Dr. Robert Soblen (born Ruvelis Sobolevicius, also known as Roman Well; November 7, 1900 – September 11, 1962), was a prominent member of the pro-Trotsky Left Opposition in Germany in the 1930s. He moved to the United States in 1941 with his brother Jack Soble, and was arrested in 1960 as a Soviet spy. Convicted and sentenced to life in prison, he fled the U.S. while on bail and sought asylum first in Israel, then Britain. He committed suicide by overdosing on barbiturates when his last appeal for asylum in Britain was denied.
Born in Vilkaviskis, Lithuania, both Soblen and his younger brother Jack (born Abromas Sobolevicius, also known as Abraham or Adolph Senin), were important figures in Trotskyist circles in the 1920s and 1930s. They were very active in French and German Trotskyist movements, handling both Trotsky's secret correspondence to the Soviet Union and publication of his Opposition Bulletin. Jack Soble later claimed he and Robert began working for the Soviet Secret Police against Trotsky in 1931. In 1932, Trotsky broke with the brothers, and Robert joined Trotsky's enemies in the Communist Party of Germany.
Soblen, Soble, and many members of their family moved to the United States in 1941. According to Jack Soble's testimony during Robert's trial, they were personally granted permission for the move by NKVD director Lavrenty Beria, on condition that they assist in Soviet espionage activities in the United States. After arriving in the United States, Soblen set up a psychiatric practice in New York. According to testimony at his trial, Soblen's activities also included spying on the Trotskyist movement in the United States, and transmitting stolen intelligence documents and military information to the Soviet Union.
Soblen's brother Jack was arrested in 1957 and charged with espionage, primarily based on the testimony of Hollywood producer Boris Morros. Morros first worked with Soble's organization providing business cover for Soviet agents, but later agreed to act as a double agent for the FBI. Soble pleaded guilty to the espionage charges, made a detailed statement of his activities, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Robert Soblen was not indicted until 1960. He was charged with providing the Soviet Union with secret OSS documents in World War II and photographs of a U.S. nuclear testing site in 1950. Soblen pleaded not guilty. His trial, at which Jack was a primary witness, ended with his conviction. The judge deferred sentencing until August, and stated that the severity of the sentence would depend on whether Soblen was willing to provide a full account of his espionage to the government. Soblen remained defiant and refused to cooperate, and on 7 August 1961, was sentenced to life imprisonment. Soblen, suffering from leukemia, was released on $100,000 bail pending an appeal. His conviction was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals in March 1962, and an appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected in June 1962. Soblen was ordered to report to prison to begin his sentence on June 28, 1962.
Following the rejection of his last appeal, Soblen jumped bail and flew to Israel, using a forged Canadian passport. Once there, he immediately hired legal assistance and claimed Israeli citizenship as a Jew under the Law of Return, and claimed immunity from extradition as an Israeli citizen. He was arrested in his hotel room shortly after his arrival, and the Israeli government declared that the Law of Return was not an open invitation for Jewish criminals to immigrate to Israel. Soblen was denied citizenship, and his appeals were rejected. Although Israel and the United States did not have an extradition agreement at the time, Soblen faced expulsion from Israel and deportation to the United States on charges of illegal entry, due to his having used a false passport to enter the country. Soblen was deported from Israel on a flight to the United States on July 1. During a stopover in London, Soblen slashed his wrist and abdomen with a dinner knife. He was removed from the airplane and hospitalized. He then hired lawyers and filed a claim for political asylum, or the right to go to any country other than the United States. He also admitted that his actions had not been a suicide attempt, but were rather a ruse to gain admittance to Britain. After Soblen underwent a medical examination in a prison hospital, doctors determined that his leukemia was dormant, that he did not face imminent death from the disease, and that he had a life expectancy of several years rather than several months. British courts denied a series of appeals, and in September 1962, ordered him deported back to the United States. On the day of his deportation, Soblen took an overdose of barbiturates. It is unclear whether this was a legitimate suicide attempt or another attempt to delay deportation. He fell unconscious while being escorted to the airport, and was taken to a hospital. He never regained consciousness, and died on September 11, 1962.
