Friday, September 12, 2008

Figure in Rosenberg Case Admits to Soviet Spying

In 1951, Morton Sobell was tried and convicted with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on espionage charges. He served more than 18 years in Alcatraz and other federal prisons, traveled to Cuba and Vietnam after his release in 1969 and became an advocate for progressive causes. Through it all, he maintained his innocence.
But on Thursday, Mr. Sobell, 91, dramatically reversed himself, shedding new light on a case that still fans smoldering political passions. In an interview, he admitted for the first time that he had been a Soviet spy. And he implicated his fellow defendant Julius Rosenberg, in a conspiracy that delivered to the Soviets classified military and industrial information and what the American government described as the secret to the atomic bomb.
You've got to admit that this guy had a lot of nerve: over the years he has appeared in several film documentaries and a dozen books as a witness and "victim" and stated that the Rosenbergs were innocent of espionage. Now he comes clean and admits that they were all spies, all along. Even hardcore Rosenberg supporters have had to admit that Julius Rosenberg was certainly a spy. And they have fallen back on the charge that the Rosenbergs didn't get a fair trial. Interesting question: if the defendants are guilty, and they are found guilty in a trial, can the trial be said to be unfair? Does it make a difference? Excepting extremes, of course, like torturing witnesses and using faked evidence. Should we rename the Department of Justice? Make it the Department of Fairness?


phlegmfatale said...

That's what I call brass ones. Sometimes our justice system makes the right call. Clearly in the case of the Rosenbergs, it did. I wonder why this guy didn't fry, though?

What a bastard.

Turk Turon said...

Sobell didn't get the chair because he was just a messenger; he didn't actually hand over secrets to the Soviets, but Julius and Ethel did.

The spy ring started to unravel when the U.S. decoded a super-secret cable from Moscow to the New York Consulate: "Why has there been no report from our agent in Los Alamos this month?" That must have made the FBI sit up and take notice! "What?! They have an agent in Los Alamos?!" And the answer was, "Because our contact, his sister, is tending to their ailing mother in upstate New York." So by combing through personnel files of tens of thousands of people, they came up with the names of David Greenglass (who is still alive, by the way) and his sister, Ruth Greenglass Rosenberg.