Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Key evidence in Rosenberg trial to remain secret

Key evidence in Rosenberg trial to remain secret

By Edith Honan

Reuters - Tues July 22, 2008 5:54pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Testimony that could help clear

executed American communist Ethel Rosenberg of charges

she helped pass atomic secrets to the Soviet Union in

the 1950s will remain secret, a judge ruled on Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein rejected a

petition from the National Security Archive seeking the

release of grand jury testimony by Ethel's brother,

David Greenglass. Greenglass was a key prosecution

witness in the famed 1951 spy trial that ended in the

1953 execution of Ethel and her husband, Julius


The case, which has been described by Rosenberg

supporters as a frame-up amid anti-communist

McCarthyism hysteria and Cold War fear, hinged on

Greenglass and his wife, Ruth Greenglass, fellow

communists who became prosecution witnesses.

David Greenglass, 86, admitted in interviews for a book

published in 2000 that he gave false testimony under

pressure from prosecutors. But unlike most of the other

surviving witnesses who testified, he has asked that

his grand jury testimony not be made public.

Hellerstein said the public's right to know was

outweighed by the tradition of grand jury secrecy

following arguments in a hearing held Tuesday in

Manhattan federal court.

"He may be a scoundrel, he may be a hypocrite, he may

be a liar," said Hellerstein. But he added, "It's no

easy task to compare the value of accountability with

grand jury secrecy."

Hellerstein reserved a ruling on whether the transcript

would be released following Greenglass' death.

Greenglass' lawyer, Daniel Arshack, said in a letter to

the court that Greenglass' objection was based on an

expectation of privacy.

As a rule, grand jury proceedings are secret. In June,

the government agreed to release transcripts in the

Rosenberg case, so long as each of the original 46

witnesses who testified was dead or had given consent.

Greenglass, who confessed to helping Julius and served

10 years in prison, testified at the 1951 trial that

Ethel, a secretary, had aided the conspiracy by typing

notes that included top secret information on the U.S.

Manhattan project to develop the atomic bomb.

In interviews, Greenglass has said that he had

fabricated that detail in order to protect his wife,

Ruth Greenglass, who was also implicated in the

conspiracy, from being prosecuted, said David Vladeck,

the attorney representing the National Security


Ruth Greenglass died earlier this year at 83.

Other witnesses testified that Ethel Rosenberg had not

been present when national secrets were discussed,

Vladeck said.

"He has, in our view, forfeited any reasonable right to

privacy" by speaking publicly about the case, Vladeck

told the court, referring to Greenglass.

It was not discussed in the proceedings whether Ethel

Rosenberg would be eligible for a posthumous pardon if

evidence came to light clearing her.

(editing by Christine Kearney and Cynthia Osterman)

c Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved.

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