US society rethinks its policy on CIA job ads

December 16, 2005

The American Association of Anthropologists has removed CIA recruitment adverts from its publications after a row over academic independence.

The association, which held its annual conference in Washington last week, is setting up a committee to investigate its relationship with intelligence agencies after members expressed concern that being involved with the CIA could affect their research.

The Royal Anthropological Society's journal, Anthropology Today , has been leading the discussion about the adverts for the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program (Prisp), which funds students who will subsequently work for the national security agencies.

Prisp is conducting a two-year pilot to sponsor up to 150 trainees a year, including anthropologists, to boost the linguistic and scientific skills of the intelligence services in the fight against terrorism. The identities of the students are secret - defenders of Prisp say that to disclose them could endanger the lives of any students who work for the CIA in the field.

Gustaaf Houtman, Anthropology Today' s editor, showed the journal's December editorial on the issue by David Price of Saint Martin's University in Lacey, Washington, to the AAA president and director before publication.

He said it was a major factor in the decision to set up the scrutiny committee.

He added: "As a result of the publication in Anthropology Today of an early debate on this issue, all major international anthropology organisations have declared themselves against involvement in covert training."

The Association of Social Anthropologists, for example, said that Prisp's plans "threaten to compromise the ethical foundations of the discipline".

Peter Nas, secretary-general of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, added: "If spies are clandestinely planted for anthropological training and research, with the aim of covert collection of information about people and places, they will most certainly violate our professional ethical codes and bring the anthropological scientific community into disrepute. This will result in serious mistrust of anthropological fieldwork and may personally endanger anthropologists working in the field."

According to Dr Price, University of Kansas anthropologist Felix Moos - an advocate of contacts with military and intelligence agencies - is the driving force behind the project. After the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Professor Moos elicited the support of his friend, former CIA director Stansfield Turner, to curry support in the Senate and CIA to fund his vision of a merger between anthropology, academia, intelligence analysis and espionage training.

Professor Moos's vision for Prisp was more comprehensive than the pilot programme, and it included classes on topics such as bioterrorism and counterterrorism, Dr Price said.


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