By The Progressive on January 12, 2006
History Professor’s Mail Opened by Homeland Security
By Matthew Rothschild

January 2, 2006

Grant Goodman is an 81-year-old emeritus professor of Asian history at the University of Kansas.

He has had an ongoing correspondence by snail mail with a former professor of history at the University of the Philippines, where Goodman had taught on three separate occasions.

In early December, he was shocked when a letter arrived from her that had already been opened.

“The bottom of the envelope had been slashed open and then retaped with green tape,” says Goodman. “And it said, ‘Opened by Border Protection’ in great big letters. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security seal is on it, too.”

Goodman believes his rights have been “absolutely” violated, he says. “I just couldn’t believe it and wondered what in the world is going on.”

This story was broken by Joel Mathis of the Lawrence Journal-World.

No one at the press office at the Department of Homeland Security was available for comment to The Progressive on January 2, but a spokesman told the Journal-World that “he didn’t know how often the agency opened mail from abroad. And he wouldn’t discuss the criteria for opening letters.”

Goodman worries that he “must be under surveillance for one reason or other.”

He won’t release the name of the former professor in the Philippines, but says she is in her mid-80s and hardly a security risk. “This is a very devout Catholic woman who goes to 6:00 mass every evening, and I don’t know what they would be interested in her for,” he says. “She hasn’t written about anything in years.”

Goodman, the editor of the textbook “Asian History,” spoke most recently at the “International Conference on the Japanese Occupation: Sixty Years after the End of the Asia-Pacific War.” The conference was held in Singapore in September 2005.

Goodman hopes that his disclosure of this mail tampering will encourage other people to expose similar invasions of privacy.

“I purposely gave the letter to the newspaper in hopes that others would come forward with their experiences,” he says, “but none have so far.”

Goodman is amazed at the crudeness of the Homeland Security. In his historical research, he saw many better examples.

“I know how the Japanese opened mail,” he says. “In the 1930s they were very good at it. The people whose mail they were reading didn’t even know they had opened it.”

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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