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J. Robert Oppenheimer. Photo: CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images.

Four U.S. senators signed a letter to President Biden on June 16 urging the exoneration of J. Robert Oppenheimer, who in 1954 was the government’s top atomic physicist when he came under suspicion as a Soviet spy.

The big picture: The letter asks Biden to issue an executive order to rescind the Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) characterization of Oppenheimer as "untrustworthy and unfit to serve his country."

  • The letter is signed by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).

Flashback: After 19 days of secret hearings in April and May of 1954, the AEC revoked Oppenheimer's security clearance, per the New York Times.

  • 60 years later in 2014 the Department of Energy released declassified transcripts of the AEC security board’s hearings, which offered "no damning evidence against him," per the NYT.
  • One element used in the case against Oppenheimer was his resistance to early work on the hydrogen bomb. The declassified material released in 2014 suggests he opposed work on the bomb out of technical and military concerns, not Soviet sympathies, per the NYT.

What they're saying: "The flawed judgment and the decision-making process in the hearing of J. Robert Oppenheimer were tragic products of their time," the senators write. "Only a clear nullification of the AEC’s politically contrived and grossly unjust 1954 decision can erase this “black mark” on the nation’s honor."

  • "We can never wholly right the wrongs of history. Nonetheless, we urge you to issue an executive order to vacate the Atomic Energy Commission’s erroneous decision that Dr. Oppenheimer was untrustworthy and unfit to serve his country," the senators write.

Go deeper

Scoop: Garland defends DOJ's handling of Jan. 6 probe

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland will tell the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday that federal prosecutors "are doing exactly what they are expected to do" in seeking accountability for the "intolerable assault" on the Capitol on Jan. 6, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Allies of former President Trump, including Republican congressmen, have criticized the department's treatment rioters charged with crimes, and sought to recast the insurrection as a righteous protest. Garland's testimony with be his first appearance before the panel.

Updated 47 mins ago - World

Police charge man with murder of British MP David Amess

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Police said Thursday that Ali Harbi Ali, a 25-year-old British man, has been charged with the murder of David Amess, a Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K.

The big picture: Last week, the Metropolitan Police declared the fatal stabbing a terrorist incident, saying that they had found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."

52 mins ago - Health

Pfizer booster has 95.6% efficacy against COVID, large study shows

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

A booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 95.6% effective against the coronavirus, compared with those who only had the first two initial doses, according to a large study released Thursday.

Why it matters: The study, which had more than 10,000 participants aged 16 and older, is the first controlled, randomized trial looking at boosters and their effectiveness, the companies said.