Scholars thwart spies

April 9, 2004

Academic hostility to the UK's intelligence services is blighting efforts to defend western liberal democracy against the challenge of Islamic fundamentalism, a leading scholar has claimed.

Anthony Glees, professor of politics and director of the Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies at Brunel University, argues that part of the blame for the failure of security agencies had to be shouldered by academics.

He said that in the face of a sceptical political culture, nurtured to some extent in the universities, the services had not been fully effective in addressing either old-style security threats from hostile states or new-style threats from rogue states and terror groups.

"The lack of a political consensus that security and intelligence agencies are a vital resource for protecting democracy has, for many years, had a profound negative impact on the development of our security," Professor Glees said.

"More than a few members of Britain's academic community believe that security and intelligence services do not provide the answer to the problem but are, in fact, its cause."

He said the same attitudes had prompted dozens of British academics to help the East German Stasi during the 1980s before the collapse of communism.

The Political Studies Association meeting at Lincoln University this week was due to be told that academic antipathy towards US interventionist policies lay behind both situations.

Professor Glees called for a more liberal attitude in academe to create a political culture that gave more support to the intelligence and security agencies in defending liberal democracy.

His research into the penetration of the British establishment by the Stasi, published last year in The Stasi Files , suggested that hundreds of UK academics were sympathetic to the communist state while up to 40 helped the East Germans gather information and spread disinformation.

Professor Glees insisted that hostility to the US was still deep-rooted in academe and continued to poison the political culture within which the British intelligence agencies operate. Many diplomats and intelligence officers had been influenced by these attitudes during their time at university.

Professor Glees added that political correctness made it difficult for academics to attack Islamic fundamentalism or to oppose student societies that demanded the destruction of western society.

"The extent to which radical Islamist ideas may well have been brewing in British universities will come as a shock to people in years to come," he said.

steve.farrar@thes.co.uk

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