What is a “College Education”?

A college education used to mean a general liberal arts curriculum, exposing students to diverse disciplines and general knowledge of literature, history and culture. But increasingly, students are customers, primarily concerned with finding a job after college and less committed to learning for its own sake and to learning how to think as ac wallsone of education’s primary goals. The late futurist, Herman Kahn, foresaw that one of the principal threats to progress in the postindustrial society would be what he called “educated incapacity.” He defined it as an acquired or learned inability to understand or see a problem, much less a solution. He predicted that this kind of functional handicap would increase in proportion to a person’s academic education and expertise.

With many, if not most, students not pursuing a career in the subject of their major, and with less of a liberal arts education to provide a basic framework, we have college graduates without the skills to adjust to the learning needs of a working lifetime, much less in a position to meet the responsibilities of citizenship. This has important consequences for our country and our society. Has the idea of a college education become so open ended as to be all but meaningless?

If the university leaves it graduates generally unprepared for the responsibilities of citizenship, what will be the consequences? College graduates should be prepared to lead lives of civic engagement in addition to individual success. If we are ignorant of our history, government and the fundamental ideals and values that distinguish our society, we cannot be good citizens. Education has been the best predictor of civic involvement, and higher education now serves as the nation’s most important common ground and is essential to the future of a democratic society.

Will the public university pick up the gauntlet and educate students for citizenship as well as for a life in the workplace? Will it redefine its mission to include opportunities for lifelong learning through non-degree offerings as integral to its programs? Or will the university remove itself from public life, isolate itself from the public interest, and leave the playing field?

From, As the Walls of Academia are Tumbling Down, by Hirsch & Weber


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Elite Gangsterism, Democratic Principles and Political Nihilism

The perception of pervasive corruption at the top seems to many to justify the unprincipled quest to succeed at any cost in their own lives, and the widespread cheating in our culture reflects this sad truth. The oppressive effect of the prevailing market moralities leads to a form of sleepwalking from womb to tomb, with the majority of citizens content to focus on private careers and be distracted with stimulating amusements. They have given up any real hope of shaping the collective destiny of the nation. Sour cynicism, political apathy, and cultural escapism become the pervasive options.

The public has good cause for disillusionment with the American democratic system. Thepolitic fight saturation of market forces and market moralities has indeed corrupted our system all the way up. Our leadership elite have themselves lost faith in the efficacy of adhering to democratic principles in the face of the overwhelming power of those market forces. They are caught up in the corrupting influences of market morality. Our politician have sacrificed their principles on the altar of special interests; our corporate leaders have sacrificed their integrity on the altar of profits; and our media watchdogs have sacrificed the voice of dissent on the altar of audience competition.

Our leadership elite may still want to believe in democratic principles-they certainly profess that they do- but in practice they have shown themselves all too willing to violate those principles in order to gain or retain power. The flip side of the nihilism of despair is this nihilism of the unprincipled abuse of power. When the lack of belief in the power of principles prevails, the void is filled by the will to power of the market, by the drive to succeed at the cost of others rather than the drive to decency and integrity. In the poverty-stricken inner cities, this nihilism leads to street gangsterism, and in the halls of elite power it leads to elite gangsterism, which I will call political nihilism.


Excerpted From, Democracy Matters: Winning the Fight Against Imperialism,

Dr. Cornel West

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Behavioral Science and the Psychological Effect of Trump’s Fake News Awards

Donald Trump’s “Fake News Awards” for what he calls “the most corrupt and biased of the Mainstream Media” have drawn mockery. However, behavioral science research suggests they are deadly serious. These awards create an institution for Trump’s relentless attacks on mainstream media and position Trump as the only voice who gets to determine truthful media. Unfortunately, the typical style of news coverage will perpetuate Trump’s agenda. However, a different style informed by behavioral science strategies would convey more accurate information and address the damage from the Fake News Awards.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 4

The purpose of any award is to create an institutionalized way of promoting a certain cause through drawing public attention. As an example, consider perhaps the most well-known prize in the world, the Nobel Prize, awarded for the most important scientific and cultural advances. Every year, the media is filled with headlines describing the awards and their recipients, resulting in significant public attention that uplifts the importance of science and culture.

This attention taps into the “availability heuristic,” our tendency to assign excessive importance to whatever happens to be at the forefront of our minds, and the “priming effect,” where we perceive exaggerated connections between past and future stimuli. Thus, the Nobel Prize causes the public to focus on scientific and cultural achievements, and interpret future advances in light of the winners of last year’s Nobel Prize.

More subtly, an award positions the grantor of the award as the sole legitimate voice in determining who deserves the award. Several Swedish and Norwegian institutions decide who gets the various Nobel Prize awards. Perhaps the most prestigious one, the Nobel Peace Prize, is determined by a committee elected by politicians in the Norwegian Parliament. Thus, the internal domestic politics of Norway powerfully influence this prize.

In parallel, the Fake News Awards promote Trump’s attacks on mainstream media. In a January 2, 2018 tweet, he described the award as highlighting “Dishonesty & Bad Reporting in various categories.” We can get a more clear nature of what he means by “various categories” from when Trump first tweeted on November 27, 2017 about handing out a fake news trophy for “The most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me).”

Trump, in other words, aims to use the award to perpetuate the narrative of himself as the victim of unfair and dishonest mainstream media coverage: after all, he is well-known for using the label “fake news” to attack accurate news stories that he doesn’t like. The President will use these awards to draw massive public attention to supposed “fake news” coverage by mainstream news sources. In fact, he even delayed the granting of the awards due to the extensive public attention to the awards.

The availability heuristic will cause the public to focus on “fake news” in mainstream media’s coverage of the President, regardless of whether this coverage is accurate or not. The priming effect will move news consumers to be more likely to perceive negative coverage as fake.

Since such awards will likely be given annually, they will institutionalize Trump’s agenda of attacking the mainstream media, while also legitimating Trump as the grantor of these awards. He will get to determine which media venues get labeled as providing “the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted” coverage. You can bet that it will not be the media venues that actually are the most dishonest, but the ones that depict Trump in a negative light, regardless of how factual (or not) such depictions may be.

Some believe that Trump will lose credibility from granting these awards because he will draw attention to unflattering stories about himself. Unfortunately, behavioral science research suggests that the style of coverage by news media will facilitate Trump’s agenda.

The typical style of headlines about any awards generally focuses on who got the awards. Unfortunately, research shows that only 41 percent of readers go beyond the headlines, with most getting their news from the headline alone. Many of the rest do not read beyond the first paragraph, which in most stories would summarize who received the awards and in what category. Even the ones who do go further will experience “anchoring,” a thinking error where the first information we get about a topic drastically colors our overall perspective. Yes, first impressions really do matter.

Studies reveal that the standard journalistic methods of correcting people’s misconceptions with accurate facts backfire in the long term. If you first state the false information and then provide evidence of why it is wrong, people will tend to forget over time the evidence for why it is wrong, and start to misremember the original falsehood as true. Thus, even though many articles covering the Fake News Awards will eventually explain that these awards are meant to perpetuate Trump’s attacks on mainstream media and were awarded at Trump’s sole discretion, the damage will already be done.

To prevent this outcome of media consumers getting the wrong impression about the Fake News Awards, mainstream media need to go against its typical style of reporting, and instead align its coverage with behavioral science research. Instead of headlines about who received the awards, headlines should say something like “In Yet Another Attack on the Media, Trump Issues Fake News Awards” so that the majority of their readers who only glance at the headlines get the right impression. The first paragraph of the article should focus on how this award attempts to perpetuate and institutionalize Trump’s attack on the media and position Trump as the sole voice of truth, before talking about who received the awards.

