Saturday, August 09, 2008

Legacy Of Anthony Russo And The Pentagon Papers

Patricia Sullivan's
Washington Post Blog

Pentagon Papers figure dies

When someone says "Pentagon Papers," the name that almost everyone remembers is Daniel Ellsberg. But there were others involved in copying and distributing the secret history of the Vietnam war, and Ellsberg wasn't the only one prosecuted for it.

Anthony Russo, another Rand Corp. analyst and a committed activist who died Wednesday, is the one who suggested to Ellsberg that he copy the study and distribute it to the media. Russo volunteered his girlfriend's office, which had a copying machine, and helped photocopy the voluminous files. And when Ellsberg spent months trying to get members of Congress to release the study officially (which would have given him some measure of protection from prosecution), Russo urged him to go straight to the newspapers.

Russo's advice was right, in retrospect, although they were both prosecuted for conspiracy, theft and espionage. In the midst of the trial, the government prosecutor disclosed that White House operatives had burglarized the Beverly Hills office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist. The burglars, led by G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt, were not apprehended until after the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington nine months later.

Then days later, Nixon's two top lieutenants -- John Ehrlichman and H.R. Haldeman -- resigned, along with acting attorney general Richard G. Kleindienst. White House counsel John Dean was fired. A few days later, the judge, WIlliam Matthew Byrne, disclosed in court that he had had two recent contacts with Ehrlichman, who had offered him a job -- director of the FBI. Although Ehrlichman later testified before the Senate Watergate Committee that Byrne had expressed interest in the FBI job, the judge insisted that he had told the Nixon aide he could not discuss any job offer while the Ellsberg trial was underway.

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