AMY GOODMAN: We have lost David Leigh, investigations editor from The Guardian. He was speaking to us from the busy newsroom there. The Guardian is doing an ongoing series of pieces and exposes on these documents. They are being released slowly by the various news organizations, from The Guardian in London, to Der Spiegel in Germany, to El Pais in Spain, to the New York Times here in the United States.. For reaction to the WikiLeaks documents, we're joined by world renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, author of over a hundred books including his latest Hopes and Prospects. Forty years ago, Noam and Howard Zinn helped government whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg edit and release the Pentagon Papers that top-secret internal U.S. history of the Vietnam War.
Noam Chomsky joins us from Boston. It is good to have you back again, Noam. Why don't we start there. Before we talk about WikiLeaks, what was your involvement in the Pentagon Papers? I don't think most people know about this.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Dan and I were friends. Tony Russo, who also who prepared them and helped leak them. I got advanced copies from Dan and Tony and there were several people who were releasing them to the press. I was one of them. Then I -- along with Howard Zinn as you mentioned -- edited a volume of essays and indexed the papers.
AMY GOODMAN: So explain how, though, how it worked. I always think this is important -- to tell this story -- especially for young people. Dan Ellsberg -- Pentagon official, top-secret clearance -- gets this U.S. involvement in Vietnam history out of his safe, he Xerox's it and then how did you get your hands on it? He just directly gave it to you?
NOAM CHOMSKY: From Dan Ellsberg and Tony Russo, who had done the Xeroxing and the preparation of the material.
AMY GOODMAN: How much did you edit?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, we did not modify anything. The papers were not edited. They were in their original form. What Howard Zinn and I did was -- they came out in four volumes -- we prepared a fifth volume, which was critical essays by many scholars on the papers, what they mean, the significance and so on. And an index, which is almost indispensable for using them seriously. That's the fifth volume in the Beacon Press series.
AMY GOODMAN: So you were then one of the first people to see the Pentagon Papers?
NOAM CHOMSKY: Outside of Dan Ellsberg and Tony Russo, yes. I mean, there were some journalists who may have seen them, I am not sure.
AMY GOODMAN: What are your thoughts today? For example, we just played this clip of New York republican congress member Peter King who says WikiLeaks should be declared a foreign terrorist organization.
NOAM CHOMSKY: I think that is outlandish. We should understand -- and the Pentagon Papers is another case in point -- that one of the major reasons for government secrecy is to protect the government from its own population. In the Pentagon Papers, for example, there was one volume -- the negotiations volume -- which might have had a bearing on ongoing activities and Daniel Ellsberg withheld that. That came out a little bit later. If you look at the papers themselves, there are things Americans should have known that others did not want them to know. And as far as I can tell, from what I've seen here, pretty much the same is true. In fact, the current leaks are -- what I've seen, at least -- primarily interesting because of what they tell us about how the diplomatic service works.
Way more at his site
. It's all worth reading.