This article looks at the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001 and the anti-terrorist measures put in place by the Bush Administration in the United States. Above all, it is a warning about the dangers to academic freedom that these measures could cause: withholding of information, limited access for foreign students to American laboratories, embargo on the publication of the results of research that the Pentagon considers (rightly or wrongly) to be sensitive, etc. In the long run, the factors that have made the American research system so outstanding - its openness and its ability to absorb talented foreigners - could quite easily be undermined.
The new threats following the events of 11 September certainly give legitimacy to the secrecy imposed on "classified" research with regard to defence needs, but should such research now be conducted in university laboratories rather than in defence establishments and industrial laboratories linked to the Pentagon? Are the measures envisaged in the Patriot Act, recently adopted by Congress to deal with the challenges of terrorism, compatible with the principles and values of academic research?
Eugene B. Skolnikoff emphasizes that the situation now is far more delicate than during the Cold War (when the McCarthy witch-hunts deeply affected the conduct of research in the US): a clash is inevitable between, on the one side, freedom to undertake research, access to information, sharing of results and openness to the outside world, and on the other, the government's efforts to erect barriers around knowledge and to institute discriminatory measures against students on the basis of their nationality.