The FBI has released a video warning American students about being recruited as spies by China, after one was sentenced to four years imprisonment for espionage.
US students studying abroad are being increasingly approached to be recruited to pass on information about their home country, with the sweetener of being paid thousands of dollars in renumeration, according to the FBI. They have been told to "be aware of a foreign intelligence threat".
Addressing the 280,000 plus students attend universities abroad, the FBI says: "These students [are] tempting and vulnerable targets for for recruitment by foreign intelligence officers whose long-term goal is to gain access to sensitive or classified US information."
The FBI's video, titled 'Game of Pawns' is a dramatisation of the case of Glenn Duffie Shriver, who "sold out his country and repeatedly sought a position in our intelligence community so that he could provide classified information to the People's Republic of China".
Shriver attended a study abroad programme in Shanghai, and after graduating returned to the city to look for work. After responding to an ad to write political papers, he became involved with three people who paid him to apply for jobs with the US government. Over the next few years he received $70,000 from the associates, until he was arrested by the FBI in 2010.
The FBI adds: "To a recent college graduate, $70,000 seemed like a lot of money, and the promise of even more was too tempting for Shriver to pass up. What he didn’t consider, though, were the long-term costs of his actions, which included, as one FBI investigator put it, 'throwing away his education, his career, and his future when he chose to position himself as a spy for the PRC'."
The FBI also offers tips and advice for students so they can "recognise when they're being targeted and/or recruited".
How do foreign intelligence officers routinely interact with students?
- Foreign intelligence officers don’t normally say they work for intelligence services when developing relationships with students—they claim other lines of work.
- Intelligence officers develop initial relationships with students under seemingly innocuous pretexts such as job or internship opportunities, paid paper-writing engagements, language exchanges, and cultural immersion programs.
- As relationships are developed, the student might be asked to perform a task and provide information—not necessarily sensitive or classified—in exchange for payment or other rewards, but these demands grow over time.
- Intelligence officers might suggest that students—upon completion of their schooling—apply for U.S. government jobs (particularly for national security-related agencies).