Ethel Rosenberg's orphaned son says, 'Scream bloody murder' for Bradley Manning
An 'Heir to an Execution' speaks out for Manning, 60 years after his parents' death at the hands of the state.
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In 1975, Robert and Michael filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which resulted in the release of 300,000 documents related to the Rosenberg case.
"The people have a right to know what the government does in its name," Meeropol said.
Robert Meeropol feels "a connection" to Bradley Manning not just because of the deep moral dilemma that has gripped the public over Manning's trial as it has over the Rosenbergs' execution in the last six decades, but also because of Robert's own commitment to informing the US public about what it funds with tax dollars.
Manning leaked US military information obtained during his work in Iraq as a military analyst to Julian Assange's Wikileaks. Among the leaked intel was video footage of a US attack helicopter killing a group of Iraqi civilians -- to include one Reuters journalist.
Manning has plead guilty to 10 of the 22 counts he faces, including the release information that could have aided the US's enemies abroad. But in court last week, Manning maintained that his actions aimed to reveal the US military's overarching "disregard for human life" to American civilians.
Several analysts have noted that, as Manning stands accused of releasing potentially sensitive information to Wikileaks, the US Senate has chosen to drop an investigation into the Washington's ambiguous cooperation with the makers of Zero Dark Thirty, an Oscar-nominated film that portrayed the details of the assassination of terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden.
Meeropol believes that the US judiciary is as flawed today as it was in 1953.
"We have judicial system that is implacable," he said.
There is a telling gap between the charges against the Rosenbergs and the trial against Bradley Manning, Meeropol notes.
"There is a qualitative difference between supplying information to public and giving it to another governmental entity, even if you believe that's in the public favor."
"The government is arguing that Bradley Manning's intention in his actions is irrelevant. The fact that he wanted to get this material before the public because the public deserved to have it, rather than aid the enemy -- the government says that's irrelevant.
Meeropol addressed his argument directly at The Vancouver Observer.
"That means, if you released information as an investigative journalists with no intention to aid the enemy, you can be charged for releasing information that aids the enemy. That's dangerous to every investigative journalist or whistleblower. It's dangerous for any democracy. If the government takes information off limits to the public, and disputes the flow of that information among the public, it is stopping the very activity that is a crucial function of any democracy."
Like many in the North American Open Access community, Meeropol also believes that the prosecution against the late Aaron Swartz was motivated -- not entirely by Swartz's attempt to make millions of paywalled JSTOR articles available to the public -- but by his overarching support for the free flow of information on the Internet.
"I don't have the computer smarts or savvy to understand the details, but I understand the threat that it represents to those in power. They want to control the flow of information. The basic statement that Aaron Swartz made was this info should be made open to the public," Meeropol said.
"That statement goes back to the original commitment [of my brother and I] that we've been committed to since our FOIA in the 70s. Something basic, but radical: That the people have right to know what the government does in its name. That's what [people like Bradley Manning and Aaron Swartz] put their lives on the line for."
Six decades down the line, the Rosenbergs' specter lingers.
In pop culture, Meeropol has literally seen his mother's ghost -- portrayed by Meryl Streep in TV drama Angels in America. In The Book of Daniel, author E.L. Doctorow's fictionalized account of the Rosenberg children's lives after their parents' execution, Meeropol was recast as a young girl, who, after suffering the emotional trauma of her parents' death, commits suicide.
"Yeah - she goes crazy and kills herself," Meeropol says.
In 1990, Meeropol started the Rosenberg Fund for Children (RFC), a non-profit that offers support to the children of targeted activists and other political entities in the US, like the children of Mumia abu-Jamal, who "suffer the same fate" of the Rosenberg/ Meeropol brothers.
The RFC Web site features the letter Julius and Ethel Rosenberg wrote to their children on their last day:
Be comforted then that we were serene and understood, with the deepest kind of understanding, that civilization had not as yet progressed to the point where life did not have to be lost for the sake of life: and that we were comforted in the sure knowledge that others would carry on after us (...) Always remember that we were innocent, and could not wrong our conscience.
Whatever the Rosenbergs' crimes, Meeropol maintains that the crime of knowingly executing a mother without evidence and leaving two children orphaned -- of a sharp punishment in a trial full of uncertainties -- "is greater than any crime in which the Rosenbergs would have engaged."
"My parents were following their conscience."
Robert Meeropol's daughter Jenn will take the reigns on RFC -- carrying on her fathers legacy, over half a century after her grandparents' execution by the state.