Warren Bamford, the special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Boston, has warned local universities to be on the alert for spies and potential terrorists who might be trying to steal sensitive research information. Bamford’s office has met with representatives of the major universities in the Boston area, including Harvard, MIT, University of Massachusetts, and Boston College. The FBI reportedly informed the university administrations that professors, students, and security staff should be trained to identify attempts to access information that is technically unclassified, but can be used for illegal purposes. The FBI is legitimately concerned that some radical foreign students might be attempting to obtain information from the college biological or chemical research labs that could enable a terrorist attack, but there is no evidence to suggest that terrorists have actually infiltrated any American university science department. The Boston-based initiative will reportedly become nationwide soon, with local FBI offices contacting all major research institutions. Most thefts of university proprietary information are in fact carried out directly from unprotected computers, not through classrooms or laboratories. According to experts on economic espionage, students and visiting academics who come from countries that are U.S. economic competitors like China and India systematically acquire sensitive information that can be used for commercial purposes.
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In a private meeting with Republican insiders held in early June, presidential aspirant Rudy Giuliani stated that he is opposed to deadlines for withdrawal from Iraq because you “don’t provide your enemies with a timetable when you are retreating.” Giuliani’s comments were interpreted to mean that he knows the Iraq War is unwinnable, a view at odds with the hard-line positions that he has been taking in the first two presidential debates. The comment might well be related to the growing Republican perception that the party must somehow disengage from the Iraq problem if it is to have any chance in the 2008 elections.
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President Bush’s former adviser, the irrepressible Karen Hughes, now in charge of public diplomacy at the State Department, has launched a new international program to counter the dissemination of terrorist ideology and to enhance the reputation of the United States. Hughes, who has little experience of the world outside Texas and Washington, has formed the Counterterrorism Communications Center at the State Department to develop a plan to undermine extremists. The 34-page strategy paper outlining the proposed activities of the center appears unusually naïve, even given the admittedly low standards established by recent attempts to explain America’s position in the world. It emphasizes the United States’ central role in promoting democracy worldwide and holds up the U.S. as a role model, but it does not attempt to address world media accounts of human-rights abuses by the administration, something that is much on the minds of the target audience. Hughes is earnest and trying hard to articulate a useful strategy, but this latest gambit is akin to launching a major advertising campaign to promote a product that has no obvious market and has been cited for serious manufacturing defects.
Philip Giraldi, a former CIA Officer, is a partner in Cannistraro Associates, an international security consultancy.