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Morton Sobell, 101, convicted conspirator, Rosenberg spy scandal _Dec 2018
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That Derek
2019-01-31 02:37:58 UTC
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https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/morton-sobell-convicted-in-rosenberg-atomic-bomb-spy-trial-dies-at-101/2019/01/30/4ae88196-24d7-11e9-90cd-dedb0c92dc17_story.html

Obituaries

Morton Sobell, convicted in Rosenberg atomic bomb spy trial, dies at 101

[PHOTO] Police escort Morton Sobell and his wife, Helen, to a taxi after they were reunited at a bus terminal in New York on Jan. 14, 1969. Mr. Sobell, convicted of conspiring to pass atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, was released hours earlier from the Federal Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pa., after serving 17 years of a 30-year sentence. (New York Times/AP

By Paul W. Valentine
January 30 at 5:18 PM

Morton Sobell, ardent communist operative convicted with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the sensational 1951 atomic bomb spy trial, died Dec. 26 in Manhattan. He had steadfastly denied guilt for decades, then abruptly acknowledged complicity in 2008.

His death, at 101, was confirmed by his son, Mark Sobell, who did not cite a specific cause.

Mr. Sobell, who was spared the death penalty imposed on the Rosenbergs, served almost 18 years of a 30-year sentence in federal prison for his role in the Soviet espionage case that gripped the nation. The Rosenbergs were executed in 1953 amid the Cold War anti-communist fervor.

A fourth conspirator, David Greenglass, who was Ethel Rosenberg’s brother, pleaded guilty in exchange for testifying against the Rosenbergs, essentially sealing their deaths. Greenglass served a 10-year prison term and was released in 1960. He died July 1, 2014, at 92.

In his dramatic turnaround confession in September 2008, Mr. Sobell, then 91, admitted in a New York Times interview that he had indeed stolen classified military documents for the Soviet Union near the end of World War II and afterward.

And in a March 2011 Weekly Standard article, he additionally admitted to photocopying hundreds of pages of secret U.S. Air Force documents with Julius Rosenberg and two other men in 1948.

But, he contended, the information involved only artillery and radar devices, not the more critical atomic bomb data that the Rosenbergs were charged with scheming to disclose. This distinction was a factor in prosecutors’ decision not to seek the death penalty against Mr. Sobell.

“This was defensive,” he said. “There’s a big difference between giving that and stuff that could be used to attack our country.”

He also supported earlier claims by researchers that Ethel Rosenberg’s role in the spy ring was greatly exaggerated and Greenglass’s secret notes and sketches on development of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos, N.M., during the war were crude and of little help to the Soviets.

“What he gave them was junk,” Mr. Sobell said.

In a separate interview with the Times in 2001, Greenglass acknowledged that he had magnified Ethel Rosenberg’s activities. He said he falsely asserted at the 1951 espionage conspiracy trial that she had typed handwritten notes from Greenglass for Julius Rosenberg to pass on to Soviet couriers — key testimony that helped lead to her conviction and death sentence.

Mr. Sobell agreed she was only peripherally involved, although she knew what her husband was doing. “What was she guilty of?” he said in his 2008 Times interview. “Of being Julius’s wife.”

Mr. Sobell’s admissions of complicity were a shock to the public. But years earlier, spy case researchers digging into declassified U.S. and Soviet documents had largely agreed the Rosenberg ring members were guilty, though the value of the information was questionable and exaggerated by the government.

“The debate is closed. It’s all over,” Cold War historian Ronald Radosh told The Washington Post in 1997. “Julius Rosenberg was a spy for the Soviet Union, [but] it is clear that the Rosenbergs did not give the Soviets the ‘secret’ of the bomb, and they should not have been executed.”

Morton Sobell was born April 11, 1917, in New York City, the son of Russian immigrants Louis Sobel and the former Rose Pasternack. He graduated from City College of New York in 1938 with a degree in electrical engineering.

He joined the Soviet-aligned Communist Party USA amid the ferment of Depression-era radicalism then rife on many American campuses. Julius Rosenberg was among his classmates and fellow Marxist activists.

In 1939, Mr. Sobell moved to Washington and worked as a civilian at the Navy Bureau of Ordnance as World War II began. He later took a job with the aircraft and marine engineering division of General Electric in Schenectady, N.Y., where prosecutors said he began relaying secret military-related data to Julius Rosenberg.

Like many other specialists assigned to classified work in civilian industry, he was exempt from the Army draft and saw no military duty.

In 1945, he married Helen Levitov Gurewitz. Five years later, as the FBI was closing in on the Rosenbergs in New York, the couple fled to Mexico City with their young son, Mark, and Helen’s daughter, Sydney, by a previous marriage. Using several aliases — Marvin Salt and Morris Sand among them — Mr. Sobell sought passage to Europe, without luck.

