In 1991, scandal rocked RIT. In a series of reports through the “Democrat and Chronicle”, it was revealed that RIT had a longstanding, concealed agreement with the CIA. As Institute ties to the covert agency came to light, a media storm ensued, eventually culminating in the resignation of RIT's President, M. Richard Rose.
The following is a timeline summarizing the events.
M. Richard Rose becomes the seventh president of RIT.
RIT creates the RIT Research Corporation, a private, for-profit subsidiary of RIT which provides a means for RIT faculty and students to be contracted for proprietary research. It is a separate legal entity, but is run entirely by RIT.
The CIA’s Information Act is signed to regulate public distribution of information held by the CIA.
RIT signs the Memorandum of Agreement with the CIA. The 10 page Memorandum is intended to provide a “long term framework” for relationships between the CIA and RIT, as well as its applied research subsidiary, the RIT Research Corp. It spells out that: The Center for Imaging Science, which teaches various technologies associated with the production and reproduction of images, is to be RIT’s “lead organization” in working with the CIA.
The CIA will provide funding to RIT to “offset the salary and benefits of specific faculty members whose assignments provide measurable direct benefit to the CIA.” The CIA will also provide “seed money” needed to attract other government and industry support in developing a “valuable source of trained individuals.”
RIT will establish courses at the Center for Imaging Science in integrated electro-optics, an introduction to digital image processing, and basic courses in artificial intelligence and computer science.
The Memorandum is approved by Evan Hineman, the CIA’s deputy director for science and technology. The Memorandum is then circulated to a small, select group of RIT’s senior administrators as a “primary working document.”
Rose asks Robert Kohler, an RIT graduate and 25-year veteran of the CIA, for a recommendation for a director for the Imaging Science Center. Kohler’s recommendations were not chosen, but later in the year, Kohler is appointed to the Center of Imaging Science’s advisory board.
RIT’s first CIA Officer-in-Residence, Jim Frye, arrives on campus.
In May, Rose receives his personal security clearance with the CIA. About 30 other RIT faculty, administrators and staff also obtain CIA security clearances that year.
In July, Rose personally briefs Hineman about the progress at RIT, saying, “The relationship is rapidly coming to full blood. We are pleased and delighted with the way the relationship has developed to both of our advantages.”
Kohler becomes a member of the Board of Trustees. Rose appoints Keith Hazard, deputy director in the CIA’s Office of Development and Engineering, as Kohler’s replacement on the Center of Imaging Science’s advisory board.
Rose and Andrew Dougherty, executive assistant to the president and the CIA’s main contact person on campus, put together several interconnected programs that fall under the umbrella organization called the National Intelligence Technical Support Program (NITSP). Its purpose is to identify, screen, recruit, and train RIT students “with appropriate attitudes” for employment with the agency.
The Federal Programs Training Center is established as a division of the Research Corp. under NITSP. Its express purpose is to provide training and technological support for the CIA. The center is located in a secure building at 125 Technology Park Drive on the eastern edge of RIT’s Henrietta campus.
Rose writes a memo to the RIT Faculty Council to inform them of an affiliation with the CIA. Rose glosses over many facts, not fully outlining the extent of the relationship.
The CIA sponsors $855,000 of research at RIT Research Corp.; this is the first year that the Research Corp. makes a profit. On top of his regular salary, Dougherty is paid $44,000 at the Research Corp./Federal Programs Training Center as executive assistant to the president
Rose writes the foreword to “Changemasters”, a strategic planning report for the CIA which suggests that the CIA should be engaged in economic espionage against adversarial trading partners of the U.S.
February 7, 1991
In the midst of Gulf-War fever, Rose announces that he is taking a four-month leave of absence for a confidential assignment. Most believe that it is Gulf War related.
February 13, 1991
Rose’s four month assignment at the CIA headquarters in Langley, V.A. begins. Thomas Plough, RIT provost and vice president for academic affairs, becomes acting president in Rose’s absence.
April 10, 1991
In a telephone interview with the “Democrat & Chronicle” (D&C), Rose acknowledges that he has actually been working to develop training and educational strategies for the CIA.
April 29, 1991
A coalition of about 50 students, staff and alumni call for Rose’s resignation.
Tom Gosnell, RIT Board chair, pens a letter to the university community saying that the trustees have no intention of firing Rose or breaking ties with the CIA.
April 30, 1991
RIT’s Student Government issues a statement dissociating itself from the calls for the dismissal of Rose. Later in the day (due to disagreement within the group), they amend the statement to read “at this time.”
