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FBI to restrict student freedoms

Press Esc | June 24, 2007

US university students will not be able to work late at the campus, travel abroad, show interest in their colleagues' work, have friends outside the United States, engage in independent research, or make extra money without the prior consent of the authorities, according to a set of guidelines given to administrators by the FBI.

Federal agents are visiting some of the New England's top universities, including MIT, Boston College, and the University of Massachusetts, to warn university heads about the dangers of foreign spies and terrorists stealing sensitive academic research.

FBI is offering to brief faculty, students and staff on what it calls "espionage indicators" aimed at identifying foreign agents.

Unexplained affluence, failing to report overseas travel, showing unusual interest in information outside the job scope, keeping unusual work hours, unreported contacts with foreign nationals, unreported contact with foreign government, military, or intelligence officials, attempting to gain new accesses without the need to know, and unexplained absences are all considered potential espionage indicators.

Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to monitor their colleagues for signs of suspicious behaviour and report any concerns to the FBI or the military.

"What we're most concerned about are those things that are not classified being developed by MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], Worcester Polytech [Worcester Polytechnic Institute] and other universities," Warren Bamford, special agent in charge of the FBI's Boston office, told the Boston Herald. "It's to make sure these institutions receive training...[on] what spies look for. There are hundreds of projects going on that could be useful to a foreign power."

"My understanding is that what the FBI is proposing is not illegal, but it does raise questions about the chilling effect in regard to academia,"Chris Ott, Communications Manager of the ACLU of Massachusetts told WSWS . "What will it mean about feeling free to pursue information? People on the campuses will be afraid to ask questions or take on the investigation of certain areas, say, for example, nuclear energy. "

University administrators have expressed their appreciation of FBI efforts.

"It was a very nice offer," Robert A. Weygand, vice president for administration and a former Rhode Island congressman told the Boston Herald. "We are taking it under consideration."

Last year the FBI initiated the College and University Security Effort (CAUSE), in order to establish an "alliance" between the Federal agency and academic institutions.

According to the FBI, through CAUSE, Special Agents in charge meet with the heads of local colleges to discuss national security issues and to share information and ideas.

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