Privacy SOS

On the “intelligence community”

I and many other people have long joked about the security state's bizarre tendency to refer to itself as the "intelligence community." The word community suggests something that a group of spies who plot to target weddings with bombs, and maintain 'black' torture dungeons, doesn't really conjure. Furthermore, given that members of the security state are notoriously paranoid about all manner of threats, including those 'inside', the word community feels off.

Last night I re-read parts of David Price's stellar 'Weaponizing Anthropology' and found a really great paragraph that speaks to the strange insistence in the security state to refer to itself as a 'community'. The following comes from a chapter about the CIA's infiltration of (mostly public) universities in the United States through something called the Intelligence Community Centers of Academic Excellence (ICCAE).

The soft inviting glow of using "community" to refer to spy agencies devoted to anti-democratic means, imperialism, torture, and any-means-necessary is but one small example of how we are all being socialized to accept intelligence agencies intrusions as part of the normal fabric of American life. In the movie, Three Days of the Condor, Mr. Higgins (Cliff Robertson), tells Joe Turner (Robert Redford) that someone within "the community" must be behind the killings that have Turner on the run. Turner repeats Higgins' phrase back to him, saying "community" with disdain. Higgins clarifies, saying "intelligence field," and Turner says "Community! Jesus, you guys are kind to yourselves. Community!" The CIA's colonization of America's consciousness has progressed so well that the words "intelligence community" ha[ve] taken on a normal soft and natural feel.

The entire book is critical reading for anyone concerned about academia, freedom of expression, and democracy, but this particular chapter is a stunner. Price describes how the "intelligence community" has overcome post-Vietnam war hostility at American campuses, and flooded struggling universities with money and perks in exchange for installing security state programs and recruiting bases. Some agencies are pushing to get young people involved at even younger ages, in middle school and high school. The aggressive recruiting isn't equal opportunity, however: the CIA in particular, Price reports, is making extraordinary efforts to recruit people of color and women into its ranks.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.