National Security Archive and Historical Associations File Petition To Open Key Remaining Rosenberg Grand Jury Records
Death of David Greenglass Removes Legal Barrier; 2008 Release Included Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Testimony
Greenglass Later Admitted Perjury and Claimed Prosecutorial Misconduct, Saved His Wife and Falsely Condemned His Sister Ethel to the Electric Chair
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 495
Posted December 2, 2014
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Washington, DC, December 2, 2014 -- The National Security Archive together with leading U.S. historical associations today filed a petition in federal court in New York City for the release of key remaining grand jury records from the prosecution of accused spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were indicted in 1951, convicted of espionage for the Soviet Union, and executed in 1953.
The key grand jury testimony at issue in today's petition came from Ethel Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass, who objected to any release of his testimony in 2008, when the Archive and the historical associations won the opening of almost all the other witness statements before the grand jury, including those of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Greenglass's death in the summer of 2014 came to public attention in October with the front-page New York Times obituary, "David Greenglass, the Brother Who Doomed Ethel Rosenberg, Dies at 92" (October 15, 2014); and today's petition cites the multiple legal grounds on which the Greenglass objection can no longer be sustained by the court.
Today's petition states, "The testimony at issue is that of a self-admitted traitor who betrayed his country's most urgent secrets, pleaded guilty to the crime of espionage, and then, years later, announced to the world that he lied about his wife's role in the conspiracy to save her from prosecution, and, in so doing, condemned his sister to execution for a crime he now admits she did not commit."
Together with the Archive, the petitioners include the American Historical Association, the American Society of Legal History, the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists, and journalist Sam Roberts, who authored a biography of Greenglass. Representing the petitioners are Georgetown University Law Center professor David C. Vladeck and Debra L. Raskin of the New York law firm Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, who also authored the original 2008 petitions that opened the previous Rosenberg grand jury records.
Today's petition includes new declarations about the importance of the Greenglass testimony by historian Bruce Craig and law professor Brad Snyder. The petition notes that the government neither opposes nor supports (at this time) the release of the remaining grand jury records. The National Security Archive's Web posting today includes the formal petition in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Craig and Snyder declarations, the original 2008 brief by petitioners arguing for release of all the grand jury records, and the proof of death of witness Max Elichter, whose testimony had also remained sealed after the 2008 action by the court.