- Academic Freedom and Campus Free Speech Issues
- Joint Terrorism Task Forces on Campus
- Project Strikeback: Student Data Mining
- Records Disclosure: Changes to FERPA
- SEVIS/International Student Issues
The USA PATRIOT Act and related legislation greatly threaten the freedoms of speech and academic pursuit which are so vital to the educational community. Section 215 of the act allows the FBI to investigate your reading and research habits, your activities on library computers, and other information, without furnishing probable cause that you are involved in criminal or terrorist activity. Furthermore, it places a gag order on librarians and other school officials which prevents them from disclosing that they have been ordered to reveal your records.
Resources for more information:
- The American Association of University Professors' website contains information on threats to academic freedom and what professors across the country are doing in response.
- The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has a Campus Free Speech webpage with information on threats to campus free speech and materials to help you take action.
- Our Freedom to Read page has more information about threats to reader privacy, actions that libraries have taken, and what you can do.
- Read news articles on academic freedom and campus free speech issues.
According to the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) are "teams of state and local law enforcement officers, FBI Agents, and other federal agents and personnel who work shoulder-to-shoulder to investigate and prevent acts of terrorism" (FBI Counterterrorism website). The JTTF may have a presence on your campus to monitor and investigate your political activities. In Iowa, JTTF officers issued four subpoenas to nonviolent protesters to appear before a federal grand jury, and one subpoena to Drake University to hand over records indicating who attended an anti-war conference on the campus. Read news articles about the Iowa subpoenas.
In its 2004 report on data mining, the General Accounting Office (GAO) reported that the Department of Education is operating a program called Project Strikeback that “compares Department of Education and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data for anomalies” and “verifies personal identifiers.” Unfortunately, this appears to be the extent of publicly available information on the project. The Office of Inspector General (OIG), an office that primarily investigates financial aid fraud, runs the project, but the OIG’s website does not mention Project Strikeback or any other initiatives designed to prevent terrorism. Read the GAO report.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) -- the federal law that previously prohibited your educational institution from distributing your records to a third party without your consent -- was significantly altered by Section 507 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Under the new amendments, FERPA allows educational agencies to furnish your records to the Attorney General -- without your consent or knowledge -- in absence of a subpoena. Furthermore, your school officials are not required to keep record of any information disclosures. For more information, read Recent Amendments to Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Relating to Anti-Terrorism Activities by the U.S. Department of Education.
The Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is a an internet-based data mining and surveillance system that collects, maintains, and manages data on foreign students and exchange visitors. The data collected -- including students' names, dates of birth, countries of origin, passport information, fields of study, and employment information -- is used to identify immigration violations and terrorist threats. Enabling statutes require that the program be paid for by the very students that it targets, so starting in the Fall of 2004, foreign and exchange students will pay $100 a semester for their own government surveillance.
Resources for more information:
- To learn more about the campaign to stop SEVIS, and what you can do, visit Refuse and Resist's SEVIS website.
- Read Know Your Rights: An International Student’s Guide to Studying and Working in the United States by the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, to learn more about international student issues and rights.
- Read news articles on SEVIS and other issues affecting international students.