Thursday, December 12, 2013

Diversity and Honor

From the Colorado Springs Gazzette, via Military.com, an article describing how law enforcement works, not according to the theoretical niceties of the Constitution, but in real life:

Honor, Deception Amid Air Force's Cadet Spy System

Facing pressure to combat drug use and sexual assault at the Air Force Academy, the Air Force has created a secret system of cadet informants to hunt for misconduct among students.

Cadets who attend the publicly-funded academy near Colorado Springs must pledge never to lie. But the program pushes some to do just that: Informants are told to deceive classmates, professors and commanders while snapping photos, wearing recording devices and filing secret reports.

For one former academy student, becoming a covert government operative meant not only betraying the values he vowed to uphold, it meant being thrown out of the academy as punishment for doing the things the Air Force secretly told him to do.

Eric Thomas, 24, was a confidential informant for the Office of Special Investigations, or OSI — a law enforcement branch of the Air Force. OSI ordered Thomas to infiltrate academy cliques, wearing recorders, setting up drug buys, tailing suspected rapists and feeding information back to OSI. In pursuit of cases, he was regularly directed by agents to break academy rules.

The whole article is a compelling story (Aquilla remarked that it read like an episode of NCIS), but I should also note that USAFA released a response to the article that casts Thomas in a somewhat less favorable light than implied by the Gazzette. (Weird, though, that the response isn't on the USAFA/PA website; while I can vouch for its authenticity, this is apparently the only place on the web where the statement appears in its entirety.)

But what I want to comment on is this:

The records show OSI uses FBI-style tactics to create informants. Agents interrogate cadets for hours without offering access to a lawyer, threaten them with prosecution, then coerce them into helping OSI in exchange for promises of leniency they don’t always keep. OSI then uses informants to infiltrate insular cadet groups, sometimes encouraging them to break rules to do so. When finished with informants, OSI takes steps to hide their existence, directing cadets to delete emails and messages, misleading Air Force commanders and Congress, and withholding documents they are required to release under the Freedom of Information Act.

The program also appears to rely disproportionately on minority cadets like Thomas.

Whatever we might think of "FBI-style tactics", this last part isn't hard to figure out. The article doesn't come out and say so, but I'm betting that "insular cadet cliques" means ethnic minority gangs, against which White informants would be pretty useless. But the issue that goes unaddressed is: how are these students gaining admission to the Air Force Academy in the first place.

The likely answer is that USAFA's long-running pursuit of "!Diversity!" resulted in lower standards, and this is the predictable consequence. If challenged on this, I would predict USAFA would respond that running covert operations against the cadets (and faculty too, apparently) to "separate the wheat from the chaff" is an acceptable price to pay for increased diversity. Kind of like how abrogating the 4th Amendment is an acceptable price to pay for immigration from Muslim countries.

An alternative possibility, though perhaps less likely, is that even facially neutral standards that ignore class and family background are picking up more undesirables, and these are disproportionately minority.

3 comments:

newrebeluniv said...

The law enforcement "recruitment of snitches" only works with people who are already criminals. Instead of depending on such people for infiltrating other cliques, they should be expelled immediately. No good can come from depending on the criminal underclass at a service academy. The service academies ought to tolerate no criminals among their numbers.

--Hale

Dr. Φ said...

I would agree to the extent that the cadets were shown to have used illegal drugs while enrolled. This was true in Torres' case, who apparently used Spice as a freshman, but less clear in Thomas'.

profhale said...

The story line was about how unjust the system is. So they left out the part where the drug using cadet got his well-deserved punishment.