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Chomsky: Protecting Sources in Laos

The Reality of U.S. Policy

By Jeremy S. Bluhm

Beginning in the column to the left is an affidavit written by A. Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT and noted antiwar activist and author. In the column to the right is an affidavit written by journalist Fred Branfman to accompany Chomsky's.

The Crimson has printed a number of articles Branfman wrote in Southeast Asia as a reporter for Dispatch News Service.

Both affidavits were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts in support of a motion to quash a Federal grand jury subpoena served on Chomsky. The grand jury Chomsky was called before is officially investigating the release and distribution of the Pentagon Papers.

Chomsky moved to quash his subpoena on the grounds that his mere appearance before the grand jury would jeopardize his work as an independent scholar-journalist by weakening his ability to guarantee confidentiality to his sources of information. Like two other subpoenaed witnesses--Richard Folk, professor of international law at Princeton and Leonard S. Rodberg, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and an aide to Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska)--Chomsky argued that his forced appearance would thus violate the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of the press.

And, on this ground, Samuel L. Popkin, assistant professor of Government at Harvard, has argued that, if he must appear before the grand jury, he should at least be guaranteed the right not to answer questions about his sources of information.

The two affidavits printed here were written to show how vital the need for confidentiality is in Chomsky's search for the truth about American foreign policy. But, equally important, they show how valuable this work is, given the present shawl of secrecy which covers and protects this ruthless policy.

In outlining a specific example of Chomsky's work--his investigations into U.S. policy in Laos--the affidavits also clearly explain the importance of "public scholarship" of this sort: that is our primary reason for printing these documents.

Federal judge W. Arthur Garrity, Jr., before whom Chomsky's "case" has been argued, has rejected the First Amendment argument as grounds for quashing Chomsky's subpoena. Apparently, he does not feel that Chomsky's sources of information would be jeopardized by his appearance before the grand jury.

However, Chomsky also filed a second motion, in which he argued that he has reason to believe that some of his telephone conversations have been tapped and therefore that his subpoena may have sprung from illicitly obtained evidence. In the final section of his affidavit, which is not printed here, he presented the bases for his suspicions. One was that the phones of the organization RESIST, which he co-founded and often calls from elsewhere are very likely tapped, since the government has apparently even searched its trash; another was that he has spoken to a number of the Harrisburg defendants (accused of conspiring to kidnap Henry Kissinger), some of whom the government has admitted tapping at some unspecified time.

Last Friday, Garrity ruled that he would quash Chomsky's subpoena unless the government states, by today, whether or not it has eavesdropped on Chomsky. The government is generally reluctant to make such disclosures. It is by no means certain that it will make one in this case.

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