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Inside the New Print Edition of Our Subscriber-Only Newsletter!

New York Times Director Probed for "Breach of Trust"

To the Sulzberger family that controls the New York Times he has been the ultimate Good German. High-flying Thomas Middelhof took New York by storm, buying Random House for Bertelsmann, invited onto the NYT board, a member of its compensation committee. Read Eamonn Fingleton’s exclusive on how Middelhof has crashed to earth and how the NYT has buried the story. Amid New York’s savage fiscal crisis, guess what? The city ponies up $50 million for a nice new park for rich people in Manhattan. Read Carl Ginsburg on the High Line. PLUS Elyssa Pachico on how rural revolution in Colombia has gone digital. PLUS co-editor Cockburn on how, in Obama Time, the Israel lobby is carrying all before it. What a surprise. Get your new edition today by subscribing online or calling 1-800-840-3683 Contributions to CounterPunch are tax-deductible. Click here to make a donation. If you find our site useful please: Subscribe Now! CounterPunch books and t-shirts make great presents.

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Today's Stories

August 10, 2009

David Price
Trial by FBI Investigation

Mike Whitney
There is No Recession; It's a Planned Demolition

Alan Farago
Seeds of Destruction: How the National Economy was Wrecked by the Politics of Deregulation in Florida

Conn Hallinan
The Honduran Coup: a U.S. Connection

Russell Mokhiber
Health Care: In Defense of Disruption

Paul Krassner
The Mystery Behind the Manson Murders

Sousan Hammad
Orgy of the Dead: the 2009 Fatah Conference

Jonathan Cook
Israeli School Apartheid

Ira Glunts
Netanyahu's Sister-in-Law Detained by Israeli Police; Calls Evictions an Unjustified Folly

George Wuerthner
Dead Tree Hysteria

Website of the Day
Conyers: ObamaCare is Crap

August 7 - 9, 2009

Alexander Cockburn
It Pays to Have a Nuke

Mike Whitney
Economy on a Scaffold

Elaine C. Hagopian
Obama's Israel Albatross

Carl Ginsburg
RX For Healthcare

Miguel Tinker Salas
Honduras is Only Part of the Story: the Conservative Counter-Attack in Latin America

Saul Landau
The Kidney Broker and the Money Laundering Rabbis

John Ross
The Mexican Genome: Big Science in the Service of Indian Genocide?

Anthony DiMaggio Obama and the Israel Lobby: Origins of Power

John Stanton
Expanding Human Terrain Systems?

Christopher Brauchli Legal Absurdities: Outing Three Strikes

Wajahat Ali
A Muslim American Hero: an Interview with Dave Eggers on "Zeitoun"

Ron Jacobs
As Long as the Wars Continue, We Must Resist Them

Franklin Lamb
Sunday Morning on the Dunes: Cleaning "Free Gaza Beach"

Bruce E. Levine
Protect Us From Our Friends

Michael Winship
Neighborhood Watch for Planet Earth

David Macaray
Glimmers of Hope for Labor?

Stephen Fleischman
Suicide Squad

Robert Bryce
Unplugging the Next Big Thing: the Hype Over Electric Cars

Robert Dodge, MD: Hiroshima and Nagasaki Remembered

Mark Seth Lender
The Message of the Glossy Ibis

David Yearsley
Vaucanson's Faun and the Duck in the Attic

Ben Sonnenberg
Chris Fuller's Brilliant Debut

Lorenzo Wolff
When Music's the Character

Poets' Basement
Dominguez and Corseri

Website of the Weekend
Warren Buffett's Betrayal

August 6, 2009

Ishmael Reed
Let's All Have a Beer

Paul Craig Roberts
The Expiring Economy

William Blum Assassinations and Coups: Keeping Track of the Empire's Crimes

Michael Donnelly
Rod Coronado: the Hardest Working Man in Animal Rights "Terrorism"

Jonathan Cook
Rabbis Ban Marriage for Israeli "Untouchables"

Dave Lindorff
The Health Care Reform Sell-Out

Ellen Brown
The Public Option in Banking

Website of the Day
Ellsberg on Hiroshima

August 5, 2009

Dedrick Muhammad /
Barbara Ehrenreich
The Destruction of the Black Middle Class

Norman Solomon
The Incredible, Shrinking Health Care Plan

William Blum
The Myths of Afghanistan: Past and Present

Gareth Porter
The ISI and the Taliban: US Officials Are Protecting Pakistani Aid to Taliban

Mary Lynn Cramer
The Myth of Medicare for All

Jim Goodman
Obama Needs to Take a Stand on Trade

Nadia Hijab
Playing From Strength in the Middle East

Gretchen Kroth
Guatemala's Garbage Dump Education System

Steve Macek /
Scott Sanders
Privatizing the Airwaves

Sarah Lazare
Inside G.I. Resistance

Website of the Day
The Locavore Myth

August 4, 2009

Mike Whitney
Bernanke's Shell Game

Dave Lindorff
The Recession Isn't Over, By a Long Shot

Patrick Cockburn
Did British Bomb Attacks in Iran Provoke Hostage Crisis?

