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