861.20211 Gubitchev, Valentine/3–849

The Department of State to the Embassy of the Soviet Union 1



The Ambassador of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics left with the Department of State on March 8, 1949 an aide-mémoire concerning the arrest in New York on March 4, 1949 of Mr. Valentine A. Gubitchev. The Department of State has the following reply to make to the statements contained in that aide-mémoire.

Evidence had come to the attention of the United States authorities indicating that Mr. Gubitchev and Miss Judith Coplon, a United States citizen, were engaging in activity in violation of the laws of the United States. The evidence indicated that Mr. Gubitchev and Miss Coplon were having meetings together in connection with such activity. These two individuals were therefore arrested while meeting together on March 4, 1949 at about 9:30 o’clock in the evening. Additional evidence of violation of the laws of the United States was then discovered, confirming the suspicions of United States Government authorities.

Mr. Gubitchev and Miss Coplon were arrested by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who clearly identified themselves to Mr. Gubitchev and Miss Coplon. The agents escorted Mr. Gubitchev to the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States Courthouse on Foley Square.

Upon his arrival at the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Gubitchev was searched, fingerprinted and photographed. There after, at 11:00 p. m., he was advised that it was desired to question him concerning his connection with Judith Coplon and his activities on the night of March 4, 1949. He was told that he was not required to answer any question, that he was entitled to obtain an attorney to represent him, and advised that if he did make any statements, those statements could be used against him in a court of law. Mr. Gubitchev was then questioned until 2: 37 a. m., March 5. During this period, a list was prepared in his presence of the personal property in his possession at the time of his arrest. He verified the correctness of this list but refused to affix his signature thereto. The preparation of this list necessarily took up a considerable portion of [Page 782] the time between 11:00 p. m. and 2:37 a. m. The interview was further interrupted by recess at 1:30 a. m., at which time Mr. Gubitchev was given refreshment. From 2:37 a. m. on March 5, until 11:00 a. m., March 5, when he was arraigned in Federal Court, Mr. Gubitchev was not questioned. During this time, he appeared twice before Federal Judge Simon Rifkind, at 4:48 a. m. and again at 6:36 a. m. On each of these occasions, because Mr. Gubitchev was not represented by counsel, the arraignment was deferred by Judge Rifkind in order to give Mr. Gubitchev the opportunity to secure counsel.

The questions asked of Mr. Gubitchev related entirely to his personal background, his association with Judith Coplon and his activities on the night of March 4. He refused to answer any questions concerning his activities on the night of March 4, or his association with Miss Coplon. He freely and politely furnished details concerning his personal background. The agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation asked no questions and Mr. Gubitchev made no statements on the matters referred to in the third paragraph of the Soviet Embassy’s aide-mémoire dated March 8, “as, for example, where in the USSR he built military structures before the war and during the war; is he a member of the Communist Party; what does he know about concentration camps and ‘forced labor’ in the USSR, and does he consider possible a change in the foreign policy of the USSR, and such like.”

Mr. Gubitchev was indicted on March 10, 1949 in the District Court of the United States for the Southern District of New York, and a copy of the indictment was served on Mr. Gubitchev on that date. The indictment as found by the Grand Jury charged (1) that, in violation of section 371 of Title 18, United States Code, Mr. Gubitchev had conspired with Miss Coplon to violate provisions of the espionage laws of the United States, Sections 793, 794, and 2071 of Title 18, U.S. Code, and to defraud the United States by hindering the lawful functions of the Department of Justice; and (2) that Mr. Gubitchev, in violation of Chapter 37, Title 18 of the United States Code, unlawfully attempted to receive from Miss Coplon certain documents, writings and notes relating to the national defense, Mr. Gubitchev having reason to believe that they had been obtained by Miss Coplon contrary to the provisions of that Chapter. A copy of the indictment is attached to this aide-mémoire. 2 Since the Grand Jury, on the basis of evidence submitted to it, found a true bill against Mr. Gubitchev on charges of conspiracy and attempt to commit espionage, it cannot be said that “the charges advanced against him are groundless.”

The aide-mémoire of the Soviet Embassy dated March 8, 1949 stated: “The actions of the American authorities are also illegal because [Page 783] the elementary generally recognized norms of international law, which guarantee personal immunity of persons in diplomatic service, were violated by the arrest of V. A. Gubitchev, who has the diplomatic rank of Third Secretary”. Mr. Gubitchev came to the United States in 1946 as a member of the Soviet Delegation to the United Nations. He had been granted a diplomatic visa, because at that time he was coming to the United States as Third Secretary in that Delegation. Mr. Gubitchev’s visa was valid for a period of one year. After coming to the United States, Mr. Gubitchev did not seek or obtain an extension of his visa. Shortly after his arrival in the United States, Mr. Gubitchev became a member of the Secretariat of the United Nations, where he has been serving as an architectural engineer with the United Nations headquarters construction staff. When Mr. Gubitchev became an official of the United Nations in this manner, he ceased to be a member of the Soviet Delegation and therefore could not be entitled to diplomatic immunities in the United States by virtue of any official relations to the Soviet Government.

It has been suggested that Mr. Gubitchev is entitled to immunity from arrest and prosecution on the ground that he has continued in the capacity of a Soviet diplomatic officer at the same time that he served with the Secretariat of the United Nations. Whatever the diplomatic status of Mr. Gubitchev while he remained with the Soviet Delegation, the United States cannot, under the Charter of the United Nations, recognize such a dual status. Under Article 100 of the Charter, and the oath taken by Mr. Gubitchev pursuant to it, members of the Secretariat are forbidden to receive instructions from any government or from any authority external to the United Nations Organization. They must refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization. Members of the United Nations undertake to respect the exclusively international character of the Secretariat and not to seek to influence the Secretary General and his staff in the discharge of their responsibilities. It is clear, therefore, that Mr. Gubitchev cannot at the same time that he is an official of the United Nations Secretariat enjoy a diplomatic status deriving from official connection with the Soviet Government.

Mr. Gubitchev has been charged with a serious crime against the United States. He is not entitled to immunity from arrest or legal process with respect to the crime in question. He is a full-time official of the United Nations Secretariat. As a member of the Secretariat, he does not have diplomatic immunities, and he enjoys immunity from legal process only in relation to acts performed by him in his official capacity and falling within his functions as an official of the United Nations.

Under the laws of the United States, including international agreements [Page 784] to which the United States is party, this Government is free to bring a person in Mr. Gubitchev’s position to trial for violation of the laws of the United States. The Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may be assured that Mr. Gubitchev will be brought to trial without undue delay, will be accorded a fair and honest trial and will have the benefit of all the safeguards which the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee to persons charged with crime in the courts of the United States. If Mr. Gubitchev is acquitted he will, of course, be released. In the event that Mr. Gubitchev is found to be guilty of the crimes charged, the Government of the United States will determine whether, in the light of the developments at the trial and all the circumstances, Mr. Gubitchev should serve whatever sentence may be imposed or should be deported from the United States, in accordance with the provision of the Headquarters Agreement between the United States and the United Nations, for abuse of his privileges of residence in this country.

  1. This aide-mémoire had been cleared with Mr. Peyton Ford, the Assistant to the Attorney General, and it had been approved by President Truman.
  2. Not attached to the file copy.