its two main segments to their effort to exonerate their mother. Although I was brought on to supposedly balance their arguments, the program edited out my most convincing arguments, as I reported in an article for the Washington Free Beacon:

I and my associates, Harvey Klehr, John Earl Haynes, Steven Usdin, and Mark Kramer, all of whom have written on the Rosenberg case, provided the producers of the show copious copies of KGB material from the Vassiliev files, specific KGB messages from the Venona decrypts, and thoroughly answered their questions about the case. The material proved beyond any doubt that Ethel Rosenberg was indeed guilty of “conspiracy to commit espionage.”

Mark Kramer, director of Harvard University’s Center for Cold War Studies, put it this way after watching the program:

When Ron Radosh was finally brought in, he explained well why the Meeropols are dead wrong, but unfortunately the 60 Minutes producers gave him much less time, and they omitted some of his crucial arguments.

Steve Usdin summed up the case against Ethel as a co-conspirator:

She met with at least three of the Soviet KGB officers who Julius reported to, served as a “cut out” for communications with a KGB officer on at least one occasion, and she recruited her brother to become an atomic spy. KGB documents indicate that Ethel knew of her husband’s activities, knew he had recruited several of his comrades to spy for Stalin, and that the Soviet intelligence agency trusted Ethel.

The Meeropols are nothing, if not persistent. They were dealt a terrible legacy when Ethel told them, in a letter she wrote to them before being executed, that she and her husband Julius were both innocent, and their sons have spent their adulthood trying to prove it. Last week, the brothers appeared at the White House gates, seeking to give the President a letter asking him to exonerate her.

Their appearance received major press attention. First came an unprecedented full page editorial in The Boston Globe. Then an AP press report followed by a column by Joe Helm in The Washington Post. And today, the feature article in the Times of Israel by reporter Rich Tenorio. These articles have one thing in common; not one of the writers seems to know anything about the Rosenberg case. Second, they all accept the claims of the Meeropols as true. Evidently, not a single writer or reporter bothered to find out whether they were correct. Nor did those who mentioned the 60 Minutes feature note that I was on that same program presenting the opposite view.

They easily could find the two articles I wrote on Ethel’s guilt for The Wall Street Journal. In the first column, I showed that even though her brother David Greenglass lied on the stand when he said that Ethel had typed handwritten material he had given her and Julius Rosenberg, meant to be passed to the Soviets, that did not mean Ethel was innocent. As I put it in the WSJ article, “It never occurs to these reporters that at the early stage of his arrest David Greenglass was desperately trying to protect his sister and to convince the government to leave her out of the indictment. We also know that when he first went for legal advice, he even left Julius out of his confession.”

In my second column, I again pointed out that “the Venona decrypts of KGB transmissions to its American agents in the 1940s, and KGB files released by a Russian defector who now lives in Britain, Alexander Vassiliev—showed concretely Ethel’s involvement in her husband’s espionage ring.” How many times does one have to do this?

Before the trial, Greenglass gave the prosecution what it wanted. He told them Ethel typed notes that revealed secrets relating to the atomic bomb, and the typewritten version, not his handwritten one, was given to the Soviets. This was not true. Both the Venona decrypts and the Vassiliev notebooks contain evidence that the Soviet Union received the handwritten information from Greenglass.

When it became clear that if he provided no information about the possible guilt of his sister, he changed his earlier position to say at the trial that Ethel had, in his sight, typed handwritten material that would be sent to the Soviet Union. If that false testimony was the only evidence available about what Ethel did, she indeed would have been proved innocent. But it was not. All the media that accepted the Meeropols’ statement did not even check to see what other evidence exists that proves Ethel was involved in the espionage network Julius Rosenberg set up. Nor did they seek any of our group to find out if the brothers' claims were true.

All the reporters and other media should also have taken the time to read the article by the intelligent expert John Schindler on the 60 Minutes episode. In his column in the Observer, he attached all the pertinent documents- none of them seemingly even examined by the press- that prove Ethel’s guilt. That publication has a wide readership. What would it have taken for even one of the journalists to do a Google search on the topic? They would come up with many answers to the Meeropols’ claims, including the one by Schindler.

The writer in Times of Israel mentions that the petition declaring her innocent was signed by Michael Moore, Angela Davis, and Noam Chomsky. He evidently thinks their signatures bring prestige to the campaign, and prove that it is being taken seriously. In fact, it only proves that three of the most distrusted and deceitful people on the far left-wing fringe know it is propaganda against the U.S., which they see as a nation that has no justice. The facts do not matter to them. Only getting people to hope that more will join in their left-wing activities is their real concern.

In a few decades, if not sooner, no one will remember the Meeropols’ failed campaign. All they will know is that Ethel and her husband Julius were both Soviet spies, and that they sought and succeeded in giving the Soviet Union valuable material pertaining to the atom bomb, as well as other top secret military data.

Americans should learn their true history, and come to understand why some of its citizens acted to betray their country. The media obviously does not want them to find out. That is why we cannot let the myth that Ethel Rosenberg was innocent stand.