CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (Oct. 16): The Syrian Refugee Crisis; The Sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

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CBS ’60 Minutes’ Episode Guide (Oct. 16): The Syrian Refugee Crisis; The Sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg

“60 Minutes” (10/16/16) – Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says he has added social media and other database checks to bolster scrutiny of thousands of asylum seekers from the Middle East, most of them Syrian Civil War refugees who hope to live in the U.S. Sec. Johnson will be featured in a Bill Whitaker report about the refugee vetting process that follows three Syrian families that have been granted asylum in America. His report will be featured on “60 Minutes” tonight, Oct. 16 (7:00-8:00PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has campaigned on a promise to shut out Syrian refugees, a group ISIS is attempting to infiltrate. Nearly 13,000 Syrian Civil War refugees have been allowed into the U.S. since President Obama said America should accept 10,000 over a year ago.

But thousands have been turned away, says Johnson, and even more are on hold. “If we don’t feel we know enough about you, we’re not going to admit you.”

Johnson said he is confident in the system set up to vet these people. “We have, on my watch, added social media and other checks, consulting additional databases. We’ve added those checks in the face of the worldwide refugee crisis that we see right now,” says Johnson. “I can tell the American people it is probably the most cumbersome, thorough vetting process by which any immigrant comes into the United States.”

So who does get in? “Mostly we focus on victims of torture, survivors of violence, women-headed households and a lot of severe medical cases,” says Gina Kassem, who works for the U.S. State Dept. in Jordan on the selection process. The vetting begins with the U.N., before the refugees are examined by specially trained homeland security personnel. Asked by Whitaker why she thinks the process is effective, Kassem answers, “Because they undergo so many steps of vetting, so many interviews, so many intelligence screenings, so many checks along the way.”

Then, later in the “60 Minutes” broadcast, the sons of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg tell Anderson Cooper what it was like to be the children of infamous communist spies during the McCarthy era, in a story that sheds new light on one of the most dramatic espionage cases of the Cold War—the execution of a husband and wife, leaving their two little boys orphans. Michael and Robert Meeropol speak to Cooper on the next edition of “60 Minutes” tonight, Oct. 16 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

In 1950 they were Michael and Robert Rosenberg, seven- and three-year-old boys whose world came crashing down when their parents were arrested for conspiring to provide atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. Their parents’ case was so high-profile that relatives were afraid to take them in. One town blocked them from attending its schools. Michael remembers denying that he was related to Julius and Ethel Rosenberg: “I really hated myself…I was too scared to admit my parents were my parents,” he recalls. Says his brother Robert: “We were the children of communist spies. Being the Rosenbergs’ children in 1950 was almost like being Osama bin Laden’s kids here after 9/11.”

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg died in the electric chair of Sing-Sing prison in 1953. The boys changed their last name to Meeropol when a couple adopted them, seeking to shield the children from the ostracism they were subjected to because of their parents’ conviction.

Cooper asks the brothers whether they were disappointed in their father, who they now admit was a Soviet spy. They say they were not disappointed but acknowledge he broke the law. “I think that if he’d been arrested and given a five- or ten-year prison sentence, we would have nothing to complain about,” Robert says.

As for their mother, Michael argues she was “collateral damage,” framed by prosecutors for a crime she did not commit in an effort to get their father to cooperate with FBI investigators. Citing evidence that has come out since their parents’ trial, the brothers are calling upon President Obama to proclaim their mother was wrongfully convicted and executed. “Our mother was killed for something she did not do. She was taken away from us,” Robert says.

But historian Ron Radosh, who also appears in the story, opposes such a measure, arguing there’s evidence Ethel helped her husband even if she wasn’t a spy herself. “She was an accessory to spying,” Radosh tells Cooper, “by helping, identifying people, urging people to be recruited,suggesting that her own brother be recruited, this is aiding those who are spying.”

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