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La Jornada > Cobertura de "La otra campaña"

Nodos Comunes

.. Caosmosis ..

Rage One (blog)

lunes, enero 14, 2008

Repress U (Michael Gould-Wartofsky)

Repress U



HR 1955: Full Text

[from the January 28, 2008 issue]

Free-speech zones. Taser guns. Hidden cameras. Data mining. A new security
curriculum. Private security contractors. Welcome to the homeland security

From Harvard to UCLA, the ivory tower is fast becoming the latest
watchtower in Fortress America. The terror warriors, having turned their
attention to "violent radicalization and homegrown terrorism
prevention"--as it was recently dubbed in a House of Representatives bill
of the same name--have set out to reconquer that traditional hotbed of
radicalization, the university.

Building a homeland security campus and bringing the university to heel is
a seven-step mission:

1. Target dissidents. As the warfare state has triggered dissent, the
campus has attracted increasing scrutiny--with student protesters in the
cross hairs. The government's number-one target? Peace and justice

From 2003 to 2007 an unknown number of them made it into the Pentagon's
Threat and Local Observation Notice system (TALON), a secretive domestic
spying program ostensibly designed to track direct "potential terrorist
threats" to the Defense Department itself. In 2006 the ACLU uncovered, via
Freedom of Information Act requests, at least 186 specific TALON reports
on "anti-military protests" in the United States--some listed as "credible
threats"--from student groups at the University of California, Santa Cruz;
State University of New York, Albany; Georgia State University; and New
Mexico State University, among other campuses.

At more than a dozen universities and colleges, police officers now double
as full-time FBI agents, and according to the Campus Law Enforcement
Journal, they serve on many of the nation's 100 Joint Terrorism Task
Forces. These dual-purpose officer-agents have knocked on student
activists' doors from North Carolina State to the University of Colorado
and, in one case, interrogated an Iraqi-born professor at the University
of Massachusetts about his antiwar views.

FBI agents, or their campus stand-ins, don't have to do all the work.
Administrators often do it for them, setting up "free-speech zones," which
actually constrain speech, and punishing those who step outside them.
Protests were typically forced into "free-assembly areas" at the
University of Central Florida and Clemson University, while students at
Hampton and Pace universities faced expulsion for handing out antiwar
fliers, aka "unauthorized materials."

2. Lock and load. Many campus police departments are morphing into heavily
armed garrisons, equipped with a wide array of weaponry, from Taser stun
guns and pepper guns to shotguns and semiautomatic rifles. Lock-and-load
policies that began in the 1990s under the rubric of the "war on crime"
only escalated with the President's "war on terror." Each school
shooting--most recently the massacre at Virginia Tech--adds fuel to the
armament flames.

Two-thirds of universities arm their police, according to the Justice
Department. Many of the guns being purchased were previously in the
province of military units and SWAT teams: for instance, AR-15 rifles
(similar to M-16s) are in the arsenals of the University of Texas campus
police. Last April City University of New York bought dozens of
semiautomatic handguns. Some states, like Nevada, are even considering
plans to allow university staff to pack heat in a "special reserve officer

Most of the force used on campuses these days, though, comes in less
lethal form, such as the rubber bullets and pepper pellets increasingly
used to contain student demonstrations. Then there is the ubiquitous
Taser, the electroshock weapon recently ruled a "form of torture" by the
United Nations. A Taser was used by UCLA police in November 2006 to
deliver shock after shock to an Iranian-American student for failing to
produce his ID at the Powell Library. A University of Florida student was
Tased last September after asking pointed questions of Senator John Kerry
at a public forum, his plea "Don't Tase me, bro!" becoming the stuff of
pop folklore.

3. Keep an eye (or hundreds of them) focused on campus. Surveillance has
become a boom industry nationally--one that now reaches deep into the
heart of campuses. In fact, universities have witnessed explosive growth
since 2001 in the electronic surveillance of students, faculty and campus
workers. On ever more campuses, closed-circuit security cameras can track
people's every move, often from hidden or undisclosed locations, sometimes
even into classrooms.

The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators
reports that surveillance cameras have found their way onto at least half
of all colleges, their numbers on any given campus doubling, tripling or,
in a few cases, rising tenfold since September 11, 2001. Such cameras have
proliferated by the hundreds on private campuses, in particular. The
University of Pennsylvania, for instance, has more than 400 watching over
it, while Harvard and Brown have about 200 each.

Often it can be tricky to find out where the cameras are and just what
they're meant to be viewing. The University of Texas battled student
journalists over disclosure and ultimately kept its cameras hidden.
Sometimes, though, the cameras' purpose seems obvious. Take the case of
Hussein Hussein, a professor in the department of animal biotechnology at
the University of Nevada, Reno. In January 2005 the widely respected
professor found a hidden camera redirected to monitor his office.

4. Mine student records. Student records have in recent years been opened
up to all manner of data mining for purposes of investigation, recruitment
or just all-purpose tracking. From 2001 to 2006, in an operation
code-named Project Strike Back, the Education Department teamed up with
the FBI to scour the records of the 14 million students who applied for
federal financial aid each year. The objective? "To identify potential
people of interest," explained an FBI spokesperson cryptically, especially
those linked to "potential terrorist activity."