Articles on the awards should devote some space to the “Press Oppressors awards” issued by the Committee to Protect Journalists. These awards—issued in response to Trump’s announcement of the Fake News Awards—focus on world leaders “who have gone out of their way to attack the press and undermine the norms that support freedom of the media.” Can you guess who received the “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom” award?

You as a media consumer can encourage media venues to cover the Fake News Awards appropriately by writing letters to the editor suggesting more appropriate coverage, or more simply by tweeting and emailing them with a link to this article. You can also encourage them to take the Pro-Truth Pledge at ProTruthPledge.org to commit to truthfulness. Consider taking the pledge yourself, which aims to unite all private citizens and public figures who care about truth and facts in our society.

You can also make sure to share only articles that cover the awards appropriately. When others post articles on social media with problematic coverage, you can make comments that give a more accurate impression and draw attention to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

You have the power to address the damage from these awards.


The Psychology of Trump’s Fake News Awards, Gleb Tsipursky Ph.D.

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Whiteness and the Idea of American History

One thing you must understand, beloved, is that whiteness isn’t a solo act. It’s got a supporting cast. Lots of things got created to uphold and justify whiteness. None was more seductive or necessary than the idea of American history. It may be hard for many of you to concede this. You think of history as a realm of complete objectivity. You think there are such things at indisputable facts, and those facts are woven together by neutral dysonobservers in a compelling story that is told as history. You think historians belong to a guild of chroniclers whose work is separate from what the culture considers important.

But the truth is that what so often passes for American history is really a record of white priorities or conquests set down as white achievement. That version of American history is a sprawling, bewildering chronicle, relentlessly revised. It ignores or downplays a variety of peoples, cultures, religions, and regions, all to show that history is as objective and as curious and as expansive as the white imagination allows. Of course, the notion that someone invents history is also to insist that everybody can, or does– though, it must, be noted, not to equal effect.

I’m not arguing that most of you are delusional, or that facts of accomplishment and records of deeds don’t exist. The delusion is whiteness itself.

In the end, history is never just what people who experience it say it is. That’s particularly true if those people are not in power, or if their voices, or their view of things, run counter to what the larger culture thinks is true– in short, what the larger culture thinks is valuable, justifiable, even righteous. The winners, alas, still write history. To say this out loud, in this day and age, when whiteness has congratulated itself for its tolerance of other cultures and peoples, is to invite real resistance from white America.

My dear friends, please try to understand that whiteness is limitless in possibility. It is universal and invisible. That’s why many of you are offended by any reference to race. You believe you are acting and thinking neutrally, objectively, without preference for one group or the next, including your own. You see yourselves as colorless until black folk dump the garbage of race on your heads. At your best moments you may concede that you started the race game, but you swear to the God you love that it is we black folk that keep it going. You have no idea how absurd that notion is, and yet we have grown accustomed to your defiance of common sense.

Adapted from, Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America,

by Dr. Michael Eric Dyson

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Profiling and Policing by Algorithms: ‘The Strategic Subject List’

As the criminal justice system comes to rely increasingly on computer analytics, so-called “big data” that captures and collates enormous amounts of information are being used in many cities to identify potential lawbreakers. But this form of predictive policing has also been criticized for its lack of transparency and potential for racial bias.

In his new book, The Rise of Big Data Policing: Surveillance, Race, and the Future of Law Enforcement, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, a law professor at the University of the District Cover-The-Rise-of-Big-Data-Policing-336x504of Columbia[David A. Clarke School of Law], argues that the criticisms are valid, and should generate a conversation about the use of new technologies before this form of policing becomes institutionalized.

Ferguson, in a recent conversation with Julia Pagnamenta [of The Crime Report ‘TCR’ News], discussed the economic factors that have driven the use of big data in police departments, how it is has spread to prosecutors and judges, and why cities should consider holding regular “surveillance summits,” so communities can examine what’s being done in their name.

The Crime Report: In your book, you argue that explaining this technology to the public is only one element of the challenge. Can you elaborate?

Andrew Ferguson: One of the responses to the (growth) of big-data policing is the fear of a lack of transparency. People ask, “What do you mean I am being targeted by an algorithm that I don’t understand and that I can’t see?” But that doesn’t feel right to me. I make the argument that while we should be debating and thinking about this idea of transparency, transparency itself may not be an answer.

If you go forward just a few years, when we’re really going to be talking about machine learning, artificial-intelligence predictive systems are designed (so) you can’t look into them and see how they’re made, because they are constantly learning from the data that’s being inputted, which keeps changing, and so if you went back to look at what they did, it has changed already, because that’s how it’s being taught to learn.

We have to come up with systems of accountability, and that may (involve) a chief of police or the city council, or whoever is funding this, explaining to citizens why they are using this technology, why they think it’s accurate, why they think it’s a good use of taxpayer dollars, and what they’re going to do to audit it, to make sure it is working in the future. I call those moments of public accountability “surveillance summits.” We need to have surveillance summits in every city in America.

(If) you deal with the problem of transparency in that way, it won’t matter if you don’t understand what an algorithm is, and it won’t matter whether you understand what artificial intelligence does. You’ll feel comfortable that there is an open conversation (involving) the citizenry, the technologists, the civil libertarians, and also the police who have to justify why they think this particular technology makes sense for their particular city.

TCR: Big data isn’t singular to the criminal justice system. Our information is being collected every day when we use our credit cards or our smart phones.

Ferguson: In many ways the rise of big data in a consumer space far outpaces where we are in the criminal space. We live in a world where Google knows everything we search for; Amazon knows everything we’ve bought; our smart cars know everywhere we’ve driven; our smart houses reveal when we leave for the day, when we go home. Our digital trails are revealing the patterns and practices of our lives. Big data in a consumer space has recognized that insight and in some way has tried to monetize it. We are the product. Our data is the product. We are being sold using the data trails, and in many ways we’ve bought into that by the convenience of this data.

What began as a database—although certainly not a big database—is the idea of CompStat, of being able to start mapping crimes and understanding crime patterns using crime data. (Former New York Police Commissioner) Bill Bratton built a data- driven policing system. When he went to Los Angeles, he was overseeing the origination of predictive policing as we now know it, and he brought it back again to New York when he took over the NYPD again in his last iteration there. After the stop-and-frisk practice was declared unconstitutional, Bratton said, “don’t worry, we have a new technology that’s going to replace it, called predictive policing.” The NYPD is up there with the LAPD as the most sophisticated local surveillance system that we have in America. They have networked cameras. They are using their own social networking analysis. They’re mapping crimes. They’re connecting with the Manhattan D.A.’s office to prosecute crimes. They are the cutting edge of how big data technology is changing law enforcement.

TCR: Everything we do is being tracked. Do privacy issues even enter the debate in the criminal justice arena?

Ferguson: There is definitely a debate about it. In the book I point out how, as our lives have shifted to social media, and as our virtual selves are playing a role in communicating with other people, so has crime. People who are involved in criminal activity and gangs are posting threats on social media; they are bragging about crimes on social media. Naturally police are watching, building cases. That obviously impacts individual privacy rights.

The Supreme Court [recently] heard a case, Carpenter vs. the United States about whether our third-party records, in that case cell phone information—really if you think about our digital lives, everything is a third party record—can be obtained by police without a warrant or whether police need a probable cause warrant to obtain some of this information. When that case is decided in the next couple of months, it may very well shape our feelings about privacy and some of our expectations of privacy under the Fourth Amendment. What we share with others, we don’t necessarily think we are sharing with police, but without either legislation guiding us or constitutional law guiding us, it’s pretty uncertain about whether we can really claim any expectation of privacy in things we are putting out in the world.



TCR: How has big data affected the way prosecutors do their job?

