[Marxism] Spying on Santa Cruz antiwar students
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Jan 14 08:38:46 MST 2006
(For me, the fact that there are *50* students in the Santa Cruz antiwar
group is as important as the news about the spying.)
NY Times, January 14, 2006
Santa Cruz Journal
A Protest, a Spy Program and a Campus in an Uproar
By SARAH KERSHAW
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - The protest was carefully orchestrated, planned for
weeks by Students Against War during Friday evening meetings in a small
classroom on the University of California campus here.
So when the military recruiters arrived for the job fair, held in an old
dining hall last April 5 - a now fateful day for a scandalized university -
the students had their two-way radios in position, their cyclists checking
the traffic as hundreds of demonstrators marched up the hilly roads of this
campus on the Central Coast and a dozen moles stationed inside the
building, reporting by cellphone to the growing crowd outside.
"Racist, sexist, antigay," the demonstrators recalled shouting. "Hey,
recruiters, go away!"
Things got messy. As the building filled, students storming in were blocked
from entering. The recruiters left, some finding that the tires of their
vehicles had been slashed. The protesters then occupied the recruiters'
table and, in what witnesses described as a minor melee, an intern from the
campus career center was injured.
Fast forward: The students had left campus for their winter vacation in
mid-December when a report by MSNBC said the April protest had appeared on
what the network said was a database from a Pentagon surveillance program.
The protest was listed as a "credible threat" - to what is not clear to
people around here - and was the only campus action among scores of other
antimilitary demonstrations to receive the designation.
Over the winter break, Josh Sonnenfeld, 20, a member of Students Against
War, or SAW, put out the alert. "Urgent: Pentagon's been spying on SAW, and
thousands of other groups," said his e-mail message to the 50 or so
students in the group.
Several members spent the rest of their break in a swirl of strategy
sessions by telephone and e-mail, and in interviews with the news media.
Since classes began on Jan. 5, they have stepped up their effort to figure
out whether they are being spied on and if so, why.
Students in the group said they were not entirely surprised to learn that
the federal government might be spying on them.
"On the one hand, I was surprised that we made the list because generally
we don't get the recognition we deserve," Mr. Sonnenfeld said. "On the
other hand, it doesn't surprise me because our own university has been
spying on us since our group was founded. This nation has a history of
spying on political dissenters."
The April protest, at the sunny campus long known for surfing, mountain
biking and leftist political activity, drew about 300 of the university's
13,000 students, organizers said. (Students surmise that, these days, they
are out-agitating their famed anti-establishment peers at the University of
California, Berkeley, campus, 65 miles northwest of here.)
"This is the war at home," said Jennifer Low, 20, a member of the antiwar
group. "So many of us were so discouraged and demoralized by the war, a lot
of us said this is the way we can stop it."
A Department of Defense spokesman said that while the Pentagon maintained a
database of potential threats to military installations, military personnel
and national security, he could not confirm that the information released
by MSNBC was from the database. The spokesman, who said he was not
authorized to be quoted by name, said he could not answer questions about
whether the government was or had been spying on Santa Cruz students.
California lawmakers have demanded an explanation from the government.
Representative Sam Farr, a Democrat whose district includes Santa Cruz, was
one of several who sent letters to the Bush administration. "This is a
joke," Mr. Farr said in an interview. "There is a protest du jour at Santa
"Santa Cruz is not a terrorist town," he added. "It's an activist town.
It's essentially Berkeley on the coast."
The university's chancellor, Denise D. Denton, said, "We would like to know
how this information was gathered and understand better what's going on here."
"Is this something that happens under the guise of the new Patriot Act?"
Ms. Denton asked.
As to the students' insistence that the university is monitoring their
activities, Ms. Denton said that she had checked with campus police and
other university offices and that "there is absolutely no spying going on."
The antiwar group is working closely with the California chapter of the
American Civil Liberties Union, which plans to file a public records
request with the federal government on the students' behalf, A.C.L.U.
Meanwhile, members of the campus's College Republicans, strongly critical
of the protesters' tactics last April, are rolling their eyes at all the
"I think it's worth looking into, but right now I think they are
overblowing it," said Chris Rauer, internal vice president of the College
Republicans. "I think people are taking their anger over the war out on this."
The Defense Department has issued a statement saying that in October the
Pentagon began a review of its database to ensure that the reporting system
complied with federal laws and to identify information that might have been
improperly entered. All department personnel involved in gathering
intelligence were receiving "refresher" training on the laws and policies,
the statement said.
With this happening in academia, there has been a good deal of
philosophical contemplation and debate over the socioeconomic and political
dynamics underlying the uproar.
"I had multiple reactions," said Faye J. Crosby, a professor of social
psychology and chairwoman of the Academic Senate.
"One reaction was, 'Gosh, I wonder if we're doing something right?' "
Professor Crosby said. "Another reaction was it's a waste of taxpayer
money. What are we a threat to?"
"The real sadness," she added, "is the breakdown in discourse of the
marketplace of ideas."
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