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Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities (Inactive)

Committee Charge


Convened in the summer of 2006 in response to member criticism of the publication of an ad for CIA employment on the official AAA job site, the purpose of the Commission was to advise the Executive Board and the Association by providing information and/or recommendations on the following: (1) The varied roles that practitioners and scholars of anthropology currently assume within intelligence and national security entities (2) The state of AAA’s existing guidelines and guidance on the involvement of anthropologists in intelligence/national security-related activities (3) The key ethical, methodological, and practical/political challenges faced by the discipline and the AAA in its current and future engagement in intelligence/national security.

Given important unresolved issues and continuing concerns—such as the controversial Human Terrain System which continues to receive substantial national and international press coverage―CEAUSSIC’s work was extended through 2009 when they issued their final report. This builds on conclusions of its initial report, submitted to the AAA’s Executive Board in November of 2007. This work will give attention to information-gathering to provide better understanding of the forms of anthropological engagement, kinds of disciplinary practice, work environments, institutional contexts, as well as the ethical implications of this work, within the military, security and intelligence arenas. As a research body, CEAUSSIC’s purpose was to provide a helpful and grounded framework for the informed evaluation and discussion of these various matters by the anthropological community.

CEAUSSIC was further organized into smaller work groups, each addressing a key topic. These were dedicated to the following specific concerns:  (1) Situational Ethics and Review of other Ethics Codes and Precedents, (2) Secrecy and Disclosure, (3) Free and Informed Consent, (4) The Prohibition to “Do no Harm,” (5) Disseminating Research Results and Proprietary Data, (6) Characteristics of Anthropological Practice, (7) the Army’s Human Terrain System Program, and (8) Institutional Environments and Types of Employment. As a key topic of concern, each was given sustained attention, variously combining limited ethnographic research, policy and institutional analysis, interviews, and through compiling representative cases. The work of each group was coordinated with the goals and activities of CEAUSSIC as a whole.

As part of this basic mandate, CEAUSSIC was tasked with the following activities: (1) Supporting and advising the AAA’s Executive Board on the discipline’s involvement with military, security and intelligence, (2) Dialogue, education, outreach and coordination with different constituencies composing the AAA membership and other organizations and groups about the discipline’s interests and concerns regarding these matters, as this is appropriate, and (3) Providing written and other products and outcomes addressing these issues which effectively describe key concerns, provide case examples, and highlight accompanying ethical implications of each, (4) And the production of an ethics Casebook compiled and annotated with the purpose of providing an illustrative range of questions and issues raised by the possibilities of anthropological engagement with the military, security and intelligence communities (see call).

Duration of Committee

Three years.

Committee Reports to

The Executive Board.

Membership and Appointment

12 Individuals including the chair, a liaison to the EB, and the AAA President as an ex-officio member.


Final report.


Meetings and Schedule

Phone conferences, and in person meetings as needed.

Contact Information

2300 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 1301, Arlington, VA 22201, (o) 703/528-1902, ext 1160, (f) 703/528-3546.

Committee Links
Additional Information And Resources

Ethics Casebook - Call for Submissions:
CEAUSSIC is asking its colleagues in anthropology and related disciplines for summaries of illustrative cases that explore intersections among the ethical, methodological, and theoretical aspects of work in, around, and for the national security state, including public and private institutions, in and outside academia.  To contribute, please go here.

Proposal for Examination of the Human Terrain System
The AAA Executive Board has requested that CEAUSSIC gather information regarding the Human Terrain System.  For more information, click here.

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