Jonathan Cook
Israel's Campaign to Silence Human Rights Groups

Jeff Sher
Making a Mess of Health Care Reform

Dean Baker
Why Don't We Globalize Health Care?

Andy Worthington
Gitmo as Hotel California

Uri Avnery
A Jeremiad

Mark Weisbrot
U.S.-Brokered Mediation in Honduras Has Failed

Alvaro Huerta
Hold That Dustbin! So Much for the "End of Racism"

Website of the Day
Pentagon to Ban Facebook and Twitter?

 

August 3, 2009

Pam Martens
Millions of Americans Pushed Into No-Law System by Colluding Banks

Anthony DiMaggio
Media Backlash: Obama and the Settlements

Udi Aloni
And Who Shall I Say is Calling? A Plea to Leonard Cohen

Mike Roselle
See the Mountains of WestVirginia ... Before They're Blown Up!

Dr. Susan Block
Beat It! Sex, Death and Michael Jackson

Roy Bourgeois / Margaret Knapke
School of Coups

Joe Bageant
A Yard Sale in Chernobyl

Dina Jadallah
Hiding the State

Dave Lindorff
Of Blue Dogs and Jellyfish

Martha Rosenberg
Grand Closings in Evanston: How the Recession is Hitting Illinois

Website of the Day
Why We Can't "Afford" Health Care

July 31 - August 2, 2009

Alexander Cockburn
The Biden and Clinton Mutinies

Gabriel Kolko
Searching For Enemies

John Prados
The Intelligence Oversight Mess

Joe Bageant
The Bastards Never Die

Tim Wise
Rationalizing Racial Oppression

Carl Ginsburg
Frist First: Follow the Money (and Find the Plump Heart of "Health Care")

Michael Fox
The Honduran Coup as Overture

John Lindsay-Poland
Revamping Plan Colombia

Michael Winship
Pay-to-Play: Washington's Sport of Kings

Rev. William Alberts
White Men Can Jump ... to Conclusions

Andy Worthington
Judge Orders Release of Tortured Gitmo Prisoner

Steve Breyman
Counting the Unemployed

Cyrus Bina
Racism, Class and Profiling

Missy Beattie
Promises Ignored

Ron Jacobs
Into the Vapid: Consuming the Cultural Product

Willie L. Pelote, Sr.
Party of Concessions: Democrats Never Learn

Lucia Alvarez
Fall of the House of Kirchner? Return of the Right in Argentina

Dave Lindorff
David Brooks' White Guy Nightmare

Lawrence R. Velvel
Madoff: What Should be Done Now?

Omar Barghouti /
Sid Shniad
United for Freedom and Universal Justice

James L. Secor
The Name of the Game is Wipe-Out

Belén Fernández
Zelaya in Nicaragua: Has Another Constitution Been Violated?

Jeffrey St. Clair
Frank Lloyd Wright in Hollywood: the Ennis House as Imperial Ruin

David Yearsley
Beauty in Dark Places: Berlin's Olympic Stadium

Brian J. Foley
Pre-Eating: a Threat to Restaurants Everywhere

Alan Cabal
Onward, Into the Fog: Thomas Pynchon's
"Inherent Vice"

Kim Nicolini
The Way War Feels

Lorenzo Wolff
The Way It Felt the First Time: the Jump Rope Magic of the Shangri-Las

Poets' Basement
Four Poems From the Chinese

Website of the Weekend
Obama's Ex-Doc Knocks ObamaCare

July 30, 2009

Patrick Cockburn
Victims of a Covert Tit-for-Tat War

Gareth Porter
Afghanistan's US-Backed Child-Raping Police

Saul Landau
Summer of Denial

Greg Grandin
Honduran Coup Over?

Diane Farsetta
Pentagon Pundits Get a Pass

Stephen Soldz
The King Case, the APA and the Missing Ethics Investigation

Alan Farago
Learning How to Survive in a Depression From "Weeds"

David Macaray
Cops and Labor Unions

Mike Howells /
Jay Arena
Volunteerism Will Not Rebuild the Gulf Coast

Christopher Brauchli
Oatmeal Envy

Website of the Day
Changing the SOFA

July 29, 2009

Carl Ginsburg
Our Crisis, Their Gain

Clifton Ross
From Tegucigalpa to El Paraiso: a Voyage From Curfew to State of Siege

Paul Craig Roberts
How Fake is the "Recovery"?

Franklin C. Spinney
Winning Hearts and Minds, Pentagon Style

James Bovard Lackawanna Six: Bogus Charges and Martial Law

Anthony DiMaggio
Health Care, the Media and Public Opinion

Bouthaina Shaaban
How Will Arabs Wake Up?

Greg Moses
A Catch and Trade Policy for Labor Costs

Wajahat Ali
No Racism in Obama's Post-Race America?

Gary Leupp
Beer Will Not Solve This

Ayesha Ijaz Khan
Musharraf, Imran Khan and Overseas Pakistanis

Website of the Day
Why Single-Payer Gets No Respect

July 28, 2009

Jean Bricmont
Bombing for a Juster World?