When FBI agents learned his whereabouts in August 1950, they notified Mexican authorities, who grabbed him and his family and drove them to the Mexican border at Laredo, Tex., handing them off to waiting U.S. agents.

After his conviction in New York in 1951, both Helen Sobell and Mr. Sobell’s mother, Rose, devoted much of their time lobbying to reverse his conviction and raising money for appeals.

Helen Sobell led picket lines and exhorted support at rallies in the United States and abroad, contending that her husband and the Rosenbergs were railroaded by a government caught up in the Red Scare hysteria of the day.

Rose Sobell gathered more than 8,000 signatures on a petition imploring President Lyndon B. Johnson to pardon her son, to no avail. Philosopher Bertrand Russell and painter Pablo Picasso campaigned for the cause.

Morton and Helen Sobell divorced in 1980. She died in 2002 at 84. Survivors include son, Mark Sobell of New York; a stepdaughter, Sydney Gurewitz Clemens of San Francisco; and three grandsons.

In January 1969, at age 51, Mr. Sobell was paroled after 17 years and nine months in federal prison, five years of it spent in maximum security Alcatraz prison in San Francisco Bay.

He returned to New York City, let his hair grow long and spent time catching up on technological advances in engineering, his profession. He worked in medical electronics.

But he also continued traveling the farther shores of American politics, proclaiming his innocence, booking extensive speaking tours and visiting communist-friendly nations, including Cuba, Vietnam and East Germany.

In 1974, he published an unrepentant account of his prison years, a 525-page tome titled “On Doing Time,” in which he inveighed against the legal “frameup” against him and his fellow spy defendants.

But it was more than that.

“I saw our case as an integral part of the Establishment’s national policy,” he wrote. “Any political trial is used to implement national policy.”

Yet his admission of guilt in the 2011 Weekly Standard interview leaves a man limned with irony — the loyal ideologue who for decades had falsely denied his guilt, only to admit his complicity 20 years after the object of his loyalty had collapsed.

As he told the magazine, “I did it for the Soviet Union.”
Bryan Styble
2019-01-31 04:11:48 UTC
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So why on Earth did Sobell wait all those years to admit the obvious?

I mean, nuclear espionage against the good ol' USA on behalf of Stalin's horrific regime is one thing, but why compound it all by being a liar even after they got the goods on you--just own up to it like Greenglass did!...especially given the fact you were able to avoid the Bundyesque fate of that couple a certain future Nobel laureate would sing tribute to in the (admittedly-lackluster) unreleased 1983 track, "Julius & Ethel"?

BRYAN STYBLE/Florida
m***@gmail.com
2019-01-31 04:26:30 UTC
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Post by Bryan Styble
So why on Earth did Sobell wait all those years to admit the obvious?
I mean, nuclear espionage against the good ol' USA on behalf of Stalin's horrific regime is one thing, but why compound it all by being a liar even after they got the goods on you--just own up to it like Greenglass did!...especially given the fact you were able to avoid the Bundyesque fate of that couple a certain future Nobel laureate would sing tribute to in the (admittedly-lackluster) unreleased 1983 track, "Julius & Ethel"?
BRYAN STYBLE/Florida
Rosenberg didn't give the secret of the bomb to the Soviets. They were on their way to discover it on their own. The executions of the Rosenbergs was a show trial and should never have happened.

Ironic, that we now have a Russian stooge in the White House and no one seems to be able to do anything about it.
Bryan Styble
2019-01-31 05:02:10 UTC
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Well, you're certainly correct, Marc, in that the Rosenbergs were hardly a solo act--although Ethel was hardly as culpable as her husband, she WAS aware of it and that's why she got the chair too--for Klaus Fuchs and several others who had penetrated the Los Alamos facility were also funneling material to Moscow. And as you imply, with folks like Sakharov on their team, both the A- and H-bombs were in their near future anyway.

And yeah, no doubt some anti-Semitic sentiment surely further fueled the frenzy over the Rosenbergs...but the sad truth is that Joe McCarthy--another world-class liar--was correct in principle, if not necessarily in the specific NUMBER of subversives in the State Department and elsewhere that he claimed was on that supposed list held so dramatically aloft while bellowing before the Wheeling, West Virginia League of Women Voters ladies gathered before him on Thursday afternoon, February 9, 1950.*

STYBLE/Florida
__________________________________________________________________________
* The stated figure of "Tailgunner Joe", whether accurate, a serious underestimate or a wild exaggeration, remains under historical dispute, being recalled by some there as perhaps as high as 250, or maybe a mere 50-something, a detail lost to history as, alas, no recording of the pivotal moment has ever surfaced and those witnesses interviewed later never agreed on what number McCarthy specifically contended.
Bryan Styble
2019-01-31 05:45:19 UTC
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A slight correction: while for decades the McCarthy Era's beginning there in Wheeling was described as I reported above, at the local League of Woman Voters chapter, a quick check of my personal archives suggests that it nowadays is in fact recognized to have been, rather, a meeting of the local Republican Women's Club.

