Section It captures not only the stories of

Section 1: Identification
and evaluation of sources

Source A: Llewellyn,
J. “Cold War Espionage.” The Cold War, Alpha History, 17 May 2013

This source focuses on Cold War espionage and its effect on
the United States during this period. The purpose of this source is to outline
what espionage is. It captures not only the stories of spies, agents and
assassins, but also their roles in infiltrating the governments of the enemy.
It also focuses on specific examples of thought-to-be or actual spies, like
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were investigated by the FBI due to their uncovered
involvement with the passing of American nuclear secrets. This source is
valuable because of its detail in the Rosenberg case as well as the different
perspectives that the link includes. This source includes the perspectives of
the FBI and how they dealt with the accusations that they had against the
Rosenbergs. It also includes how the United States fought over information
between spies. Another reason why this source is valuable is due to its
accuracy. This source provides unique information about the connected events of
espionage, the nuclear war, and investigation trials. This source has some
limitations. One limitation of this link would be that the article does not
contain a list of references that are normally used at the end, to check the validity
of the information in the document. Another limitation of this link would be
the lack of the perspective of the spies. There is no interview from one of the
alleged spies, so in this case, I have one perspective to go off of.




Source B: Nuclear
Deterrence.” Nuclear Deterrence, The National Museum of American History, 2000.

source is from the American history education website. It focuses on the
stockpile of nuclear weapons between world powers that lead to a nuclear arms
race, and eventually, a nuclear war. This source focuses on the Cold War time
period and its influence over the future of nuclear weapons. The purpose of
this source is to advance my knowledge in nuclear deterrence because the
Rosenberg’s were a couple that were investigated for passing American nuclear
secrets. Knowing information about what they were investigated for allows me to
further explore my research question in determining if the death sentence was
efficient in America during the Cold War. This source is valuable because of
its in-depth informative descriptions about the nuclear stockpile. The link
explores the three main systems of the development and deployment of nuclear
weapons by the United States. Additional information about the adoption of
nuclear deterrence by the United States provides a new perspective to the
Rosenberg Trial and the Alger Hiss Trial. While this source is valuable, it
also has its limitations. One limitation would be that the source seems to
contain bias toward the United State’s role during the Cold War. There isn’t
enough perspective from the Soviet Union side. Having the perspectives from
both sides could help me explore the two trials equally in my research
question. Another limitation would be the article does not contain its references
at the bottom, so I am not able to double check the information coming from
this source.





Section 2: Investigation

To answer my research question, “To what extent did the
Rosenberg Trial and the Alger Hiss Trial in 1948 challenge the efficiency of
the death sentence and the American legal system in America during the Cold
War?”, I used a range of secondary sources. While there are different
perspectives used in each of my sources, they all provide effective information
to answer my question. The first source that I used to answer my research
question focused on Cold War espionage and its effect on the United States
during this period. Espionage is the practice of spying or of using spies, typically by
governments to obtain political and military information. During the Cold War,
there were many accusations of espionage among employees within the government
and regular citizens.  One of these
accusations involved couple named Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The Rosenbergs were
investigated by the FBI for their involvement in the passing of American
nuclear secrets.

start off, during the Cold War, there were many spies, agents and assassins who
operated in great secrecy, living two lives at once. The spies and agents
infiltrated enemy agencies and governments to obtain information and
intelligence about military, technological, and tactical capabilities. Obtaining
this evidence was done through stealing secret documents, and using
double-agents. While espionage was seen through individuals or small groups, it
was also seen in larger groups that are famous today, such as the FBI or the
CIA. The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) is a government-run agency that was
established July 11th, 1941. “The CIA began as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the military
arm that conducted espionage and undercover operations during World War II. In
1947 the OSS was dissolved and transformed into the CIA.” 1 The CIA, now one of the most
important agencies in the world, stemmed from the Cold War and this time
period. The CIA was also an imperative agency responsible for dealing with
nuclear and terrorist attacks. “The
CIA, sometimes operating jointly with the Department of Defense, also funded
extensive research into nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, the effects
of these weapons on humans, as well as effective interrogation and mind control
strategies.” 2 The CIA handled many cases
involving anti-communist groups and Soviet extremists. Another agency that was
created during the Cold War time period was the FBI. The FBI (Federal Bureau of
Investigation) was started in early 1935 by Attorney General Charles Bonaparte
during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. The FBI played a major role in the
investigation and prosecution of suspected spies and agents during the Cold
War. In 1943, the FBI began investigating the Soviet Union and Soviet espionage
in America. There were many cases involving Soviet actions that were
investigated by the FBI.

