A well-informed public is one of the only ways to prompt serious policy changes that restrict government surveillance activities and the collection of data by businesses, Chomsky said.
The U.S. and other governments have conducted extensive surveillance activities throughout history in an attempt to control the public and sometimes wage misinformation campaigns, he said. He referred to the alleged FBI wiretapping during the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. He also pointed to the Philippine-American War in 1899, calling the American tactics an attempt to control the civilian population from insurrection. The counterinsurgency tactics were later used against Americans in Woodrow Wilson's Red Scare and continue to this day, Chomsky said.
"I was surprised by the scale, but not surprised that it was happening," Chomsky said. "Manning, Snowden and Assange are performing the duty of honest citizens to bring to the public an understanding of this activity."