Ferguson: Cy Vance, Jr., and the Manhattan D.A.’s office, have been at the forefront of pushing a new type of prosecution, which is part data-driven, where they are looking for the areas that are creating and generating violence; and part intelligence driven. They call it intelligence-driven prosecution. Intelligence in the sense of how intelligence analysts and the intelligence community might try and figure out whom to target. Their stated goal is to identify the individuals who are the prime drivers (of crime) in a community, and take them out by any means they can.

They also get community intelligence from gang intelligence detectives, and other community organizers, to try to take out those people, under the theory that if they can incapacitate these folks, crime overall will go down. They have recognized that one way to do that is build a big data infrastructure.

(Like police), they too have partnered with companies like Palantir which built a data system to track various people. Lots of people get arrested in Manhattan, and if one of their targets should show up, even on a low-level offense like (subway) turnstile jumping, they’ll know about it, and they can get that information to the line D.A. in time because it’s sort of automated—instead of someone cycling through the system and getting out because it’s a low level offense, there will be a different request for a bail hold. There will be different sentencing considerations; there will be less of an opportunity to plead guilty on the theory that they are trying to bring this person out of the society, figuring that if person is out, they will reduce crime. It’s really been a change in mentality (for) prosecutors.

TCR: Critics of these strategies say they disproportionately affect the city’s more marginalized communities.

Ferguson: I think (you) run the risk of targeting the data you are trying to collect. So if what you care about is low-level “broken windows” policing and that becomes the data you are looking for, it’s obviously going to change policing patterns, and result in, lots of poor people being brought into the system who wouldn’t have otherwise if you weren’t targeting them.

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can use data-driven policing to target folks who you think are the most violent and most at risk—and not target others who aren’t in that category. Data is dependent on how you use it, and who uses it, and the choices being made to utilize it. There are many fair criticisms on the way the data-driven system changed what police were doing in New York. It became very much about quantifying arrests, and not about quality of life or policing.

We are able to target people that we think are the most at risk for violence in Chicago and intervene in a way that has similar concerns about who are the people being targeted. They tend to be poor; they tend to be people of color. They tend to live in certain communities. Is that simply reifying the same kinds of profiling by algorithms that we might be concerned about? I think these are real questions and concerns we should be raising. We should be having that debate right now, and (examine) how these new technologies are playing out in our communities.

TCR: You note that these algorithms falsely assess African-American defendants as high risk at almost twice the rate of whites. How do these high-priority target lists affect African American communities?

Ferguson: Take Chicago again. Part of the input of the Chicago “heat list” are arrests, and we know that arrests are discretionary decisions of police. We know that they are impacted by where police go, where they are sent, where the patrols are, where they are looking. You can’t be arrested if no one is looking at what you are doing.

We also know in Chicago, thanks to the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division report in 2017 that there is a real problem of racial bias throughout the Chicago Police Department. It’s pretty systemic. So if you think that some Chicago police have either implicit or explicit biases and if they are using their discretion to make their arrests, and if those arrests become part of your big data system of targeting, you have to worry that that discretion and that bias is going to affect the outputs of whatever system because it’s affecting the inputs.

My concern is that we tend to stop thinking about racial bias when we hear that something is data-driven. It sounds objective. It sounds like it doesn’t have the same concerns; it doesn’t raise the same concerns of ordinary policing. But if your inputs are based on ordinary policing, and that has some problems in some cities, well some of your outputs are going to be based on those and that’s a real problem.

(That is) part of the reason I wrote the book. People talk about this move to data- driven policing, as if it is response to the concerns we saw in Ferguson, and in Staten Island, and in Chicago. Really, the same concerns exist and we need to make sure that we are aware and conscious of them, and are working to overcome them, because they can be overcome.

TCR: You refer to Chicago quite a bit in the book. How have certain of the city’s neighborhoods, and their residents, been affected by these algorithms?

Ferguson: Chicago is at the forefront. They have created what they’ve called the strategic subjects list, also known as the heat list. And that list essentially looks at individuals who they believe are the most at risk of violence, or being the victim of violence, or the perpetrators of violence in society, and this is the algorithm. They look at past arrests for violent crimes. Narcotic offenses, and weapons offenses. They look at whether the person was a victim of a violent offense, or a shooting. They looked at the age of the last arrest; the younger the age, the higher the score. And they look at the trend line: is this moving forward; are there more events happening, or is it slowing down; is age less a factor?

They take those numbers, punch them into an algorithm, to come up with a rank ordered score from 0 to 500 about who are the most at-risk people, and then they act. If you have a 500-plus score, a Chicago Police detective or administrator shows up at your door, maybe with a social worker, and says: “Look you are on this list. And we know who you are, we know what you are doing, we know that you are at risk, and you’ve got a choice. You can either turn your life around, or if you don’t, we’re going to bring the hammer down. We know who you are and we are warning you.”

They might bring you in as a group, as a sort of call-in session, a scared-straight-session where they do the same thing but in a group setting. It is a measure of social control. It’s a measure of possibly offering social services (if there were money to offer those social services), and it is a recognition that there is a targeting mechanism going on in this town.

Depending on who you ask, it has not worked, or worked. It fluctuates. Shootings have obviously been a terrible problem in Chicago in certain districts where they are using it. Just this last year, they claim shootings have gone down, so they are taking credit for it.
Rand did a study of the early version of the strategic subjects list and said look we can’t find any correlation. It seems like it really became shorthand for the virtual most-wanted list of people you want to target anyway. The Chicago Police Department response to that was, well we changed the algorithm. We think we’ve improved it, and in some ways that’s a fair answer, because that’s what you do with computer modeling. You change it, if it’s not working, or if you think you can improve it. Computer models are supposed to keep evolving.

TCR: What do the police mean when they say these algorithms are working?

Ferguson: If you listen to the folks in Chicago who are defending it, they say: Look, if you want to know the people who are getting shot, they are on our list. Like 80 percent of the people are on our list on a particular weekend, and so we’re not wrong. We know that there are certain lifestyles and certain actions and certain groups that are more likely to be shot.

They tend to be folks who are in certain social groups, or gangs; they tend to have, a distrust of police, so if there is a violent action they respond with violence. This sort of reciprocal violence keeps things going forward, and the (police) response is “look, we’re not wrong about the people we are targeting, whether or not we can reduce violence.”

This isn’t an attempt to create some magic black box. There is a theory behind it, and the theory is that there are certain risk factors in life that will cause you to be more at-risk of violence then other people, so targeting those people might be an efficient use of police resources in a world of finite resources. The problem is that we just don’t know if the input is all that accurate and we don’t really know if this is the best use of our money and time and energy. It sounds like an idea or a solution when you don’t want to face the real solution.

Maybe, instead of using a “heat list,” we should invest in schools, invest in communities, invest in jobs, and invest in social programs that will change lives. But it takes more money than people are willing to spend. The chief of police of Chicago has one of the most difficult jobs in America. He has to answer the question, what are you going to do about crime? Sometimes (technology) is enough to quiet the critics who want you as chief to do the impossible, which is stop the shootings without the resources.

TCR: In the book you contrast New Orleans’ Palantir system with Chicago’s use of preventive algorithms. How do they differ?

Ferguson: In New Orleans had a terrible shooting problem, and the mayor partnered with Palantir to see if they could figure out who are the people who are most at risk for either being involved with violence or being violent themselves. And then to explore whether there are program services that can target them.

The difference I think, in New Orleans is that, at least initially, in addition to person-based identifications, they also brought in a lot of city data. They started looking at where the crime patterns were. They investigated whether there were institutional players who could be leveraged to stop some of the patterns of violence.

For instance, they’re able to say, that when students are let out of school at certain places there tend to be violent fights between different groups. Could we change the environment so when kids get out of school, they are not going to start the fights? Are there places where the lighting system is such that we constantly see crimes, because of course if you want to do a crime, you might want to go where no one can see you….Initially this sort of holistic data collection of city, local, state, and also law enforcement, brought down some of the shootings in New Orleans.