Uri Avnery
Obama, Netanyahu and the Settlements

Dean Baker
Right to Rent: a Remedy for the Foreclosure Crisis

Heather Gray
Stupid Cop Tricks: Driving Too Close to a White Female and Other Episodes in Racist Policing

Jonathan Cook
Can an "Arab Soul" Yearn for Israel's Anthem?

Winslow T. Wheeler
Beyond the F-22: the Future of Pentagon Reform

Belén Fernández
Thomas Friedman Does Afghanistan

Carl Finamore
The Hotel Workers' Kickass Local 2

Eli Jelly-Schapiro
Striking the World Cup

Harvey Wasserman
We All Stand Before Peltier's Parole Board

Website of the Day
Behind the Wheel

July 27, 2009

Ishmael Reed
Gates: Post-Race Scholar Yells Racism

Patrick Cockburn
Elections Shake Kurdistan

Roger Burbach
Hillary and Obama Nix Change in Honduras

Steve Breyman
Bomber Joe and Russia: Why is Biden Channeling Cheney?

Ramzy Kysia
Gaza: On the Right of Resistance

Stephen Soldz
Will the American Psychological Association Renounce the Nuremberg Defense?

Raymond J. Lawrence
Sexual Hocus Pocus in the Episcopal Church

Greg Moses
The Color Line is Black

Binoy Kampmark
Swine Flu Panic

Kim Ives
Lavalas and Haiti's Student Union Unite

Website of the Day
Meet the Paid Assassins of Health Care

July 24-26, 2009

Alexander Cockburn
"A Damned Murder, Inc."

Clifton Ross
Surreal Honduras

Patrick Cockburn
Party of "Change" Challenges Old Guard in Kurdistan

William Polk
Report Card on Obama From a New Frontiersman

David Sterritt
Screening the Politics Out of the Iraq War

Ray McGovern
Hooded in Bush's Hood

David Lindorff
Cops Gone Wild

Hannah Mermelstein
"The War is With the Arabs"

Carl Ginsburg
The Actually Existing Health Care System

Helen Redmond
The Selling of Single-Payer Features

John Ross
The Song of the Guerrilla

Bill Simpich
Fair Play for Cuba and the Cuban Revolution

Mark Weisbrot
Learning From China on How to Beat the Recession

Lee Sustar
U.S. Labor in Crisis

David Macaray
Union Workers Forced to Accept Massive Cuts

Felipe Matsunaga
Obama's Slow (and Familiar) Dance With Cuba

Sara Mann
Why Health Care Will Kill My TV

Martha Rosenberg
Which is Worse? Germs in Our Food or the Antibiotics That Kill Them?

Missy Beattie
Cha-ching Culture

David Ker Thomson
Empty Nest: a Natural History of Now

Ron Jacobs
United4Iran, a Footnote

Stephen Martin
The Crying of Lots 1 Thru 50

David Yearsley
Psst, I Show You a Feelthy Gluck

Gilad Atzmon
Bruno: a Glimpse Into Zionism?

Kim Nicolini
Guilty Laughter in the Dark: Seeing Brüno Twice

Poets' Basement
Kakak and McLellan

Website of the Weekend
Dead Prez: Summertime

July 23, 2009

Jeffrey St. Clair
The Masters of Perfidy: AIG and the System

Saul Landau /
Nelson Valdés

Hypocrisy and the Honduran Coup: Term Limits Only Apply When Governments Help People

Jonathan Cook
The Reality of Israel's "Open" Jerusalem

Nadia Hijab
Israeli Warships in the Red Sea

Dave Lindorff
Living in a Police State: the Gates Incident

Laura Carlsen
21st Century Coups d'Etat

Steve Breyman
Bankers Beware?

Ellen Brown
How California Could Turn Its IOUs Into Dollars

Norman Solomon
Spinning Health Care

Jorge Mariscal
Youth Activists Demand Military-Free Schools

Website of the Day
Copy-Editing Sarah Palin

July 22, 2009

Bernard Chazelle
How to Argue Against Torture

Nikolas Kozloff
The Coup and the U.S. Airbase in Honduras

Carl Ginsburg
The Recovery, Phase Two

Clifton Ross
Back to the Future? Return to El Salvador

Anthony DiMaggio
Health Care, Media and the Case for Socialized Medicine

Michael Donnelly
The Whoppers Behind WOPR

Nadia Hijab
Memoirs of a Lost Arab World

Dedrick Muhammad
Structural Inequality: News Not Fit to Print?

