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In the latest outgrowth of the debate over military sponsorship of social science, members of the American Anthropological Association have voted to strengthen language in their code of ethics against research conducted in secret. Among other things, the new amendments declare that clandestine fieldwork constitutes “a clear violation of research ethics” and that anthropologists “should not withhold research results from research participants when those results are shared with others.” The amendments were endorsed in a mail ballot by a vote of 87 percent to 13 percent. (The turnout rate was 16 percent.) The association announced the results on Wednesday. The ethics code carries no formal weight, and the association has no mechanism for adjudicating charges of misconduct. But the code is widely discussed in graduate courses, and some anthropologists say that it embodies a powerful set of norms. The code represents “a sense of our collective judgment,” said Dena K. Plemmons, a research scientist at the University of California at San Diego and the chair of the association’s Committee on Ethics, during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. “We assume that it gives us a guiding framework for our practice.” The new ethics-code revisions stem from a two-year-old debate about whether—and under what conditions—anthropologists should cooperate with projects sponsored by intelligence agencies or the military. Several government programs are at issue, but the most visible one is the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System, in which social scientists give on-the-ground advice to military units in Afghanistan and Iraq (The Chronicle, November 30, 2007). Officials at the Department of Defense have maintained that the research generated by social scientists in the Human Terrain System will be open and unclassified, except in limited cases in which data must be temporarily withheld for reasons of operational security. They have also said that the social scientists are always candid with Afghani and Iraqi citizens about their dual roles as researchers and military personnel. If those assertions are true, then it appears that anthropologists could participate in the Human Terrain program without technically violating the new ethics rules. But even if the Human Terrain teams’ reports are unclassified, it seems unlikely that the Afghani and Iraqi citizens who interact with the teams could realistically obtain those reports. As a recently leaked program handbook makes clear, many of the teams’ reports take the form of oral briefings and PowerPoint presentations for brigade commanders. Lingering Concerns uman Terrain teams’ reports are unclassified, it seems unlikely that the Afghani and Iraqi citizens who interact with the teams could realistically obtain those reports. As a recently leaked program handbook makes clear, many of the teams’ reports take the form of oral briefings and PowerPoint presentations for brigade commanders. Lingering Concerns
First Read of a Leaked Handbook Human Terrain Systems, one of the U.S. military’s key counterinsurgency efforts to stabilize the occupation of Iraq, appears to suddenly be under serious attack by groups that once offered it support. This latest round of attacks comes not from progressive anthropologists like me or my fellow members of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists; these attacks come from groups with far more centralized power and access to documents and media than any of us academic critics. I don’t know who is behind these attacks but they may be coming from within the belly of the Pentagon or within Human Terrain itself. On Thursday December 11, two apparently separate attacks were launched. One attack came in the form of publication of a fierce editorial in the pages of the British scientific journal Nature. It declared that the “the US military's human-terrain programme needs to be brought to a swift close.” This position is all the more devastating when contrasted with an editorial supporting the principles of Human Terrain and other forms of military-funded anthropological work published by Nature just five months ago. A second attack came the same day with the leak and web distribution on Wikileaks.com of the UNCLASSIFIED Human Terrain Systems Handbook. These two attacks, whether coordinated or independent, further destabilize already shaky support for the poorly designed Human Terrain Systems program. I don’t pretend to understand why these attacks are now converging now, but it is no secret that some divisions in the Pentagon oppose the “hearts and minds” strategy of counterinsurgency, and it is possible that some of these actors are working to undermine Human Terrain by leaking this document and sewing seeds of discontent in public discourse for their own reasons; reasons quite separate from my own and having to do with their favoring the use of brute military force over soft counterinsurgency. The Human Terrain program is the brainchild of anthropologist Montgomery McFate, whose longtime interest in supporting the suppression of insurgent groups through the adoption of counterinsurgency tactics led to the formation of Human Terrain Systems based at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas and run through BAE Systems contractors. Human Terrain Teams (HTT) are designed to supplant or complement roles that Civil Affairs units have traditionally played in assessing the needs and conditions of occupied populations. As the recently leaked Handbook states, “Human Terrain Teams bring another aspect of the population: the average persons’ perspective, when the HTT incorporates the “grass-roots” perspective with government and tribal perspectives.” These Human Terrain Teams are designed to incorporate military-embedded anthropologists and other social sciences who interview members of local populations in war zones, often with armed Team members, sometimes wearing uniforms. Because of the complex ethical issues involved in conducting ethnographic fieldwork for occupying military forces in war zones, the Human Terrain Program is viewed by most anthropologists as being highly problematic. In November 2007, the American Anthropological Association’s Executive Board produced a statement condemning the Human Terrain program for its inattention to basic anthropological ethical concerns for voluntary informed consent and the well-being of studied populations."