Prof. Faris heads to Abu Dhabi, totally NOT a spy
Published: Monday, October 8, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 8, 2012 19:10
David Faris, assistant professor of political science and public administration, went on a trip to Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, from Sept. 22 to 26.
“I’m not a super secret CIA spy agent,” he said. “I just know about the region and was invited to speak there.”
Faris attended the Global Futures Forum, part of an ongoing lecture and conference series sponsored by the CIA and the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. Academics and analysts attended the forum, which was organized around identity politics and conflict in extremism.
“Basically, the CIA brings analysts and academics together to identify what the biggest challenges to national security will be in the next years,” Faris said. “They enjoy holding events like these where people argue and share ideas. It builds relationships between people in different institutions. Without this communication, relationships become closed off.”
Faris described the event as something in between a conference and a policy meeting, with representatives from about a dozen different national and global security-related departments.
“The lesson of 9/11 was that people from around the world were not talking to each other about security,” Faris said. “We need more routine interactions where people get to know each other and work together to prevent terrorist attacks. This is one of the multitude of things the CIA is doing.”
He wrote a paper and gave a talk at the forum on how social media might be affecting identity.
“I had contacts in the region, people who trusted me not to tell the U.A.E. how to crush the protest movement,” he said. “I talked about what groups are empowered and how disparate communities use social media to come together and organize.”
Faris has been funded by the United States Department of Education various times to attend forums and conferences similar to this one. He said he feels comfortable sharing his insight with the government as long as he knows they will use the information responsibly. He said he never identifies members in protest movements.
The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research hosted Faris and the other academics and analysts and paid for their travel.
“There’s nothing as satisfying as getting on an airplane and having someone else pay for it,” Faris said. “I really enjoy this kind of thing, and I really try for research I do to be accessible to analysts. Research needs to transcend just academics. I don’t want to be trapped in an ivory tower with only six people reading what I write. It allows me to stay connected to the foreign policy trade.”
Faris attends four or five conventions like these each year, sponsored by the federal government.
“It’s interesting to think about how different identities in the Middle East will be exposed under politics,” he said. “People may be led to extremism. It’s interesting how there are so many people in the policy world with expertise not known to academia.”
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