January 31, 2008
By Robert B. Townsend
The American Historical Association joined the National Security Archive and several other historical associations today in a petition seeking the release of court records from the indictment of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in 1951. In one of the most highly publicized and debated Cold War court cases, the Rosenbergs were convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and executed in 1953.
The petition was filed today at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, seeking the release of grand jury records from 1951. The petition argues that after 57 years the interests of scholarship and the historical record outweigh any remaining privacy or national security interests. A diverse range of historians and journalists, as well as the Rosenbergs’ family and a co-defendant in the case, support this petition.
As in past cases, the lead petitioner in this case is the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Joining the AHA in participation in this case are the American Society for Legal History, the Organization of American Historians, the Society of American Archivists, and New York Times reporter Sam Roberts.