of the most famous spy cases during the Cold War in the late 1940’s, involved
the investigation of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. Julius Rosenberg was a
civilian engineer, formerly employed by the United States Army. He had ties
with a communist group, leading to his arrest in 1950 when he was accused of
passing American information to a Russian agent. This secret information was
vital in the advanced competition between the United States and the Soviet
Union. Knowledge is power and when a country has more intelligence then its
rival, it stands a greater chance at being a world leader. Julius Rosenberg
went through multiple confessions with multiple investigators. When Julius
refused to give the FBI the information they needed, they began to target his
wife, Ethel Rosenberg. Eventually, the Rosenbergs were charged together under
the Espionage Act and from there were sent to trial, which lasted a year. The
couple denied the charges and refused to testify against anyone that had been associated
in the crime with them. “In
April 1951 they the Rosenbergs were sentenced to death in the electric chair.
This generated outrage and disbelief both in America and internationally. Many
thought the Rosenbergs were innocent, while others believed they were little
more than go-betweens, undeserving of the death penalty. They were electrocuted
in New York in June 1953 – the only Americans to be executed for espionage
during the Cold War.” 3 The Rosenberg trial began a
series of questions about the efficiency of the death penalty. The trial lacked
efficient evidence deserving of the death sentence and many questions were left
unanswered during the trial. It is not truly known if the Rosenbergs did in
fact discuss American nuclear information with the Soviets.

case that became famous due to its ability to challenge the efficiency of the
death penalty would be the Alger Hiss trial. Alger Hiss was a former US State
Department official charged with perjury, “the giving of false testimony under oath on an issue or point
of inquiry regarded as material.”4 Hiss was under oath due to his
involvement with Whittaker Chambers, who was an American journalist as well as
a Communist party member and a Soviet agent. He accused Hiss of being a member
within the Communist Espionage ring. Hiss denied these accusations on a federal
grand jury when both him and Chambers testified. From his denial, Hiss was
convicted of two charges of perjury. He pleaded not guilty. I believe that
Hiss’s plea was not taken fully into consideration when deciding on his
sentence. In the end, Hiss was given a lighter sentence due to the situation of
a hung jury when Hiss’s first trial ended in 1949. His second trial, ending in
1950, concluded that Hiss was indeed guilty. He was given a five- year prison
sentence, allowing him to be released in 1954. I do not think Hiss was given
the fair trial that he, as well as every citizen, is entitled to. I also do not
believe that all evidence was fairly considered. Many people also agree with
this argument. “a close reading of the transcripts in the Hiss case and
examination of the recently-released FBI and State Department documents raise a
“reasonable doubt” about the validity of the evidence used to convict Hiss.” 5
I also believe
Chamber’s sanity was a larger issue during the case and I think that it should
have been further explored; possibly proving Hiss’s innocence.

I believe that the Rosenberg Trial and the Alger Hiss Trial challenged the
efficiency of the death sentence and the legal system in America during the
Cold War. The Rosenbergs were unfairly put to death with no physical evidence
or chance at a fair trial. An accusation is not enough to take the life of
another human being. Alger Hiss was accused of perjury, although there is to
this day still some doubt in the validity of evidence used on the stand against
Hiss. Whittaker Chambers, who testified against Hiss, was also found to have a
lack of sanity during the case. These two incidents show the inefficiency of
the death sentence during the Cold War in America.



Section 3: Reflection

The process of this investigation has allowed me to use
multiple sources to explore the events that have happened in history. Only
secondary sources were used due to the inability to connect with a primary
source while exploring my research question. Firstly, while exploring my
research question, I discovered the challenges that historians face while
conducting research. There are many perspectives within each event of history,
and it is hard to obtain all the perspectives, making it easy to have biased
information. There is also an issue with finding all necessary information to
produce a knowledgeable answer. Much of history has never been documented, leading
to incomplete information. Without all the information, it is hard for
historians to thoroughly analyze an event in history.


The research obtained from the Rosenberg and Alger Hiss
trials during the Cold War has helped historians analyze the connection of all
the events surrounding the nuclear war during the 19th century time
period. This information has also allowed them to find connections with future
issues, to this day. Even currently, the death sentence and its efficiency have
been questioned and argued. Many states are either for or against the death
penalty, based on the political and social status of that state. While trying
to find different perspectives on the trials of the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss,
I ran into challenges such as articles with no references. Without the access
to the references used to write the article, I was given incomplete
information, which caused me to question the validity of the resources that I
was using. I was aware of this conflict regarding validity, so I cautiously
found all my information. Throughout my research process, I used a number of
resources that did in fact have references, which allowed me to further analyze
the information within each of the articles.

Finally, in constructing my argument through the use of all
my sources, I considered the bias that the authors of the articles would have
while writing their document. Their interpretations lack an unbiased aspect
because it is not possible for an individual to judge based on complete
separation from opinion. As I analyzed my research question and the surrounding
evidence, I found that not only were the Rosenbergs unfairly tried for their crimes,
but they were not given the right to a fair trial by the United States government.
There was a disconnect between the gathering of sufficient evidence, as well as
the witnesses’ testimonies. The interpretation of the case by the detectives
within the FBI showed complete bias and judgment. Overall, in these situations,
the efficiency of the death sentence was both challenged and argued against.





Llewellyn, J. “Cold War
Espionage.” The Cold War, Alpha History, 17 May 2013

Llewellyn, J. “Cold War
Espionage.” The Cold War, Alpha History, 17 May 2013

Llewellyn, J. “Cold War
Espionage.” The Cold War, Alpha History, 17 May 2013

The Editors of
Encyclopædia Britannica. “Alger Hiss.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2 June

Readers, Our, et al. “‘Was
Alger Hiss Guilty?”.” Commentary Magazine, 23 Aug. 2017