Author Warns about the CIA on Campuses, Short Interview with Philip Zwerling

By Nick Braune

It’s available next month — tell your library to order it now — The CIA on Campus: Essays on Academic Freedom and the National Security State, edited by Philip Zwerling (McFarland Publications, 2011). Professor Zwerling teaches at University of Texas-Pan American, a site of considerable controversy about CIA recruiting.

The publisher’s blurb: “This collection of nine essays in diverse academic fields explores the pernicious penetration of intelligence services into U.S. campus life to exploit academic study, recruit students, skew publications, influence professional advancement, misinform the public, and spy on professors. With its exhaustive list of CIA misdeeds and myriad suggestions for combating the subversion of academic independence, this work provides a wake-up call for students and faculty.”

Braune: Congratulations, Dr. Zwerling, to you and to other UTPA contributors, Dr. David Anshen and Dr. David Carlson, for this important book. Tell me, why did the CIA crowd promise money and push so hard to have a formal niche at UTPA?

Zwerling: After 9/11 (the greatest U.S. intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor) they were determined to have what House Intelligence Committee Chair Jane Harman called “agents who look like their targets.” So at UTPA and other campuses where ethnic or racial minorities constitute the majority, they planned to generate more applicants for clandestine service in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

Braune: So they set up house on certain campuses?

Zwerling: Yes, these CIA campus projects involve recruitment — they want 10,000 applicants yearly — and “curriculum modification” to teach courses their way. Historically they have drawn faculty and students into dangerous mind control experiments, election fraud, and the training of police torturers and military death squads. Such projects always involve secrecy and the subversion of an independent faculty.

Braune: Another thing I disliked about the CIA plans for Pan Am was the “spy school” for high school students. (It reminded me of the Nazis getting children to spy on their families.) Did their “spy school” idea ever get off the ground?

Zwerling: The CIA and the ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) reach out to students as young, and therefore impressionable, as they can. UTPA just concluded their annual Summer Spy Camp (called “Got Intelligence”) with middle school kids. They play spy games, hunt with GPS, etc. But regardless of the activities the goal is always recruitment.

Braune: I understand that the concerned professors and students at Pan Am have had some success recently.

Zwerling: Yes. The elected faculty Council of the College of Arts and Humanities unanimously voted last October to investigate the Spy School, and in response the Faculty Senate held an open debate on the subject last May. The CIA and ODNI don’t like open debates or publicity, and I think any return to the campus will be met by continued resistance.

Braune: Does your book answer a question I occasionally hear: Shouldn’t the CIA have a “right” (academic freedom) to build a presence on campuses?

Zwerling: Academics, faculty and students, are all about public discussion, free speech, and the clash of ideas. That’s how new knowledge is created and shared. The CIA, on the other hand, is a secret organization (we do not know their members, budget, plans, etc.), the antithesis of free speech. Their recruitment of our students relies on subterfuge and lies and has no place on campus.

[This piece appeared first in “Reflection and Change,” Mid-Valley Town Crier, August 15, 2011.]