Strike Back was quietly discontinued in June 2006, days after students at
Northwestern University blew its cover. But just one month later, the
Education Department's Commission on the Future of Higher Education, in a
much-criticized preliminary report, recommended the creation of a federal
"unit records" database that would track the activities and studies of
college students nationwide. The department's Institute of Education
Sciences has developed a prototype for such a national database.

It's not a secret that the Pentagon, for its part, hopes to turn campuses
into recruitment centers for its overstretched, overstressed forces. The
Defense Department has built its own database for just this purpose. Known
as Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies, this program tracks 30
million young people, ages 16 to 25. According to a Pentagon spokesperson,
the department has partnered with private marketing and data-mining firms,
which in turn sell the government reams of information on students and
other potential recruits.

5. Track foreign-born students; keep the undocumented out. Under the
auspices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the Department of
Homeland Security (DHS) has been keeping close tabs on foreign students
and their dependents through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information
System (SEVIS). As of October 2007, ICE reported that it was actively
following 713,000 internationals on campuses, while keeping more than 4.7
million names in the database.

The database aims to amass and record information on foreign students
throughout their stay inside the United States. SEVIS requires thick files
on the students from the sponsoring schools, constantly updated with all
academic, biographical and employment records--all of which will be shared
with other government agencies. If students fall out of "status" at
school--or if the database thinks they have--the Compliance Enforcement
Unit of ICE goes into action.

ICE, of course, has done its part to keep the homeland security campus
purified of those not born in the homeland. The American Immigration Law
Foundation estimates that only one in twenty undocumented immigrants who
graduate high school goes on to enroll in a college--many don't go because
they cannot afford the tuition but also because they have good reason to
be afraid: ICE has deported a number of those who did make it to college,
some before they could graduate.

6. Take over the curriculum, the classroom and the laboratory. Needless to
say, not every student is considered a homeland security threat. Quite the
opposite. Many students and faculty members are seen as potential assets.
To exploit these assets, DHS has launched its own curriculum under its
Office of University Programs (OUP), intended, it says, to "foster a
homeland security culture within the academic community."

The record so far is impressive: DHS has doled out 439 federal fellowships
and scholarships since 2003, providing full tuition to students who fit
"within the homeland security research enterprise." Two hundred
twenty-seven schools now offer degree or certificate programs in "homeland
security," a curriculum that encompasses more than 1,800 courses. Along
with OUP, some of the key players in creating the homeland security
classroom are the US Northern Command and the Aerospace Defense Command,
co-founders of the Homeland Security and Defense Education Consortium.

OUP has also partnered with researchers and laboratories to "align
scientific results with homeland security priorities." In fiscal year 2008
alone, $4.9 billion in federal funding will go to
homeland-security-related research. Grants correspond to sixteen research
topics selected by DHS, based on presidential directives, legislation and
a smattering of scientific advice.

But wait, there's more: DHS has founded and funded six of its very own
"Centers of Excellence," research facilities that span dozens of
universities from coast to coast. The latest is a Center of Excellence for
the Study of Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism, the funding
for which cleared the House in October. The center is mandated to assist a
national commission in combating those "adopting or promoting an extremist
belief advance political, religious or social change."

7. Privatize, privatize, privatize. Of course, homeland security is not
just a department, nor is it simply a new network of surveillance and data
mining--it's big business. (According to USA Today, global
homeland-security-style spending had already reached $59 billion a year in
2006, a sixfold increase over 2000.) Not surprisingly, then, universities
have in recent years established unprecedented private-sector partnerships
with the corporations that have the most to gain from their research.
DHS's on-campus National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and
Responses to Terror (START), for instance, features Lockheed Martin on its
advisory board. The Center for Food Protection and Defense relies on an
industry working group that includes Wal-Mart and McDonald's offering
"guidance and direction," according to its chair.

While vast sums of money are flowing in from corporate sponsors, huge
payments are also flowing out to "strategic contracts" with private
contractors, as universities permanently outsource security operations to
big corporations like Securitas and AlliedBarton. Little of this money
actually goes to those guarding the properties, who are often among the
most underpaid workers in the universities. Instead, it fills the
corporate coffers of those with little accountability for conditions on

Meanwhile, some universities have developed intimate relationships with
private-security outfits like the notorious Blackwater. Last May, for
example, the University of Illinois and its police training institute cut
a deal with the firm to share its facilities and training programs with
Blackwater operatives. Local journalists later revealed that the director
of the campus program at the time was on the Blackwater payroll. In the
age of hired education, such collaboration is apparently par for the

Following these seven steps over the past six years, the homeland security
state and its constituents have come a long way in their drive to remake
the American campus in the image of a compound on lockdown. Somewhere
inside the growing homeland security state that is our country, the next
seven steps in the process are undoubtedly already being planned.

Still, the rise of Repress U is not inevitable. The new homeland security
campus has proven itself unable to shut out public scrutiny or stamp out
resistance to its latest Orwellian advances. Sometimes such opposition
even yields a free-speech zone dismantled, or the Pentagon's TALON
declawed, or a Project Strike Back struck down. A rising tide of student
protest, led by groups like the new Students for a Democratic Society, has
won free-speech victories and reined in repression from Pace and Hampton,
where the university dropped its threat of expulsion, to UCLA, where
Tasers will no longer be wielded against passive resisters.

Yet if the tightening grip of the homeland security complex isn't
loosened, the latest towers of higher education will be built not of ivory
but of Kevlar for the over-armored, over-armed campuses of America.

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