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More Cold War Espionage Transcripts Unsealed

Victory for Archive and Historical Associations Results in the Release of New Information About Rosenbergs Spy Case

For more information contact:
Tom Blanton/Meredith Fuchs - 202/994-7000
David Vladeck - 202/662-9540

Previous Postings

National Security Archive and Historians Secure Long Secret Rosenberg Grand Jury Testimony

Court Agrees to Release of Most Rosenberg Grand Jury Materials

Federal Prosecutors Agree to Release of Some Rosenberg Grand Jury Records After Petition from Archive and Historical Groups

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

Washington, D.C., October 24, 2008 - Today, in response to a petition filed by the National Security Archive and several historical associations, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) released the previously secret grand jury transcripts of eight witnesses related to Cold War espionage prosecutions. The nearly 300 pages of transcripts from the Brothman/Moskowitz grand jury reveal important new details about the testimony of Elizabeth Bentley, the so-called “Red Spy Queen,” and Harry Gold, who led authorities to David Greenglass and the Rosenbergs. In addition, NARA released the testimonies of Vivian Glassman, Edith Levitov, and Frank Wilentz from the Rosenberg grand jury.

“The release of these additional grand jury records marks an important victory for historians, archivists, and the American people,” stated Meredith Fuchs, the National Security Archive’s General Counsel. “It adds to the historical record on the most important espionage trial in American history, which was a defining moment of the Cold War, and helps us better understand how our society responded to the threat of Soviet espionage.”

The government, through the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, had opposed the release of the Brothman/Moskowitz materials. On August 26, 2008, however, Judge Alvin Hellerstein decided they were of “substantial historical importance” and ordered them released. The government declined to appeal that ruling.

“The disclosure of the Rosenberg and Brothman/Moskowitz transcripts bears witness to the idea that historically valuable grand jury records should, after a reasonable period of time, be made public,” explained David Vladeck, counsel for the Archive and the historical associations that supported the petition and a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center. “Keeping our nation’s history secret serves no legitimate purpose. These records were too important to be left to gather dust on the shelves of the National Archives. Now that they have been released, historians and the American people can come to grips with their own history.” 

During the 1940s, Abraham Brothman gave secret industrial information to Elizabeth Bentley, who turned it over to the Soviet Union. Bentley eventually ended that relationship, but Harry Gold replaced her as a conduit to the Soviets. Both Bentley and Gold eventually became FBI informants and provided information that let authorities to Brothman and his business partner Miriam Moskowitz. Both Brothman and Moskowitz were convicted of obstruction of justice and served terms in prison. The Brothman/Moskowitz and Rosenberg cases were linked from the start, sharing some key witnesses and the same cast of investigators and prosecutors. The same judge also handled both cases.

One of the transcripts that will be released today documents a third grand jury appearance by Harry Gold, a colorful character who played a principal role in both spy rings. As historian Allan Hornblum of Temple University explained in his declaration for this lawsuit:

“[I]f Gold had not confessed, he would not likely have been convicted and jailed for 16 years. The authorities would not likely have discovered David Greenglass and the Rosenbergs. The Rosenbergs would not have been executed; Greenglass, [Morton] Sobell, William Perl, and others would not have been imprisoned, and several Soviet spy rings would not have been dismantled.”

The testimony of several witnesses from the Rosenberg grand jury who are still living and who opposed release, including Ethel Rosenberg’s brother David Greenglass, remain sealed. The petitioners who won the lawsuit to release most of the Rosenberg and Brothman/Moskowitz grand jury records 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 Alger Hiss grand jury petition, and Debra L. Raskin, at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard in New York.


Read the Transcripts from the Brothman/Moskowitz grand jury

Elizabeth Bentley

Harry Gold (Statement read by Thomas Donegan)

Harry Gold, part 1

Harry Gold, part 2

Louis Benson

David Bohm

Abraham Brothman, part 1

Abraham Brothman, part 2

Abraham Brothman, part 3

Abraham Brothman, part 4

Abraham Brothman, part 5

Benedict DeBuff

Thomas Donegan, part 1

Thomas Donegan, part 2

Miriam Moskowitz, part 1

Miriam Moskowitz, part 2

Francis O'Brien


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