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“I don’t understand what’s wrong with having some accountability”: Students disrupt NSA recruitment session

An incredible thing happened yesterday. 

National Security Agency language specialist recruiters went to the University of Wisconsin, but their session did not turn out the way they might have hoped. That's because some courageous and brilliant students interrupted the recruiters by asking them pointed questions about what the NSA really does, against whom, and why.

You do not want to miss this. Read a transcript of the conversation and notes from one of the participants in the intervention, Madiha Tahir, at her website. It's an incredibly nuanced conversation, and one that the NSA recruiters probably did not expect.

After the conversation was shifted onto the illegality and secrecy of NSA spying, and the recent leaks exposing it, one of the recruiters said that if the activists weren't interested in joining the NSA, they could simply leave the session. No one is forcing them to join, they said. Madiha ("me" below) replied:

Me: The trouble is we can’t opt out of NSA surveillance and we don’t get answers. It’s not an option. You’re posing it as a choice like ‘oh you know people who are interested can just sit here and those of us who are not interested can just leave.’ If I could opt out of NSA surveillance and it was no longer my business, that would be fine. But it is my business because all of us are being surveilled so we’re here.
 
NSA_F: That is incorrect. That is not our job. That is not our business.
 
Me: That doesn’t seem to be incorrect given the leaks. Right, and the NSA has not been able to actually put out anything that is convincing or contrary to that.
 
[pause]
 
Student A: I don’t understand what’s wrong with having some accountability.
Yesterday's action is situated within a long and storied history of activist intervention and resistance against intelligence agency and military recruitment on university campuses. 

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.