Throughout the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, independent grassroots movements to keep the Central Intelligence Agency off American university campuses were broadly supported by students, professors and community members. The ethos of this movement was captured in Ami Chen Mills’ 1990 book, C.I.A. Off Campus. Mills’ book gave voice to the multiple reasons why so many academics opposed the presence of the CIA on university campuses: reasons that ranged from the recognition of secrecy’s antithetical relationship to academic freedom, to political objections to the CIA’s use of torture and assassination, to efforts on campuses to recruit professors and students, and the CIA’s longstanding role in undermining democratic movements around the world.
For those who lived through the dramatic revelations of the congressional inquiries in the 1970s, documenting the CIA’s routine involvement in global and domestic atrocities, it made sense to construct institutional firewalls between an agency so deeply linked with these actions and educational institutions dedicated to at least the promise of free inquiry and truth. But the last dozen years have seen retirements and deaths among academics who had lived through this history and had been vigilant about keeping the CIA off campus; furthermore, with the attacks of 9/11 came new campaigns to bring the CIA back onto American campuses.
Henry Giroux’s 2007 book, The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial Academic Complex, details how two decades of shifts in university funding brought increased intrusions by corporate and military forces onto university. After 9/11, the intelligence agencies pushed campuses to see the CIA and campus secrecy in a new light, and, as traditional funding sources for social science research declined, the intelligence community gained footholds on campuses.