In the most famous pictures of Daniel Ellsberg, taken as he battled the Nixon administration’s attempt to put him away for 115 years for leaking the Pentagon Papers, you often see the same guy with black-rimmed glasses and sideburns standing next to Ellsberg, or in the background, or off to the side. In a great new article for TomDispatch, Barbara Myers puts that guy, Anthony Russo, front and center where he deserves to be.
Both Russo and Ellsberg worked for the RAND Corporation, a Santa Monica-based think tank founded to provide research and planning for the Pentagon. And according to Ellsberg, without Russo’s encouragement he likely never would have decided to steal the Pentagon Papers and give them to U.S. politicians and newspapers. Russo helped Ellsberg copy the thousands of pages and was Ellsberg’s codefendant, facing 35 years in prison himself.
But as Myers explains, Russo did much more than that:
• While sent to Vietnam by RAND to study the “Motivation and Morale” of the Vietcong, Russo witnessed extensive U.S. torture of prisoners, torture similar in many ways to that carried out 30 years later by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan. Russo documented every instance he saw, becoming, according to Ellsberg, the first person to try to blow the whistle on U.S. torture during the Vietnam War. RAND, however, either destroyed Russo’s report or has kept it in its classified archives for the past 50 years.
• Russo also attempted to blow the whistle on RAND lies that would contribute to the atrocious U.S. carpet-bombing of North and South Vietnam as well as Laos and Cambodia. Russo’s boss Leon Goure had recognized that, since the Air Force provided two-thirds of RAND’s funding, they’d surely appreciate it if RAND were to declare that the secret to American success in Vietnam was more bombing. So Goure made it happen, securing a gusher of government cash for RAND while persuading Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara that victory was just a few thousand more sorties away. Russo vociferously argued to higher-ups at RAND that Goure’s reports were fabricated, to no avail.
Decades later, Russo told Myers why he’d been willing to risk his career and face decades in prison to leak the Pentagon Papers: “It would have been un-American not to do it.” So read Myers’s article and learn about Anthony Russo, who did the right thing when it mattered and deserves to be remembered.
(This post is from our blog: Unofficial Sources.)
PHOTO: Anthony Russo, left, and Daniel Ellsberg talk to newsmen outside the Los Angeles Federal Building on May 10, 1973 after the Pentagon Papers trial judge stopped proceedings following revelation of additional wiretaps by the government. (AP)