Famous as a government whistleblower, Russo is remembered for helping fellow RAND Corporation employee Daniel Ellsberg produce an illegal copy of the Pentagon Papers for the purpose of informing the public about U.S. government lies and omissions during the Vietnam War era.
Before beginning his work with the RAND Corporation, he earned an aeronautical engineering degree from Virginia Tech and worked for NASA before completing two graduate degrees (in public affairs and aeronautics) at Princeton University.
Although he was initially charged with espionage and several other crimes for his role in exposing the Pentagon Papers, Russo saw his charges dismissed during a May 1973 federal court hearing.
He was born and raised in Suffolk, Virginia, and he died in his hometown at the age of seventy-one.
New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger printed the Pentagon Papers that Russo and Ellsberg brought to light.