David Greenglass of Rosenberg spying case dies

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David Greenglass of Rosenberg spying case dies
David Greenglass, convicted atomic spy now serving a 15-year term in prison, sits beside Deputy U.S. Marshal Joseph Oreto, left, at the Senate Internal Security in Washington, April 26, 1956. The subcommittee hearing is listening to testimony on the use of Americans for Soviet intelligence purposes. (AP Photo/Henry Griffin)
Three aides of Senator Joseph McCarthy and a defense attorney leave their plane after arriving in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania on Oct. 29, 1953 to interview convicted Atom spies Harry Gold and David Greenglass at the Federal Penitentiary on what they know about espionage in the Armed Forces. Left to right: David Schine, Ray M. Cohn, Frank Carr, all McCarthy aides and O. John Rogge, attorney for Greenglass. (AP Photo/Paul Vathis)
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 1960, file photo, convicted atom bomb spy David Greenglass sits in a taxi leaving New York's Federal House of Detention. The former Army sergeant whose testimony led to the conviction and execution of his sister, Ethel Rosenberg and brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg, died on July 1. He was 92. (AP Photo/File)
Convicted atom bomb spy David Greenglass, center, stands with his attorney O. John Rogge outside New York's Federal Detention Headquarters after Greenglass was released on Nov. 16, 1960. He served 9 1/2 years of a 15-year sentence for espionage. (AP Photo)
David Greenglass, 28, former U.S. army non-commissioned officer at Albuquerque, N.M., from New York City, was arrested in New York, June 16, 1950 by the FBI on a charge of giving atomic secrets to Harry Gold, Philadelphian accused of passing atomic secrets to the Russians. Greenglass’ arrest came less than 24 hour after the seizure in Syracuse, N.Y., of another suspect in the Klaus Fuchs spy ring. (AP Photo/FBI)
Tessie Feit Greenglass, mother of former U.S. Army Technician David Greenglass, talks with a newsman in the Greenglass cold water flat in New York, June 16, 1950. Her son was charged on June 16 with supplying atomic secrets to a wartime Russian spy ring. He was accused of slipping top secret information to Harry Gold, while assigned as an army non-commissioned officer at the Los Alamos atom bomb project in New Mexico in 1945. Mrs. Greenglass lives at 265 Rivington St., New York. (AP Photo/Carl Nesensohn)
David Greenglass, one-time Los Alamos atom bomb project employee, is shown in Federal Court in New York in handcuffs, March 12, 1951. He testified against his sister and two others accused of passing atomic secrets to Russia. Greenglass has pleaded guilty to same charges. (AP Photo/Tom Fitzsimmons)
Ethel Rosenberg, left, in custody of U.S. Deputy Marshall Lillian McLoughlin, arrives at the Federal Courthouse in New York, April 5, 1951, where she was sentenced to death, along with her husband Julius as atom spies. Other defendants scheduled for sentencing, and David Greenglass, brother of Mrs. Rosenberg, who pleaded guilty to the spy charges. (AP Photo)
Sing Sing Correctional Facility overlooking the Hudson river is photographed on Wednesday, June 22, 2011 in Ossining, N.Y. Sing Sing, often portrayed in gangster movies, is a maximum security prison housing about 1,700 inmates. It opened in 1826 on the Hudson River in Ossining, about 30 miles north of New York City. The phrase "up the river" was coined with Sing Sing in mind. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, convicted of conspiring to pass U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviet Union, were executed at Sing Sing in 1953.(AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Here are closeup Facial studies of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, the convicted husband and wife atom spy team, scheduled to die in the Sing Sing Prison Electric chair at Ossining, N.Y., June 13, 1953. (AP Photo)
Ethel Rosenberg, wife of Julius Rosenberg is seen, April 11, 1951. (AP Photo/Anthony Camerano)
Ethel Rosenberg, wife of Julius Rosenberg, sits in car as she starts her trip to Sing Sing prison, April 11, 1951. U.S. Deputy Marshal Sarah Goldstein is with her. (AP Photo/Anthony Camerano)
Harry McCabe, Deputy U.S. Marshall; Julius Rosenberg and wife, Eithel; Anthony H. Pavone, Deputy U.S. Marshall in New York on March 8, 1951. Julius Rosenberg, 33-year old electrical engineer from New York City and his wife are on trial on charges of conspiracy to commit espionage during World War II, involving U.S. atomic secrets. (AP Photo)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 24: June 24, 1953. The bodies of Julius (at the back) and Ethel (in the front) ROSENBERG being shown to the public in a Brooklyn chapel before their funeral. The couple had been sentenced to death for giving atomic arms secrets to the Soviet Union. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
A view of the death chamber and electric chair in Sing Sing Prisonin which convicted atom spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are slated to be electrocuted, Ossining, New York, January 13, 1953. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Julius Rosenberg (May 12, 1918 - June 19, 1953) and Ethel Rosenberg (September 28, 1915 - June 19, 1953) American communists, executed after having been found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage. The charges were in relation to the passing of information about the American atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) - David Greenglass, who served 10 years in prison for his role in the most explosive atomic spying case of the Cold War and gave testimony that sent his brother-in-law and sister, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, to the electric chair in 1953, has died at 92.

