Campus Watch in the Media
Academic Freedom and National Security in a Time of Crisis
by American Association of University Professors
The American Association of University Professors established the Special Committee on Academic Freedom and National Security in a Time of Crisis on the first anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. The committee was charged with assessing risks to academic freedom and free inquiry posed by the nation's response to the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Several imperatives led to the creation of the committee. Among them, still-vivid memories of the McCarthy era yielded an awareness of the degree of vigilance needed to avert a recurrence of the excesses of that time: the sweeping claims of threats to national security, the rampant accusations of guilt by association, and the unchecked powers of law-enforcement agencies. There was also a realization that many organizations that should have been vigilant then (the AAUP among them) were regrettably slow to respond.
In recognizing that now is not the first time that our institutions have been tested by the demands of national security, the committee reaffirms the position taken during World War II by the Association's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure: "Academic freedom is one facet of intellectual freedom; other aspects of that larger concept—freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion—are among the avowed objects for which this war is being fought. It would be folly to draw a boundary line across the area of freedom."
This report rests on the premise that freedom of inquiry and the open exchange of ideas are crucial to the nation's security, and that the nation's security and, ultimately, its well-being are damaged by practices that discourage or impair freedom. Measures to ensure the nation's safety against terrorism should therefore be implemented with no greater constraint on our liberties than is necessary. The report questions whether security and freedom are inescapably opposed to one another. In such important areas as scientific research, the free exchange of data may better enable investigators to identify the means for preempting or neutralizing threats posed by information falling into the wrong hands. We contend that in these critical times the need is for more freedom, not less....
The casualties of September 11, 2001, included nearly three thousand fatalities. With the attacks on that single day came calls for new measures to ensure the safety of the nation. The American Association of University Professors designated the Special Committee on Academic Freedom and National Security in a Time of Crisis to assess the implications for academic freedom and free inquiry of a host of measures that the federal government had adopted since September 11, and of other measures that were under consideration.
The special committee first met on November 10, 2002, and convened for a second time on May 9, 2003. At the first session, it agreed upon a charter, set out in Appendix A on page 59. At the second meeting, it reviewed an extensive body of information assembled by the AAUP's staff and members of the committee, and it considered preliminary proposed findings and recommendations. A final draft report was circulated to the standing committees within the AAUP that formed the special committee. The draft was edited in light of their comments and has been approved for publication.
The committee's deliberations were informed not only by the development of events since September 11 but also by the historical record: now is not the first time that our institutions have been tested against the demands of national security. The AAUP was founded shortly after the outbreak of the First World War. The Association responded to our country's entry into the war by appointing a special Committee on Academic Freedom in Wartime. That committee's report was imbued with a spirit of jingoism, as the nascent Association was eager to dispel any suspicion of a want of patriotic fervor on the part of the young academic profession. A quarter century later, chastened by that experience, the AAUP's Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure took a different tack:
The Association has consistently maintained this position ever since. Its response to the loyalty-security measures of the Cold War was tardy but categorical: the AAUP placed institutions on its list of censured administrations for the wrongful dismissal of faculty and filed friend-of-the-court briefs that helped to persuade the United States Supreme Court to ban disclaimer oaths as a condition of professorial appointment. In addition, local and state AAUP organizations effectively resisted campus speaker-ban laws. The AAUP's response to events during the Vietnam War was swift and imperative, although it provoked harsh criticism from important political quarters, even those strongly supportive of higher education. In what follows, we draw on that body of accumulated experience and wisdom.
Historically, the government's domestic arsenal in times of crisis has included three weapons: secrecy, surveillance, and suppression. The need to maintain the secrecy of certain critical military information is indisputable, as is the imperative to gather information about an enemy's actions and plans. In addition, the law has long criminalized giving aid and comfort to the enemy, which entails, for example, trading with the enemy or providing financial support to it. Confined within proper bounds, such measures need not pose a threat to civil liberties in general or to academic freedom in particular.
But we have learned from experience that in the passion of war, and in the hands of those who may be properly zealous for its successful prosecution, the boundaries can blur. Information the body politic vitally needs to maintain oversight of public affairs has been made secret, and classification has sometimes been imposed solely to save the classifying entity from accountability and embarrassment. Surveillance has been extended to lawful activity. Political dissent has been suppressed and, at points, such suppression has threatened to chill the robustness of debate upon which democracy depends.
To be sure, the government is not the sole source of efforts to discourage lawful speech or conduct. Since September 11, 2001, private groups, parading under the banner of patriotism or acting to further a specific cause, have been monitoring academic activities and have denounced professorial departures from what these groups view as acceptable. A private project called Campus Watch, for example, has subjected professors of Middle Eastern studies to such scrutiny. Antecedents to these efforts can be found in the activities of the John Birch Society in the 1960s and of the Accuracy in Academia movement in the 1980s.
[The full report can be viewed at: http://www.aaup.org/statements/REPORTS/911report.htm]Note: Postings in "Campus Watch in the Media" do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch.
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