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    James Bonds in Training? Controversial UK University to Offer Spying Degrees

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    The University of Buckingham, UK will offer students aspiring to be the next James Bond the opportunity to attain an undergraduate degree in security, intelligence and cyberthreats.

    The course will launch in January, run by former government intelligence professional Julian Richards. He was quoted in The Times saying students are seeking more direct ways into intelligence services, and teaching of politics and international relations in Universities had become too focused on the "ills of the war on terror" and criticizing Western democracies, "missing the complexity of how states need to fight against the terrorist threat" in the process.

    Universities have often been key centers of UK intelligence agency recruitment, with sometimes catastrophic results, as the example of the infamous ‘Cambridge Five' — a quintet of aristocratic undergraduates who went on to penetrate the highest echelons of British society while spying for the Soviet Union — amply demonstrates.

    Den of Spies

    However, the University of Buckingham — one of only five private Universities in the UK, which avowedly espouses "libertarian", free market ideas — has long been closely associated with state intelligence, having operated a dedicated ‘Center for Security and Intelligence Studies' since 2008, offering masters degree courses in associated topics and disciplines.

    Moreover, many of the University's leading staff frequently appear in the mainstream media as ‘intelligence experts', frequently supporting controversial measures relating to terrorism, surveillance and civil liberties, among others.

    For instance, former Buckingham don Dick Kemm argued in 1993 the UK government should introduce ID cards "incorporating a photo, signature and identification capable of computer recognition" due to the Irish Republican Army's mainland bombing campaign.

    In 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, University vice chancellor Terence Kealey said the clash between "militant Islam and Western democracy" would be "asymmetrical and therefore heavily biased in favour of the West, for Muslims are reduced to terrorism simply because they are poor."

    The scorched interior of the Pentagon. Many believe that casualties from the 9/11 attack would have been much worse had the plane struck a different part of the building.
    The scorched interior of the Pentagon. Many believe that casualties from the 9/11 attack would have been much worse had the plane struck a different part of the building.

    "America was targeted because two ancient peoples are fighting an irreconcilable war over a single piece of territory, and America is backing one side. And America will win because it is free," he added.

    Glees All About It

     One of the most prominent, recurring ‘experts' associated with the University of Buckingham is Anthony Glees, who helped found and continues to head the organization's Center for Security and Intelligence Studies.

    In 2005, he wrote an article for Parliamentary Affairs entitled ‘Evidence-Based Policy or Policy-Based Evidence?', which examined the process that led to the production of the infamous September 2002 ‘dodgy dossier' that made the case for Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction.

    In it, he dismissed the idea intelligence services might have been involved in deliberate misinformation, stating the idea agencies such as MI6 "would, or could, agree to falsify intelligence even if [it] were technically possible" was "naive". He also said academics were too sceptical of the intelligence services, which he believed were "a vital resource for protecting democracy".

    "The interests of open government and transparency — laudable aims in any advanced liberal society — may inadvertently constitute a security threat of their own. Openness is not always a virtue, secrecy is not always a vice. Publication [of the ‘dodgy dossier'] gave the electorate the feeling they and not the government had the final say on what British policy should be, and whether the evidence adduced supported the attack on Iraq. This was a chaotic way to govern, and fundamentally counter-productive," he argued.

    Hans Blix, Swedish politician and former head of the UN WMD programme in Iraq
    © Fotobank.ru/Getty Images / David Levenson
    Hans Blix, Swedish politician and former head of the UN WMD programme in Iraq

    Similarly, in January 2009, he made comments in a letter to The Guardian echoing Richards' criticisms of university teaching, stating higher education institutions "should not be sites of 'truly free debate' where that debate would lead people to want to undermine or overthrow our democratic society or attack, harm or terrorise individuals."

    "There are three rather different questions here. First, whether words are, or can be, weapons; second, if they are, whether universities should control their use; third, whether universities still breed respect for evidence and new ideas. Words used by visitors to campuses or by dons with political agendas can be very dangerous weapons. If the price of their pitch is radicalisation or terrorism, it is too high. Free speech has been used to destroy the free speech of others and to fight for the right of your enemies to destroy you is simply suicidal. For Britain to be democratic, civilised and inclusive, universities must leave some things unsaid," he wrote.

    Glees was also a key interviewee in The Sun's now-utterly discredited February 2018 article claiming Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had met with Czechoslovakian spies in the 1980s and sold them sensitive information.

    "I would ask Corbyn, did he think people working in the Czech embassy might be working for the Czech intelligence agency? It's a criminal offence to knowingly engage with a hostile foreign state's intelligence agency. Even if he thought they were just government embassy staff, this was a repressive communist state — it's despicable to be meeting with them. Jeremy Corbyn should insist any archival material held on him in the East German or Czech archives be made public. He needs to do this so he can be seen as a fit and proper person to be Prime Minister," Glees fulminated.

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    Tags:
    spy agencies, military recruitment, espionage, spies, University of Buckingham, MI6, MI5, Anthony Glees, United Kingdom
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