Unfortunately, it’s gone up since I published the book. But data can be used in a more holistic, constructive way, to identify some of the same problems (and) doesn’t have to necessarily require a pure policing response. It might actually be better to invest in social services, invest in fixing up neighborhoods. That might actually have a greater impact on crime reduction than simply putting a police car, or a police officer at a door, or a street corner.

TCR: You propose creating a risk map in the book. Can you talk about this suggested shift from mapping crime to mapping social services?

Ferguson: I write about how, if you separate out the risk-identification innovations from the policing remedy, you might get other uses of predictive analytics. You could have a map of all the people who don’t get enough food in their lives, or all the individuals who’ve missed four days of school for whatever health reasons. You can use the same sort of identification for the social risks of society, for people who are in need.

Right now, we focus our energy on crime and policing because that’s where the funding came from, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe some of the innovations being created by these same companies, and by these same technologies, can be used for different purposes, and maybe with different outcomes.

TCR: You say that we should be viewing violence as a public health problem rather than law enforcement related.

Ferguson: You have to understand why big-data policing has arisen at this time. In part it was a reaction to the recession, and it was a reaction to the fact that police officers, and administrators, and departments all across the country were being gutted.

Police needed a solution. (They could claim) that predictive policing technology is going to help us do more with less. And when you are in that mindset, it’s really hard to then also ask for help with what we know are the real crime drivers: poverty, hopelessness, lack of economic opportunity, lack of education, and an inability to sort of get out of a certain socioeconomic reality. As we’ve moved out of the recession, data (remains) our guiding framework for policing. I think there is an opportunity for chiefs to say, we are at a better place to figure out why crime is happening in this area. We can tell you where it is. We can tell you the people involved, but there is something beneath that, which is the why?

The risk factor is here, and that’s in part because this parking lot has been abandoned for the last decade. If you fixed it up and made it into a nice park, maybe we wouldn’t have killings or robberies there, right? We know there are certain people dealing drugs because all the jobs in this area have gone away. If we could figure out sort of economic opportunity potentials for these same young men, we might not have that same crime problem.

The data can visualize what we all know is there, but does so in a different way that might potentially offer a way forward. We might have partnerships with police and communities that deal with some of the underlying environmental, socioeconomic issues, and the data can lead us to a part-policing, but also a part-social services, civic investment strategy.

TCR: Judges have also had to learn to adapt to this new technology. How has it influenced the outcomes of trials, and decision-making?

Ferguson: I’m a law professor, and I got my start trying to figure out how new technologies like predictive policing and big-data policing would affect trial courts, and Fourth Amendment suppression hearings, and the idea of reasonable suspicion. Reasonable suspicion is the legal standard that is required for police to stop you on the street. They have to have some sort of particularized, articulable information that you are involved in criminal activity. In a small data world, which is the world we had when the law was being created, it was only what the officer saw. (For instance, a suspicious individual hanging around a jewelry store.)

Our laws are created based on that very tangible reality of what officers can see. In a big data world, there is a lot more information. Now that officer might know who that individual outside the jewelry store is. He might know his prior record. The data could tell him who the individual is associating with, and any prior criminal records. That information t has nothing to do with what that person is doing at that moment; but it might influence what the police officer thinks is happening. That’s natural. If you now know that an individual in front of you is not just a person walking by the jewelry store, but one of the computer driven, most-wanted, most at- risk of violence, it might change how you are suspicious of that person.

(In a similar way, big data) might change how a judge is going to evaluate that suspicion and say, well it makes sense. The officer knew from the dashboard that this person had a really high score. The judge knew that the reason for that high score was his gang involvement, and his prior arrests, and convictions for jewelry store robberies. Of course that should factor into his suspicion, and what has just happened is, data, big data, other information, has changed the constitutional analysis of how a police officer is watching an individual do the same thing.

That’s happening right now, as these cases make their way through the courts. And there’s a way that the courts haven’t really thought about what are we going to do with these predictive scores. What do we do if a police officer stops someone in a quote unquote predictive area of burglary? A computer told him to be on the look-out; how do we as a judge, or as a court, evaluate that information in our constitutional determination of whether this officer had enough suspicion? And we just haven’t seen great answers to that. We’ll see how it plays out in the future.

From The Perils of Big Data Policing
This conversation has been condensed and slightly edited. Julia Pagnamenta is a news intern with The Crime Report. She welcomes readers’ comments.

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Spies on Campus: How the CIA secretly exploits higher education

On the crisp autumn afternoon of November 26, 2007, a black car picked up Graham Spanier, then president of Pennsylvania State University, at Dulles International Airport and whisked him to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. Using his identification card — embedded with a hologram and computer chip — he checked in at security and was greeted by the chief of staff of the National Resources Division, the CIA’s clandestine domestic service. They proceeded to a conference room, where about two dozen chiefs of station and other senior CIA intelligence officers awaited them.

Spanier was expecting to brief them on the work of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, an organization he chaired and had helped create, which fostered dialogue between intelligence agencies and universities. First, though, the CIA surprised him. In a brief ceremony, it presented him with the Warren Medal, said to be the agency’s highest honor for nonemployees.

The honor recognized Spanier’s dedication to alerting college administrators to the Spy Schools Book Coverthreat of human and cyberespionage, and to opening doors for the agency at campuses nationwide. A former family therapist and television talk-show host with an unruffled, empathetic manner and features — round face, white hair, blue eyes — reminiscent of Phil Donahue, Spanier soothed many an academic’s anxieties about dealing with the CIA and the FBI.

Since the intelligence agencies were going to meddle anyway, Spanier reasoned, they should do so with the knowledge and consent of college presidents. “My feeling was, If there’s a spy on my campus, a potential terrorist, or a visiting faculty member you believe is up to no good, I know you’ll be pursuing it,” he told me in April 2016. “Here’s the deal. Rather than break into his office, come to me — I have top-secret clearance — show me your FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] order, and I’ll have someone unlock the door.”

Spanier’s CIA medal, and a similar FBI award a year later, symbolized a reconciliation between the intelligence services and the academy. The relationship has come full circle: from chumminess in the 1940s and 1950s, to animosity during the Vietnam War and civil-rights era, and back to cooperation after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Their unequal partnership, though, tilts toward the government. U.S. intelligence seized on the renewed goodwill, and the red carpet rolled out by Spanier and other university administrators, to expand not only its public presence on campus but also covert operations and sponsoring of secret research. Federal encroachment on academic prerogatives has met only token resistance.

The two cultures are antithetical: Academe is open and international, while intelligence services are clandestine and nationalistic. Still, after Islamic-fundamentalist terrorists toppled the World Trade Center, colleges became part of the national security apparatus. The new recruiting booths at meetings of academic associations were one telling indicator. The CIA began exhibiting at the annual convention of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in 2004, as did the FBI and National Security Agency around the same time. Since 2011 the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the NSA have participated on a panel at the Modern Language Association convention titled “Using Your Language Proficiency and Cultural Expertise in a Federal Government Career.”

Today universities routinely offer degrees in homeland security and courses in espionage and cyberhacking. They vie for federal designation as Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence and National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations. They obtain research grants from obscure federal agencies such as Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. Established in 2006, Iarpa sponsors “high-risk/high payoff research that has the potential to provide our nation with an overwhelming intelligence advantage,” according to its website. To date, it has funded teams with researchers representing more than 175 academic institutions, mostly in the United States.

While almost all Iarpa projects are unclassified, colleges increasingly carry out secret but lucrative government research at well-guarded facilities. Two years after the 9/11 attacks, the University of Maryland established a center that conducts classified research on language for the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. Edward Snowden worked there in 2005 as a security guard, eight years before he joined the government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and leaked classified files on NSA surveillance.