Charles Thomson
Cronyism at the Tate

Alan Farago
Ted Williams and the Florida Keys

Website of the Day
Himmelstein: Howard Dean is a Liar

July 21, 2009

Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Iranian Election and Its Aftermath

Uri Avnery
Breaking the Silence on Israeli War Crimes

Dean Baker
Séance on Wall Street

Jonathan Cook
Team Twitter: Israel's Internet War

Dave Lindorff
Saving Private Bergdahl

Andy Worthington
Interrogating the Uighurs

David Macaray
Heat, Dust and OSHA

Carl Finamore
The Deferential Party

Harvey Wasserman
Cronkite and Three Mile Island

Walter Brasch
The Marie Antoinettes of Health Care

Website of the Day
Linebaugh: Magna Carta and the Commons

 

July 20, 2009

Pam Martens
Judicial Apartheid

Nikolas Kozloff
Honduras and the Big Stick: Obama's Bullish Behavoir in Latin America

Paul Craig Roberts
Threatening Iran

Deepak Tripathi
Obama's Policy on China and Iran

Ira Glunts
Netanyahu's Time Bomb: Building in the Vineyard of the Mufti

P. Sainath
Put Your Money Down, Boys

Binoy Kampmark
The Moon Landing and the Cold War

Stephen Fleischman
The First Anchorman

Norman Solomon
Cronkite and Vietnam: Beyond the Hype

Andy Worthington
Predictable Chaos as Gitmo Trials Resume

Ron Jacobs
Out of the Haze, Into the Darkness: Recalling 1979

Website of the Day
Why Publishing Can't be Saved (as it is)

 

July 17-19, 2009

Alexander Cockburn
"Watch What We Do, Not What We Say"

Nikolas Kozloff
Chiquita in Latin America: From Arbenz to Zelaya

Joanne Mariner
CIA Apples: Bad at the Top of the Tree

Joe Bageant
America's White Underclass

Jonathan Cook
Israeli Road Signs: Wiping Arabic Names Off the Map

Saul Landau
Why So Much Sympathy for Madoff's Dupes and So Little for the Poor?

John Ross
Jurassic Fallout in Mexico

Sue Sturgis
Senator Sessions, Race and Impartiality

Anita Sinha /
Daniel Farbman
The Ricci Case and the Myth of Special Treatment

Peter Morici
Obama's Donut Economics

Pervez Hoodbhoy
Whither Pakistan? A Five-Year Forecast

Ramzy Baroud
Gaza and the Language of Power

Greg Moses
The Real Demand Crisis

Kia Mistilis
The Niger Delta Crisis

Missy Beattie
The Placebo President

David Ker Thomson
How Not to See: Things to Tell Your Eyeballs

James G. Abourezk
Evil Spirits: the Booze Strip in Indian Country

Paul Richards
Why Does Jon Tester Want to Log Wild Montana?

Dave Lindorff
Dark Days for Working People (With Three Small Rays of Light)

Marc Levy
Just Like Hanoi Jane

Matt Siegfried
The Good War Goes Hot

Stephen Martin
Panopticon Blues

Ben Sonnenberg
Sembène's Faat Kiné

David Macaray
Casablanca: When Melodrama Trumped History

Charles R. Larson
A Pakistani, Victorian Novel Celebrating Women

David Yearsley
That's Women for You: Abbas Kiarostami's Così

Lorenzo Wolff
Death Rattle and Roll: the Sound From England's Gutters

Poets' Basement
Payne, Anderson and Williams

Website of the Weekend
Hitler Learns of Sarah Palin's Resignation

July 16, 2009

Paul Craig Roberts
What Economy?

Afshin Rattansi Iranian Planes and the Hidden Toll of Economic Sanctions

Gregory V. Button
The Search for Environmental Justice in Perry County, Alabama

Evan Knappenberger
Profile of a Deserter

Michelle Bollinger
Why is Leonard Peltier Still in Prison?

Russell Mokhiber
White House to ABC News: No Obama Single-Payer Doc

Belén Fernández
Iranian Penetration, Oh My!

Alice Walker
What is Torture Like? A Letter to Obama

Nicholas Dearden
Paying the Climate Debt: the G-8's Troubling Model

Albert Osueke
Sotomayor and the Identity Mountain

Website of the Day
Sotomayor for the Prosecution


July 15, 2009

Manuel Garcia, Jr.
The Assassination Bureau

Vijay Prashad
A Political Recession

Dean Baker
Stimulus Arithmetic

Ray McGovern
Cheney Sweating Bullets

Jonathan Cook
Jenin's Model of "Economic Peace"

David Rosen
Shouts From the Gallery: the Sotomayor Hearings and the Culture Wars

Eric Walberg
Uighurs vs. Afghans: a Study in Contrast

Greg Moses
Three Dimensions of a Complete Stimulus Plan

Sousan Hammad
Decolonizing Israel

Binoy Kampmark
The Trial of Charles Taylor

Tracy McLellan
The Story of My Arrest

Website of the Day
11 Days in Saudi Gitmo

July 14, 2009

Eamonn McCann
The Emperors of Bombast: Bono, U2 and the Crisis of World Capitalism

Joanne Mariner
Obama's New Euphemism

Franklin Spinney
The Taliban Rope-a-Dope

Steve Heilig
Walking Mount Tam: an Interview with Gary Snyder

Ali Abunimah
Hamas' Choice

Dave Lindorff
The End of "Nice" Health Care Reform

Nikolas Kozloff
The Politics of Destabilization: McCain and Honduras

Ellen Brown
From Golden State to Subprime State

Alice Slater
How US Missile Defense Plans Sabotaged Nuclear Disarmament Talks With Russia

