Thursday, April 27, 2006

Defense Department Monitoring Law School Activities! NYU Dean Speaks Out

Dean Richard Revesz has issued the following strong statement regarding the unbelievable Defense Department surveillance of Law School activities, including at NYU:

Recently released documents from the U.S. Department of Defense confirm prior media reports that, in the name of investigating terrorist threats, government agencies have monitored activities at law schools throughout the country, including NYU School of Law. The monitored activities involve protests of the military's policy against hiring gay and lesbian law students for the Judge Advocate General Corps or other legal positions with the armed services. These protests have occurred primarily during visits to our campus by military recruiters.

These reports are both distressing and disappointing. They are distressing in that they reveal disrespect for the traditional role that universities, and law schools in particular, play in providing an environment for critical thought and robust discussion of socially important issues. Government surveillance of those involved in peaceful and Constitutionally protected activities, including forums in which all sides of the debate about military hiring policies are represented, can only chill the conversation that universities are obligated to foster.

The reports are disappointing because they reveal a remarkable misallocation of our nation's resources. At a time when security concerns are paramount in the minds of all Americans, especially New Yorkers who have suffered the consequences of security lapses, we are disheartened to discover that our officials deem it appropriate to dedicate their scarce resources to the surveillance of students whose objective is to increase opportunities for capable men and women to serve their country. Equally disappointing is the mischaracterization of the participants in these protests. The released reports describe the participants as potential 'vigilantes' who might foster physical harm or vandalism. In fact, student protestors- while making their views clearly known - have consistently conducted themselves in a peaceful manner and have worked with security officials at the University to ensure that their protests do not interfere with our academic mission. As a result, these protests have enjoyed the support of the faculty and administration of the law school.

The Solicitor General of the United States recently recognized in the oral argument in Rumsfeld v. FAIR that law schools 'could put signs on bulletin board[s] *, they could engage in speech, they could help organize student protests.' It is unacceptable that such protest activities, which lie at the core of the values that the First Amendment is designed to protect, should subject students to surveillance designed to combat terrorism. And it certainly seems ironic that precisely the activities cited by one part of the Executive branch - the Justice Department's Solicitor General - as supporting the government's legal case should be viewed by another part - the Defense Department - as some sort of threat.

NYU School of Law is, of course, pleased to cooperate with all government agencies, including the military, in pursuing the legitimate objectives of law enforcement and counterintelligence. But the collection and retention of information about demonstrations does not fall into this category, as was recognized by the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Counterintelligence and Security in a letter to Senator John Warner. We object to this abuse of the government's authority and urge an immediate cessation of such activities and the purging of the records. We also insist on knowing the scope of the government's monitoring of the activities of students and personnel at the School of Law. Towards this end, we have filed a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act. We will consider what subsequent steps are appropriate after reviewing the results of that request.

If readers know of other law schools affected or of statements by other law school Deans, please post that information in the comments.  No anonymous postings.

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UC-Berkeley and UC-Santa Cruz were also spied on (see, for example, this post:

I posted about this on my blog, Sui Generis, about one week ago:

Documents obtained from a federal lawsuit are linked to in my post at my blog.

Posted by: Nicole Black | Apr 27, 2006 10:39:42 AM

Here's the correct link to site that indicates that UC-Berkeley and UC-Santa Cruz were also affected:

Sorry about that.

Posted by: Nicole Black | Apr 27, 2006 11:35:12 AM

I was researching this issue further for this post on my blog ( ), and came upon this document, which is a few pages of a much longer document: .

It was obtained by MSNBC last December (see this article: )and suggests that many more anti-war protests at other universities were monitored by the government, including SUNY Albany and U. of Wisconsin.

Also, pursuant to this scheduling order ( ) more documents will soon be released pursuant to the following deadlines:

Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA): Must turn over all documents by April 27, 2006

Department of Defense (DOD): Must turn over all documents by May 4, 2006

Department of Justice (DOJ): Must turn over all documents by May 11, 2006.

Perhaps they'll shed more light on this situation as well.

Posted by: Nicole Black | Apr 29, 2006 12:28:16 PM

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