A recent video has surfaced showing an NSA recruiter accosting students who were questioning him about the lawfulness of its spying program.
As reported by The Intercept, a man named ‘Neal Z.’ was approached by two camera-wielding students at a University of New Mexico Engineering and Science Career fair on Sept. 17. Neal Z attempted to defend the NSA against allegations of wrongdoing, assuring the two questioners that everything it does is Constitutional. Unhappy with this response, they pressed further.
That’s when things got ugly.
Neal Z became very angry when the students didn’t accept his talking points as gospel. After first threatening to call security, he then lunged toward one of the students and grabbed his cell phone. In typical NSA fashion, he actually claimed he was not touching the student’s phone, as he was caught on tape doing it. This type of doublespeak shouldn’t surprise anybody considering the agency redefines terms to suit its purposes.
This behavior, while unsurprising, raises a question: how can the NSA be trusted to abide by the Constitution when their agents can’t even show basic respect to inquiring young people?
Neal Z showed a tremendous amount of condescending arrogance. Even before things escalated, he talked down to them in a belittling manner. Is this how we want to be treated by the government that is supposed to serve us?
It is shameful that students have to deal with NSA bureaucrats trying to recruit them into doing their unconstitutional bidding rather than serving society. But it happens every day, on campuses across America, because the NSA has been busy brokering deals with universities and colleges. Its tentacles dig deep into our higher education system, largely unbeknownst to the public at large.
Through its Centers for Academic Excellence program, the NSA enters into agreements with schools, doles out grant money, trains students and faculty to conduct important research tasks, and then uses the school as a breeding ground to recruit future analysts. The NSA has already persuaded nearly 180 colleges and universities to join the program, spanning 43 states across the country.
Defenders of the status quo will argue that because no illegal spying happens through the Centers for Academic Excellence program, it isn’t a problem. But even if the schools are not doing any illegal spying per se, they aid abet an entity known to violate the Constitution and engage in illegal behavior. Would these same people defend a get-away driver simply because he didn’t actually go inside the store and rob it?
Of course not!
Teaching impressionable young adults that rampant, warrantless, unconstitutional surveillance is acceptable cannot be tolerated within our nation’s institutions of higher learning. It is un-American and jeopardizes the integrity of our entire educational system.
But as the University of New Mexico incident demonstrates, university recruiters have an uphill battle. Because we live in the digital age, this makes it very easy for today’s tech-savvy youth to become ultra-informed and able to counter the NSA’s insipid propaganda. This is bad news for the NSA, and good news for OffNow and other reformers. We have an opportunity to utilize these dynamics and educate our young people.
The university setting generally breeds activism. This makes college campuses great places to spearhead movements against illegal NSA spying. The enthusiasm and energy of young people unleashed against the NSA can create pressure that will push up the chain to Washington D.C. We can can spearhead the movement by organizing people against the Centers for Academic Excellence program by preventing partnerships from forming and ending them in schools where they exist.
From there, our plan to defend privacy rights and curtail the NSA can be taken to the state legislature. There is much work that needs to be done. It is easy to see that we are getting under their skin, as evidenced by the erratic behavior of Neal Z. Now let’s go the extra mile and stop them. It can be done, but only if individuals shake off the apathy and get involved. Join us, and help us to make unwarranted NSA spying a thing of the past.