Sunday, June 24, 2007

Who's the Enemy, Again?

Via Slashdot, I came across this Boston Globe story: FBI warns colleges of terror threat.

The story goes on to explain how some FBI officials are worried that "terrorists" are going to try and use universities as a way to gather information or intelligence, or possibly conduct espionage.

Personally, I'm not seeing the threat here, for two reasons.

First, I don't really trust the FBI's warnings anymore, especially those directed at universities. There's too much of a history of mistakenly (to put it charitably) viewing universities and university students/staff/faculty as 'dangerous' (read: not conservative or authoritarian enough) for some reason, and this whole "the terrorists are coming" crap sounds like a cover to combat the 'real' threat - the (relatively) open spread of information.

Second, I'm not sure that this would even be much of a problem if it were true. In the first place, existing security procedures, if rational, should take care of 99% or more of the problem. Second, I have to admit I'm in favor of some publicity when it comes to the amount of research done on university campuses in the name of 'national security' or 'national defense.' At least at the college I attended, I know that the U.S. Department of Defense dumps millions of dollars into the school for research. A friend of mine once said the only project he could work on without using DoD dollars was one in which he figured out how to more effectively crush bones. The entire rest of the research in his department (which was an engineering department, by the way), he said, was funded by DoD.

So if there was some shadowy group of folks angling to pierce the veil of secrecy that's been laid over lots and lots of university work, I wouldn't necessarily be opposed to it, depending on the context. I'm pretty sure most college students don't know how much research is done at their schools on subjects they really want nothing to do with.


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