The center is located off-campus. Like many universities, Maryland forbids secret research on campus, but its transparency stops at the far side of its neatly trimmed lawns.

Other universities have no such compunctions. “Classified research on campuses, once highly controversial, is making a comeback,” VICE News reported in 2015. The National Security Agency in 2013 awarded $60 million to North Carolina State University, the largest research grant in the university’s history, to create an on-campus laboratory for data analysis. Virginia Tech established a private nonprofit corporation in December 2009 to perform classified work in intelligence, cybersecurity, and national security. Two years later, the university planted its flag on prime intelligence-community turf. It opened a research center in Ballston, a neighborhood in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, brimming with CIA and Pentagon contractors. The center features facilities for, according to the university, “conducting sensitive research on behalf of the national security community.”

Academe was present at the CIA’s creation. Its precursor, the Office of Strategic Services, founded in 1942, was “half cops-and-robbers and half faculty meeting,” according to McGeorge Bundy, an intelligence officer during World War II and later national security adviser to the presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. The OSS was largely an Ivy League bastion. It attracted 13 Yale professors in its first year, along with 42 students from the university’s Class of 1943. A Yale assistant professor, under cover of acquiring manuscripts for the university library, became OSS chief in Istanbul.

When the CIA was established, in 1947, the Ivy influence carried over. Skip Walz, the Yale crew coach, doubled as a CIA recruiter, drawing a salary of $10,000 a year from each employer. Every three weeks he supplied names of Yale athletes with the right academic and social credentials to a CIA agent whom he met at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, in Washington. Although the agency gradually expanded hiring from other universities, 26 percent of college graduates whom it employed during the Nixon administration had Ivy League degrees. The agency helped establish think tanks and research centers at several top universities, such as MIT’s Center for International Studies in 1952. Almost from its inception, the CIA cultivated foreign students, recognizing their value as informants and future government officials in their homelands. It learned about them not only through their professors but also through the CIA-funded National Student Association, the largest student group in the United States. With only 26,433 international students in the United States in 1950, less than 3 percent of today’s total, the CIA relied on the association to identify potential informants at home and abroad.

The agency, which supported the student association as a non-Communist alternative to Soviet-backed student organizations, meddled in the group’s election of officers and sent its activists, including the future feminist Gloria Steinem, to disrupt international youth festivals. “In the CIA, I finally found a group of people who understood how important it was to represent the diversity of our government’s ideas at Communist festivals,” Steinem told Newsweek in 1967. “If I had the choice, I would do it again.” With an assist from the CIA, the number of foreign students in the United States almost doubled from 1950 to 1960.

Then it all unraveled. Ramparts, a monthly magazine that opposed the Vietnam War, reported in 1966 that a Michigan State University program to train the South Vietnamese police had five CIA agents on its payroll. A year later, Ramparts revealed the CIA’s involvement in the National Student Association, stirring a national outcry. The Johnson administration responded by banning covert federal funding of “any of the nation’s educational or private voluntary organizations” — though not of their individual members or employees.

“I’m a kid of the ’60s, and I remember all the protests on campus. The idea of the CIA being on campus would have turned people crazy. Things have changed dramatically in that regard.” Privately, Johnson saw the hand of world Communism in both the Ramparts exposé and the antiwar protests, and ordered the CIA and FBI to prove it. FBI penetration and surveillance — including illegal wiretaps and warrantless searches — expanded under President Richard Nixon but failed to turn up evidence of foreign funding. The government’s crackdown on its campus critics, along with CIA blunders such as the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, in 1961, fractured the camaraderie between intelligence agencies and academe. In 1968 alone, there were 77 instances of picketing, sit-ins, and other student protests against CIA recruiters.

The disaffection was mutual. Just as Ivy League graduates began having doubts about joining the CIA, so older alumni who had devoted their careers to intelligence agencies bridled at the antiestablishment campus mood. “It is not true that universities rejected the intelligence community: that community rejected universities at least as early,” the Yale historian Robin Winks wrote.

Hostility between the intelligence services and universities peaked with the 1976 report of the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, usually known as the Church Committee, after its chairman, Senator Frank Church of Idaho. In the most comprehensive investigation ever of U.S. intelligence agencies, the committee documented an appalling litany of abuses, some undertaken by presidential order and others rogue. The CIA, it found, had tested LSD and other drugs on prisoners and students; opened 215,820 letters passing through a New York City postal facility over two decades; and tried to assassinate the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and other foreign leaders. The FBI, for its part, had harassed civil-rights and anti-Vietnam War protesters by wiretapping them and smearing them in anonymous letters to parents, neighbors, and employers.

The committee also exposed clandestine connections between the CIA and higher education. The agency was using “several hundred academics” at more than a hundred U.S. colleges for, among other purposes, “providing leads and, on occasion, making introductions for intelligence purposes,” typically without anyone else on campus being “aware of the CIA link.”

Bowing to the CIA’s insistence on protecting its agents, the committee didn’t name the professors or the colleges where they taught. Typically, the academics helped recruit foreign students. A professor would invite an international student — often from a Soviet-bloc country, or perhaps Iran — to his office to get acquainted. Flattered by the attention, the student would have no clue he was being assessed as a potential CIA informant. The professor would then arrange for the student to meet a wealthy “friend” in publishing or investing. The friend would buy the student dinner and pay him generously for an essay about his country or his research specialty.

Unaware he was being compromised, the grateful student would compose one well-compensated paper after another. By the time the professor’s friend admitted that he was a CIA agent, and asked him to spy, the student had little choice but to agree. He couldn’t report the overture to his own government, because his acceptance of CIA money would jeopardize his reputation in his homeland, if not his freedom.

Morton Halperin knew about this deception and found it “completely inappropriate.” He intended to end it once and for all. The Church Committee’s report showed him the way.

From a bookshelf in his office at the Open Society Foundations in Washington, where he is a senior adviser, Halperin extracts the first volume of the committee report. He opens the thumb-worn paperback to a passage he had underlined 40 years before: “The Committee believes that it is the responsibility of private institutions and particularly the American academic community to set the professional and ethical standards of its members.” That sentence sent him on a quest to persuade colleges to stand up to U.S. intelligence agencies and curb covert activity on their campuses. His mission would provoke an unprecedented confrontation between the CIA and the country’s most famous university. Its outcome would shape the relationship between U.S. intelligence and academe and still has repercussions today.

Halperin had Ivy League credentials as impeccable as any CIA recruit’s: a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a Yale doctorate, followed by six years on the Harvard faculty. A former White House wunderkind who’d taken a top Pentagon post under President Johnson before turning 30 and then joined the National Security Council staff under President Nixon, Halperin had himself become a target of the government’s covert operations, largely because of his misgivings about the Vietnam War. With the approval of his mentor, Henry Kissinger, then national-security adviser, the Nixon administration tapped Halperin’s home phone in 1969, suspecting him of leaking information about the secret bombing of Cambodia to reporters. It also placed him near the top of Nixon’s notorious “enemies list.”

As director of the Center for National Security Studies, a project of the American Civil Liberties Union, Halperin had lobbied Congress to create the Church Committee. He attended its hearings and testified before it, urging a ban on clandestine operations because they bypass congressional and public oversight and are incompatible with democratic values.

Armed with the committee’s recommendation, he approached Harvard and asked it to set rules for secret CIA activity on campus. He expected that any restrictions placed by the nation’s most prominent university would spread throughout academe.

Harvard’s president, Derek Bok, appointed four sages to set standards. Their 1977 guidelines prohibited students and faculty members from undertaking “intelligence operations” for the CIA, although they could be debriefed about foreign travels after returning home. “The use of the academic profession and scholarly enterprises to provide a ‘cover’ for intelligence activities is likely to corrupt the academic process and lead to a loss of public respect for academic enterprises,” they wrote.

