In his recent opinion piece (The Ticker, April 16), Davon Singh echoes the Central Intelligence Agency’s marketing as he claims that the CIA choosing Baruch “to take part in its Signature School Program…[is] a prestigious honor.” When announcing the deal, the Agency’s former director, immigrant-basher Mike Pompeo, cynically claimed the partnership would further “diversity.” Now Singh cites Baruch’s “ethnically diverse” composition to claim that “Baruch students must accept CIA’s presence.” No, students, faculty and staff at Baruch and CUNY should oppose, protest and stop this incursion. Its goal is to further the sinister work of the spy agency, which seeks to weaponize campuses to serve imperialism, not “diversity.” It is a threat to our sisters and brothers around the world. It is a danger to us all at CUNY, and to our largely immigrant families, part of New York City’s multiracial working class.
Some of these dangers were discussed at the April 24 teach-in organized by the Baruch chapter of the Professional Staff Congress-CUNY. A faculty member described how the Baruch-CIA affiliation “puts populations I work with at risk,” “puts me at risk,” and “may make it impossible for me to get a research visa again.” The main speaker, Professor David Price of Saint Martin’s University, documented CIA efforts to infiltrate universities, and the threat this poses to basic rights as campus programs are put in the service of repression abroad and at home, including on-campus spying. Others spoke of how family, associates and teachers of unwary students drawn by pitches about “good government jobs” can find themselves being investigated by the world’s most infamous spy agency. CUNY Internationalists brought posters showing some of the CIA’s massive crimes in Chile, Congo, Guatemala, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Vietnam.
Singh’s opinion piece was directed against our leaflet titled “Imperialist ‘Murder & Torture Inc.’ Targets Baruch: A Threat to Us All – CIA Out of CUNY Now!” (March 2018). We distributed it to alert CUNY students, faculty and workers of the danger the CIA poses, and to call for massive protest and exposure to defend all of CUNY against the spy agency’s attack.
Admitting that the CIA orchestrated military “coups” and other crimes in one country after another, Singh adds that they carried out “drugging of MKUltra subjects,” trafficked “heroin and opium all over Southeast Asia” and use “enhanced interrogation techniques,” aka torture. This is all “just business,” he says. It must be accepted as part of “how the world works” and “the price to pay for protection.”
But just who does the CIA protect? And who pays the price? In 1952, Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz signed a land-reform bill making it easier for the rural poor to get small plots of land to help feed themselves and their families. The United Fruit Company (now Chiquita), Guatemala’s largest landlord, said no. In 1954, the CIA (headed by major United Fruit shareholder Allen Dulles) helped engineer Árbenz’s overthrow. Their property was protected and poor Guatemalan farmers paid the price: decades of military dictatorship, which slaughtered over 200,000 Maya indigenous peasants.
Singh claims the “full context” shows the CIA’s work is “incredibly vital.” For whom? Channeling Cold War red-menace propaganda, he writes: “if the United States did not involve itself in other countries affairs [sic], the Soviet Union would have instead.”
Congo was a huge Belgian colony that the king of Belgium, backed by U.S. shareholders, had turned into a vast rubber plantation run by forced labor. This was very profitable. After Congo won independence in 1960, the United States insisted on and backed a new invasion by Belgian troops, targeting its first democratically elected prime minister, Patrice Lumumba. To defend Congo against this aggression, Lumumba expressed openness to receiving arms from the Soviet Union. The CIA used this as a pretext for his assassination in 1961.
All in the past? Hardly. “Gina Haspel, Trump’s Choice for C.I.A.” chief, “Played Role in Torture Program,” states a New York Times headline (March 13). Yet incredibly, Singh equates opposing the CIA as “an organization” (or considering it “evil,” in his words) to espousing bigotry against Muslims and Latinos. Seriously? We all know that bigotry and attacks against Muslims, Latinos and so many others are spewed from and put into practice by the highest levels of the U.S. government. And as our leaflet noted, Muslim-bashing is how former CIA chief, Mike Pompeo, now Trump’s Secretary of State, made his name. Latin America and Muslim-majority countries are among the CIA’s primary targets.
Our leaflet quoted the CIA’s memorandum of understanding with Baruch, including references to “simulations,” and asked if prospective recruits would be spying on their classmates. Singh finds such questions “outrageous,” “asinine” and “hyperbolic.” It’s all “highly unlikely,” he claims. Really? As our leaflet noted, “this recalls the ‘Homeland Security’ course the CUNY tops tried to establish at Borough of Manhattan Community College in 2004, which was slated to include ‘interrogation techniques’ and ‘technology for surveillance.’” Books like The CIA on Campus (2011) extensively document the Agency’s use of spies and informants not only in classrooms, but in meetings of faculty and student groups as well. And can anyone forget the NYPD’s use of informants to spy on Muslim students at Baruch and other CUNY campuses?
Embedding the CIA at Baruch continues the drive for militarizing universities that escalated with CUNY’s 2013 hiring of ex-CIA chief and Iraq-Afghanistan war commander David Petraeus. While the CIA seeks to use CUNY students against working-class and oppressed people around the world, some argue that Baruch students should at least feel safe from spying here. Singh writes that “the CIA is largely not permitted to collect intelligence on the domestic activities of U.S. citizens, except in certain cases.” Can anyone who reads the news believe such claims? The CIA has always spied “at home,” including on campuses. Moreover, this got an official stamp of approval in 1983 through a presidential order known as the “Attorney General Guidelines.”
Singh writes that under “normal” presidencies, the CIA is used to make “informed decisions.” Under Obama, the CIA carried out innumerable drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere that killed hundreds of people, including children. And under Trump the CIA has continued drone strikes unabated. The spy agency has carried on its murderous work under successive presidents, Democratic and Republican, since its founding in 1947. Meanwhile, the fact that Trump’s nominee to head the CIA has a “record of torture” is not a “deal-breaker” for Democrats, the media has reported.
The Baruch administrators who kept the CIA deal secret from faculty and students until it was signed and sealed may hope for unawareness about what the CIA is, its history and its role today. Students at Baruch and throughout CUNY should indignantly reject the idea that making them cogs in imperialism’s war machine is acceptable if it’s done in the name of “diversity.” As the CUNY Internationalist Clubs and Revolutionary Internationalist Youth leaflet proclaims: All cops, spy agencies and military recruiters, from the CIA, NSA and FBI to the NYPD, I.C.E. and ROTC: out of CUNY!