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How foreign agents are turning US college students into spies

Oct 15, 2017 by

Glenn Duffie Shriver was a student at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., when he spent six weeks in Shanghai, China, as part of an exchange program. He fell in love with the country and hoped to teach English there after his 2004 graduation. But jobs were scarce, so he answered an ad that “offered payment for political essays by people with a background in East Asian studies,” according to the new book “Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit American Universities” (Henry Holt).

The ad was placed by an attractive woman calling herself Amanda, who complimented his work. They became close friends, and Amanda introduced Shriver to two associates, “Mr. Wu” and “Mr. Tang,” in “a hotel penthouse suite,” writes the book’s author, Daniel Golden. They both gave him business cards with “only their names and phone numbers listed.”

They claimed to work for Shanghai’s municipal government, but their real employer was China’s foreign intelligence service.

“The attractive woman, the paid essays, the business cards that didn’t list an employer, the hotel rendezvous — all were classic spycraft used by intelligence agencies worldwide to entice students and researchers,” former FBI Agent David Major told Golden, noting that “businessmen don’t meet in hotel rooms, spies do.”

The mysterious pair helped Shriver out with cash and encouraged him to apply for a job with the US government, “especially State or CIA. If he did, they said, ‘We can be close friends.’ ”

“Gradually, Shriver realized who they really were,” Golden writes.

“Just to make sure, he asked them, ‘What exactly do you guys want?’ ”

“If it’s possible,” they said, “we want you to get us some secrets or classified information.”

Shriver was all in.

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Glenn Duffie Shriver was approached while on an exchange program in China.

Over the next few years, he applied for jobs at State and CIA. Even though he flunked two State Department exams, his Chinese friends gave him $10,000 the first time and $20,000 the second, perhaps because he shared test questions with them, breaking US law.

By the time he interviewed for a job with the CIA in June 2010, he had received $70,000 from the Chinese. After an extensive interview process, during which he denied any affiliation with foreign intelligence, he was arrested and confessed.

“He pleaded guilty in October 2010 to conspiring to commit espionage for a foreign government,” Golden writes, “and was sentenced to four years in prison.” (He was released in 2013.)

The Shriver case sparked alarm among US intelligence officials who worried that Chinese intelligence had been monitoring, evaluating and approaching other American students in China. “Eight to 10 other American students in China reported that a woman matching Amanda’s description but using a different name had approached them, too,” writes Golden. According to a source familiar with the Shriver investigation, “The [Chinese] Ministry of State Security had created a separate unit to recruit Western students in China.”

In 2010, 8 percent of foreign attempts to secure “sensitive or classified information” occurred within academia. Four years later, that figure jumped to a shocking 24 percent.
Sometimes, the approach comes not from official government intelligence, but from other sympathetic students.

After completing her studies at Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in 1984, American student Ana Belen Montes was hired by the military intelligence arm of the Pentagon, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the following year and rose to become their top analyst on the subject of Cuba.

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Ana Belen Montes became a double-agent and spilled secrets to Cuba.

Her work was so well regarded that the director of central intelligence “named her an exceptional intelligence analyst and rewarded her with a year’s sabbatical, on full pay, to study the Cuban military.”

But the director’s faith was misplaced — Montes had been working for Cuban intelligence all along. Ten days after 9/11, Montes pled guilty to espionage and, after agreeing to cooperate with the FBI, received a 25-year sentence.

According to Golden, Montes befriended a fellow student named Marta Rita Velazquez while at SAIS, who allegedly groomed her to be a Cuban spy. The two shared a disdain for US foreign policy, particularly in South and Central America. While the exact lines of recruitment are uncertain, Golden writes that an indictment against Velazquez claimed she “began spying for Cuban intelligence in 1983” and “began cultivating Montes by appealing to their mutual disdain for US policy in Nicaragua.”

By the following year, Velazquez had Montes doing work for “friends” translating Spanish articles into English — a twist on the “hired to write articles” strategy of recruitment — telling her it would help the people of Nicaragua.

Golden writes that the two met with Cuban intelligence in December 1984 and Montes “unhesitatingly agreed to work through the Cubans to ‘help’ Nicaragua.” By the following year, the two were traveling to Cuba on false passports for intelligence training, which included learning how to beat lie-detector tests administered by US intelligence agencies during the job-application process. When Montes applied for her DIA job, Velazquez served as a character reference.

Montes, Golden writes, “enjoyed a meteoric rise to the highest circles of foreign policy making on Cuba,” while supplying the country with top-secret information including the names of “more than 400 Cuba watchers in the US government.” One counterintelligence executive told Congress in 2012 that the information Montes shared with Cuba “likely . . . contributed to the death and injury of American and pro-American forces in Latin America.”

The US isn’t averse to recruiting its own spies on college campuses. Golden notes that “in a 2012 poll of staff at US universities who work with international students . . . almost one-third reported that the FBI had visited students within the past year.”

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Henry Holt and Co.

The agency was so aggressive in its approaches to Chinese students at Johns Hopkins in the 1980s that students complained to the school’s dean.

The CIA, meanwhile, has the National Resources Division, which is “dedicated to recruiting foreign nationals,” Golden writes. Henry Crumpton, its former director, told Golden that the division “relied on a network of ‘campus cooperators’ numbering in the ‘low hundreds’ to identify prospects.”

While seeking to clandestinely recruit foreigners on campus, US intelligence agencies have created alliances with universities to draw American students to intelligence work.

As of 2011, 20 universities were designated to receive government funding for intelligence training — including courses on “espionage and cyber-hacking” — and have a direct route to place interns within government agencies including the White House, the State Department and the DIA. These schools include several branches of the California State University system, Rutgers, Florida International University and Duke University.

But even at colleges where there is no “direct route,” spies are being successfully recruited due to a growing admiration of US intelligence among college-age Americans since 9/11, Golden claims. “Invited or not, openly or not,” he writes, “US intelligence today touches virtually every facet of academic life.”

While this could offer a solid career for young Americans choosing to serve, those spying the other way often come to regret it.

The FBI commissioned a 28-minute short film about the Shriver case called “Game of Pawns: The Glenn Duffie Shriver Story” to screen at American universities as a cautionary tale. After a reality-show-like recreation of his case, Shriver himself appears at the film’s end, speaking to students directly from prison.

“Don’t fool yourself,” he said. “The recruitment is active, and the target is young people. Espionage is a very big deal. You’re dealing with people’s lives.”

Source: How foreign agents are turning US college students into spies | New York Post

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