Transparency for thee and not for me

by Henry Farrell on March 24, 2005

In yesterday’s debate on the proposed program to send CIA analysts back to campus, Martin Kramer writes:

If there’s a danger here, it’s the possibility of faculty intimidation of students. The storm at Columbia is a precedent, and if it’s known who’s made a prior commitment to intelligence work, there’s a real possibility that radical professors might target students. I wouldn’t accept anyone’s assurance that this won’t happen. So- called “transparency” sets up students for a radical witch-hunt, which will seek to gut the program by “outing” its participants. (I don’t even think the NSEP scholars should be named. I’ve seen the list, with the foreign countries where they have studied. It’s beyond me why an NSEP student who’s gone to study Arabic in Syria — a police state — should be openly named as a prospective employee of a national security agency.)

I’ll grant him the risk of NSEP students being exposed when they go to study abroad, but Kramer’s scorn for “so-called transparency,” and for exercises in “outing,” which set people up for a “witch-hunt,” seems rather hard to reconcile with his support for Campus Watch and for the David Project at Columbia. Campus Watch not only seeks to highlight possible discrimination against students, but also to highlight statements (or, very often what students claim are statements) made by Middle East studies professors, which are anti-Israel, anti-US, which make excuses for autocracies in the Arab world, etc etc. The David Project makes similar accusations against professors in Columbia’s MEALAC program – but doesn’t seem, according to the accounts I’ve read, to have much in the way of hard evidence to back them up. I don’t think that it’s much of a stretch at all to describe both of these endeavours as “outing,” or to point to the likelihood that they will indeed lead to radical witch hunts (looking to aggrieved students for ‘evidence’ of bias in the classroom is liable to produce distortions and downright falsehoods that can do irreparable damage to innocent professors’ reputations). The “storm in Columbia” is indeed a precedent – but not necessarily in the sense that Kramer intends. As noted yesterday, I’ve more respect for Kramer than for some of the others in his camp – but if, as he seems to be suggesting, he’s actively opposed to ‘so-called transparency,’ witch hunts and outing, he should extend the lesson to those forms of transparency and outing that he supports, as well as those that he dislikes.



goesh 03.24.05 at 12:13 pm

Spooks (intelligence agents) head-hunt just as any corporation does. I would suggest the CIA, and other such agencies, have been more than able to procure the resources they need from trusted allies. The Mossad from Israel, among others, could and would provide sufficient ‘lists’ of trusted assets for interpretation and translation duties. Then it is just a matter of how much to offer for a cash sign-on bonus. Money talks, so do the math. 10K for say a trusted Jordanian asset with an accompanying cultural background ready-to-go Vs. a scholarship with no real guarentee of quality and commitment once a degree was attained? I see the Roberts program mostly as PR, an attempt to bolster the bad image of the intelligence community which began to erode with the Bay of Pigs incident under Kennedy. The community steadily declined and Congress reined in the Spooks even further and their negative image remains intact, particularily with the American Left.


Tom 03.24.05 at 3:40 pm


Garry Culhane 03.24.05 at 5:59 pm

Here in Canada things are a bit more basic. When I was in University the authorities paid for people to go to all the meetings,and get the names of active students. That was all, just low level pickers like the guys who work in the parks picking up bits of paper with a stick. Later selections could be made, but usually that was from FratRats, not the collectors (who were usually Minister’s sons, I don’t know why). The culling seemed to be directly connected to faculty who usually had Fraternity ties. They would know the students state of mind from classes and the papers they turned in. Faculty seemed to really enjoy the association with secret stuff and often hinted at it.

What amazes me now is how obvious it all was. You would see one of these collectors at a meeting
writing furiously in a notebook. Names. Afterward they would even come up to people to get the name spelling correct, and the address and phone number. Nobody apparently made the connection to later experiences of great difficulty in getting certain permissions, grants, loans, and, later jobs. Of course, even in the mid 50s, (the McCarthy period) people did not disappear. They did not get tortured. They did not die

But that may come in North America, a few years down the road. If so it will be the same network of collectors, faculty, and vainglorious idiots like Professor Moos. Oh yes there is a war. But it is the US rulling class that is at war, against its own people and the world. Hell of a way to run a railroad.


goesh 03.24.05 at 6:15 pm

Ya’ gotta love those Ivy league analysts with their crisp accents, light complexions and blue eyes and how they can infilitrate radical Islamic groups the world over. It requires at least a ph.d, doesn’t it?


littleboy 03.24.05 at 6:41 pm

A friend of mine graduated from Yale with degree in Chinese and then went to the Defense Language Institute (DLI). The DLI holds things pretty close to their vest as many of their graduates go to work in the intelligence community. The day he graduated from DLI the People’s Daily congratulated him, by name. Obviously, anyone who wants to find find out who is in the program is going to find out, regardless of the transparency issue.

An interesting aside, the above fellow went one to spy on to pysically spy on China by overflying the airspace and listening to the air defence folks. Twenty years later the Chinese got in contact with him and asked he would come to China and teach English. Imagine that, they kept track of him for twenty years.


adam 03.24.05 at 6:50 pm

not to defend campus watch or the david project, but they usually target (tenured) professors who are in a more secure position to respond to ‘witch hunts.’ given the power differential between grad students and their advisors and professors, there is greater potential for abuses of authority by faculty toward students ‘outed’ by nsep/cia ‘transparency’ rules. as a grad student who has been given strong hints by his advisor that applying for nsep dissertation funding will not be fully supported, i do not believe that this concern is misplaced.


Anthony 03.24.05 at 9:13 pm

How is it “outing” to give wider publicity to someone’s public statements?

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