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 “Friends don’t let friends become cops” — GTFF 3544 holds anti-CIA teach-in

On Nov. 10, members of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation 3544 led an anti-Central Intelligence Agency teach-in behind Tykeson Hall on the University of Oregon campus. According to organizers, the event was in response to the CIA attempting to recruit both undergraduate and graduate students as recently as this week. 

There, the group of about 30 people that had gathered listened to a few speeches about the history of the CIA and their practices — noting the “List of CIA controversies” Wikipedia page. 

Ricardo, a PhD student in Philosophy and Vice President of Political Education for GTFF 3544, started the event, said “if you’re here, you’re concerned about the CIA recruiting on campus,” and then led a group chant of “CIA, go away.” 

The next speaker, Rajeev Ravisankar, a fourth year PhD student and former president of GTFF, spoke about an article he had written over a decade ago regarding the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  In the article, he had referred to the CIA as the “‘terrorist arm of the US government’ whose actions had led to civil wars, devastation of social institutions, coups against democratically elected governments, installation of juntas and dictatorships and the mass killing of civilians.”

He listed many examples including the CIA’s involvement in overthrowing of Iran’s democratically elected Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, “an intervention that supported the interests of British Petroleum and led to the dictatorship of the Shah.”

Another was the agency’s “support for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in the 1960s and in the 1980s when they knew that the Iraqi military was using chemical weapons,” he said. “The CIA later provided the “intelligence” that was used by the Bush administration to sell the invasion of Iraq to Congress and the public which continues to have disastrous consequences for Iraqi people.”

Ravisankar also listed, and explained, CIA involvement in Guatemala, Congo, Indonesia, and Chile among others.

Before concluding, he spoke about the agency’s “diversity, equity and inclusion push that would surely make
university administrators proud with its vacuous language that says a lot and nothing all at once.” He then said that “adding diversity to the CIA only changes the composition of who kills for [the] U.S. empire.”

The third speaker, an undergraduate student who wished to not be named, spoke about the agency’s website and how it describes working for them as “more than just a job — it’s a career and a lifestyle.” They also spoke about how “the CIA and other national security agencies have been complicit with destabilization and [have] overthrown governments all over Latin America.”

Alex Farrington, a PhD student in Political Science, spoke next about the agency’s drone strike program. About the effects of drone strikes, he said “they destroy infrastructure, they injure and disable thousands of people, and terrorize local communities” before reading one man’s account from Under The Drones by Shahzad Bashir and Robert D. Crews. 

The man recounted how he had been driving when the vehicle in front of him was severely damaged by a drone strike — but it wasn’t a direct hit. He exited his vehicle to help and when he got close enough, someone inside the car told him to leave. There will be another strike, and, sure enough, there was. He identified one of the victims as a teacher from his village. 

Nic, a PhD candidate and co-treasurer of GTFF 3544, read off a speech written by the union’s other co-treasurer, Heather Terral, about the influence of the CIA and The Pentagon in the motion picture industry. 

“Following September 11, The Pentagon has had a strong role in U.S. film production,” they said. “In addition to a 200% increase in their budget, the Department of Defense rents military equipment and properties to filmmakers for pennies on the dollar in exchange for line-editing and other permissions to modify content to reflect Pentagon preferences.” 

After talking about how the military uses Xbox controllers to operate drones, the speech turned to how the National Football League was paid more than “$5 million over three years to honor soldiers and veterans at their games.” 

They concluded by calling this “militainment, state violence translated into an object of pleasurable consumption.”

Prior to ending the event, everyone was asked to get into smaller groups and discuss why students would be interested in working for the CIA and how to respond to those reasons. Earlier in the event, one of the speakers had said “Friends don’t let friends become cops.” 

One group spoke about how students could inadvertently end up working for such agencies through defense contracts depending on what industry they went into. They also talked about how patents and published material could be co-opted by these agencies and used in nefarious ways. 

Another group, thinking of ways to deter someone from working with the CIA, talked about how the agency was founded and, essentially, designed for the Cold War — something the U.S. has long been out of. 

“It’s not needed anymore,” one said. 

Someone from another group brought up the CIA’s history with Julian Assange and their planned attempt to “commit a terrorist act” to assassinate him while he was in the Ecuadorian embassy. Another said that they had spoken with a CIA recruiter the previous night for 30 minutes and when questioned about many of the controversies, the recruiter denied everything. 

The teach-in ended before 4 p.m. after a “meditative purge” of chanting towards Tykeson Hall. 

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