Ron Jacobs
Protest U.S. Aggression

Joe Allen
The Fight to Save James Hickman in Jim Crow-Style Chicago

Website of the Day
Mel Brooks Does the French Revolution

July 13, 2009

Uri Avnery
The Essence of the Regime

Mike Whitney
The Deflating Economy

P. Sainath
How the World Depression Hits Orissa

Gareth Porter
A US / Iraq Conflict on Iran

Paul Moore
Rap in the Streets, Rap in the Suites

Tim Wise
Off the Deep End: Private Clubs, Public Prejudice

Andy Worthington Former Insider Shatters Credibility of Military Commissions

David Macaray
Cartoon Voices: Serf's Up in Hollywood

Cal Winslow
The Healthcare Worker War

Niranjan Ramakrishnan
Spring in the Time of Obama

Website of the Day
Washington's Deep Game with China

July 10-12, 2009

Alexander Cockburn
Obama's Biden Problem

José Pertierra
The Cuban Five: a Cold War Case in a Post-Cold War World

John Ross
After the Honduran Coup

Conn Hallinan
The Settlements and the Quartet

Nikolas Kozloff
C Street Band: Sex Scandals, Moral Hypocrisy and the Far Right Agenda in Latin America

Clifton Ross /
Marcy Rein

U.S. and Honduras: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Good Neighbor

Carl Ginsburg
Summers' Clouded Crystal Ball

Michael Neumann
Say It Loud, Say It Proud: There is No God!

Gilad Atzmon
The Left and Islam: Thinking Outside of the Secular Box

Jeffrey St. Clair
The Parable of the Golden Parachute

Ellen Hodgson Brown
California Dreamin': How the State Can Beat Its Budget Woes

Jim Goodman
Rural America Needs More Than Listening Sessions

Christopher Bickerton
Europe's New Politics of Hard Times

Wendell Potter
Health Care Industry Adopts Tobacco Lobby's Tactics

Dave Lindorff
CIA Lies: Why Isn't Congress in Open Revolt?

David Ker Thomson
Switchbacking Toward Bastille Day

Anthony DiMaggio
The Michael Jackson Feeding Frenzy

Raymond Lawrence
Michael Jackson as Sexual Pervert: the Calumnies of Peter King

Walid El Houri
Neda and Marwa: a Tale of Two Murdered Women

Stephanie Westbrook
Yes, We Camp

Roger Gaess
The Shades of Highgate Cemetery

David Yearsley
Tara, America's Dream House

Kim Nicolini
Caution: Men at Work, Robbing Banks

Poets' Basement
Five Poems From the Japanese

Website of the Weekend
Free Tiga and Hugh!

 

 

 

 

 

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August 10, 2009

A CounterPunch Special Report

Janice Harper, the Nuclear Option, Silence and New Threats to Academic Freedom

Trial by FBI Investigation

By DAVID PRICE

Beginning in the early 1990s, I spent about a dozen years slowly collecting, analyzing and compiling tens of thousands of FBI files detailing how dozens of American anthropologists were investigated and harassed by the FBI and various loyalty boards during the late-1940s and 50s. In most of the cases I encountered, the scholars under investigation were targeted because they were involved in unpopular (legal) political causes—the most common of which involved activist campaigns fighting for racial equality, in others they challenged gender roles, economic stratification, the unbridled militarism or other conventions of their era. Many of those investigated already stood out amongst their colleagues as individuals unwilling to go along with the polite social conventions that supported the world they were challenging.

In most of these instances, non-relevant facets of individuals’ lives were collected and analyzed by the FBI, employers or local law enforcement agents, and unsubstantiated accusations were collected and used to informally blackball and persecute individual anthropologists who were engaged in political activities. The range of these collected details was bizarre and often prurient (in one case, a well known anthropologist’s reported, private, onanistic habits were collected and reported by the FBI). In the several dozens of cases I analyzed in my book Threatening Anthropology, none of the FBI’s exhaustive inquiries into the private affairs of anthropologists provided any proof of illegal activity directly related to these investigations; but many of the anthropologists who were the subjects of these investigations wound up losing jobs, marginalized within their discipline, or leaving the field entirely, simply because they were investigated by the FBI. In the McCarthy years, the mere investigation by the FBI as a suspected communist was enough to ruin one’s career, and the FBI’s practice of keeping their files and findings private lent a twisted sense of legitimacy to shadowy accusations and rumors of wrong doing—yet, when I had over a dozen linear feet of these files released under the Freedom of Information Act, I found that the FBI actually had nothing of substance.

