October 2004  
Abu Ghraib 101 at BMCC?

“Fatherland Security” Hits CUNY

By Abram Negrete

A sinister “Homeland Security” course with links to the Guantánamo prison camp, death squads, and the Israeli Mossad spy agency is in the works at the City University of New York’s Borough of Manhattan Community College. Presented to BMCC’s Faculty Council last May, the course is the keystone of a proposed Security Management Certificate Program.

Originally scheduled to begin in Fall 2004, the program will begin soon but is still “being developed,” according to officials at the lower Manhattan school. Now is the time for militant protests to stop it cold!

The BMCC program, which includes study of “interrogation techniques” and “technology for surveillance,” is part of a trend promoted by the Task Force on Homeland Security of the American Association of Community Colleges. Among the twenty-one members of this task force, CUNY is represented by BMCC President Antonio Perez. A look at its activities, as well as the BMCC program’s advisory board, exposes a veritable rogue’s gallery of repression.

Front and center is the Guantánamo connection:

The task force boasts of the upstate Homeland Security Management Institute opened last December: “The institute is directed by Col. John J. Perrone Jr., [who] previously served as commander of the Joint Detainee Operations Group...in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba” (Community College Times special Homeland Security issue, 28 September). Perrone was the “first employee” of the institute, which is to be “a national model for homeland security training,” “extending its reach through the country’s network of 1,100 community colleges,” proclaims its host campus (Monroe Community College News [Rochester, New York], 9 December 2003).

Perrone “can speak to Home Land Security issues from a unique perspective: he has been on the front lines,” says a puff piece on the colonel. That’s one way of describing the former Camp Commandant at the infamous prison camp for “suspected terrorists.”

Then there is the union-busting connection:

The “BMCC Advisory Board – Security Management Committee” for the proposed certificate program includes representatives of companies like OCS Security, Guard Screen and Hill & Associates, whose activities include “confidential investigations and business intelligence.” Also represented is the American Society for Industrial Security, whose affiliates include firms specializing in strikebreaking and union-busting: one advertises “protection of over a hundred businesses during labor disputes and organization drives”; another notes that when “a strike is taking place,” picketers “can be a true hindrance to company productivity”.

There is the SAS/Northern Ireland and Iraq connection:

William J. Daly, also sits on the Security Management Committee for the BMCC course, representing Control Risks Group, Inc., of which he is Senior Vice President. The Center for Public Integrity notes that this company was a pioneer in “military privatization” in the 1970s, hiring officers from Britain’s deadly Special Air Services (SAS). “The SAS is an assassination squad, like the South American death squads,” notes Raymond Murray in his 1998 book State Violence: Northern Island 1969-1997. The agency ran a covert war in the 1960s against leftists in North Yemen, and carried out innumerable other murderous actions in the service of imperialism. Today, Control Risks, like the American Kroll & Associates, carries out “security” operations in Iraq (“Ex-SAS Flock to Iraq,” London Telegraph, 12 October 2003).

Most sinister of all is the Mossad/death squad connection:

The BMCC course advisory board includes another company whose name spells deadly repression: International Security and Defense Systems (ISDS), an Israeli firm represented by its president, Leo Gleser. The ISDS web site says the company was “established in 1982 by highly experienced officers, former operatives of I.S.A. Israeli Security Agency, the MOSSAD and the Defence Forces.” The Israeli newspaper Haaretz (31 August) says Gleser and partner Arye Avnat “met in the early 1970s during their military service in the Haruv reconnaissance unit” and later set up ISDS, which recently hired “former Mossad department chief Yehiam Meret” and Israel’s former police commissioner. Together with the CIA, the Mossad is one of the deadliest, dirtiest instruments of state terror in the world.

When Gleser attended a Homeland Security fair in Chile last year, the Chilean news magazine Qué Pasa (31 October 2003) ran an article titled “Ex-Mossad Men Come to Chile.” It reported that the presence of this purportedly retired colonel of Israeli intelligence “captivated the attention of military circles.” His company “has become known for its services as advisor to the State Department of the U.S.” – godfather of former military dictator Pinochet – and “has the authorization and sponsorship of the Israeli Defense Ministry for its projects.”

Among Gleser’s “projects,” the article cites the following:

“Leo Gleser has some strong detractors.... One of the harshest criticisms is that in the early ’80s Israeli intelligence sent him to train members of the military in Central America. During his stay there he trained the leaders of the legendary Intelligence Batallion 316, a squad operating with the Honduran Army, which human rights organizations blame for disappearing 191 persons.”

In other words, this death squad – part of the CIA’s reign of terror during Reagan’s campaign of exterminating Central American insurgents – used techniques of “disappearing” people perfected by Israel’s intelligence agencies against Palestinian Arabs (as well as Mordechai Vanunu, who blew the whistle on Israel’s huge nuclear bomb factory), and innumerable others around the world. Coverage of Gleser’s training of this Honduran death squad has also cited the 1991 exposé by Andrew and Leslie Cockburn in their book Dangerous Liaison: The Inside Story of the US-Israeli Covert Relationship.

In 1997, ISDS went to Mexico to provide “antiterrorist” training to a special “urban intervention” unit of the Judicial Police, a force so detested for its brutality and corruption that it was later disbanded by Mexico’s president.

