As millions of students prepare for the start of another school year, we focus on an issue that concerns many parents: the increasing presence of military recruiters in the nation's high schools and the military's ability to gather information about students. We speak with journalist David Goodman about his Mother Jones article "A Few Good Kids?" and with the New York Civil Liberties Union's Ari Rosmarin, who works on the organization's Project on Military Recruitment and Students' Rights.
David Goodman, contributing writer for Mother Jones. His most recent article is titled "A Few Good Kids?: How the No Child Left Behind Act Allowed Military Recruiters to Collect Info on Millions of Unsuspecting Teens."
Ari Rosmarin, Senior Advocacy Coordinator at the New York Civil Liberties Union, where he works on the organization's Project on Military Recruitment and Students' Rights.
JUAN GONZALEZ: As millions of students prepare for the start of another school year, we turn to an issue that concerns many parents: the increasing presence of military recruiters in the nation's high schools and the military's ability to gather information about students.
Journalist David Goodman writes in the new issue of Mother Jones, quote, "Using data mining, stealth websites, career tests, and sophisticated marketing software, the Pentagon is harvesting and analyzing information on everything from high school students' GPAs and SAT scores to which video games they play. Before an Army recruiter even picks up the phone to call a prospect, the soldier may know more about the kid's habits than do his own parents."
To talk more about this, David Goodman joins us on the phone. He's a contributing writer at Mother Jones magazine. His latest article is titled "A Few Good Kids." He's also the co-author, with his sister Amy, of three books. We're also joined by Ari Rosmarin, senior advocacy coordinator at the New York Civil Liberties Union. He works on the organization's Project on Military Recruitment and Students' Rights.
Welcome to the both of you. I want to start with David. It's not just No Child Left Behind. You talk in your article about all kinds of other ways that the government has been and the military has been getting information on America's youth.
DAVID GOODMAN: That's right, Juan. You know, as families and students around the country are about to return to school this week, and New York starts next week, what they may be unaware of is that in the packyou know, my daughter, who's in high school, along with every high school studentcomes this sheaf of papers that you get in a week or two before. Buried in that sheaf is a letter informing them that all information about every high school junior and senior in the country is being sent to military recruiters by default, unless you happen to notice this letter and choose to opt out.
Oddly enough, this letter comes as a result of President George Bush's signature education law, the No Child Left Behind Act, which in 2002 included a provision, slipped in by then-Representative, now-Senator David Vitter from Louisiana, requiring all high schools to provide directory and contact information to recruiters. It effectively transformed this supposed education law into the most aggressive military recruitment tool that the armed services have had to date.
But that, as you point out, is not the only way that information is being gathered. At the same time as the No Child Left Behind law began harvesting this kind of directory information, which the military has not had beforeyou know, the sight of recruiters at malls and hanging around at high school football games and such has been the more typical scene that we are accustomed to with the all-volunteer Army. They go out, and they try and meet young people wherever they think they'll hang out. Having emails, cell phone numbers and home phone numbers is a whole new level for, you know, whathow recruiters can access young people. But there's more.
We found out, in 2005 privacy advocates were amazed to discover that the Pentagon had been amassing an extraordinary number of names, at this point 34 million names of young people, which is said to be "the largest repository of 16-25year-old youth data in the country"those are the military's own wordsin something called the JAMRS database. That's the Joint Advertising Market Research & Studies program of the Defense Department. This is where all information has now been centralized, from Selective Service to the No Child Left Behind directory info.
But also it's from commercial data brokers. These areinclude groups such as the Student Marketing Group and American Student List. The Pentagon is currently spending about $600,000 a year on these data brokers. Now, what's of concern here, these data brokers are getting information from when you buy a yearbook, when you buy a student ring, when you take any number of, you know, just commercial purchases. However, both of these large commercial data brokers have been accused of using deceptive practices to gather the information. So the New York Attorney General
JUAN GONZALEZ: David, you actually mention one website, marchtosuccess.com, which you say the Army spent $1.2 million backing this, and it supposedly helps toprovides tips to young people on standardized test taking, and only at the very bottom is it mentioned that it's sponsored by the US military?
DAVID GOODMAN: That's right, marchtosuccess.com is being used by teachers all around the country. They send students to this website, ostensibly to provide them with free standardized test taking tips. And this is designed by the top test prep firmsKaplan, Princeton Review. Peterson's is the current contractor providing the information. And yet, this is in fact a website run by the Army. You wouldn't know that unless you notice the little tagline in the lower right corner that links to goarmy.com, which is the Army recruiting website. And by the Army's own words to me, one of their most effective recruiting vehicles is goarmy.com.