Also forbidden was helping the CIA “in obtaining the unwitting services of another member of the Harvard community” — in other words, recruiting foreign students under false pretenses. To Bok and his advisers, this perverted the trust between professor and student on which higher education is built. Posing as a mentor, a professor might seek a foreign student’s views on international affairs, or ask about his financial situation, not to guide him but to help the CIA evaluate and enlist him. And, once it snared the student, the agency might ask him to break the laws of his home country — a request that Harvard couldn’t be a party to.

“Many of these students are highly vulnerable,” Bok told the Senate in 1978. “They are frequently young and inexperienced, often short of funds and away from their homelands for the first time. Is it appropriate for faculty members, who supposedly are acting in the best interests of the students, to be part of a process of recruiting such students to engage in activities that may be hazardous and probably illegal under the laws of their home countries? I think not.”

The Harvard committee acknowledged that its new rules made the CIA’s job harder. “This loss is one that a free society should be willing to suffer,” it said.

Admiral Stansfield Turner saw no reason to suffer. CIA director from 1977 to 1981, he believed that the agency should take advantage of the presence of foreign students on U.S. soil. Since recruiting foreigners in totalitarian countries is difficult, “it would be foolish not to attempt to identify sympathetic people when they are in our country,” he wrote in his autobiography. Turner rejected Harvard’s guidelines — as well as a Church Committee recommendation that the agency tell university presidents about clandestine relationships on their campuses — and made clear that the agency had no intention of following them. If professors want to help the CIA, Turner argued in correspondence with Bok, it’s their right as American citizens. Harvard’s policy, he concluded, “deprives academics of all freedom of choice in relation to involvement in intelligence activities.”

The CIA promulgated its own “Regulation on Relationships with the U.S. Academic Community,” which remains in effect today. The one-page regulation ratified the status quo, permitting the agency to “enter into personal services contracts and other continuing relationships with individual full-time staff and faculty members.” The CIA would “suggest” that the staff or faculty member alert a senior university official, “unless security considerations preclude such a disclosure or the individual objects.”

Harvard and the CIA bickered with one eye on the audience they wanted to impress: the rest of academe. One university, no matter how prestigious, couldn’t stare down the CIA. But if other universities lined up behind Harvard, the agency would be hard-pressed to resist.

Halperin set out like Johnny Appleseed to sow the Harvard guidelines across the country. To his shock, the soil was barren. Other universities were reluctant to follow Harvard’s lead without documented evidence of covert CIA-faculty relationships, which the Church Committee had suppressed. University presidents wrote to the CIA, asking for particulars about cooperating faculty members, which the agency declined to provide. Some professors complained that Harvard’s rules would infringe on their academic freedom.

Only 10 colleges adopted Harvard’s policy even in diluted form.

Forty years later, Halperin remains perplexed. “I thought once Harvard did it, everybody else would follow,” he says. “Nobody did. It was a big disappointment. If we had been able to make it the norm on major campuses, it would have had impact. I was befuddled, bewildered, and frustrated. Finally, I just gave up.”

The CIA moved to mend the breach with academe. In 1977 it started a “scholars-in-residence” program in which professors on sabbatical from their universities were given contracts to advise CIA analysts and made “privy to information that would never be available to them on campus.” In 1985 the agency added an “officers-in-residence” component, which placed intelligence officers nearing retirement at universities at CIA expense.

The effectiveness of the officers-in-residence program was “very mixed,” said the former CIA analyst Brian Latell, who ran it from 1994 to 1998. Before he took over, he said, “we were sending Dagwood Bumsteads who should have been forced into retirement.” Some were just hanging around campus with nothing to do. Latell set standards; the officers must have advanced degrees and be allowed to teach. At its peak, the program had officers in residence at more than a dozen universities.

The CIA supplied not only teachers but also students, intervening in a cherished academic bailiwick: admissions. In some cases it arranged schooling for valuable foreign informants who were in danger and had to flee to the United States.

In other instances, the CIA compensated foreign agents by arranging their children’s or grandchildren’s admission to an American college and paying their tuition, typically through a front organization. “When you’re recruiting a foreigner, you look at, ‘What can I do for this guy?’ Sometimes a guy will say, ‘I want my daughter to go to a good American school,’ ” says Gene Coyle, who went to Indiana University as a CIA officer in residence. He retired from the agency in 2006 and is now a professor of practice at Indiana.

“The answer may be, ‘We may be able to line her up with a scholarship from the Aardvark Society of Boston.’ Instead of giving Daddy cold hard cash, when he has to explain where he gets it, his daughter gets the Aardvark Society second-born scholarship for people from Uzbekistan.”

While the CIA can pull strings at top universities when it needs to, some informants ask for less selective colleges. “We sent an awful lot of Arabs” to state universities in the Southwest, an ex-officer recalls. “They all wanted to study petroleum engineering. Those schools had a huge Arab population, and they fit right in.”

A generational shift underlies the increasing ties between the intelligence community and academe. Baby-boomer professors who grew up protesting the CIA-aided misadventures of the 1960s began to retire, replaced by those shaped by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the first Gulf War, and 9/11. Younger faculty members are more likely to regard the collecting and sifting of intelligence as a vital tool for a nation under threat and a patriotic duty compatible with — even desirable for — academic research.

Barbara Walter considers it a public service to educate the CIA. The political scientist at the University of California at San Diego gives unpaid presentations at think tanks fronting for the agency, sometimes for audiences whose name tags carry only their first names. When CIA recruiters have visited UCSD, she has helped them organize daylong simulations of foreign-policy crises to measure graduate students’ analytic abilities — and even role-played a CIA official.

She’s aware that some older faculty colleagues frown on those activities. “My more senior colleagues would absolutely not be comfortable consulting with the CIA or intelligence agencies,” she says. “Anybody who remembers or had exposure to the Vietnam War has this visceral reaction.”

Graham Spanier was the exception to Walter’s dictum. The Vietnam War didn’t prejudice him against intelligence agencies. As an undergraduate and graduate student at Iowa State University, he told me, he had been an “establishment radical.” Spanier, who had student and medical deferments and so didn’t serve in the war, led peaceful, law-abiding demonstrations against it but disapproved of confrontational tactics, such as taking over administration buildings. Once, when a march threatened to turn unruly, he borrowed a police loudspeaker to urge calm.

“I had the greatest respect for law enforcement,” he said. “I was always in the forefront of change, but I believed in working through the system. I wanted to be at the table, making change, rather than outside the building, yelling and having no effect.”

As he advanced in his career, gaining a seat at the table of administrators who hammered out academic policy, he paid little heed to the Church Committee or to CIA and FBI activities. Then, in 1995, he was appointed president of Penn State. Because the university conducts classified research at its Applied Research Laboratory, Spanier needed a security clearance. While he was being vetted, he read newspaper accounts linking a University of South Florida professor, Sami Al-Arian, and an adjunct instructor, Ramadan Shallah, to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, an Iran-backed terrorist group. Spanier was struck by USF President Betty Castor’s lament that she’d had no idea of Al-Arian’s alleged fund-raising for terrorists and that the FBI had not given her “one iota” of information.

The soft-spoken Shallah had been named head of Islamic Jihad and vowed war against Israel. The director of the international-studies center at USF was quoted as saying, “We couldn’t be more surprised.”

Spanier made his own vow: Never be surprised. As a university president, he thought, “I want to be the first to know, not the last.”

