While I haven’t seen the movie The Post yet I’m glad to see that there will be a role for an actor playing my late dear friend Anthony Russo who along with Daniel Ellsberg was the key player in arranging the release of the Pentagon Papers which helped in large part to force the United States out of the Vietnam War:
Based on his name, Sonny Valicenti, the actor portraying Tony is Italian American. Tony’s family emanated from the Naples region in Italy; Tony and I had discussed at length in years past his suspicion that his ancestors had been forcibly converted Jews. I had confirmed his suspicions by explaining how the Jews of Sicily had initially been welcomed by the King of Naples when they were expelled by the Spanish Inquisition in 1493.
For some more background about Tony Russo and the Pentagon Papers first check out the next two websites:
In the past I’ve blogged about Tony Russo twice:
40th Anniversary: Pentagon Papers Publication
Posted by Administrator on the June 13th, 2011
Today is the 40th Anniversary of the publication of the Pentagon Papers, which were stolen from the Rand Corporation of Santa Monica, California by Anthony Russo and Daniel Ellsberg. Tony and Daniel were prosecuted for this, but a courageous Judge, Gordon Ringer (who I also had the privilege of knowing), dismissed the charges when it was publicly exposed during the Watergate investigation that President Richard Nixon had arranged the burglary of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychologist’s office in Beverly Hills.
The photo shown was taken at my 50th birthday party back in 2005. Tony had driven in from his home in Virginia in anticipation of running for the United States Senate on the Peace & Freedom Party ticket in 2006. Unfortunately he suffered a heart attack the next day and never fully recovered.
For more on the history of the Pentagon Papers, see the video from the link above.
At the time that Tony worked at the Rand Corporation he was already a member of the Peace & Freedom Party. It’s lucky that in California employers are prohibited by Sections 1101 and 1102 of the Labor Code from discriminating on the basis of an employee’s political affiliation.
August 8, 2008 Anthony Russo Passing
Posted by Administrator on the October 29th, 2008
Anthony Russo Passing
One thing that was astounding about Tony Russo, and it says much about the ability of corporate America to accurately assess whether somebody should or should not have access to classified materials, is that Russo, was a member of the California Peace and Freedom Party while employed at Santa Monica based Rand Corporation.
The documents he exposed demonstrated secret government agreements between the Eisenhower administration to support the French colonial government in Vietnam to defeat pro-independence forces and the later efforts of the Kennedy administration to provoke the North Vietnamese into a confrontation that would justify sending in American combat troops. The Johnson administration, according to the documents, planned from the very beginning to expand the war, committing combat troops and air forces without consulting congress.
Prosecuted by the Nixon administration for releasing the papers, the charges were thrown out of court when investigations into government corruption and illegal spying showed that members of the same unit who had burglarized the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel and had been tasked by the White House with breaking into the Brookings Institution looking for copies of the “Pentagon Papers,” although the action never took place. Likewise, the so-called White House “Plumbers Squad” had broken into the Beverly Hills office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist.
Russo always credited the Black Panther Party as being the most supportive organization behind his legal defense while on trial for the leak of the documents. Members of the Los Angeles County Central Committee of the Peace & Freedom Party assisted by checking the political affiliations of potential jurors. This helped to keep one arch-right winger off the jury who had even signed a petition to restore hanging as the method of California Capital Punishment.
More recently, Russo had become an active supporter of the San Fernando Valley/Northeast Los Angeles Chapter of the National Organization for Women and lectured at meetings of the organization. This brought Russo full circle with an old high school friend from his early years growing up in Suffolk, Virginia, Linda Pruett, who along with myself had become a co-president of the Chapter.
Planning to return to activism in California, Russo returned from Virginia in August 2005 where he announced his intended candidacy for the Peace and Freedom Party’s nomination forUnited States Senate for the 2006 election at my 50th birthday party. We were orchestrating what we hoped would be a campaign in the primary for various party nominations on a slate headed by Tony that would restore the Peace & Freedom Party to some semblance of sanity and take its leadership away from the “Berkeley Bolsheviks” who have periodically managed to snatch defeats from the jaws of victory. Tragically, Russo suffered a heart attack a day after the party. Following heart bypass surgery, he returned to Virginia, but never fully recovered.
So let me expound on this little-known technicality of California law that enabled a left-wing radical like Anthony Russo, a member of the California Peace and Freedom Party, to get hired at the Rand Corporation and get access to all sorts of classified materials about the Vietnam War. In 1936 Franklin Delano Roosevelt won his largest electoral victory with around 60% of the popular vote in carrying every state except Vermont and Maine. Swept into office with him were large majorities in many other state legislatures and the Congress for the Democratic Party. In one of those rare moments in California history in the 20th century the California legislature had a Democratic Party and a lot of progressive Republicans that enabled it to ban discrimination against employees on the basis of their politics. Heavy on their mind was the history of discrimination against political radicals, especially in the days before the secret ballot when political parties printed up their own ballots for people to take into the polls and drop into the boxes; as those ballots were usually different colors employers station people at the polling places and if your employees have ballots of socialist or communist parties they were likely to be fired.
The 1937 legislature that had been elected in the 1936 Roosevelt wake enacted sections 1101 and 1102 of the California Labor Code:
No employer shall make, adopt, or enforce any rule, regulation, or policy:
(a) Forbidding or preventing employees from engaging or participating in politics or from becoming candidates for public office.
(b) Controlling or directing, or tending to control or direct the political activities or affiliations of employees.
(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 90.)
No employer shall coerce or influence or attempt to coerce or influence his employees through or by means of threat of discharge or loss of employment to adopt or follow or refrain from adopting or following any particular course or line of political action or political activity.
(Enacted by Stats. 1937, Ch. 90.)
Under section 1103 of the labor code violations are misdemeanors punishable by fines and imprisonment of up to one year. Had it not been for the foresight of the California legislature in 1937 to enact these laws it might have been entirely possible that Tony Russo would never have been hired by the Rand Corporation and what we know as the Pentagon Papers case might never have been possible.