May 13, 1991
A letter from Rose is released to the media, in which he expresses “deep personal concern” over the confusion at RIT about his assignment, and assures the community of his integrity. The letter is distributed on campus the following day.
May 21, 1991
The RIT-CIA Off Campus Coalition and the school’s Community for Peace and Justice demand in an open letter to the board of trustees that Rose be dismissed.
May 24, 1991
“Japan: 2000”, a confidential report prepared by RIT for the CIA, is first reported in the media by the D&C. The report (with a foreword attributed to Rose, heartily endorsing the report) characterizes Japanese people in a very crude, racist light. It is met with outrage by the community.
Later that day, a revised version of the controversial report is released, with material regarded as offensive removed. Rose’s original forward is replaced with a foreword by Dougherty, which states that some of the opinions in earlier drafts were, “not supportable after complete examination.”
May 25, 1991
Jack Smith, RIT vice president for communications, states that “Japan: 2000” did not reflect the views of RIT or even the administration. Smith speculates that Rose may not have written the report.
May 26, 1991
Graduation at RIT.
May 28, 1991
Rose returns to Rochester. A two hour meeting is held with the editorial boards of the D&C and Times-Union. Points from the meeting: In contrast to items stated in the 1985 “Memorandum of Agreement” between RIT and the CIA, Rose tells the “Rochester Democrat & Chronicle” that the CIA has not been involved in any way whatsoever in influencing academic programs at RIT.
Rose states that neither he nor Dougherty receive any pay or compensation from the CIA. Dougherty, however, declines to comment on whether he draws CIA pay.
Rose announces his intention to appoint a “blue ribbon” panel to review RIT’s proprietary work for the CIA, other government agencies, and private industry.
Rose also announces that he will have no further contact with the CIA and will refuse to consult with the agency until the panel’s report comes out, though the Federal Programs Training Center at RIT will continue to operate while the panel conducts its review.
Rose states that the first release of “Japan: 2000” was merely a draft, but that he did not write a word of it. The foreword was written for him. Rose blames Dougherty for “bad judgment” in preparing and circulating “Japan: 2000” to 100 people.
May 29, 1991
The “Times-Union” reports that Edward McIrvine will leave his post July 1 as dean of the RIT College of Graphic Arts and Photography.
May 31, 1991
In an interview, Rose states that no outside group influenced the creation of the Imaging Science program and the topics taught or discussed in it.
June 5, 1991
Papers relating to RIT’s review of its CIA ties are discovered missing from Rose’s office. In place of the documents are small Post-It stickers on the desktop, carefully labeled to mark the location of each document.
Dougherty goes into early retirement. Both Dougherty and Rose state that the retirement was Dougherty’s decision.
June 6, 1991
In front of an audience of 1,350 in Ingle Auditorium, Rose announces that he has no plans of resigning.
June 7, 1991
Some of the missing documents show up, mailed anonymously to news organizations in Rochester. They reveal last-ditch efforts by Rose and Dougherty to save the CIA programs at RIT.
A second, condensed “Memorandum of Agreement”, dated March 16, 1987, is released, which RIT says is the only official agreement. In an article in the D&C four days later, however, the cover letter to this document surfaces, clearly showing that Dougherty had rejected this draft.
June 27, 1991
Dennis C. Nystrom, an RIT development officer who recruited students for CIA research at the school’s Federal Programs Training Center, resigns. John DeBole, who coordinated the students’ CIA research projects, is fired.
July 1, 1991
RIT hires the high-powered public relations and lobbying firm Hill and Knowlton to help improve its image. At the time, Hill and Knowlton was in the spotlight for alleged connections with the CIA.
August 16, 1991
Plough steps in as chief operating officer while the school searches for a new president.
September 3, 1991
Following his State of the Institute address, Rose announces that he will retire next June. Though at first he states that the CIA debate was not a factor in his decision, he later admits that it was.
September 6, 1991
The D&C reports that a $20,000 CIA “support” fund for students of imaging science at RIT has been terminated by the agency. In addition, a $200,000 unclassified CIA research contract will not be renewed.
November 15, 1991
The panel’s 200-page investigation report is released, clearly finding that the CIA had an influence on the imaging science Ph.D. Program. The report recommends that RIT effectively close down CIA activity on campus. The report is very well received by the RIT community and calls are made for the immediate resignation of six senior officials.