Engagement of Anthropology with Security and Intelligence Communities

On Wednesday, November 28th, 2007, the Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association received the report of the Ad Hoc Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with Security and Intelligence Communities. The complete report, with appendices, is 63 pages long and will be the subject of further discussion in the coming weeks on this blog.

In the meantime, dicussion on the first blog established by the AAA for discussion of the preliminary statement condemning the embedding of anthropologists in Human Terrain Teams seems to have dwindled to repetitive spamming by a lone (im)poster, courageously self-styled as “anonymous.” Despite several anthropologists who have spoken out publicly against the Executive Board’s statement, including on that blog, and in the media, the claims by “anonymous” that he/she needs anonymity for professional safety is interesting mendacity. More than likely, and almost certainly judging from posts whose primary content consists of bellicose jingoism, tired and worn propaganda about “terrorists,” and an opinion on the “mandate” to stay in Iraq that hardly anyone in the world, including the US, agrees with, in addition to the void of knowledge of anthropology or the Middle East displayed by “anonymous,” suggests that this spammer is simply a political hack who wishes to vandalize the blog. A right wing blogger perhaps, a member of the Republican right wing, or a minor staff person in government–who knows and who cares. Unfortunately, the AAA has permitted anonymous posting and abdicated any moderating role, allowing this “anonymous” spammer to turn the blog into his/her personal toy. What is notable is that “anonymous” is reflecting a minority opinion on that blog, and the insistent repetition of slogans, the avoidance of any discussion of the ethics of anthropological research, the obtuse evasiveness about his/her identity, all lend a certain pathos to the lone spammer. Those anthropologists in favour of Human Terrain Systems do not benefit from strong support or effective representation, especially with the likes of “anonymous” as their cheerleader.

Also on Wednesday, November 28, the AAA created a second blog at http://www.aaaexecboard.blogspot.com/ as a new forum to post comments regarding the Commission’s report and related issues. The Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities was formed two years ago to advise the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Executive Board by providing information and/or recommendations on the following:

(1) The varied roles that practitioners and scholars of anthropology currently assume within intelligence and national security entities;

(2) The state of AAA’s existing guidelines and guidance on the involvement of anthropologists in intelligence/national security-related activities; and, 

(3) The key ethical, methodological, and practical/political challenges faced by the discipline and the AAA in its current and future engagement in intelligence/national security.

Once readers have had a chance to carefully study the report linked to above, perhaps we can look forward to more enlightened and mature discussion than we have seen in the case of the lone, anonymous, Walter Mitty character on the first AAA blog.