The Rosenberg File, 60 Minutes style (3)

When I posted part 2 in this series yesterday morning, I did not have a comment from the prominent historian John Earl Haynes on the Rosenberg spy case story broadcast on 60 Minutes this past Sunday evening. Dr. Haynes added his comment in the responses to the post.

Dr. Haynes is the co-author with Harvey Klehr of the most important books on the history of American Communism that either didn’t write separately. Dr. Haynes too participated in the outstanding 2015 panel on the Rosenberg case at the National Archives that I included in that post along with comments by other participants. I am grateful to be able to include Dr. Haynes’s comment here:

John Earl Haynes

60 Minutes interviewed me for the program. I went over in detail the evidence in Venona and Vassiliev’s notebooks that Ethel was a knowing and active participant in Julius’a work and recognized as such by the KGB (predecessor to be exact). They seemed to want me to say the evidence was ambiguous but it wasn’t. I sent to them the complete texts of the passages in Venona and Vassiliev. They believed Julius recruited only one atomic spy, but I pointed out that Greenglass was Julius’s second atomic recruit. The first, Russell McNutt, was even directed by Julius to try get a job with the contractor building uranium separation facilities at Oak Ridge. McNutt, a civil engineer, got the job, worked as part of the design team for Oat Ridge, and provided the Soviets with key design details for the facility.

They also interviewed Ron Radosh, Steve Usdin, and Harvey Klehr, who told them much the same.

It appears to me that 60 Minutes had a melodramatic story line and weren’t going to be swayed by evidence that interfered with the pathos of their ‘innocent wife and mother executed for husband’s crimes’ story line. Carefully, 60 Minutes doesn’t say Ethel was innocent, they let the Meeropol brothers say that repeatedly and emphatically, don’t present the documentary evidence of Venona and Vassiliev, and then try to cover themselves with a tiny snippet from Radosh’s interview. The program provides partial, distorted, and inaccurate history.


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