Judge Orders Release of Rosenberg Evidence

NEW YORK -- A U.S. federal judge has ordered the release of a further eight grand jury transcripts from the 1951 espionage prosecution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a lawyer for the National Security Archives said.

The Rosenbergs were convicted in 1951 of passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union and executed in 1953. Rosenberg supporters describe the case as a frame-up amid anti-communist McCarthyism hysteria and Cold War fear.

The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein allows the release of secret testimony from some key prosecution witnesses and offers historians an almost complete record of the secret testimony, lawyer David Vladeck said.

"Historians are just salivating to get their hands on this stuff," Vladeck said. "This will complete the historical record about the espionage activities of the Rosenberg spy ring."

As a rule, grand jury proceedings are secret. Hellerstein has already ordered the release of transcripts for 35 of the original 46 witnesses -- who had either died or had given consent -- who testified before the Rosenberg grand jury.

Hellerstein gave the government two months to appeal Tuesday's ruling allowing the release of a further eight transcripts, Vladeck said.

Last month, Hellerstein accepted a request by David Greenglass, a key prosecution witness and the brother of Ethel Rosenberg, that his grand jury testimony not be made public.