Degree Plans of the Future

You can now get a Master of Science in Strategic Studies in Weapons of Mass Destruction. Well, maybe you can’t:

“It’s not going to be open enrollment (or) traditional students,” Giever said. “You worry about whether you might be teaching the wrong person this stuff.”

At first, the FBI will select students from within its ranks, though Giever wants to open it to other law enforcement agencies. Rather than traditional tuition, agencies will contract with the school, paying about $300,000 a year for groups of 15 to 20 full-time students, according to documents submitted to the board of governors of the State System of Higher Education.

Posted on July 15, 2011 at 6:31 AM29 Comments


GreenSquirrel July 15, 2011 7:28 AM

Does this imply that no member of the FBI or other agency has gone “bad” and crossed over to the other side?

Does this also imply that the course contains super-secret information that we dont want our enemies to find out? Who dont “we” want finding out about Strategic Studies in WMD? Are we talking about the people “we” think might be building the WMD? Surely they already know and probably assume that “we” also know.

Count 0 July 15, 2011 7:41 AM

When are nuclear physics or chemical engineering degrees going to be restricted? There’s no telling the kind of mayhem you can start if your into that fancy book learnin’!

Daniel Hagan July 15, 2011 8:25 AM

@Count 0 – Yeah, obviously there’s no difference between understanding the primary science behind a nuclear bomb and learning details about possible impacts of detonation in an urban canyon or the primary science behind infections and a study of the impact of release methodologies for “militarized” pathogens. Personally, I was glad when they declassified all that and put it in college text books.

mcb July 15, 2011 8:31 AM

Who told the FBI they could have a “Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate”? Wonder if they name their conference rooms Voldemort, Palpatine, and Sauron…

TS July 15, 2011 9:27 AM

Educating people “we” don’t want to know about our WMD program gives them ways to get around our methods. There are probably also a lot of things that they would like to discuss that are either export controlled or requiring security clearance, and a number of FBI folks already have clearances. It’s cool that they are having a degree program for this stuff though.

S July 15, 2011 9:30 AM

If it’s not open to anyone, why bother making it a traditional university masters course?

Sure, you can contract a university to do it, but why not just make up you own name for it?

If you’re worried about portability between different agencies, there’s any number of examples of mil/gov-specific training courses, accreditations, and so on.

Just seems quite a bizarre choice of certification/qualification to me.

Tyler July 15, 2011 10:24 AM

They want some kind of paper result for the education, and it looks like they have a selection process through which they validate the people that apply to the program. It requires FBI clearance, and it looks like it’s mostly about educating people for their part in the FBI’s WMD Directorate and giving them some level of academic authority instead of just FBI courses.

Robert in San Diego July 15, 2011 10:46 AM

Careerism, people. That’s why this is to be an awarded academic degree from an accredited institution of higher learning, not an in-house certificate or training program. There’s another reason — you want the students, who are destined for management positions, to demonstrate thinking prowess, not just a parroting of “the book.” At least in theory, academics are better at regarding original thought than “trainers.” Bonus — the student papers might lead to furtherance of the arts, or teach lessons about the comparative values of intelligence sources. Covert agents, or “spies,” making stuff up to appease their masters (and pad their expenses) are not a new phenomenon.

Robert in San Diego July 15, 2011 10:51 AM

Highly specialized academic programs aren’t necessarily a bad thing. I WISH I had the reference, but a few months there was a big retrospective on San Diego State University’s pioneering “Women’s Studies” program. One old time historian emeritus type was gracious enough to say he thought the organization and institutionalization was fundamentally silly, but the actual work produced was “solid.”

Algirdas July 15, 2011 10:54 AM

Man, there is good money to be made in the fear industry. Well, given that peddling “education” and “certification” “credentials” generally is a not a bad way to make a quick buck, there’s no reason why out of over a trillion dollars in “security” spending, a few million could not be redirected into university pockets.

echowit July 15, 2011 11:09 AM

Any bets on how long it will take the 1st hacker to get his MSSSWMD after this becomes a College-In-Your-PJs program?

Khushbu Jithra July 15, 2011 1:12 PM

Quote “Everything we do is about prevention,” Perdue said. The directorate’s responsibilities range from easy-to-conduct chemical attacks that might kill a dozen people to low-probability catastrophes such as nuclear attacks, he said. Unquote

Is this not an extreme of a preventive control? Who and how well does anyone identify the probability of misuse versus good use of such an initiative?

Andrew July 15, 2011 1:42 PM

Why aren’t FBI agents being sent to the academic institutions who actually do cutting-edge research about and teach this stuff now? You know, the Naval Postgraduate School, the Air University or the Army War College?

It would be a lot cheaper than re-inventing the wheel and improve on coordination between criminal justice and the military, which will be involved in the aftermath of any WMD event. (See HSPD-5.)

This of course would require FBI agents to expose themselves to an actual curriculum taught by highly seasoned people who cheerfully flunk those who don’t make the grade.

@Robert in San Diego who says “At least in theory, academics are better at regarding original thought than “trainers.””

Not in my experience, once one has bought and paid for the academics in question. There will be a University-level piece of paper behind whatever the FBI wants taught, but not much original thinking or insight.

Note however that one WMD planner found that a degree in mechanical engineering from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University was adequate to his needs. He is currently doing his postgrad at Gitmo. (Google “KSM.”)

