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The CIA and Academic Freedom


This statement has been excerpted from testimony delivered to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on March 25, 1980 by Professor Douglas Rendleman, professor of law at the Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, on behalf of the American Association of University Professors.

In speaking on behalf of college and university professors, I wish to give you our thoughts about the legislation which is under consideration. In the background lies a history of four years of concern, uncertainty, and debate beginning with the revelations of the Church Committee in 1976 and continuing through today. The Church Committee report sent shockwaves through the academic community not only because it revealed unethical activities but also because it demonstrated how pervasive those activities were. Nothing has occurred in the intervening years to change our minds about the need for legislation to constrain the intelligence agencies in their relationships with the academic community. Indeed, the need for legislation has taken on a new urgency as the result of the decision of CIA Director Stansfield Turner to reject the authority of Harvard University to enforce its own guidelines on the relationships between the Harvard community and the intelligence agencies as well as the announcement by the CIA that in three separate instances it had decided, contrary to its own guidelines, to use journalists for covert intelligence purposes.

We recognize the legitimate role which the intelligence agencies play in promoting our country's national interests. In carrying out their proper functions, the intelligence agencies should benefit from the intellectual resources found in the nation's colleges and universities. Congress should make it clear, however, that access by the intelligence agencies to the academic community must not compromise the independence of our educational institutions.

It is our opinion that Part D of the proposed legislation (S.2284) should speak specifically to the concerns of the academic community. The legislation should incorporate the following: (1) an affirmative statement indicating that it is the purpose of Congress to protect the integrity and independence of institutions of higher education in accordance with constitutional principles; (2) a prohibition on certain activities of the intelligence agencies which violate the professional and ethical standards of the academic profession and interfere with the legal autonomy of institutions of higher education; (3) a prohibition on the intelligence agencies from not only using academic institutions as a cover but also using members of academic communities for covert intelligence activities and for covert recruitment; (4) an acknowledgement found in the CIA Regulation that the intelligence agencies are not authorized to violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (i.e., the Buckley Amendment); (5) a prohibition on the intelligence agencies from subsidizing the publication or distribution of scholarly books, articles, and materials prepared by scholars at institutions of higher education for the purpose of influencing public opinion within the United States or in foreign countries; and (6) a requirement that if intelligence agencies enter into contracts with academic institutions, research institutes, centers, and other entities affiliated with academic institutions, or individual academics, the sponsorship of such contracts shall be fully disclosed in a manner consistent with institutional regulations governing contracts with ouside sponsors.

The Church Committee revealed the extent to which intelligence agencies, primarily the Central Intelligence Agency, were involved in clandestine and covert relationships with both academic institutions and individual academics. In 1976 we said that the report confirmed that "...Universities and scholars have been paid to lie about the sources of their support, to mislead others, to induce betrayed confidences, to misstate the true objects of their interest, and to misrepresent the actual objectives of their work." At that time we asked the CIA to end its covert use of academic institutions and individual academics and to provide the same guarantee to the academic community which it had given to the religious community and to journalists. That guarantee has not been forthcoming.

The Church Committee recommended the enactment of legislation prohibiting the operational use of academics who are funded under government-sponsored programs. It recommended against a legislative prohibition on the operational use of individuals by the intelligence agencies. It is believed that such legislation would be unenforceable and an intrusion into the privacy and integrity of the American academic community. "It is the responsibility of. . . the American academic community," the committee said, "to set the professional and ethical standards of its members."

Long before the Church Committee report was issued, the academic community had set the "professional and ethical standards" for its members. Far from respecting these standards, however, the intelligence agencies have abused them.

The professional and ethical standards in the academic community derive from the principles of academic freedom, professional ethics, and institutional autonomy. These standards and principles are widely accepted in the academic community.

Covert and clandestine practices by the intelligence agencies in their relationships with the academic community distort the rights and responsibilities of the academic community and thus undermine academic freedom to the detriment of society.

The Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities (1966), which was formulated by our Association jointly with the American Council on Education and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, serves to foster joint action by governing boards, administrators, faculty, and students in protection of institutional integrity against improper intrusions. The statement rests on the premise that rules adopted by colleges and universities to protect their essential activities and thus preserve their autonomy, established by state constitutions, state statutes, or charters, are to be respected by outside agencies. It demonstrates that the academic community is capable of self-government and self-regulation.

The professional and ethical standards of the academic community as well as the mechanisms and procedures for their implementation were well established during the period described by the Church Committee Report. The legislation we request is directed towards the intelligence agencies, not the academic community. Whatever problems there may be in the internal enforcement of the standards of the academic community, we believe that Congress has a strong obligation to approve legislation which prohibits the intelligence agencies from violating those standards.

Instead of a detailed analysis of differences, it may be more helpful to recognize the imperatives which confront all of us now. We do not dispute the legitimate roles of intelligence agencies in a free society, but there is a fundamental imperative that the government which creates and fosters intelligence agencies should also guarantee that those agencies do not violate the freedom of American higher education. The covert activity encouraged by the intelligence agencies within the academic community should be terminated. It is necessary to create a more productive and open relationship based on mutual trust, improved communications, and high standards of scholarship. National security obviously benefits from encouraging open, intellectually honest scholarship by teachers and researchers who enjoy the respect and confidence of their academic colleagues here and abroad.

Accordingly, there is the imperative to redraft S. 2284 in order to address the continuing concerns expressed by the academic community since 1976.

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