Sobell Pleads 'Inconsequential'

"Truth will out."~William Shakespeare, "The Merchant of Venice" (1600).

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg made the world a better place by leaving it with sparks a-flyin’ on June 19, 1953, but their 91-year-old co-defendant, Morton Sobell, lives on.

On September 11, 2008, the New York Times reported that Sobell had decided to set the record straight — sort of. After proclaiming his innocence for 57 years, he has kind of ‘fessed up. But the information he and the Rosenbergs passed to Stalin’s nuclear physicists was inconsequential, of course: “What we gave them was junk.” When asked directly if he was a spy, he replied, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, call it that. I never thought of it as that in those terms.”

Sobell, an electrical engineer, stole the plans for the SCR 584 radar system “believed by military experts to have been used against American warplanes in Korea and Vietnam.” It is ironically fortunate that he was not executed along with his co-conspirators, for now we have a living, evil, and enthusiastic participant in the most malevolent and destructive treason perpetrated in our nation’s history revealing facts approximating the truth.

He served about 18 years of a 30-year sentence, traveled to Cuba and Vietnam after being released in 1969, “and became an advocate for progressive causes.” His 1974 book, "On Doing Time", is the compelling story of how our government framed innocent people and put two of them to death. He now lives quietly in the Riverdale section of the Bronx.

Morton Sobell(left), Julius & Ethel Rosenberg

Enter the Rosenbergs fils, stage left. In the wake of Sobell’s admission, Michael and Robert Meeropol have conceded Dad’s guilt as well. They, too, have hung what’s left of their tattered hats on the “inconsequential” argument: The information their “father passed to the Russians was, at best, superfluous; the case was riddled with prosecutorial and judicial misconduct . . . .”; Mom “was convicted on flimsy evidence to place leverage on her husband; and neither deserved the death penalty.”

But I prefer to take the word of Jerome Tartakow, a young ex-Communist who had forsaken politics and clawed his way up the evolutionary ladder to the level of common criminal. Because of his brief fling with an elevated social consciousness, he mingled easily with the Communists in the Federal House of Detention. He set two conditions before he agreed to become Julius’ cellmate: he would not be called to testify and would receive no compensation. He reported to the FBI that Julius told him that he and his wife would go to the electric chair before they would reveal anything. “Rosenberg is fanatically devoted to the cause of Communism and is prepared to die for it.”

With the Rosenbergs’ and Sobell’s assistance, Stalin was able to test an atomic bomb successfully in 1949. Our scientists and intelligence experts have always believed that his physicists could not have perfected one of their own before 1953 unless they had major assistance from other sources. He did not want to risk a general war with the United States when we had a monopoly on nuclear weapons. He correctly calculated that once the USSR had The Bomb he could unleash the Armies of North Korea and Red China against the people of South Korea without starting a world-wide conflagration. This nuclear “Mexican standoff” was the rule of the day until the end of the Cold War.

Some weight should be given as well to the words of Judge Irving R. Kaufman as he sentenced the couple to death on April 5, 1951:

“I consider your crime worse than murder . . . . I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused . . . the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of your country. No one can say that we do not live in a constant state of tension. We have evidence of your treachery all around us every day for the civilian defense activities throughout the nation are aimed at preparing us for an atom bomb attack.”

If Hillary were around in those days she would have dismissed the prosecution as part of “a vast right-wing conspiracy.”