Academics as intelligence informants

The tentacles of imperialism reach everywhere. And it comes as no surprise that academics willingly aid this imperial outreach.

James Petras, himself an academic long involved with Latin American leftist social movements, describes how this happens. A common practice is “de-briefing”:

Academics meet and discuss their field-work, data collection, research finding, observations and personal contacts over lunch at the Embassy with US government officials or in Washington with State Department officials.

These debriefings are valuable sources of intelligence because academic researchers often have access to information and data that would be hard to obtain through other intelligence channels. In particular, academics may develop friendship and rapport with local people that officials and undercover agents never could:

US empire builders, whether engaged in political or military activities, depend on information especially regarding who to back and who to subvert; who should receive diplomatic support and who to receive financial and to military resources.

Most important is information that can be used to identify and undermine any potential resistance to capitalism and imperial power:

US officials are keen to know any and all reports on ‘movements from below’: who they are, how much influence they have, their susceptibility to bribes, blackmail and invitations to the State Department, Disneyland, or the Wilson Center in D.C.

In addition, academics can help them spot potential collaborators, even within leftist and anti-imperial movements:

The officials are also keen on academic reports on so-called ‘moderate’ collaborators who can be funded, advised and recruited to defend the empire, undermine the class struggle and split movements.

Petras makes it clear that such cooperation between academics and intelligence is common:

Debriefing is a widespread practice and involves numerous academics from major universities and research centers, as well as non-governmental ‘activists’ and editors of academic journals and publications.

Nothing surprising here. American academics are a part of the privileged elite of a powerful imperial country. How often do the privileged ever side with the downtrodden?

Source: James Petras. “De-Briefing Academics: Unpaid Intelligence Informants.” Dissident Voice, May 5, 2018.


Categories: Capitalism

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