Friday, February 24, 2006

The Quaker Menace

The administration and its allies are only trying to fight terrorism, except of course when they are fighting those who take a principled stand against violence altogether. This is something I've been noticing more and more of: the right is targeting not just people who might be sympathetic to Islamic causes (because of, say, their last name) and not just people who are opposed to the current war, but people who criticize militarism and violence altogether.

The Bush defense department has created a agency called Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) which is designed to gather information on threats to the US military and US military contractors. The agency has a system called TALON ("Threat and Local Observation Notice") which gathers unverified reports on possible threats. (Is it just me, or were they really stretching to get an acronym that spelled "talon"?) Among the threats to national security is a Quaker meeting house in Lake Worth, Fla. The meeting lent their house out to an organization called the Truth Project, which tries to counter military recruiting of high school students. A member of the Quaker meeting attended the Truth Project meeting to learn more and found that their activities were very much in keeping with (Quaker) principles."

The administration's defense of this program seems to be that the information gathered by TALON is supposed to include a lot of false positives that analysts will weed out later. According to a pentagon spokesman the data collected by TALON "are unfiltered dots of information about perceived threats. An analyst will look at that information. And what we are trying to do is connect the dots before the next major attack." But this is only an attempt to raise the bar on what constituted domestic spying. Now it is ok for the government to keep records on you, so long as they don't use those records improperly. This is bullshit. The government shouldn't be keeping a file on anyone unless they can show the person to be a threat. The government shouldn't be spying on us "just in case." (For more on the Bush administration spying on its political enemies, see the resources Majikthise catalogued here)

In other news, David Horowitz believes
that a professor of peace studies at a Quaker university named Caroline Higgins is one of the one hundred worst professors in America. The criteria for being on the list are purely political. The academics aren't being judged on their scholarship--otherwise how could Chomsky be on the list? Nor do they seem to be judged by their teaching. At least, no effort is made to judge classroom performance, even in a sort of way. No, Higgins' crime seems to be that she teaches courses with names like Methods of Peacemaking. Clearly this woman is dangerous. The last thing we want is for people to learn how to resolve conflicts without bloodshed, and perhaps even develop skills for harmonious living.

Now the neat thing about Horowitz enemies list is that you can vote on who you think is the biggest threat to the established order. Michael Bérubé has been campaigning quite successfully to raise his rating. Caroline Higgins meanwhile is languishing at the bottom of the list. I took the time to vote for her, assuming she'd recognize it as a compliment.

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