March 23, 2005

Academics and Intelligence Services

Henry Farrell has an interesting post about whether universities ought to be making themselves useful to intelligence services--not in a cloak and dagger way, but insofar as the intelligence services want their employess to learn more about the places they're analyzing. There's a live debate about it going on AOTW at the Chronicle of Higher education. [UPDATE: So far it seems to be a chat with a bot who responds to every question by saying, "The United States is at war."]

One remark: Henry says,

I do think that there are real risks attached to a tighter relationship between intelligence services and universities, although they’re rather more subtle than CIA or FBI monitoring of what professors say in class (which I suspect is almost entirely a bogus concern).

I'm not so sure. As I blogged earlier, there was a bill (don't know what happened to it) that proposed to put federally funded Middle East Centers under the jurisdiction of an oversight committee composed of representatives from the US security agency. That strikes me as close to CIA and FBI monitoring of what professors say in class (and, as I said at the time, a heavy-handed parody of the worst-case scenario for academic freedom).

Incidentally, in case any CTers read this, I can't comment there; I get to the preview screen, but when I hit "submit" a blank screen shows up and my comment never materializes. I hope this isn't deliberate. (I'm using IE 5.5 on a Windows ME machine.)

Posted by Matt Weiner at March 23, 2005 11:11 AM