The Soble/Soblen trials revealed a great deal about Soviet espionage directed against Trotsky and his followers. They also revealed a number of aspects of Soviet espionage against the United States in the 1940s and 1950s, and were one of the more successful espionage prosecutions in the early Cold War period. The extent to which the Venona decryption project assisted in the case is not clear. The project was never mentioned during either of the brothers' trials, but according to Klehr and Haynes, a number of cables deciphered by the Venona project mention Soblen under the covername ROMAN, the pseudonym he used in Germany. Soblen's expulsion from Israel was controversial enough to provoke a no-confidence vote against David Ben-Gurion's government. The vote failed, but the controversy may have contributed to the passing of Israel's "Offenses Committed Abroad Act" in 1978, which sharply restricted the circumstances under which Israeli citizens could be extradited. Soblen's asylum request in England also generated controversy and calls for reform.
Boris Yakovlevich Bukov, also Boris Bykov ("Sasha") Regiment Commissar (15 November 1935) was a member of the Communist Party member since 1919. Bykov was head of the underground apparatus with which Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss were connected.David Sheldon Boone
David Sheldon Boone (born August 26, 1952) is a former U.S. Army signals analyst who worked for the National Security Agency and was convicted of espionage-related charges in 1999 related to his sale of secret documents to the Soviet Union from 1988 to 1991. He is currently serving a prison sentence of 24 years and four months. Boone's case was an example of a late Cold War U.S. government security breach.Elena Miller
Elena Miller, formerly Yelena Borisovna Olshanskaya, is a Russian, who, as alleged by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), came to Canada and spied under the name of a dead child and later lost the right to immigrate back to Canada to live with her second, Canadian husband.Ethel Gee
Ethel Elizabeth Gee (10 May 1914 – 1984), nicknamed "Bunty", was an Englishwoman who helped her lover spy on their country for the Soviet Union. She was a minor member of the Portland Spy Ring.Flora Wovschin
Flora Don Wovschin (born 20 February 1923), was a suspected Soviet spy who later renounced her American citizenship.Jack Dunlap
Jack Edward Dunlap (November 14, 1927 – July 23, 1963) was a United States Army sergeant stationed at the National Security Agency who later became a spy for the Soviet Union in the early 1960s.Jack Soble
Jack Soble (May 15, 1903 – 1967) was a Lithuanian who, together with his brother Robert Soblen, penetrated Leon Trotsky's entourage for Soviet intelligence in the 1920s. Later, in the United States, he was jailed together with his wife Myra on espionage charges. He was born in Vilkaviskis, Lithuania as Abromas Sobolevicius and sometimes used the name Abraham Sobolevicius or Adolph Senin.John Herrmann
John Theodore Herrmann was a writer in the 1920s and 1930s and is alleged to have introduced Whittaker Chambers to Alger Hiss.Julian Wadleigh
Julian Wadleigh (1904–1994) was an American economist and the United States Department of State official in the 1930s and 1940s. He was a key witness in the Alger Hiss trials.Litzi Friedmann
Alice Friedmann (née Kohlmann; 1910–1991), known as Litzi Friedmann, was an Austrian Communist who was the first wife of Kim Philby, a member of the Cambridge Five.Maria Wicher
Maria Wicher was married to Professor Enos Wicher and was the mother of Flora Wovschin. The family were all spies for the Soviet Union during the 1940s. Maria had previously been married to Dr. William A. Wovschin, Flora's father.
