Among the last orders of business for outgoing presidents are the presidential pardons, exonerations and sentence commutations.
Two people among the many actively seeking exoneration from President Obama are Robert Meeropol and his brother Michael, sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The couple was executed in 1953 for spying for the Soviet Union.
Newly declassified documents prove that Julius was in fact a spy, but raise serious questions about Ethel Rosenberg’s involvement. Robert joins Here & Now‘s Robin Young to discuss the evidence, the documents and why he believes his mother deserves an exoneration. He is also founder of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, and author of “An Execution in the Family.”
On he and his brother’s return to demonstrate outside the White House
“We went to the White House to re-enact my brother’s presentation when he was 10 and I was 6. He presented a letter to then-President Eisenhower, asking that our parents be saved, and this time went to the White House, the same guard kiosk, and we presented 44,000 petition signers — and our own detailed request, with all sorts of evidentiary background — to the White House.
“But one thing I must say to correct an error — we’re not asking for a pardon. We’re asking for an exoneration, and there’s a big difference. We are essentially saying that my mother’s trial and conviction was a perversion of justice, and we’re asking for a nullification of the verdict. You don’t pardon someone who’s not guilty, and the government doesn’t usually pardon people posthumously. So in some ways, we have no choice but to take this other route.”
On his mother’s role in committing espionage
“First of all, if you read the actual files, it was no contact, direct contact, between my mother and any Soviet agent. But they kinda want to fudge things. And what they really want to do is to defer attention from our central claim, which is that the trial was a perversion of justice. The fact that the government facilitated the invention of evidence in order to convict someone in a capital crime, that should be of a concern to absolutely everybody. And that’s what we want Obama to proclaim.”
On what an exoneration would mean
“We found out that my father did commit espionage, but realizing that my mother didn’t, that she wasn’t given a codename, that she wasn’t a spy, this has been on my agenda ever since. And this is my mother, who was taken from me when I was 3, and killed when I was 6. I couldn’t imagine anything that would make me more satisfied, and also a deep sense of satisfaction that something that I’ve been trying to do for so long has finally borne fruit. And that it’s not just for me, it’s not just for my brother — it’s for the betterment of the entire country.”