BMCC and “World War IV”

In the special Homeland Security issue of the AACC’s Community College Times (28 September), BMCC President Perez writes that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were “the first salvo of what one observer has called World War IV.” He goes on: “Community colleges need to be in the vanguard of those institutions helping to prepare our nation and its defenders to respond to attacks.”

The proposed 30-credit BMCC security management certificate consists of ten required courses. Top of the list is the “Homeland Security” course. It features a guest speaker from the New York State Department of Homeland Security and readings from Tom Ridge’s Big Brother agency. Noting that “trends clearly demonstrate increased demand” for “investigative services” and “surveillance systems,” the course defines “national security” as protecting “national values, interests, and institutions.” This requires “understand[ing] current threats against domestic and international assets.” Like what, political protests and “Third World” insurgencies? You bet.

<>Next on the list of classes is “Security Management Principles,” which includes “Intelligence gathering” and “Interview and interrogation techniques.” Readings include an interrogation textbook written by a top “lie-detector” expert together with a former FBI agent and member of the Philadelphia police. Also on the syllabus: Undercover Investigations in the Workplace. That’s the kind of investigation employers carry out against union organizing drives.

How about the CIA interrogation handbook for Central American death squads? Is that going to be on the reading list as well?

Or will Col. Perrone of Guantánamo come to lecture on interrogation techniques? After all, he told Rochester TV (15 December 2003): “The time to retrieve...information is generally in the first few days of captivity.” He could also lecture on the use of hoods, shackles, prisoners being forced to kneel for days at a time, and other ways to “retrieve” information. And who will they choose for subjects for interrogation? Members of student governments who have lost elections, perhaps?

Then we come to the proposed BMCC course on “Terrorism and Counterterrorism.” This part of the certificate program uses the feds’ definition of terrorism as any “violent” act “against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian populations, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” So a militant labor struggle, a march against racist police brutality or protest of military recruiters can be branded terrorist. The proposed course defines counterterrorism as “any act intended to combat, control, or resolve terrorism.” This is the No. 1 pretext for torture in the world today, so Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib would fit right in.

Repression Is a Growth Industry

Programs similar to the one BMCC seeks to establish are cited with pride by the American Association of Community Colleges. The Homeland Security Management Institute is just one, and AACC notes Perrone’s institute is “working with” the State University of New York (SUNY) as well as the League for Innovation in the Community Colleges and the AACC itself.

Still looking for those weapons of mass destruction? George W. Bush’s hand-picked expert now says...guess what, no “WMD” in Iraq – as if the world didn’t already know this was a transparent pretext all along. But the AACC is not to be deterred. The association did a survey of community colleges and says “One in every five colleges had programs or courses in weapons of mass destruction (WMD) awareness or WMD preparedness.”

And the threat to corn keeps them up at night. Corn? “The cornfields of Iowa may seem an unlikely target of terrorists, but experts believe they are,” the association paper reports. Therefore, Iowa’s Kirkwood Community College got a $3.2 million grant in August, one of 14 approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Community College Times (28 September) notes that Homeland Security “received more than 215 applications for the grant.”

The same paper reports that the U.S. Department of Defense has funded a program on cyberterrorism at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. Cyberterrorism? How about the FBI’s seizure, on October 7, of servers used by Indymedia. The feds’ assault affected at least twenty of the news collective’s sites around the world. And the American spy agency did it in England. The action was reportedly retaliation for someone, somewhere having taken pictures of undercover agents photographing demonstrators.

For Militant Protest to Stop BMCC “Security” Course!

CUNY is no stranger to repression. The most prominent case is the relentless prosecution of Hostos student leader Miguel Malo for holding up a sign protesting cuts in Spanish and ESL programs (see box, page 5). Last semester Baruch College arrested widely respected CCNY psychology professor Bill Crain for the “crime” of entering campus without an appointment.

As for “electronic surveillance,” mentioned in the “Letter of Intent” (14 November 2003) for the certificate program, CUNY has done plenty of that itself. Just ask student activists at CCNY: in 1998 they found out a surveillance camera, disguised as a smoke detector, was aimed at their offices – a fact the campus paper was shut down for revealing!

Nor is CUNY new to connections with “private” spy companies linked to the long and bloody trail of the intelligence agencies. Last year Hunter College hired the notorious, CIA-linked Kroll & Associates for a “thorough survey” of campus “security” (Hunter Envoy, 2 October 2003). The only outcome Hunter students heard about was the decision to lock the main entrance of the Thomas Hunter building – a move reversed after students kept going through anyway (setting off the alarm each time). CUNY students should demand to know the full story of what happened with Kroll.

The sinister course at BMCC is part of the wholesale onslaught against the most basic civil liberties and democratic rights carried out through the USA Patriot Act, passed and administered by Democrats and Republicans, and a vast array of repressive measures. Fighting against this repression is part of the struggle for the defeat of U.S. imperialist aggression abroad and police terror, racism and exploitation here “at home.”

BMCC’s Repression 101 can and must be stopped. Students, faculty, workers and defenders of democratic rights must mobilize to protest and expose it massively, now!  n

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com