Unlikely Bedfellows: The FBI and 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, thanks.

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.

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...



comments powered by Disqus