He convened a meeting in his conference room of every government agency that might conduct an investigation at Penn State, from the FBI and CIA to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (the university does Navy research) and state and local police departments. “What I said to them is, ‘If there is a significant national-security or law-enforcement issue on my campus, you can trust me. I understand the importance and sensitivity of such matters. I would like you to feel comfortable coming to me to talk about it, rather than sneaking around behind my back.’ ”

They agreed to stay in touch. From then on, an FBI or CIA agent — usually both — would drop by once a month to brief him or ask his advice, typically about counterintelligence or cybersecurity issues involving foreign students or visitors. In 2002, David W. Szady became the FBI’s assistant director for counterintelligence. A quarter-century before, he had gone undercover at the University of Pittsburgh, posing as a chemist to befriend Soviet students. Now, like Spanier, he wanted to smooth relations between intelligence agencies and academe. Soon, FBI and CIA officials asked Spanier to expand the Penn State experiment nationwide.

The result was the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board (NSHEAB), established in 2005 with Spanier as its chairman. It consisted, then as now, of 20 to 25 university presidents and higher-education leaders, though some initially were nervous about their membership becoming public, fearing a campus backlash that never materialized. Spanier, conferring with the FBI and CIA, chose the members, primarily from prestigious research universities. At the FBI, Szady says, “nobody thought we could get it up and running,” because academe was perceived as hostile turf.

Board members receive security clearances and go to FBI and CIA offices periodically for classified briefings. The agenda for an October 2013 meeting at FBI headquarters, for example, included the investigation of Edward Snowden for leaking classified National Security Agency documents; the Boston Marathon bombing; Russian threats to laboratories and research; and Department of Defense-funded students abroad “being aggressively targeted” by Iranian intelligence. Afterward the FBI hosted a dinner for board members at a gourmet Italian restaurant in downtown Washington.

“There’s a real tension between what the FBI and CIA want to do and our valid and necessary international openness,” says one board member, Rice University’s president, David Leebron. “But we don’t want to wake up one morning and find out that there are people on campus stealing our trade secrets or putting our country in danger. We might be uneasy bedfellows, but we’ve got to find an accommodation.”

The FBI and Spanier reached an understanding that it would notify him or the board about investigations at U.S. universities. In return for being kept in the loop, Spanier opened doors for the FBI throughout academe. He gave FBI-sponsored seminars for administrators at MIT, Michigan State, Stanford, and other universities, as well as for national associations of higher-education trustees and lawyers. Many of them arrived at his talks “with a healthy degree of skepticism,” he told me. Displaying his American Civil Liberties Union membership card to prove that he shared their devotion to academic freedom, Spanier would assure them that the FBI had changed since J. Edgar Hoover’s henchmen snooped in student files.

He also acted as a go-between for the CIA with university leaders who weren’t on the national-security board: “What a CIA person can’t do is call the president’s office, and when the secretary answers, say, ‘I’m from the CIA, and I want an appointment.’ It doesn’t work, and it’s not credible. “Before anybody would do that, I would call the president,” Spanier continued. “The presidents all knew me. They would take my call. … I would say, ‘Someone from the CIA would like to come. There’s no issue on your campus now’ — occasionally there was an issue; most often it was a get-acquainted meeting. Sometimes I would just give the first name. ‘Someone will call your assistant; it’s Bob.’ … That worked 100 percent of the time.”

Spanier facilitated CIA introductions to the presidents of both Carnegie Mellon and Ohio State. A Pittsburgh-based CIA officer began visiting Jared Cohon, Carnegie Mellon’s president from 1997 to 2013, once or twice a year. “I know there was direct activity with selected faculty,” Cohon says. “They were interested in what the faculty might have observed when they went to foreign conferences. My impression, what I heard from the CIA, was that it was more defensive than offensive. Trying to make sure those faculty weren’t recruited by a foreign power.

“I was uneasy about it, and I am uneasy,” he adds. “I’m a kid of the ’60s, and I remember all the protests on campus. The idea of the CIA being on campus would have turned people crazy. Things have changed dramatically in that regard.”

Spanier frequently traveled abroad, visiting China, Cuba, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other countries of interest to the CIA. On his return, the agency would debrief him. “I have been in the company of presidents, prime ministers, corporate chief executives, and eminent scientists,” he told me. “That’s a level of life experience and exposure you don’t have as a case officer or even a State Department employee.”

I asked if U.S. intelligence had ever instructed him to gather specific information — in other words, if he had ever acted as an intelligence agent. He smiled and said, “I can’t talk about it.”

His lofty contacts enabled Spanier to steer federal research funds to universities in general and Penn State in particular. When Robert Gates, who as president of Texas A&M University had been Spanier’s “close colleague” on the higher-education-advisory board, became U.S. secretary of defense, in December 2006, they brainstormed about academe’s role in national defense. The result was the Pentagon-funded Minerva Initiative, which supports social-science research on regions of strategic importance to U.S. security.

At meetings with the CIA’s chief scientist or the head of the FBI’s science-and-technology branch, Spanier invariably asked, “What’s your greatest need?” He rarely heard the answer without thinking, We can do that at Penn State. Then he would approach the director of the appropriate Penn State laboratory, explain what the CIA or FBI wanted, and say, “Why don’t you go and talk to them?”

Spanier resigned as Penn State president in 2011 and as chairman of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board soon afterward, during a firestorm over child sex abuse by Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach. University trustees hired Louis Freeh to investigate. He and Spanier had been friendly for years. Freeh was FBI director when Spanier welcomed the bureau to Penn State. In 2005, Freeh inscribed a copy of his memoir, My FBI, to Spanier with “warm wishes and appreciation for your leadership, vision and integrity.”

Freeh’s 2012 report portrayed Spanier quite differently. It accused him and others of concealing the child-sex-abuse allegations from trustees and authorities and exhibiting “a striking lack of empathy” for victims. Spanier denied the allegations and sued Freeh and Penn State separately, contending that they were scapegoating him. The university countersued. In March a jury convicted Spanier of one misdemeanor count of child endangerment for failing to report the abuse. In June he was sentenced to two months in jail, followed by at least two months of house arrest.

Thanks to Spanier, CIA and FBI agents could now stride onto campus through the main gate, with university presidents personally arranging their appointments with faculty members and students. But, except possibly at Penn State, they still slipped in through the back door whenever it suited them, ignoring their pact with Spanier that they would inform university leaders of their campus investigations.

For example, the FBI didn’t notify universities during the 2011 Arab Spring, when it questioned Libyan students nationwide, including Mohamed Farhat, a graduate student at Binghamton University, of the State University of New York.

“I’m a talkative guy,” Farhat told me. “I am very truthful. I don’t like hiding.” Married with three children — the eldest, a daughter, born in Libya, and two sons born in the United States — Farhat grew up in Zliten, a town about 100 miles east of Tripoli. He studied electrical engineering at a technical college, but it bored him, and he discovered that he had an aptitude for English. Within a few years he was teaching English at every level from middle school to college.

When Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi, decreed that the Libyan government would provide 5,000 scholarships for study abroad, Farhat seized the opportunity. He arrived in the United States in December 2008 and, after a year of English language study in Pittsburgh, enrolled at Binghamton.

Thanks to Spanier, CIA and FBI agents could now stride onto campus through the main gate, with university presidents personally arranging their appointments with faculty members and students. As democratic uprisings sprouted throughout the Arab world in 2011, Farhat canceled his classes for the semester and joined cybergroups opposing the Gaddafi regime. There were about 1,500 Libyan students in the United States, and Farhat knew many of them. Soon friends began calling to let him know that the FBI had interviewed them, and that he, too, should expect a visit.

A worried Farhat contacted Ellen Badger, then director of Binghamton’s international-students office. She was accustomed to rebuffing FBI inquiries. When a university admits a foreign student or visiting scholar, it issues him or her a document required for a visa. It transmits the same information electronically to the departments of State and Homeland Security, but not to the FBI, which, unlike the other two agencies, has no regulatory authority over this population. Unless the FBI had a subpoena, under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act she could provide only “directory information,” which includes basic student data, such as dates of attendance, degrees and awards, and field of study.

