Spies on Campus: The CIA and the FBI from the Indochina Wars to the “War on Terror”Roundup
tags: FBI, CIA
On the crisp autumn afternoon of November 26, 2007, a black car picked up Graham Spanier, then president of Pennsylvania State University, at Dulles International Airport and whisked him to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va. Using his identification card — embedded with a hologram and computer chip — he checked in at security and was greeted by the chief of staff of the National Resources Division, the CIA’s clandestine domestic service. They proceeded to a conference room, where about two dozen chiefs of station and other senior CIA intelligence officers awaited them.
Spanier was expecting to brief them on the work of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, an organization he chaired and had helped create, which fostered dialogue between intelligence agencies and universities. First, though, the CIA surprised him. In a brief ceremony, it presented him with the Warren Medal, said to be the agency’s highest honor for nonemployees.
The honor recognized Spanier’s dedication to alerting college administrators to the threat of human and cyber-espionage, and to opening doors for the agency at campuses nationwide. A former family therapist and television talk-show host with an unruffled, empathetic manner and features — round face, white hair, blue eyes—reminiscent of Phil Donahue, Spanier soothed many an academic’s anxieties about dealing with the CIA and the FBI.
Since the intelligence agencies were going to meddle anyway, Spanier reasoned, they should do so with the knowledge and consent of college presidents. “My feeling was, If there’s a spy on my campus, a potential terrorist, or a visiting faculty member you believe is up to no good, I know you’ll be pursuing it,” he told me in April 2016. “Here’s the deal. Rather than break into his office, come to me — I have top-secret clearance — show me your FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] order, and I’ll have someone unlock the door.”
Spanier’s CIA medal, and a similar FBI award a year later, symbolized a reconciliation between the intelligence services and the academy. The relationship has come full circle: from chumminess in the 1940s and 1950s, to animosity during the Vietnam War and civil-rights era, and back to cooperation after the September 11, 2001, attacks. ...
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