Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Threats from the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board

As the recent spraying of weapons-grade pepper spray of students at UC Davis represents a new element in the attack on public education, important questions need to be asked about how University Administration allowed a safety-security force to morph into a fully-armed paramilitary presence on the campus of a publicly funded educational institution.  As if students are now the enemy, why is it necessary for a police presence to be equipped with lethal battle gear as if going into combat with a highly-sophisticated military adversary as University Administration allowed their campus to become a one-sided battle zone rather than an academic bastion of the First Amendment.  

Consider the highly–problematic creation of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board (NSHEAB) in September, 2005 by FBI Director Robert Mueller to encourage ”a spirit of cooperation and to promote understanding between higher education and the FBI and other federal agencies, such as the Department of Defense.”  The FBI-academic alliance would also “open doors of understanding and cooperation” on ‘national security, terrorism, counter intelligence, cyber threats, and certain other criminal matters’.  

This Mission Statement should alarm every American citizen concerned about the long term implications of an FBI-University collaboration on a democratic society.  The American public needs to know exactly what are the national security threats on campus to justify NSHEAB and to demand that Congress hold oversight hearings on Mueller’s assumption of authority to militarize American college campuses.      

The NSHEAB currently includes over 20 University Presidents or Chancellors from publicly supported Universities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas A&M, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin as well as private educational institutions like Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell, MIT, Purdue and Rice. Given the nature of their highly confidential agendas, all Board members must hold a ‘secret’ security clearance at minimum.  UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi joined the Board in October, 2010 after organizing a comparable quasi-military International Committee on Higher Education in Greece.

Almost one hundred years ago, when University Presidents were held in high esteem, some participated in national debates and even joined the ranks of the anti-imperialist Mugwump party, one wonders if any University President declined the FBI’s invitation to the participate in the NSHEAB.

With major University investments in sustainable energy, agricultural production and nanotechnology, the NSHEAB is concerned with the flow of illicit acquisition and export of sensitive technologies and outright theft of information that might compromise national security.  To date, cooperation with the FBI has resulted in the conviction of at least three University professors from various campuses for violating export control laws and for mishandling ‘sensitive information’ from an Air Force research project.

Since its inception, the Board has met on a regular basis three times a year at FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC where Members receive routine briefings from the Agency’s Counter Intelligence Division and its Domestic Terror Analysis Unit.  Agenda items include ‘current threats’ like the Animal Liberation Front, a group dedicated to the elimination of animal suffering, and environmental ‘extremist’ groups.  The FBI considers the ALF that admits to economic sabotage to be the country’s “number one domestic eco-terrorist threat” with a history of “violent crimes and terrorist actions,” according to John Lewis of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division.

A Freedom of Information request filed at UC Davis revealed collusion between top University administrators and local law enforcement with creation in 2009 of a “Student Activism Response Team.”  The Team has the responsibility to monitor any potential student activity, keep tabs on pertinent Facebook accounts and infiltrate student organizations as it did last spring during peaceful student protests of tuition increases.  

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