On This Day: Daniel Ellsberg’s Charges Dismissed

On May 11, 1973, charges against Daniel Ellsberg for his role in the Pentagon Papers case were dismissed by Judge William M. Byrne, who cited government misconduct.

The “misconduct” was revealed by White House Counsel John Dean (under questioning in the Senate Watergate Hearings) that White House operatives had broken into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office as part of a plan to blackmail Ellsberg. Nixon Special Counsel Charles Colson went to prison for his involvement in the break-in.

Ellsberg worked on the Top Secret McNamara study of U.S. Decision-making in Vietnam, 1945-68, which later came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. In 1969, he photocopied the 7,000 page study and gave it to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; in 1971 he gave it to the New York Times, Washington Post and 17 other newspapers. Before the dismissal, he faced twelve felony counts posing a possible sentence of 115 years. The events led to the convictions of several White House aides and figured in the impeachment proceedings against President Nixon.

A few years ago, Pat Buchanan blamed (credited?) Ellsberg for America’s loss in Vietnam.

Thanks to Jack Dean for pointing this out.