Morton Sobell
Morton Sobell is a former spy for the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. Sobell was an American engineer
An engineer is a professional practitioner of engineering, concerned with applying scientific knowledge, mathematics and ingenuity to develop solutions for technical problems. Engineers design materials, structures, machines and systems while considering the limitations imposed by practicality,...

 working for General Electric
General Electric
General Electric Company , or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States...

 and Reeves Electronics on military and government contracts. He was found guilty of spying for the Soviets (along with Julius Rosenberg at his 1951 espionage trial), and sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was released in 1969 after spending 17 years and 9 months in Alcatraz and other high security prisons.

After proclaiming his innocence for over half a century, Sobell admitted spying for the Soviets, and implicated Julius Rosenberg, in an interview with the New York Times published on September 11, 2008.


Morton Sobell was born into a Jewish family in New York City. He attended the City College of New York
City College of New York
The City College of the City University of New York is a senior college of the City University of New York , in New York City. It is also the oldest of the City University's twenty-three institutions of higher learning...

 where he received a degree in engineering and later married Helen Levitov
Helen Levitov Sobell
Helen Levitov Sobell was the wife of Morton Sobell and she petitioned to save the Rosenbergs.-Biography:She was born on March 13, 1918 in Washington, DC as Helen Levitov. She attended Wilson Teachers College. During World War II she worked at the National Bureau of Standards as a spectrometer...

 (1918–2002). He worked in Washington, D.C. for the Navy Bureau of Ordnance and in Schenectady, New York, for the General Electric Company.

After being accused of espionage, he and his family fled to Mexico on June 22, 1950. He fled with his wife Helen, infant son Mark Sobell, and Helen's daughter from her previous marriage, Sydney. Sobell tried to travel to Europe, but without proper papers he was not able to leave. On August 16, 1950, Sobell and his family were abducted by armed men, taken to the United States border and turned over to the FBI. The FBI arrested him for conspiring with Julius Rosenberg to violate espionage laws. He was found guilty along with the Rosenbergs, and sentenced to 30 years. He was initially sent to Alcatraz, until the prison closed in 1963. He was released in 1969 after serving 17 years and 9 months.

Sobell as a political cause

Sobell's supposed innocence became a cause among progressive
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

 intellectuals who organized a Committee to Secure Justice for Morton Sobell. In 1978 the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a non-profit corporation created by an act of the United States Congress, funded by the United States’ federal government to promote public broadcasting...

 produced a television special maintaining Sobell's innocence. The Monthly Review
Monthly Review
Monthly Review is an independent Marxist journal published 11 times per year in New York City.-History:The publication was founded by Harvard University economics instructor Paul Sweezy, who became the first editor...

maintained that the government had presented "absolutely no proof" of Sobell's guilt, but had tried him merely "to give the impression that an extensive spy ring had been in operation." Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

campaigned to overturn Sobell's conviction saying that his prison sentence was a grave miscarriage of justice against an innocent man.

In 1974 Sobell published a book, On Doing Time in which he maintained that he was innocent and that his conviction was a case of justice being subverted to serve political goals. After his release from prison, Sobell went on the speaker circuit, regaling audiences with his account of being falsely prosecuted and convicted by the federal government.

In September 2008, at age 91, he told The New York Times that he did turn over military secrets to the Soviets during World War II, though he describes them as "junk" and says they were of no value to the Soviet Union. This was the first time he publicly admitted guilt.

External links

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