At the Society of Skeptics on November 7, Drew University professor emeritus Doug Simon discussed the American intelligence community and whether its size and intrusiveness is at odds with basic American values. His presentation took place in the Chiang Center for Innovation and Collaboration and began with a brief historical survey of American intelligence and its varying importance and morality during different eras.
"When World War II began, the United States got serious about building a large intelligence community and huge spurts of growth were further stimulated by the advent of the Cold War and 9/11," said Dr. Simon, who retired from Drew in 2004 after teaching political science and international relations there for 33 years. "The current size of today's intelligence community raises serious questions. It is an enormous network of organizations employing hundreds of thousands of people with highly intrusive technical capability and all built on secrecy."
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Willamette University in 1963, Dr. Simon served as an officer in U.S. Air Force intelligence, including a tour in Vietnam, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star. Following military service, he earned a PhD at the University of Oregon and began teaching at Drew in 1971, ultimately co-directing the university's Semester on the United Nations program for 15 years, serving as convener of Drew's Masters in International Affairs program and serving as political science department chair. Dr. Simon is the only two-time recipient of Drew's Thomas Kean Distinguished Teaching Award and also received the Sears Outstanding Educator Award and the Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Political Science Association.
Over the course of his career, he has also written extensively, co-authoring The Challenge of Politics, a textbook now in its fifth edition, and New Thinking and Developments in International Politics. Dr. Simon contributed to the edited volume, Protection Against Genocide: Mission Impossible?, as well as publications such as the Harvard Journal of World Affairs, East Asian Survey, Comparative Political Studies, Perspectives on the Holocaust, International Studies Notes, Teaching Political Science and Society.
In his retirement, Mr. Simon continues to lecture extensively on U.S. foreign policy, national security and the American intelligence community. He is also getting ready to undertake the preparation for the sixth edition The Challenge of Politics, published by Congressional Quarterly Press and SAGE Press.
During his Society of Skeptics talk, Dr. Simon hoped to impress upon Blair students the immense size of the American intelligence community, which is not limited to just the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency—in fact, they are just two of 16 organizations. "While I suspect just about everyone, myself included, recognizes the need for intelligence on adversaries that may pose a threat to the country, I want people to at least wrestle with the question of balancing national security and the rights of American citizens," Dr. Simon explained. "Is such an enormous organization built on secrecy compatible with democracy?"
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon.'65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.