A federal judge in New York decided Tuesday not to release the grand jury testimony of a crucial witness in Ethel Rosenberg’s 1950s espionage case, although other related witness transcripts will be made public, The New York Times reported.
Open government advocates and historians, including the Washington, D.C.-based National Security Archives, petitioned Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in June to release the transcripts, citing their historic value.
According to The Times, the government relied heavily on the testimony of Ethel Rosenberg’s brother, David Greenglass, now 86, to convict Ethel and Julius Rosenberg of spying for the Soviet Union. The Rosenbergs were executed in 1953 in New York.
If the transcripts reveal little evidence against Ethel, "that is of vital importance," historian David Oshinsky told the Times.
David and Ruth Greenglass lived for years in New York under assumed names to avoid association with the infamous scandal.
Even though his grand jury statements will remain vaulted, the government surprised the petitioners last month by agreeing to release almost 1,000 pages of testimony, The Times reported, withholding a handful of statements given by people who are still alive.
Hellerstein decided the need to preserve the secrecy of grand jury proceedings outweighed the public interest in David’s testimony.
David C. Vladeck, a lawyer for the petitioners, told The Times the decision to release certain records was a step in the right direction, though he was disappointed about the withholdings.
“At some point we’ll get the records,” he said, alluding to the government policy that his clients can renew the request after the witnesses die.