Civil liberties expert Christopher Pyle discusses terrorism's impact on privacy

Christopher Pyle, who researched the U.S. government’s domestic spying abuses for Congress in the 1970s, comes to Bates College to discuss terrorism’s impact on civil liberties in a lecture at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, at the Muskie Archives, 70 Campus Avenue. Sponsored by the Dean of the College,  the lecture is open to the public at no charge.

A professor of politics at Mount Holyoke College, Pyle has first-hand experience with the conflict between the need to maintain security and the right to privacy. A former Army intelligence officer, he disclosed the existence of a domestic spying campaign that the Pentagon conducted during the 1960s in an effort to quell anti-war activity.

“Its plainclothes agents infiltrated civil rights protests, misdirected busloads of anti-war demonstrators, set up phony news organizations and engaged in a paranoid effort to prove that communists were stirring up opposition to racial segregation and the war in Vietnam,” Pyle wrote last November in the Hartford Courant. His op-ed piece sounded alarm bells at the prospect of the military’s current proposal to screen electronic communications for signs of terrorist activity.

The Army’s Intelligence and Security Command “will use high-powered computers to secretly search the e-mail messages, credit-card purchases, phone records and bank statements of hundreds of thousands of people on the chance that they might be associated with, or sympathetic to, terrorists,” Pyle wrote in the Courant. “It’s too early to tell how far the Army will actually go with its plans, but it is not too early to start asking questions.”

Pyle teaches constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke. He is the author or co-editor of Extradition, Politics, and Human Rights (Temple University Press, 2001), Military Surveillance of Civilian Politics 1967-1970 (Garland Publishing, 1986) and The President, Congress and the Constitution: Power and Legitimacy in American Politics (Free Press, 1984).

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