"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Why Should Universities Trust the FBI?

Sandwiched a day apart in the Times and the Post are two articles that should be read together. The Times piece on Sunday announced a rising protest from universities regarding new requirements from the feds "vastly extending" an existing law to track potential terrorists via the internet. Interestingly, the protests from academia are based on an economic argument, rather than the civil liberties argument that we might expect from the bastions of free speech:
The action, which the government says is intended to help catch terrorists and other criminals, has unleashed protests and the threat of lawsuits from universities, which argue that it will cost them at least $7 billion while doing little to apprehend lawbreakers. Because the government would have to win court orders before undertaking surveillance, the universities are not raising civil liberties issues.

Then yesterday comes this piece in the Post with the headline, "FBI Papers Indicate Intelligence Violations," that lead with this:
The FBI has conducted clandestine surveillance on some U.S. residents for as long as 18 months at a time without proper paperwork or oversight, according to previously classified documents to be released today.

Records turned over as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit also indicate that the FBI has investigated hundreds of potential violations related to its use of secret surveillance operations, which have been stepped up dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but are largely hidden from public view.

The paper goes on to cite violations that include illegal surveillance of citizens and
cases where agents "obtained e-mails after a warrant expired, seized bank records without proper authority and conducted an improper 'unconsented physical search.'"

One has to wonder if universities would roll over and play dead if Washington offered them the cash for new routers. This appears to be distinct possibility, since no voice has yet emerged to challenge this expansion of Big Brotherism in the university community. If someone knows of one, let me hear about it.

Jim Horn

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