No disservice

April 16, 2004

Anthony Glees ("Scholars thwart spies", April 9) is right to "accuse" academics of scepticism about the claims of western security services that they are the defenders of democracy. If they are doing their job, academics should be sceptical about all self-serving political rhetoric based on wholly inadequate evidence.

The security services of Britain and the US have persistently been involved in undemocratic activities at home and abroad. They have been involved in the overthrow of a wide range of democratic governments throughout the Middle East, and South and Latin America in the postwar period.

The security services have also helped to keep in power a wide range of dictators - including Saddam Hussein, before it was discovered that his rule no longer served western interests.

At home, MI5 has been involved in spying on perfectly legal activity by trade unions and organisations such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Academics are failing in their duty if they do not impart some scepticism into contemporary debates - it is not their job to act as propagandists or as recruiting sergeants for the security services.

Jim Tomlinson
School of International Studies
Brunel University

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