It is report card season and it appears several Canadian universities will receive an ‘A’ - as in Assisting terrorism.
That’s because some Canadian academic institutions are signing off to the popular online research tool, RefWorks, that helps academics “gather, manage and store information as well as generate citations and biographies” in order to avoid scrutiny from the US Patriot Act.
Sensitive Canadian university librarians do not like the fact the Patriot Act gives American security officials the right to sweep through data bases without legal consent or notification in order to discover any potential threats to national security. In the anti-American world view of these librarians, it is a travesty the American government has this power to review one’s personal research information, which could leave a researcher feeling “vulnerable”.
“It’s an issue of privacy – that’s what it comes down to,” said one Canadian university librarian in a CBC report.
As a result, several Canadian universities are leaving RefWork’s American servers where many Canadian researchers currently keep their information, because these academic institutions fear research on such sensitive topics, for example, as North Korea or on agents that could be used in biological or chemical weapons may be flagged by “overzealous” or “paranoid” American security authorities. These Canadian academics will now store their research data on a server at the University of Toronto, which is not subject to American scrutiny. American researchers, it was reported, may also soon join this flight to Toronto.
“It’s a concern about a foreign country having access to your personal information without good cause,” said William Maes, librarian at Dalhousie University in Halifax, in a Canadian newspaper. “That’s the devious thing of the Patriot Act, they can do this without letting anybody know.”
To say the least, this bit of reasoning is spurious at best.
In the first place, if foreign researchers are using American university libraries or other information systems in America to do their research, then why shouldn’t they come under surveillance by American security agencies? After all, America is at war and that is “good cause” enough. One should not forget how the 9/11 hijackers used American flying schools and flight simulation videos to prepare for their infamous attack, which proves the jihadists are not above using our own resources against us.
And if a person is conducting research on such topics as agents that could be used in the construction of weapons of mass destruction, then security services should not only have the right, but also the obligation to investigate. The jihadists have never made a secret of the fact they wish to utilize such destructive weapons on American soil, including nuclear devices. 9/11 pilot Mohammed Atta, for example, was interested in obtaining a crop dusting plane, ostensibly for staging a chemical attack. Atta had also visited and asked pointed questions about a water reservoir in Tennessee.
Lastly, the Patriot Act is not “devious” because it allows investigators to view what is happening in different data bases without a person’s knowledge. Again, we are involved in a war for our very survival against a homicidal totalitarian movement that has cells in dozens of countries around the world. During wartime, when national security is of paramount importance, obviously not everything can be done wearing white gloves. Far from being devious, the Patriot Act is a straightforward, proactive security measure designed to head off terrorist threats to America before they can come to fruition, thereby saving untold number of lives. And what’s wrong with that?
Some Canadian universities argue that since the researchers are Canadian citizens, they should not be subject to such US laws as the Patriot Act. But the last time I checked, Canada and the United States were allies in the War on Terror with our troops fighting side by side in Afghanistan. Besides, twenty terrorists were arrested in Toronto this year, most of them Canadian citizens, who intended to blow up buildings and behead the Canadian prime minister. Some of them were students. If “Canadians” of this ilk are using RefWorks, the Patriot Act may just eventually do Canada a favor.
In essence, Canadian universities’switching from RefWorks’ American servers to a Canadian one, while still accessing the RefWorks tool itself, is simply another manifestation of the leftist, anti-Bush feeling present in Canadian academia. Leftists would rather give jihadists a safer place to store their research rather than have it routinely scrutinized by that awful CIA or FBI. And for that, these Canadian universities should be given an ‘F’.
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