[Marxism] Spying on Santa Cruz antiwar students

Louis Proyect 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 
Cruz."

"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. 
officials said.

Meanwhile, members of the campus's College Republicans, strongly critical 
of the protesters' tactics last April, are rolling their eyes at all the 
hubbub.

"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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