It may be of zero interest to anyone but me, but: While chasing a certain future Nobel laureate--neither Albert Gore Jr. nor Barak Obama, mind you--around the Midwest a couple years into his so-called Neverending Tour--an ongoing effort now in its 32nd year and approaching 4000 performances globally--I found myself passing through Wheeling one Sunday afternoon, and of course wasn't about to drive on out of that town without first finding that meeting room.

As it was a Sunday, there weren't many locals in the three bars on Main Street--or whatever the modest main drag, a north-south thoroughfare, is named--I visited to quiz the locals about this long-forgotten story. Not one of the couple dozen folks I asked knew where it might have taken place; indeed, only two were even vaguely familiar with the incident, although of course pretty much everyone remembered Joseph McCarthy.

So I made my way to the local daily's office, where exactly one fellow was on duty that lazy afternoon. He was intrigued by what I told him, and I tried to not appear crestfallen that he, a fellow journalist, had been unfamiliar with perhaps the most interesting moment in his own beat's history. But he graciously went into his archives there--I had to inform him that newspapers call it a "morgue"--only to come up dry, as it only went back to the '60s, not Thurs 2/9/1950, or the Friday edition thereafter, when coverage of the address presumably appeared.

After talking with him about it, he theorized that about the only place in town--Wheeling is quite famous, but also quite small--such an event would have been held in 1950 was this old-style hotel just down the street, and of course I headed down there.

The manager on duty there had never heard of McCarthy, much less his infamous address, but he was kind enough--it was WV, after all, where to my experience after a half-dozen visits folks are uniformly friendly--to make a couple phone calls for me, yet still couldn't confirm it was the right place. The manager then showed me the only conference room it would have likely been held in, but of course that was pure speculation, so I thanked him and headed off into the sunset after that guy with the funny nose, the funnier hair and the funniest voice, wondering all the while why all folks aren't as fascinated by history as I am, especially when it happened right down the street.

Oh, well, at least Dallas preserved the 6th Floor...

STYBLE/Florida
Bryan Styble
2019-01-31 06:15:12 UTC
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By the way, if you happen to be similarly intrigued by historians' difficulty in nailing down the precise number of no-good stinkin' Commies that McCarthy stated were lurking in the State Department, the distillation above is detailed in a brief but terrific book by the terrific Susan Jacoby, "Alger Hiss and the Battle for History"...and of course, in the process you will read once more all about the young Milhous playing Congressional gumshoe, a microfilm-laiden pumpkin, the bad teeth of a certain Time magazine writer, and all the rest...

STYBLE/Florida
David Carson
2019-02-04 02:07:58 UTC
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Post by m***@gmail.com
Ironic, that we now have a Russian stooge in the White House and no one seems to be able to do anything about it.
Somebody ought to get a special prosecutor working on that.
J.D. Baldwin
2019-02-04 21:43:00 UTC
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Post by m***@gmail.com
Rosenberg didn't give the secret of the bomb to the Soviets. They
were on their way to discover it on their own.
If the USSR were "on their way" that implies they weren't there yet.
Meaning Rosenberg gave it to them. Which he did -- this is not in any
particular dispute, factually speaking.
Post by m***@gmail.com
The executions of the Rosenbergs was a show trial and should never
have happened.
The executions weren't a "trial" of any kind. They were the sentence.
Is it your contention that the evidence against them was somehow
fabricated, or the proceedings went forward despite a lack of
evidence? That's what "show trial" means.
--
_+_ From the catapult of |If anyone objects to any statement I make, I am
_|70|___:)=}- J.D. Baldwin |quite prepared not only to retract it, but also
\ / ***@panix.com|to deny under oath that I ever made it.-T. Lehrer
***~~~~----------------------------------------------------------------------
David Carson
2019-02-04 01:51:02 UTC
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On Wed, 30 Jan 2019 20:11:48 -0800 (PST), Bryan Styble
Post by Bryan Styble
So why on Earth did Sobell wait all those years to admit the obvious?
I mean, nuclear espionage against the good ol' USA on behalf of Stalin's horrific regime is one thing, but why compound it all by being a liar even after they got the goods on you--just own up to it like Greenglass did!
Did Sobell have a new book to sell at the time? That's why Pete Rose came
clean about gambling after 15 years of denials that fooled no one.
--
Dead or Alive Data Base
http://www.doadb.com
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