Anton July 15, 2011 5:07 PM

So suppose you have enough money, manage to get in, survive the requisite number of years of study and graduate,

what is going to be your career path?

What beats me, who are they going to get to teach this course. Best teachers are always those who have hands on experience.

Richard Steven Hack July 15, 2011 7:52 PM

Heh – twenty minutes after the course ends, someone will post the curriculum torrent.

I’m downloading the CEHv7 files as we speak, just released in May.

The question is: will this be “hands on” so agents can identify a WMD if they see one, or all “theoretical” in the sense that, yes, one can combine industrial chemicals to do thus-and-so. If the latter, big deal – it will go in one ear and out the other like most “training”.

Anon July 15, 2011 8:37 PM

What does the FBI need to know about WMDs? It sounds more useful for military agencies than FBI..

Anon2 July 15, 2011 9:01 PM


What does the FBI need to know about WMDs? It sounds more useful for military agencies than FBI..

Not sure if I got your questions right, but they expect that in the not-so distant future there will be domestic terrorism cases in USA.

Nick P July 16, 2011 12:10 AM

@ Richard Steven Hack

“I’m downloading the CEHv7 files as we speak, just released in May.”

That’s a confession. Careful, now. 😉

not the FBI agent upset about the report to Washington Field Ofc July 16, 2011 9:56 AM

“they expect that in the not-so distant future there will be domestic terrorism cases in USA.”

@Anon2 LOL!!

Richard Steven Hack July 16, 2011 10:35 AM

Nick P: Compared to everything else I’ve done and intend to do, it’s not much of a confession. 🙂

Yeah, as soon as the FBI figures out how to make WMDs, there’ll be “domestic WMD terrorism” cases… People are getting wise to the “we set up morons to be terrorists” bit, so the FBI has to up the ante by making them “WMD terrorists”… To do that, the FBI needs to know how to fake a WMD…

Either that or they expect when the US and Israel attack Iran and Lebanon, Hizballah and Iran will send SERIOUS terrorists to the US. Why they think such guys will bother with “WMDs” is another question, since you can do much more effective terrorism with simple weapons and ordinary explosives.

Andy July 16, 2011 3:21 PM

Don’t think the FBI is in this country… 🙂 , there is a portable power supply using double beta decare(two electrons emitted), zinc/sulfer and solar cell, anyway you could probable turn that into a EMP…
time to run 😉

jdbertron July 17, 2011 8:14 AM

I have an idea: How about a Masters in how to screen people for the Masters in WMD so you don’t end up teaching people the wrong stuff.

Steve K July 17, 2011 9:59 AM

I do computer forensics work for the criminal defense bar. There are a significant number of forensics courses and seminars that are closed to me (LEO only).

This has always annoyed me on a civil liberties basis. The fact that they’re closed says, to me, that the emphasis is on winning tactics rather than search for truth/justice.

By the way, I’m also an attorney with 40 years experience, so take the Pollyanna theme of this with a grain of salt. I said “annoyed” not “surprised.”

Richard Steven Hack July 17, 2011 10:00 PM

Steve K: I agree completely. The whole notion of “knowledge that must not be disseminated to the wrong people” is at its heart incorrect. Everything should be known to everyone who has an interest (other than personal matters, and even there it usually costs more to keep things secret than it does to reveal them.)

“No more secrets”, like the line from “Sneakers”.

We here all know about “security through obscurity”. This is just another attempt to apply it.

And it never works. The knowledge gets out anyway. Speaking of downloading the CEHv7 course, did anyone at the EC Council really believe that someone who paid the cost and attended their course REALLY wouldn’t immediately post it on the Web for everyone else? And once on the Web, do they REALLY think they can put it back in the box?

There is no such thing as “intellectual property” – and the world is better off for that. And the only “secret” is that which is in one’s head and has never been told to anyone else.

Andy July 17, 2011 11:04 PM

@RSH, “There is no such thing as “intellectual property” – and the world is better off for that. And the only “secret” is that which is in one’s head and has never been told to anyone else.”

Sauronomics July 18, 2011 6:34 AM

What precisely is in this course that is not already available to anyone with an IQ above moron-level and an idea on how to look for it?

Slashdot had an article a while back about the boy genius who painstakingly built his own nuclear reactor in his backyard shed; perhaps this course is to compensate for a lack of intelligence in FBI ranks? but we already knew that, anyway. How will they measure the results from say five years of this course? Perhaps they should take up throwing breadcrumbs instead? It’s guaranteed to be alot cheaper, and is likely to be just as effective:

The Mullah Nasruddin was once interrupted by a friend while he was throwing bread crumbs around his house.
“I’m keeping tigers away,” he explained, once he had finished.
“But there are no tigers whatsoever within a thousand miles of here,” his friend said.
“Ah, you see,” the Mullah Nasruddin said. “It works.”

BF Skinner July 18, 2011 10:08 AM

@RSH ” how to fake a WMD”

that’s easy. Just call a stick of dynamite or a gun with 3 bullets or a cloud of gas or any utility that can cause death and injury to more than 2 people.


That was easy.

Dirk Praet July 18, 2011 10:51 AM

Would it be too far fetched to assume that one of the instructors will be a tall, clean-shaven and highly charismatic person from arabic descent and somewhere in his fifties ? Perhaps that’s the reason for the closed enrollment.

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