A few days ago, the

A few days ago, the Washington Post ran a breathless story about the unhappiness of the educational establishment, as well as Senators Kennedy and Leahy, over FBI inquiries regarding foreign students at American colleges and universities. Today, a Washington Times editorial de-constructs the Post’s story. It seems that the Post painted a misleading picture of legal landscape regarding the privacy of student records. It pointed to a 1974 law that allows colleges to provide only “name, rank, and serial number” type information to law enforcement officers. But, according to the Times, a 1996 law states that this privacy protection does not apply to aliens. The law was passed in part as a response to the fact that one of the individuals who tried to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 had entered the country legally on a student visa. The 1996 law required that a new computerized system to track foreign students in this country be in place by January 1, 2003. Today, it is nowhere near ready. Part of the problem, apparently, is resistance from colleges and universities. I agree with the conclusiion of the Washington TImes: “We understand why any school would have legitimate concerns any time the government seeks information on its students. But these concerns are outweighed by the need to prevent future terrorist attacks on the American homeland.”

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