Several years ago the New York Times wrote that one thing the feds should do is try to "follow the money" of terrorists and their organizations. Who screamed loudest when it was learned we were later doing just that via SWIFT? The New York Times.
It's hard to connect the dots when you forbid anyone to look for the dots.
Looking for dots, this seems to me a reasonable action for the FBI to take:
The head of the FBI's Boston office is warning the region's top universities to be on the lookout for foreign spies or potential terrorists who might be trying to steal unclassified, yet sensitive, research.
FBI agents met recently with officials at Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts and other schools to train professors, students and security staff on how to recognize anyone who might be trying to exploit research, Special Agent in Charge Warren Bamford said...
Bamford stressed that the FBI is not seeking to censor information or stop the free flow of information, just raise awareness.
"The academic community is designed to be open, and we just have to make the community aware," he said.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute President Dennis Berkey said the FBI told researchers to protect laptops, especially in foreign countries, and to be wary about who contacts them about their work.
"The general point was, if there is unnatural or unexplained interest in your research and you're nervous about it, here's how to be in touch with us," Berkey said. He said WPI already takes precautions to protect research.
Could anyone have a problem with this reasoned, reasonable FYI from the FBI? Why wouldn't any organization want to take precautions that could prevent anyone, but especially the bad guys, from stealing research?
Why, you ask? Because some organizations don't really want us to win this war.
John Reinstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, expressed reservations about the program, warning that there could be a chilling effect on students or researchers.
"Are you going to ask all the questions you want to ask if someone is out there taking notes and reporting to the FBI that you asked the question which they perceived as suspicious?" Reinstein said.
Let's review what the Worcester Polytechnic Institute president said, and add some boldface type for emphasis:
"The general point was, if there is unnatural or unexplained interest in your research and you're nervous about it..."
I guess that's too subtle for an ACLU legal director. Sigh.