As it was in other academic fields, anthropology’s weak disciplinary defensive response allowed the FBI and wider-facets of McCarthyism to flourish and wreck havoc on many of the field’s best and brightest. There was an emerging silence that took over the American Anthropological Association’s leadership and spread throughout the membership. Everyone got scared when the FBI investigated anthropologists in the late-1940s and 1950s, and, as the fear spread, everyone went silent. Sometimes the psychological anguish and reactions of those being persecuted made it easy for colleagues to rationalize abandoning friends. Just being investigated was enough to ruin careers and alienate individuals from other scholars—and, more generally, to teach the discipline not to study or engage in advocacy relating to controversial topics like racial inequality, poverty, segregation, and economic inequality. At a time when they were most needed, the professional associations went silent.

The relevance of this mid-century history takes on new meanings as Janice Harper, formerly of the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s (UTK) Department of Anthropology has found herself subjected to a bizarre and Kafkaesque investigation of the sort which cannot hope to produce anything resembling a positive outcome for the subject, regardless of the findings of the investigation: indeed, this investigation’s impact on Dr. Harper’s reputation seems to be an outcome structurally connecting these events with investigations of the McCarthy period. As it was during the McCarthy period, just being investigated is enough to undermine one’s career, and as reported by Robin Wilson in the Chronicle of Higher Education this past week, Dr. Harper has now been fired by the University of Tennessee.

The Chronicle piece skirts the details of this very complicated story (a story made all the more complicated by UTK declining to provide their version of events because of a pending lawsuit), characterized with baroque twists and turns, betrayals, ruptures in internal university procedures and safeguards, that, along the way, obscure the story’s main thread. But, the basic facts of the case are these: Dr. Janice Harper was an untenured assistant professor in the University of Tennessee’s Department of Anthropology, with an established research career as a medical anthropologist and a research interest in the nuclear legacy of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She was hired in 2004, and her initial performance reviewers were extremely positive. According to Dr. Harper, her 2004 evaluation said she was “off to an excellent start” and her following reviews were unanimously positive, with the exception of a 2006 review indicating that she might not be tenured due to issues of non-collegiality. In a department that Harper says now has no tenured women and has only tenured two women since 1947, it remains unclear what such an evaluation means.

Harper maintains that perceptions of her lack of “collegiality” stemmed from a meeting in 2005, where after problems with a failed job search, Dr. Harper says she raised questions about the department’s problems in hiring and retaining women. Dr. Harper contacted the campus Office of Equity and Diversity (OED) to discuss her concerns, and Dr. Harper believes that it was her decision to go outside the department to raise these issues that led some in the department to see her as not being a “team player” and raising issues of “collegiality.”

Professor Harper says that her teaching and research continued to be productive and highly rated. What sets Dr. Harper’s case apart from the usual tenure struggles was the series of events that spilled over from the personal and professional battles academics often have to endure, as the National Security State’s intervention superseded all other issues. With time, her research interests increasingly focused on controversial issues that included collecting oral histories of individuals recounting the past lax disposal of nuclear waste at Oak Ridge National Labs and legacies of disease among workers, while her department came to increasingly build up its institutional affiliations with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Department of Energy.

Dr. Harper says that in October 2007 as she was under consideration for tenure, she approached her department chair raising concerns about an employee’s behavior. She says that the college called for a sexual harassment investigation, and that she was told she was compelled to cooperate and when she did, she says, “I was told that my tenure would not have been an issue without this report, but because I did make a report, my tenure should be denied.”

In February, 2008, the University of Tennessee’s College Tenure and Promotions Committee voted to grant her tenure with a 9-0 vote, noting that she had an “outstanding” record of graduate advising. But the following month, her Associate Dean rejected letters submitted by colleagues from other universities, citing concerns that these letters went beyond evaluation of Dr. Harper and her work into the realm of “advocacy.” Having written and read dozens of letters supporting promotion and tenure efforts, I must add that rejecting such letters from outside colleagues (who had apparently been pre-approved as appropriate references) for this reason, so late in the process, is highly unusual. But, this was apparently just the beginning of a seemingly inexplicable descent into the surreal. When Dr. Harper called a UTK colleague and friend to privately express her deep frustrations, her call reportedly triggered a police visit to her home, ostensibly to evaluate whether her upset state suggested that she might harm to herself or others. Harper says that the local police soon realized that this was not the case, but soon after this, University of Tennessee “police officers came to my home with notice banning me from the university for allegedly threatening the lives of my university employees and mandating I obtain a mental health evaluation.” Soon afterwards, the University Police informed her that two individuals had made these reports, but, after a police investigation, the case was closed and she was allowed to return to campus and officially declared not to be a threat.

But, like a textbook discussion of collective mobbing behavior, the act of investigation brought more accusations. As soon as this investigation was closed, Dr. Harper says she was informed by an Associate Dean that there had been more reports made against her, this time from students. Dr. Harper says that the Associate Dean would not tell her what the allegations were other than they related to a “bombing” and that she was being investigated by Homeland Security. In late April, 2008, Professor Harper says that she “received a letter from the Provost informing me that new information has come to light that could have a bearing on my tenure application.” But, the specifics of what was going on remained obscure. Dr. Harper says “I had no idea what I was accused of, other than it had been reported to Homeland Security.” Later, claims were made that Dr. Harper had tried to coerce a graduate student to provide classified data to help her own research; a claim Dr. Harper continues to deny and that the Faculty Senate Appeals Committee Report later suggested that even the Provost’s Office “did not find [these] charges credible,” yet these damaging claims remained as supplemental information in Dr. Harper’s file.