“There was a clear understanding they [the FBI] were going to chat with me in the friendliest way and would be happy with any information I could give,” Badger says. “I would respond in the friendliest way and give them nothing. That’s how the dance went.”

She reassured Farhat: The FBI would probably come to her first, and she would take care of it. Instead, the FBI bypassed Badger. Because the CIA was “somewhat blind” regarding on-the-ground intelligence in Libya, the FBI had been assigned to question students about the situation there, one insider told me. Agents were instructed to interview Libyan students off-campus, without alerting professors or administrators. To protect informants from exposure, the bureau wanted to be as discreet as possible.

An agent knocked on the door of Farhat’s apartment in a three-story brick building west of campus, showed identification, and said he wanted to schedule a time to talk with him. It never occurred to Farhat to refuse.

“I have no idea about rights,” he says. “This is not part of our culture. To me, the FBI are the ultimate power.”

Two agents showed up on the appointed morning. They sat at his kitchen table and unfolded a black-and-white map of Libya, asking where he was from. It was the first of five visits from the FBI, each lasting more than an hour, over a period of two months. The same local agent came every time, accompanied by one of two agents with experience abroad; one spoke a little Arabic. At the initial interview, they explained that they wanted to make sure that he wasn’t threatening, or threatened by, any pro-Gaddafi Libyans.

That mission reflected the bureau’s concern that, since most Libyan students in the United States were on government scholarships, some might be loyal to Gaddafi — and planning acts of terror against the United States for supporting the revolution against him. That worry turned out to be misplaced. “The students hated Gaddafi,” the insider recalled. “I don’t want to say it was a waste of time, but we satisfied ourselves that there was no threat from the Libyans.”

The agents proceeded to their other purpose: gathering intelligence. They asked Farhat about Libyan society and customs and his life from secondary school on. What disturbed him most were the questions about his and his wife’s friends and relatives, from other Libyan students to his uncles in the military. The agents wanted names, email addresses, phone numbers. Because they told him that they knew his email address and Facebook affiliations, he coughed up his most-frequent contacts, figuring that the bureau could track them anyway.

By the fourth visit, Farhat says, “I was annoyed.” The next time, he decided, would be the last. “I will tell them, ‘No more,’ ” he promised himself. As it turned out, he never had to muster the courage to defy them, because on the fifth session they wrapped up, then never returned.

Farhat didn’t tell Badger about the agents until afterward. “My reaction was regret,” she says. “What you want to do in a situation like this is make sure students are informed of their rights. They don’t have to answer any questions. They can decline a visit. They can set terms: ‘I want the director of the international office there.’ ‘I want a faculty member there.’ They have control.

“I never got to give that little speech.”


Daniel Golden is the author of The Price of Admission (Crown, 2006). His new book is Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities (Henry Holt, 2017), from which this article is adapted.

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Dick Gregory’s Awe-Inspiring Account of the 1965 March in Selma

Comedian, civil rights activist, social critic, writer and beloved cultural icon, Dick Gregory, gives an enlightening and awe-inspiring account of his experience and participation in the 1965 March in Selma in his (posthumously released) 2017 book, Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies. Gregory’s writtenD Gregory Book Cover retelling of that historic event in Alabama invokes the spirit of his insights, voice and personality. There is much therein for you to learn of what happened in 1965 and much that correlates with our marches and protests today. In reading his account, you can hear the great ‘Baba’ Gregory as though he were speaking to you directly…

“The march in Selma, Alabama in 1965, wasn’t about voting rights as many historians would have you believe. It was about a civil rights worker named Jimmie Lee Jackson. This church deacon, twenty-six years old, went to vote, and they wouldn’t let him. It was about Jimmie Lee… and being a turtle. Let me explain.

Remember one thing: 66 million years ago, that big horrible thing, the asteroid bigger than mountains, killed the dinosaurs. That’s the information they feed to you, your children, and your grandchildren. What they don’t tell you is when the dinosaur was here, so was the turtle, and so was the butterfly. That was 66 million years ago, and the turtle and the butterfly are still here! Gorgeous, pretty, not evil mean or horrible. The turtle just makes his way along, real slow. And that’s how we won the civil rights movement- we took on the mightiest nation in the history of the planet with no guns, and we did it by becoming turtles: hard on the outside, and willing to stick our necks out. We need to recognize that as strength.

In February 1965, Jimmie Lee Jackson was part of a march in Marion, Alabama. The marchers were protesting the arrest of another worker, James Orange. Now, this was a peaceful protest, but the Alabama State Troopers didn’t care about “peaceful protest;” all they heard was “protest,” and they thought it was time to bust heads. And worse: the night of the protest, they turned off all the streetlights in the town, and when it was good and dark, the troopers went at those folks with clubs, but not just clubs. The protesters took off running.

Jimmie Lee and some other wound up in a restaurant: Mack’s Cafe’. Jimmie Lee’s mother and granddaddy were there, too. And the troopers started beating all of them. When they began beating Jimmie Lee’s granddaddy, his mother went to pull them off, and they started whupping her. They shot Jimmie Lee in the belly five times and then carried him off to jail to book him. Didn’t take him to a hospital till the next day. A few days later, he died.

That’s what the march in Selma was about. Wasn’t about voting rights. It was about Jimmie Lee Jackson. And when that march happened, that’s when all hell broke loose. You go by Jimmie Lee Jackson’s grave back then, and they’re sitting there with rifles, shooting at the tombstone.

FOR THOSE WHO HAVEN’T BEEN TO JAIL BUT KIND OF WONDER in the back of their D. Gregory and Dr. Kingminds what it was like in the civil rights days, well, let me explain it to you. First day you get arrested, the food is horrible. Second day it’s miserable. The third day, it doesn’t taste too bad. The fourth day, you’re asking for the recipe.

By the time I got down south to protest, blood was running in the streets.

I left the hotel one night to get a case of whiskey, because I drank with this one state trooper every night. This trooper was a brother-married to a black woman, lived in a black neighborhood, his children went to black schools- but the white folks thought he was white!

So, he came to see me with this look on his face. I said, “What’s happening, man? Where’s the whiskey?”

He said, “I was at this meeting, man, and tomorrow they’ve got three hundred white folks who came in from all over the South- they’re gonna kill all of y’all. And our job is to rope off the press so they can’t get across the street. I’m just thankful I know you, man, so you can tell the folks.”

I guess he thought if I told the marchers about the danger, we’d all stay home. I said, “I’m not gonna tell them nothing. I came here to die. I don’t want to die, I came here to die. So tomorrow we die.”Gregory and King 2

The next day we were there, and the trooper who had warned me- and who was on duty now passing for white- looked at me with tears in his eyes, shaking his head, and whispered, “You didn’t tell them!”

We were there, old black folks, young black folks, singing, “Glory, glory hallelujah… My eyes have seen the glory.” We were marching. Then, at a certain point, we got to one corner and, just like my trooper friend had told me, the trooper had roped off the press. Then, I looked in another direction and saw a whole lot of angry white folks waiting on us. I thought about my wife and my children. But this was war.

I saw that the white mob had pickaxes, rifles, clubs. I thought, “I sure don’t want to die. If I’d known this was going to happen, I’d have got me a little pussy before I left home!” Then the marchers saw all the armed white folks, but we kept singing and we kept praying. Most of us didn’t know what was fixing to happen.Marching Selma

Then, all of a sudden, I saw those white folks shaking. They were scared. A look had come over their faces. It was like I had died and gone to another planet. I looked at them, and they dropped their pickaxes. They had this horrible look on their faces, and two years later I figured out what it was: We marchers were out there, unafraid, willing to die but not to kill, and, well, those folks saw the spirit of God in us.

We kept marching, and we kept marching.

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October 10, 2017 · 2:45 am