Barking Up the Wrong Trees
As the Pentagon Papers trial of Daniel Ellsberg '52 and Anthony Russo remained stalled in Los Angeles, pieces began falling into place this week for a renewed investigation into the come on the East Coast.
Things began moving once again last Friday, as the U.S. Attorney's office filed its long-awaited disclaimer of wiretapping in the case of Samuel L. Popkin, assistant professor of Government. The government's action, which was required by a July 13 ruling by the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals, opened the way for a revision of that court's earlier finding that Popkin was in contempt for refusing to answer three questions before a Boston grand jury.
Later in the week, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reconsider an argument that Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) and his aide Leonard S. Rodberg are immune from outside inquiry by the same grand jury, thus renewing the possibility that they may also be resubpoenaed to testify.
Popkin and his attorneys were optimistic about the possibility of a favorable new ruling by the appeals court, based on the Supreme Court's summer decisions dealing with the privileges of the press.
"The earlier court decision said that relevance was of no consequence or very little consequence," said William P. Homans '41, an attorney for Popkin. But the Supreme Court in Branzburg vs. Hayes, stressed the importance of relevance in grand jury inquiries. And that, said Popkin, "is what we've been saying all along. We know we have to answer the questions--but they have to be screened carefully."
No matter which side the court favors this time around, it is more than likely that a petition for hearing before the Supreme Court will be the next stop.
For Gravel, the Supreme Court decision was the end of a long road of legal benefit he had been traveling for over a year.
Nevertheless, the result is not likely to benefit the prosecution in the Ellsberg Case: Gravel, through his lawyers, has already told the courts that he did not obtain his copies of the Papers from Ellsberg. And if for no other reason said attorney Harvey Silverglade, the government is "barking up the wrong tree."