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September/october 2008

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Anthony J. “Tony” Russo, a main figure in the Pentagon Papers case, died August 6 in his hometown of Suffolk, Virginia. He was 71 years old and in poor health after suffering a heart attack in 2005.

Russo worked on Vietnam War policy at the RAND Corp., the California think tank. After he became disillusioned with the war, Russo and former fellow RAND staffer Daniel Ellsberg learned of the top-secret study of the origins of American involvement in the war commissioned by Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara. Russo and Ellsberg copied the 47-volume work and gave it to The New York Times, which published the Papers in 1971. That led to a landmark First Amendment case in which the U.S.

Supreme Court overruled the federal government, which had tried to stop publication of the Papers.

Ellsberg and Russo were tried for conspiracy, theft, and violating espionage laws. The case was dismissed when the judge learned that Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office had been burglarized. The burglary was the work of Nixon administration “plumbers,” the same group that broke into Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate in 1972.

Russo made one of his last public appearances in June 2001 at the VVA-sponsored Pentagon Papers Symposium held in Washington, D.C.

 

 

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