National Security Archive and Historical Associations Petition for Release of Rosenberg Grand Jury Records

Historians in the News

The National Security Archive, along with several leading U.S. historical associations, today is filing a petition in federal court in New York City for the release of grand jury records from the 1951 indictment of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were accused of running an espionage ring that passed American atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, convicted of spying, and executed in 1953.

Supported by extensive declarations from experts, the petition describes the trial of the Rosenbergs as a defining moment in the Cold War, and argues that 57 years later, scholarly and public interest in these transcripts far outweigh any remaining privacy or national security interests in continued secrecy.

"This petition brings together scholars and journalists who have diverse and often divergent views of the Rosenberg case, Soviet espionage, and American counterespionage," commented Tom Blanton, the Archive's director. "What unites the petitioners is the opportunity to end the unnecessary secrecy and to open these unique primary sources to public and scholarly scrutiny."

Supporting declarations point out that details of the Rosenberg grand jury proceedings have come to light over the years, yet significant questions remain unanswered about the case that the grand jury records are likely to address. The declarations variously point to questions about the scope and targets of the spy ring, the conduct of government prosecutors, the weight of the evidence, particularly against Ethel Rosenberg, and the involvement of other individuals.

Among the declarants are historian John W. Berresford, National Security Archive Director Thomas Blanton, University of Prince Edward Island Professor Bruce Craig, law student Jennifer Dillard, Yale University Professor John Lewis Gaddis, Library of Congress Manuscript Historian John Earl Haynes, Temple University Professor Allen M. Hornblum, Professor Ronald Radosh, New York Times reporter and historian Sam Roberts, Yeshiva University Professor Ellen W. Schrecker, George Mason University Professor Martin J. Sherwin, St. Joseph's University Professor Katherine A.S. Sibley, Marquette University Professor Emeritus Athan G. Theoharis, and historian Steven Usdin. In addition, Robert Meeropol, on behalf of the families of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, submitted a declaration in support of the release of the grand jury records.

In the words of petitioner Sam Roberts, "Few cases in American jurisprudence have stirred emotions, generated debate in and out of government and the judicial system, and have had as enduring and divisive a political impact as the prosecution of the Rosenbergs..."

The petitioners include the National Security Archive at George Washington University, the American Historical Association, the American Society for Legal History, the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists, and New York Times reporter Sam Roberts. The petitioners are represented by David Vladeck of the Institute for Public Representation at the Georgetown University Law Center, who also served as counsel on the successful Hiss grand jury petition, and Debra L. Raskin, at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard in New York.

Read entire article at National Security Archive

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