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Elizabeth Redden, "Unlikely Bedfellows"?

"Unlikely Bedfellows" [Editor's Note: Oh Yeah?]

Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Ed

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and higher education as a whole
have enjoyed a decidedly un-cozy relationship since the Vietnam War –
a fact that many in academe have found to be just fine with them,

But if the FBI and higher education still aren't the best of friends,
they appear to be interacting a lot more. Reports this week about a
nationwide FBI outreach program in which agents set up meetings with
college leaders to discuss strategies for safeguarding academic
research from unfriendly foreign interests have fueled growing
concerns that the two entities are cozying up in uncomfortable ways
these days in the name of national security.

And yet the reports have also raised awareness of the agency's
potential value as a resource as colleges confront the vulnerability
inherent in an open system producing reams of research on topics
intimately tied to America's economic and physical security."Much of the nation's intellectual property is produced in
universities, in which they have a culture of sharing and openness.
Yet, there are countries and there are intelligence services that
would exploit these types of studies," said Bill Carter, a spokesman
at FBI headquarters in Washington. Academic freedom, Carter said, must
"coexist with government concerns."

"Now that the world has changed, it's more open. We have business
delegations coming into the country, we have thousands and thousands
of foreign students that an intelligence service could penetrate or
utilize … for intelligence-related purposes," Carter said. "We have
direct evidence that's taking place."

The FBI's Counterintelligence Domain Program, which charges field
offices across the nation with identifying vulnerable entities,
including colleges and businesses, and with briefing their leaders
about resources to strengthen security, is nothing new, Carter said.

Bob Hardy, director of contracts and intellectual property management
for the Council on Governmental Relations, a group that helps
universities navigate federal rules on research, added that his
organization has known of the FBI meetings with college leaders for at
least a year. Nevertheless, The Boston Globe's report Tuesday of the
Boston field office's efforts to meet with local college leaders — a
spokeswoman for the local office said Tuesday that its director has
met with administrators at Boston, Hampshire and Smith Colleges, the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Universities of
Massachusetts at Amherst and Rhode Island, and Worchester Polytechnic
Institute, all since February — has attracted some more public

That's despite the fact that the meetings themselves appear to be
mainly informational in nature. "It was really the FBI contacting us
and saying, 'We understand that you're doing more and more
international collaboration through research and other activities of
an educational nature and we want people to be aware of potential
problems that could compromise intellectual property — and we have a
whole cadre of resources that can educate faculty and others on these
issues,'" said Robert Weygand, vice president of administration at the
University of Rhode Island. Weygand attended a meeting in early May,
he said, with the university's president and the local FBI officials.

Suggestions for safeguarding intellectual property reflect common
sense, said Special Agent Gail A. Marcinkiewicz, the spokeswoman for
the Boston FBI field office: Be skeptical of people who seem oddly
interested in learning details of your research for no apparent
reason; take notice if you're finding graduate students in areas they
shouldn't be accessing.

Weygand said, however, that the University of Rhode Island would be
moving slowly in deciding whether to utilize the FBI's resources in
preventing such campus security breaches that could happen when, for
instance, a faculty member with research materials on a laptop logs
online in a foreign country. "We do not want to impede whatsoever the
research and the entrepreneurship of our faculty and staff, and that's
why we will go cautiously," Weygand said — citing concerns about
academic freedom and dampening the spirit of collaboration in

The informational meetings in themselves seem fairly straightforward,
said John Reinstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties
Union of Massachusetts. "The issue is whether this grows into a more
active collaboration between the university and the FBI and how people
respond to that." He referred, for instance, to an increasing coziness
evidenced by the enlistment of campus police officers to participate
in the work of the joint terrorism task force in the wake of September

"As it was described and from what I read, the FBI was simply offering
to do a briefing to say, 'These are some of the concerns that they
have,' " Reinstein said of the meetings. "What remains to be seen is
whether the schools, the universities, are doing anything in response
to the FBI briefing, whether they are becoming more vigilant in
watching out for what particular researchers are doing, and whether
they're providing information to the FBI."

"The fact of this program might to some extent chill academic
inquiry," Reinstein said.

The two entities — the FBI and higher education — do in fact have a
formal mechanism for more active collaboration these days. In
September 2005, the FBI formed a National Security Higher Education
Advisory Board, chaired by Pennsylvania State University President
Graham Spanier, with the goal of encouraging outreach. The FBI sought
to open a line of communication to discuss homeland security concerns,
while the universities would be able to communicate higher education's
cultural norms promoting academic freedom, international collaboration
and openness. Any consensus between the two entities about balancing
academic values with security concerns could grow increasingly
important as stricter regulations and policies promulgated by a number
of different agencies in recent years have fostered a more restrictive
research environment overall.

"The fact is, there is a whole set of security-related regulations
that might apply to universities," Hardy, of the Council on
Governmental Relations, said — citing export controls and select agent
requirements, as well as new Department of Homeland Security
regulations on chemical facilities, as just a few examples.

"At some point, probably, it would be advisable to begin to think
about the cumulative impacts of all of this and what the effect might
be in maintaining the open research environment, which we think is
critical, by the way, to our economic competitiveness and national
security," Hardy said. Though, "In fairness, having heard and talked
to some of the FBI agents, they're aware too that there are different
ways to look at national security, and one of the more critical
aspects is to maintain the open campus research environment that has
resulted in so much technological progress and advance in this

"Our dialogue with government agencies has been most fruitful on
topics such as animal rights and ecoterrorism, the importance of
foreign students to our educational institutions, potential
compromises of our computer systems, potential new sources of research
funding, export policy, and a host of other topics," Spanier, the
chair of the FBI's higher education advisory board, said via e-mail
Tuesday. Spanier said he was pleased to see the FBI reaching out to
universities when it comes to the protection of intellectual property,
counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

"Clearly, in the end," Spanier said, "we need an appropriate balance
around matters of national security and our cherished values of

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