When the NSA Went to the University of Wisconsin to Recruit
By Dennis Loo (7/6/13)
As someone who participated in the 1960s when political protest was at a high tide, this story about the greeting that student demonstrators gave the NSA when it was recruiting at the University of Wisconsin on Tuesday does my heart good. Here's an excerpt:
On Tuesday, the National Security Agency called at the University of Wisconsin on a recruitment drive.
Attending the session was Madiha R Tahir, a journalist studying a language course at the university. She asked the squirming recruiters a few uncomfortable questions about the activities of NSA: which countries the agency considers to be "adversaries", and if being a good liar is a qualification for getting a job at the NSA.
She has posted a recording of the session on Soundcloud, which you can hear above, and posted a rough transcript on her blog, The Mob and the Multitude. Here are some highlights.
The session begins ...
Tahir: "Do you consider Germany and the countries that the NSA has been spying upon to be adversaries, or are you, right now, not speaking the truth?"
Recruiter 1: "You can define adversary as 'enemy' and, clearly, Germany is not our enemy. But would we have foreign national interests from an intelligence perspective on what's going on across the globe? Yeah, we do."
Tahir: "So by 'adversaries', you actually mean anybody and everybody. There is nobody, then, by your definition that is not an adversary. Is that correct?"
Recruiter 1: "That is not correct."
Recruiter 2: "… for us, our business is apolitical, OK? We do not generate the intelligence requirements. They are levied on us ... We might use the word 'target'."
Tahir: "I'm just surprised that for language analysts, you're incredibly imprecise with your language. And it just doesn't seem to be clear."
Tahir: "... this is a recruiting session and you are telling us things that aren't true. And we also know that the NSA took down brochures and factsheets after the Snowden revelations because those factsheets also had severe inaccuracies and untruths in them, right? So how are we supposed to believe what you're saying?"
Even later ...
Tahir: "I think the question here is do you actually think about the ramifications of the work that you do, which is deeply problematic, or do you just dress up in costumes and get drunk?" [A reference to an earlier comment the recruiter made about NSA employees working hard and going to the bar to do karaoke.]
Recruiter 2: "... reporting the info in the right context is so important because the consequences of bad political decisions by our policymakers is something we all suffer from."
Unnamed female student: "And people suffer from the misinformation that you pass along so you should take responsibility as well."