Her code name in Soviet intelligence and in the Venona project is "Dasha".Michael Bettaney
Michael John Bettaney (13 February 1950 – 16 August 2018), also known as Michael Malkin, was a British intelligence officer who worked in the counter-espionage branch of the Security Service often known as MI5. He was convicted at the Old Bailey in 1984 of offences under section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911 after passing sensitive documents to the Soviet Embassy in London and attempting to act as an agent-in-place for the Soviet Union.Nadezhda Ulanovskaya
Nadezhda (Esther) Markovna Ulanovskaya (1903—1986) was a Soviet intelligence GRU officer, translator, English teacher, wife Alexander Ulanovsky, and mother of Maya Ulanovskaya.Reino Häyhänen
Reino Häyhänen (May 14, 1920 – 1961) was an Ingrian Finnish origin Soviet-born lieutenant colonel who defected to the United States.Robert Thompson (spy)
Robert Thompson (born 1935) was a U.S. Air Force clerk who confessed in 1965 to passing hundreds of photos of secret documents to the Soviet Union since 1957 while he was based in West Berlin at the Office of Special Investigation at Tempelhof Air Base. He served there from December 1952 to December 1958.
Thompson was in contact with the Soviet intelligence after he returned to the USA. On 7 June 1963, FBI surveillance watched a personal meeting with a known KGB officer and an individual who later was identified as Thompson.
Thompson was arrested on 7 January 1965 at his service station in Babylon, NY where he was running a home fuel-oil delivery service as a truck driver. He pleaded guilty and received a 30-year sentence which he served in the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.Sylvia Callen
Sylvia Callen Franklin, also known as Sylvia Lorraine Callen, and Sylvia Caldwell, was a young Chicago communist, recruited by Louis Budenz into the Communist Party USA's secret apparatus c. 1937.
Callen was assigned by Dr. Gregory Rabinowitz to go to New York City and infiltrate the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) using the pseudonym "Sylvia Caldwell". She became the secretary of James Cannon, who headed the SWP. Callen later testified to a federal grand jury about her infiltration of the SWP and about how she provided information from the SWP offices to Rabinowitz. Rabinowitz was later replaced by Jack Soble. She had been married for a time to Zalmond Franklin, who also served Soviet intelligence. For a time, she was also known as Sylvia Lorraine Doxsee.
Callen is identified in Venona traffic under the cover name SATYR. Venona messages reveal Callen giving copies to the KGB of SWP correspondence, intimate information on Leon Trotsky's widow, Natalia Sedova, and financial reports of Trotskyist groups.
When Budenz later defected, he named Callen as a Stalinist infiltrator but her SWP comrades refused to believe him. In 1954, Callen, then known as Sylvia Doxsee and living in Chicago, was called before a grand jury. Invoking the Fifth Amendment, she refused to answer questions about her membership in the SWP, her relationship with the KGB, Louis Budenz, or anything else. She was called back to another grand jury in 1958. This time, she was more cooperative, confessing that she met regularly with Rabinowitz and Soble to pass on confidential Trotskyist material at an apartment rented by a woman named Lucy Booker. Callen was named as an unindicted co-conspirator when Robert Soblen was charged with espionage in 1960, but she never publicly testified.
Callen's grand jury testimony was first publicly released and her status as a GPU agent confirmed as part of the International Committee of the Fourth International's Security and the Fourth International investigation.Thomas Patrick Cavanaugh
Thomas Patrick Cavanaugh is an aerospace engineer who was sentenced in 1985 after being convicted of trying to sell stealth bomber secrets to the Soviet Union.Vincent Reno
Franklin Vincent Reno was a mathematician and civilian employee at the United States Army Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland in the 1930s. Reno was a member of the "Karl group" of Soviet spies which was being handled by Whittaker Chambers until 1938. Reno confessed in late 1948 to his espionage activities on behalf of the GRU.
He is listed as number "118th" in the Gorsky Memo.William Ward Pigman
William Ward Pigman (March 5, 1910 – September 30, 1977), also known as Ward Pigman, was a chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at New York Medical College, and a suspected Soviet Union spy as part of the "Karl group" for Soviet Military Intelligence (GRU).
Soviet and Russian spies
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