On May 9, 2008, Dr. Harper was suddenly approached by FBI agents. She says that:

“Special Agents with the FBI-Joint Terrorism Task Force appeared at my door. They asked about my interest in bombs, if I would ever attend an anti-war rally, if I had plans for building a hydrogen bomb, if I had a list of human and building targets, if I planned to kill people, if I ever sought classified nuclear secrets, why I was researching uranium, what I would do if someone offered me classified information, would I ever attend anti-war rallies, what my politics are, if I keep in touch with my family, if I made a habit of talking about bombs. I had no idea what they were investigating me for, they were surprised I had not been told the nature of the accusations, but would not tell me themselves other than a student claimed I attempted to obtain classified information on nuclear transport and storage and reports of threatening students in class that I was building a hydrogen bomb. They soon realize that I am not at all a threat; I give them a copy of my course syllabus, and they leave, telling me they are closing the case, cannot tell me the extent of the searches and surveillance, but advise me to ‘hang in there.’”

Meanwhile, Dr. Harper says that the university began its own investigation, talking with students in her classes, even though the university was unable to identify a single student who could confirm that she had made any threat or acted inappropriately. The lack of evidence, however, only seemed to fuel the university’s compulsion to investigate.

The agents’ questions about “plans for building a hydrogen bomb” demonstrate how absurd the accusations had become, and how a climate of gossip had made even teaching a risk to Dr. Harper’s personal security. Dr. Harper was teaching courses on the history and impact of the nuclear weapons industry and a course on anthropology and warfare. Her class had been assigned to read anthropologist Joseph Masco’s brilliant book, Nuclear Borderlands, and had discussed Howard Morland’s landmark 1979 article in The Progressive disclosing “The H –Bomb Secret,” and these investigations suggested sinister undertones for such readings—as if it were any of Homeland Security or the FBI’s business what professors choose to read in the classroom.

Dr. Harper says that in early June, the University of Tennessee’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) revoked her standing research clearance on the grounds that the police and FBI investigations and the seizure of her research materials exposed her informants to risks. She was told that she “could not use my data until I had assurance from the FBI and university that I was no longer under surveillance.” As these investigations continued, however, they found nothing to indicate that she had made threats or was somehow building a hydrogen bomb. Yet, Dr. Harper was caught in a classic double-bind. Although the FBI did not find that she had done anything wrong, she could not complete her work simply because this investigation had opened her private research records up to FBI scrutiny. This, of course, seriously imperiled her professional activity and development. Last fall, Dr. Harper learned that the faculty in her department voted to deny her tenure application.

In June 2009, the University of Tennessee Faculty Senate Appeals Committee issued a detailed 26 pages report expressing concern over the procedural irregularities in Dr. Harper’s case. The report quotes from an FBI report indicating that even after the FBI undertook “a very aggressive and action oriented” investigation of these claims about Dr. Harper, the FBI closed the investigation after US Attorney “Jeffrey E. Theodore declined prosecution due to lack of criminal activity and no nexus to terrorism.” But a satisfied Justice Department appeared to make no difference to UTK officials.

Her position with the University officially ended a few weeks ago at the end of July, but Dr. Harper has retained legal counsel and reports she is filing suit against the university for gender discrimination, breach of contract, defamation and other tort claims, with additional Title VII Retaliation claims pending. Many academics, learning some of the details of Dr. Harper’s story, are content to let the courts adjudicate the matter, such an approach betrays unusual faith in the judicial system. Such a view overlooks the onerous financial costs facing a single mother waging a protracted legal battle with an entity as well endowed, financially and politically, as the University of Tennessee, while missing the important role that might be played by professional associations in investigating such threats to academic freedom.

Dr. Harper’s story appears to be one in which the usual politics of academic advancement became tainted by the “nuclear option” of an FBI investigation. This is an option that anthropologists and others who choose to critically (or perhaps even not so critically, in the case of fired Human Terrain Team member, Zenia Helbig, a doctoral student in religious studies at the University of Virginia, who was removed from her position after she joked over beers about defecting to Iran if the US declared war on Iran) study or work with the military or military-related sectors will increasingly risk such actions. With the military and intelligence and security agencies of the US government increasingly seeking to hire anthropologists and other social scientists, Dr. Harper’s experiences raise the probability that any scholars working in, with, or even around such sectors can easily become targets of investigation.

The way in which accusations of “non collegiality” morphed into an FBI witch-hunt is one measure of the chilling impact of the post-9/11 national security state on American campuses. The silence surrounding these issues adds to the chill and risks nurturing environments that invite rogue inquests to spread to other campuses. Professional associations such as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and the Society for Applied Anthropology (SFAA) have been approached and asked to take a stand in support of Dr. Harper, to ensure that she is given the protections of procedures and investigations due to all scholars, but, so far, they have done nothing. Beyond last week’s brief article in The Chronicle, a vacant silence surrounds her termination. Certainly, the loss of a scholar’s IRB clearance because of an FBI investigation that found no wrong doing ought to be an issue of central importance to such professional organizations, and I would hope that the AAUP, AAA and SFAA would recognize the need for them to weigh-in on this and other procedural aspects of her case. This is a case that impacts us all.

