Robert Soblen

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This article is part of the
Venona
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Sandia National Laboratories
Office of Strategic Services
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Dr. Robert Soblen (November 7, 1900 – September 11, 1962) was a Lithuanian-born psychiatrist and reputed Soviet spy.

In 1940, Robert Soblen and his brother Jack - were sent to America by Soviet Secret Police Chief Lavrenti Beria. Their families emigrated with them.

During World War II, Dr. Soblen provided the Soviets with secret documents from the Office of Strategic Services and information from the Sandia nuclear-weapons development center at Albuquerque.

Soblen also was engaged in espionage activities with Hollywood producer and U.S. counterspy Boris Morros. After the war he worked at New York's Rockland State Hospital as a psychiatrist. In December 1960 the FBI arrested him on a charge of wartime espionage, which could carry a death sentence.

In August 1961 he was sentenced to life imprisonment but released on bail pending an appeal. At the time, Soblen was diagnosed with inoperable leukemia. Soblen immediately appealed his sentence and sought out supporters to pay his bail, set at $100,000. Bonding agencies refused to lend anything, so his wife scraped up $40,000 out of savings and life insurance policies. An acquaintance, George Kirstein, publisher of the liberal weekly, the Nation, rounded up the remaining $60,000. Soblen also convinced Helen Lehman Buttenwieser, wealthy wife of an investment banker, and herself an attorney for Alger Hiss, to provide additional security for the bond.

The FBI did not place surveillance on Soblen, viewing him as a low flight risk in view of his illness and high bond. However, after Soblen's final appeal was rejected by the courts, Soblen fled to Israel in June 1962. He was quickly expelled, but he stabbed himself on the plane that was to take him back to the United States and was taken off at London. Britain rejected an appeal for political asylum, and when he was about to be deported again, he took a fatal overdose of barbiturates.

References

  • Haynes, John Earl, and Klehr, Harvey, Early Cold War Spies: The Espionage Trials that Shaped American Politics, Cambridge University Press (2006)
  • The Spy Who Skipped, Time Magazine, August 6, 1962
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