About 5 years ago there was a story in the Taiwanese papers about how gangsters were giving “scholarships” to students. Gangs needed students with advanced legal and business skills. By paying for the students to go to school, the gangsters ensured that the students would come and work for them after graduation.
Today, in a comment elsewhere on Savage Minds, I discovered a new article by David Price, of Threatening Anthropology fame, about intelligence agency recruitment in the universities. In the new Intelligence Community Scholars Program (ICSP), “unnamed intelligence agencies” will ”’enter into contractual agreements with individual’ students.” Price suggests that the funding could amount to as much as $160,000 over a four year period.
What struck me is how much the incentive structure of these ICSP resembled that of Taiwan’s gangsters:
if ICSP recipients decline to work for their sponsoring intelligence agency upon completing of their education, then the student “shall be liable to the United States for an amount equal to the total amount of the scholarships received[and] the interest on the amounts of such awards which would be payable if at the time the awards were received they were loans bearing interest at the maximum legal prevailing rate, as determined by the Treasurer of the United States, multiplied by three.” In other words, spy or have a lousy credit rating for the rest of your life.
In an earlier article David Price had suggested that CIA funded students could end up spying on their fellow students and faculty. Pat Roberts, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, responded to these concerns by claiming that
legal safeguards against domestic spying are in place that weren’t in the 1950s and 1960s, when the anti-Communist fervor of former Sen. Joe McCarthy and FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover created a climate that contributed to agency abuses. Specifically, a 1981 presidential executive order clearly prohibits physical surveillance of American citizens by agencies other than the FBI.
However, as David Price points out, such legal obstacles were obviated by the U.S. Patriot Act.