I have known Janice Harper as a valued colleague for over a decade (having read her work and appeared on panels with her organized by the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology), and know her to be a strong, independent and respected scholar. Over the last two years, she has periodically kept me apprised of some of these developments, and I am left wondering if being a strong woman in a department that has historically been so male-dominated relates to accusations of non-congeniality, or even how “non-congeniality” was, if at all, related to the ensuing FBI investigation. So convoluted and obscure has the entire story been that, even at this late date, Janice Harper herself isn’t sure if it was the political nature of her research at Oak Ridge National Laboratories that led to this chain of events. As she observes, “maybe my research had nothing to do with it and it was exclusively being the first woman up for tenure in years, in the front lines of feminizing the department, and not being the right kind of woman. I broke the silence about sexualizing women, keeping our mouths shut, being perky and quiet, non-assertive.” Regardless of the role of her Oak Ridge National Laboratory research in the chain of events described here, it is clearly the wider culture of national security paranoia and the broad powers of government investigation that allowed the sort of witch-hunt that has so damaged her professional standing.

Janice Harper wonders if this cascading flow of investigations makes her a sort of “indicator species of the Patriot Act;” as if her experience marks an entry into a new era where those engaged in the usual departmental disputes of academia can now use the specter of security issues to decimate their opposition. Similar dynamics occurred in the 1950s when mere accusations of communism led to firings, bankruptcies, suicides, or worse; in the mid-1980s claims of ritualistic satanic child-abuse soared and spread under conditions of presumed guilt and prosecutions without corroborating physical evidence. Today, the Patriot Act serves as attractive nuisance inviting abuses of process and principles of fundamental fairness, while Homeland Security and FBI agents’ snooping through professors’ course reading lists undermines the basic foundations of academic freedom needed for free and honest inquiry.

Precious few protections are afforded untenured professors, but chief among these hoped protections are expectations of fundamental fairness and protections of due process. Without knowing all the details of what occurred between Dr. Harper, her department and the administration, if her core claims are true that (and these claims have been echoed by the UTK Faculty Senate Appeals Committee Report): after making accusations of sexual harassment, a claimed positive tenure review was overturned at the end of the process by the unusual and sudden rejection of evaluative letter by respected colleagues, then the calm and neutral judgment of some outside body is needed to evaluate what happened here. I understand that UTK’s silence is only that mandated by lawyers demanding no comments on matters likely leading to litigation, but professional associations concerned with the protection of academic freedom and due process need to independently investigate what happened.

I began working on this story a few months ago, and when I contacted the University of Tennessee’s Chair of the Anthropology Department, Dr. Andy Kramer, for comments and to try and verify Harper’s version of events I was referred to the university’s General Counsel, Lela Young; who had no comment but referred me to Margie Nichols, Vice Chancellor for Communications, who also had no comment. No one at UTK would confirm, deny or comment on any aspect of this story beyond confirming Dr. Harper’s then employment at the university. I do not know all of the facts surrounding the University of Tennessee’s termination of Dr. Janice Harper; given the University’s silence, I mostly have Dr. Harper’s account along with records from the Faculty Senate inquiry and other sources substantiating her narrative. I would certainly welcome more information on the University of Tennessee’s version of events, but I have learned enough to support a call for a thorough independent investigation by an outside body of procedural violations of Dr. Harper’s due process, and violations of her academic freedom. The University of Tennessee Faculty Senate Appeals Committee report found that “this case creates the unmistakable impression that the outcome was decided by all parties in the University hierarchy long before the tenure application was ever filed, and the various entities along the way simply tried to find grounds to justify the desired conclusion of denying Dr. Harper’s tenure.” While this Faculty Senate report will likely be a devastating court document in Dr. Harper’s lawsuit, the issues raised by the actions in this case cannot just be left to the courts.

Professional academic associations need to investigate and take a stand on what has happened here. The post-9/11 militarization of our universities has opened the way for the sort of abusive FBI and Homeland Security probes that Dr. Harper had to suffer; and each such incursion on our campuses teaches students, professors and administrators to self-censor, remain silent, and to distance themselves from those who might fall under suspicion. This is exactly how the American social sciences learned to disengage from the sort of research focusing on racial and economic social justice during the McCarthy period, and it is easy to see how these impacts can be replayed slightly differently in the present if academics remain silent.

David Price is a member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologist.  He is the author of Anthropological Intelligence: The Deployment and Neglect of American Anthropology in the Second World War, published by Duke University Press, and a contributor to the Network of Concerned Anthropologists’ new book Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual published last month by Prickly Paradigm Press. He can be reached at dprice@stmartin.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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