FBI Agent Who Busted Cold War Spies Dies at 89

Robert R. Granville, an FBI agent in New York who headed the team that arrested Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (search) in a sensational Cold War espionage case, has died at a hospital. He was 89.

Granville died April 12 after suffering a stroke two weeks earlier, said his son, Army Col. Robert R. Granville Jr. (search), M.D.

Granville began working for the FBI (search) in 1940 and was promoted to field supervisor of Soviet espionage in the New York office six years later. On July 17, 1950, he and fellow agents arrested Julius Rosenberg in his Manhattan apartment.

Rosenberg was charged with giving atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Three weeks later, Granville and other agents arrested Rosenberg's wife, Ethel, as she left a federal courthouse where she had testified before a grand jury.

The couple was accused of getting the information from Ethel Rosenberg's brother, David Greenglass, a former machinist at the atomic weapons center in Los Alamos, N.M.

In March 1951, the Rosenbergs were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage, and were sentenced to death. After legal appeals and protests by those who questioned their guilt, they were executed in June 1953. It was the first execution of civilians for spying in U.S. history.

Granville was also involved in the Cold War case of Justice Department analyst Judith Coplon. She was accused in 1949 of passing government secrets to the Soviets through her lover, Valentin A. Gubitchev, an official at the United Nations.

Although Coplon was found guilty in two trials, her conviction was eventually overturned because Granville had arrested her without a warrant and because the FBI had used illegal wiretaps during surveillance.

Granville, a native of Idaho, left the FBI in 1952 when he was chosen by President Truman to head a committee on equal employment opportunities.