The infamous Cold War espionage case of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg has taken a new turn.  Their son, Robert Meeropol, after years of denial, has finally admitted “his father deserved to have been convicted of the legal charges that led to his parents’ execution.  ‘Yes, he was guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage,’ ” Meeropol told New York Times reporter, Sam Roberts.

That must have come as a body blow to the Times, which has long been a leader in the leftist campaign to exonerate the Rosenbergs and, as late as 2003, fifty years after their executions, was still editorializing, ”The Rosenbergs case still haunts American history, reminding us of the injustice that can be done when a nation gets caught up in hysteria.” 

There may have been a degree of hysteria at the time when American schoolkids hid under their desks to shield themselves from The Bomb, a thermonuclear explosion compliments of the U.S.S.R.,  and their parents read newspapers detailing the Russian threat but there was no injustice in the case of the Rosenbergs and their accomplice, Morton Sobell.

Like Julius and Ethel,  Sobell also pled not guilty.  However, he got away with a sentence of 30 years and served less than 18 at Alcatraz and other federal prisons.  Forty-two years after his release, he admitted his own and Julius Rosenberg’s guilt, also to Sam Roberts.  Asked whether he were a spy who fed American nuclear secrets to Uncle Joe Stalin, the aged Sobell tried to mitigate his crimes and replied, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, call it that.  I never thought of it as that in those terms.” 

If there were any injustice in the Rosenberg-Sobell trials it lay in the fact Sobell, and Ethel Rosenberg’s brother and another accomplice, David Greenglass, didn’t also fry in Sing Sing’s Old Sparky, its electric chair.  Space should also have been made for William Perl, the American physicist who helped design the Mig-15. 

   Spilling our nuclear technology to the Soviets gravely endangered millions of Americans for decades even if Sobell believes the Russians already possessed much of the information they surreptitiously passed on.  Not known for their creativity, if the Russkies had the data it must have been stolen from another source and if it were “junk,” as Sobell called what Greenglass shared, why be so secretive about it? 

There is also a Jewish component in the Rosenberg matter.  Not only were the Rosenbergs Jewish but so, too, were Greenglass, Sobell, Perl, and lesser known alleged conspirators such as Max Elitcher. 

Despite Meeropol’s admissions, which came only after revelations  after the Venona Project outed the Rosenbergs, Greenglass, Sobell, and a host of other Soviet spies, he still can’t bring himself to be totally clean about his parents: ”Ethel [his mother] was not a spy and Julius [his father] was ignorant of the atomic bomb project.  They were innocent of stealing the secret of the atomic bomb and they were fighting for their lives.  It would have been next to impossible for them to explain to their children and supporters the subtle distinction between not being guilty of stealing atomic secrets and blanket innocence. Given that, I can understand the course of action they took from a political standpoint:” 

Given Meeropol’s parental connection to the Rosenbergs, I can understand his ambivalence.  Given his parents’ responsibilities and implicit allegiance to their country, I can’t understand their treason.  Given my understanding of what makes an American, spies, whatever their religion, neither the Rosenbergs nor Sobell nor Greenglass qualify and if Ethel were truly totally oblivious of her hubby’s anti-American machinations she must have been a stupendously stupid woman.