CIA kept file on American academic Noam Chomsky, say experts

Noam Chomsky in 1970By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
A 1970 communiqué between two United States government agencies appears to show that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) kept a file on the iconic American linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky. Widely seen as a pioneer of modern linguistics, Chomsky adopted an uncompromisingly critical stance against the US’ involvement in the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. The US Intelligence Community’s systematic surveillance of antiwar and civil rights activists at the time prompted legal scholars and historians to deduce that Chomsky’s activities must have been routinely spied on by the American government. But a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in recent years turned up blank, with the CIA stating that it could “not locate any records” responsive to the requests. Scholars insisted, however, and a recent FOIA request unearthed what appears to be proof that the CIA did in fact compile a file on the dissident academic. The request was submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) by attorney Kel McClanahan, executive director of National Security Counselors, a group specializing in “lawfully acquiring from the government material related to national security matters and distributing it to the public”. According to Foreign Policy magazine blog The Cable, McClanahan’s FOIA request revealed a memorandum sent from the CIA to the FBI on June 8, 1970. In it, the Agency seeks information about an upcoming trip by American antiwar activists to North Vietnam, which, according to the CIA, had received the “endorsement of Noam Chomsky”. The memo also asks the FBI for information on the trip’s participants, including Professor Chomsky. The Cable spoke to Marquette University Professor Athan Theoharis, domestic surveillance expert and author of Spying on Americans, who opined that the CIA request for information on Chomsky amounts to an outright confirmation that the Agency kept a file on the dissident academic. However, considering the blank FOIA request results of years past, the memo also points out to the distinct possibility that the Agency might have destroyed Chomsky’s file, said Theoharis. If that is indeed so, then the question is, when did the CIA destroy the file, and under whose authority? Government archive protocols require the Agency to seek advance approval from the US National Archives prior to destroying internal files. Was Chomsky’s file one of many destroyed by the Agency in the wake of the Watergate scandal and subsequent congressional investigations into intelligence activities? The Cable contacted the CIA, but the Agency declined comment on the case.

5 Responses to CIA kept file on American academic Noam Chomsky, say experts

  1. Money Jihad says:

    I think the agency had a legitimate interest in knowing which Americans were visiting North Vietnam and why. We were at war against North Vietnam at the time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Chomsky should still be spied on as he is anti-American and anti-Israel. He is a self hating Jew and can’t be trusted. Too bad they didn’t charge him with sedition and throw away the keys.

  3. TFH says:

    @Anonymous, sometimes criticism is a sign of affection, Chomsky wold not fret about America and Jews if he was not worried about the two.

  4. M says:

    How likely is it that James Jesus Angleton ordered the surveillance of Chomsky? Considering the fact that the memo in question is dated June 8, 1970, I would say — undoubtedly — yes. This was at-or-near the climax of Angleton’s career; a time when he ended other’s careers with the nod of his head. It was also during a time of “paranoia,” driven in large part by Angleton and his associates (such as Pete Bagely).

    Perhaps the Agency (and consequently the WH) is trying to distance itself from “Cold-War stereotypes” like Jim Angleton and the Russia-haters of its past, in order to appease Putin and the Soviets — I mean Russo-Federists.

    Very Respectfully,


  5. Pete says:

    Like many dissidents Chomsky would probably consider it an honour that he is immortalised in the CIA filing system.

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