Greenglass - who admitted decades later that he lied on the stand about his own sister - died in New York City on July 1, according to the Rosenbergs' sons, Michael and Robert Meeropol.

After his release from prison in 1960, Greenglass lived under an assumed name in Queens, hoping to be forgotten for his part in a McCarthy-era cause celebre that is still furiously debated to this day.

A spokeswoman for the Meeropols, Amber Black, said Tuesday that the brothers were aware of their uncle's death last summer but did not seek media attention and received no inquiries at the time.

The Rosenbergs were convicted in 1951 of conspiring to steal secrets about the atomic bomb for the Soviet Union and were executed at New York's Sing Sing prison, insisting to the very end that they were innocent.

Greenglass, indicted as a co-conspirator, testified for the government that he had given the Rosenbergs research data obtained through his wartime job as an Army machinist at Los Alamos, New Mexico, headquarters of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb.

He told of seeing his older sister transcribing the information on a portable typewriter at the Rosenbergs' New York apartment in 1945. That testimony proved crucial in convicting Ethel along with her husband.

In 2001, in revelations more boastful than contrite, Greenglass was quoted in the book "The Brother" by New York Times reporter Sam Roberts as saying he had not actually seen Ethel typing and knew of it only from his wife, Ruth. For the prosecution, however, the typewriter "was as good as a smoking gun in Ethel Rosenberg's hands," Roberts wrote.

In the book and a CBS interview, Greenglass shrugged off any notion of a betrayal. He said he lied to assure leniency for himself and keep his wife out of prison so she could care for their two children.

"I sleep well," Greenglass said in the interview, adding that "stupidity" had kept the Rosenbergs from possibly saving themselves by admitting guilt.

Greenglass said that while history might blame him for the Rosenbergs' deaths, he hadn't known that would be their fate - and that in any case, his own family came first. He also said he had been urged to lie by prosecutors, among them Roy Cohn, later a key aide to anti-communism crusader Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

To some, he came to be seen as a symbol of betrayal. In the 1989 Woody Allen movie "Crimes and Misdemeanors," Allen's character says of his smug and annoying brother-in-law: "I love him like a brother - David Greenglass."

In a statement Tuesday, the Rosenbergs' sons said that David and Ruth Greenglass were the ones who passed atomic secrets on to the Soviets, then "pinned what they did on our parents - a calculated ploy to save themselves by fingering our parents as the scapegoats the government demanded."

The Rosenberg sons cited a 2001 interview in which Greenglass said he expected to be remembered "as a spy who turned his family in."

"He was right," the sons said.

Greenglass was born in New York in 1922. After Army service in World War II, including the Los Alamos assignment, he and Julius Rosenberg became partners in a machine shop that failed.

David and Ruth Greenglass, like the Rosenbergs, were active communist sympathizers, having joined the Young Communist League in 1943. Both couples believed that the Soviet Union should have the bomb if the United States did.

At trial, the Greenglasses said Julius Rosenberg had recruited David Greenglass as a spy and arranged for him to feed stolen atomic research and a detonator to a go-between, Harry Gold. Gold also was later convicted.

Greenglass served 10 years of a 15-year sentence for espionage. After his release, he lived with his family in anonymity.

Greenglass remained estranged for the rest of his life from the Rosenbergs' sons, who were 10 and 6 when their parents were executed. The brothers later took their adoptive parents' surname, Meeropol.

According to Roberts, Greenglass said of his nephews: "Their whole life has been involved with this kind of stupidity, to actually think they (the Rosenbergs) were innocent."
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