1973 May 11

Judge Dismisses Charges Against Daniel Ellsberg for Stealing Pentagon Papers


Federal charges against Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo for stealing the Pentagon Papers were dismissed on this day because of revelations of misconduct against the defendants by the administration of President Richard Nixon. Ellsberg and Russo stole the Pentagon Papers from the Rand Corporation, where they worked, and leaked them to The New York Times. The Times published the first news stories based on the Papers on June 13, 1971.

The government obtained an injunction blocking further publication, but the Supreme Court declared the injunction a violation of freedom of the press in the landmark freedom of the press case, New York Times v. United States, on June 30, 1971. Ellsberg and Russo were then charged with espionage, theft of government property, and conspiracy. Charges against them were dismissed because of government misconduct against Ellsberg, including a break-in of his psychiatrist’s office in Los Angeles (September 9, 1971).

Because of the dismissal, the case did not provide a precedent for the case of Edward Snowden, who also stole and leaked secret government documents in 2013 (June 5, 2013).

Read: Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers Secrets (2002)

Watch Ellsberg discuss the Pentagon Papers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OF8nuvGyngU

Read a Biography of Ellsberg: Tom Wells, Wild Man: The Life and Times of Daniel Ellsberg (2001)

Learn more about the Ellsberg trial: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/ellsberg/ellsberghome.html

Watch the documentary about Ellsberg: The Most Dangerous Man in America (2009)

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