Dec. 30, 1971: Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo Jr. Are Indicted for Releasing the Pentagon Papers


Daniel Ellsberg, Anthony Russo Jr. , and Patricia Marx Ellsberg.

On December 30, 1971, Daniel Ellsberg, a Defense Department analyst, and his colleague, Anthony J. “Tony” Russo Jr., were indicted by a federal grand jury for releasing the Pentagon Papers to the news media. The papers were part of a 7,000-page, top secret history of the U.S. political and military involvement in the Vietnam War from 1945-71.

In other words, their “crime” was to make the U.S. public aware of the history of the war.

Bill Bigelow explains in Camouflaging the Vietnam War: How Textbooks Continue to Keep the Pentagon Papers a Secret:

The Pentagon Papers that Ellsberg exposed were not military secrets. They were historical secrets—a history of U.S. intervention and deceit that Ellsberg believed, if widely known, would undermine the U.S. pretexts in defense of the war’s prosecution. Like this one that President Kennedy offered in 1961: “For the last decade we have been helping the South Vietnamese to maintain their independence.” No. This was a lie. The U.S. government’s Pentagon Papers history of the war revealed how the United States had sided with the French in retaking its colony after World War II, ultimately paying for some 80 percent of the French reconquest. By the U.S. government’s own account, from Truman on, Vietnamese self-determination was never an aim of U.S. foreign policy.

Ellsberg knew the consequences for his act of defiance. Ultimately, he was indicted on 11 counts of theft and violation of the Espionage Act. If convicted on all counts, the penalty added up to 130 years in prison.

In June of 1971, Ellsberg surrendered to federal authorities at Post Office Square in Boston. Forty-two years later, few of the historical secrets that Ellsberg revealed—especially those that focus on the immediate post-World War II origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam—appear in the school curriculum. Continue reading.

The Zinn Education Project offers a free 100-page teaching guide on Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers, the Vietnam War and recommends the film, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers.

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There is one comment:

  • It appears that history is repeating itself, again…The “crimes” of Ed Snowden and Chelsea are that the American public became aware of unConstitutional actions and lies of our US government. I see Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo Jr. as brave men, hero status even comes to mind. How could society have forgotten so quickly?

    Response shared by Lucinda Hites-Clabaugh — January 6, 2015 @ 5:10 pm

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