The Children of Russian Agents

As I wrote here in June: “From June 21st to July 5th I am joining a half dozen other members [of Murder Victims Families for Human Rights] on a speaking tour to the cities of Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima in Japan, and Taipei, Hsin-chu and Tai-chung in Taiwan.”

Thus, I was half a world away when the FBI arrested ten people and accused them of being agents of the Russian Federation. It was hard to figure out what was going on from Japan and Taiwan, but I soon learned the 10 people included four couples who collectively had seven children, and that one of the children was three years old, the exact age I was when my parents were arrested.

The media wanted to know my reaction to these events, but my rigorous schedule, limited phone and email accessibility and a twelve hour time difference forced me to remain silent until today. This was, to a degree, fortuitous because whatever I might have said last week or even two days ago would not fit today’s circumstances.

At first it appeared that these children's world was being turned upside down; they were separated from their parents and faced enduring the spectacle of their parents’ trial and long-term imprisonment. Now it looks like those who are not yet adults may be uprooted and shipped back to Russia with their parents. We don’t know if these children can speak a word of Russian, and we don’t know what kind of life they, and their parents, face in Russia. Since we have so little information we can only speculate. Still I can’t help imagining being a teenager growing up in an American suburb, with immigrant parents, who – presumably – had told you a cover story, and then discovering that your parents are not who they said they were; and next, summarily being deported to a different country.

I know of at least one teenage RFC beneficiary who suddenly discovered his parents’ secret life when his father was arrested. He has never gotten over what he considered an enormous betrayal. Is this the way some of the older children will feel? Clearly, how much the children knew, and how deeply connected they were to their parents lives would make a tremendous difference. Those who were blindsided and felt they and their parents were living a lie could be devastated regardless of how this case is ultimately disposed of. While the children would probably suffer more if they faced long-term separation from their parents, I doubt any of them will have an easy time even if they are reunited and set up in relatively comfortable lives in Russia.

While I was focused on the children initially, I can’t help but marvel at the political gulf that separates my parents’ case from the current one. The way the government reacted to the present situation stands in stark contrast to how they treated my parents.

At the height of the Cold War, the government inflated the vague charge of Conspiracy to Commit Espionage levied against my parents into the Theft of the Secret of the Atomic Bomb. We know now that my father and a group of technically oriented young adults supplied our ally, the Soviet Union, with military-industrial information to help them defeat the Nazis. But the government transformed this activity into giving our most deadly weapon to our greatest enemy and causing the Korean War.

Today the United States is engaged in delicate negotiations with Russia, and is courting their cooperation. Thus, initial claims that these people were part of a dangerous network of “sleeper” cells have been re-characterized as a poorly conceived plan of a relatively trivial nature that produced little, if any, information of value for Russia. General Leslie Groves, the head of security for the Atom Bomb project, wrote years after parents’ execution: “I think the data that went out in the case of the Rosenbergs was of minor value.” Perhaps, that is how my parents’ case would be presented if it occurred today.

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Who can say how much anti-semitism played in the sensationalism of the Rosenberg case, increasing the ease with which charges were inflated and then believed. Versus the lack of any religious content in this case.

People tend (it seems to me) to enjoy the tribulations of those they hate. These were all Russians, apparently, but looked very much like mainstream American Protestants.

The hysteria over the Pollard case also contributes to what can be shown to be a large body of evidence showing that Jews are treated more harshly in politics and media in these kinds of cases.

(reposted) : Submitted by Anonymous on Fri, 07/16/2010.

I just discovered your organization, and wanted to commend you on courage and clarity of your continuous work on behalf of families of targeted activists. I am a writer and journalist. Recently, I have undergone a year of oppressive "neutralization" and cointelpro terrorism, with reprisals against friends and family members, and I lost my courage to speak out. I've experienced how threats and terror tactics can be used against families and friends of those who are targeted, to enforce silence.

This is a time in America when everything delineated in the Bill of Rights and Constitution is being severely compromised. Please keep up the fight for justice and truth, and continue to speak out on behalf of those Americans whose reputations and lives have been tarnished by forces of tyranny, wearing the mask of patriotism.

Pamela Renner

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