New York City Councilors Issue Proclamation Honoring Ethel Rosenberg on her 100th Birthday
The Rosenberg atomic spy case of 1951 was one of the most famous political trials in American history. Both Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were from New York and had been active in the American Communist Party. When they were arrested in 1950 it was at the height of the hysteria during the infamous red hunting McCarthy decade. In 1950 the Russians first tested their atomic bomb and United States initiated the Korean War to roll back the revolution there. The effects the cold war and the execution of the Rosenbergs was devastating to the Left. Ethel and Julius were electrocuted to death at Sing Sing prison two years later. At the sentencing, federal judge Irving Kaufman said that the Rosenbergs were guilty of facilitating the death of some 50,000 American soldiers in the Korean War and President Eisenhower. Declining to grant clemency, he said they might be responsible for the death of tens of millions of people in an atomic war. The government tried to get Julius Rosenberg to confess and give names. A representative from the Attorney General’s office visited him at Sing Sing prison. Rosenberg said no. He said “We are the victims of a most monstrous frame up.”
Subsequent scholarship has shown that Ethel Rosenberg was totally innocent and that Julius Rosenberg was not an atomic bomb spy and that there was no secret to the atomic bomb, it was a question of industrial technique.
Now, 62 years, later Ethel Rosenberg was honored by the New York city Council on the steps of City Hall September 28 with a proclamation of her innocence. It would have been her one hundredth birthday. We hear audio excerpts from the press conference and from Michael Smith and Heidi Boghosian speaking with Robbie Meeropol, Meriam Moscowitz and Attorney Danny Myers.
In a twist on the confidential informant genre, the new film (T)ERROR chronicles a Bureau investigation without the FBI knowing it’s being watched. Filmmakers David Felix Sutcliffe and Lyric Cabral follow ex-con Saeed “Shariff” Torres, who claims to have made hundreds of thousands of dollars a year befriending Muslim targets accused of pro-terrorism inclinations. Shariff alienated a Brooklyn community of Muslim friends by helping convict jazz bassist Tarik Shah just for talking about training members of Al Qaeda. In 2005 Shariff revealed to filmmaker Cabral that he was an FBI informant. He later agreed to let her and Sutcliffe film details of his work without the FBI’s knowledge. The movie shows how Shariff was directed to befriend Khalifah Al-Akili, a white Muslim convert who has publicly made pro-terrorist statements. After Shariff and the FBI trying to get Khalifah to shift from words to deeds, he goes public with suspicions that the FBI has targeted him.
Guest – David Felix Sutcliffe, is a Sundance award winning documentary filmmaker. In 2013, he was included in Filmmaker Magazine’s annual list of “25 New Faces of Independent Film.” His first film, ADAMA (PBS, 2011), is an hour-long documentary that explores the story of a 16-year-old Muslim girl growing up in Harlem who was arrested by the FBI on suspicion of being a “potential suicide bomber.” (T)ERROR, co-directed with acclaimed photojournalist Lyric R. Cabral, is his feature-length documentary debut, and marks the first time that filmmakers have had access to an active FBI informant in a domestic counterterrorism investigation. (T)ERROR premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival where it won a Special Jury Prize for Break Out First Feature.