Additional Cold War Spy Trial Testimony

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," July 23, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

E.D. HILL, HOST: The most famous American spies did not look like James Bond. But an American husband and wife with two kids, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg died in the electric chair after they were caught passing nuclear secrets to the Russians. Now, new secrets could be released from their Cold War trial.

FOX's Douglas Kennedy is here with new developments in this case.

DOUGLAS KENNEDY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is a big deal, E.D. A federal judge has ordered the release of previously sealed grand jury depositions. It is an unusual ruling and promises to shed light on one of the most paranoid points in American history.

Video: Watch the Douglas Kennedy package


ANNOUNCER: Ethel Rosenberg, the woman in the nation's first atomic spy trial precedes her husband, Julius, to New York's Federal court.

KENNEDY (voice over): It was billed as the trial of the century.

ANNOUNCER: In this drama of espionage that endangered the country's security -

KENNEDY: And in their case, it probably was.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was, in some ways, the riveting event of the early stages of the Cold War.

KENNEDY: Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are the only Americans ever executed in a domestic espionage case, a shocking sentence that continues to be controversial today.

SAM ROBERTS, ONE OF THE PETITIONERS WHO ASKED TO UNSEAL THE DEPOSITION: You have to remember this was a time back in the early 1950s when we were genuinely afraid of the Russians, genuinely afraid of the fact they had the atomic bomb.

KENNEDY: Just a year before the trial, the Russians had exploded their first nuclear bomb. That same year, in 1949, China had fallen to the communists. Now, a federal judge is releasing previously sealed grand jury testimony, a move many historians hope will shed new light on the stunning sentence.

ROBERTS: After 50 years, in particular, history has a plan to get these records released and find out what is in them.

KENNEDY: Sam Roberts is one of the petitioners who asked to unseal the depositions of over 40 witnesses. He is also the author of a book on David Greenglass, Ethel's brother, whose testimony is credited with sending his sister to the electric chair at Sing Sing Prison in upstate New York.

ROBERTS: The fact that they were Jewish played a role in it, too. This was relatively a short time after the Holocaust.

KENNEDY: Ironically, the judge did not unseal his testimony because Greenglass is still alive and objected to the release.

ROBERTS: He would like the case to go away. He would like to be forgotten. He is living under an assumed name in the New York metropolitan area.

KENNEDY: During World War II, Greenglass worked in Los Alamos on the world's first nuclear bomb. At the trial, he said he gave his notes on America's atomic secrets to the Soviets via his brother-in-law, a known communist sympathizer, Julius Rosenberg. His notes, he swore, were typed up by his sister, Ethel, a claim he later recanted.

ROBERTS: One of the things I discovered during this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is that there were very few heroes. People operated from what they thought were good intentions but a lot of them got carried away.


KENNEDY: Still, most of the grand jury testimony is expected to be released in the next few months, undoubtedly, E.D., a riveting read.

HILL: Do we know why he recanted?

KENNEDY: He told this author that he was protecting his wife, that his wife was the one who actually typed the notes and she was going to get in a lot of trouble, too, so he said that was his sister.

HILL: He had to pick just one -

KENNEDY: He said his attorney asked him to do it, but -

HILL: And when do we think that this testimony could come out that we all get to read it?

KENNEDY: You know - as you know, grand jury testimony is almost never released but in this case, it's so historical that they do want to release it. Even the U.S. attorney wants to release it today. But they say they've got to wait until everybody dies, unless they give them permission, which he is not going to.

HILL: All right. Douglas Kennedy, thank you very much.

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