Intelligence agencies targeting college students studying abroad - New York News

Intelligence agencies targeting college students studying abroad

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PHOENIX (KSAZ) - The Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning college students from Arizona and around the country who are studying abroad, they could be the targets of espionage activity.

It could be as simple as responding to an advertisement.

The FBI recently released a video warning U.S. college students studying abroad to be aware of foreign intelligence officers who could be discretely recruiting them to be spies.

"We've talked to a number of university students in Arizona, and we're trying to advance further on campus and make people aware of the threat," said FBI Special Agent Bill Lace.

The 28 minute video is called "Game of Pawns",  it highlights Glenn Duffie Shriver's case.

"Espionage is a very big deal," said Shriver in the video.

The college student from Michigan went to Shanghai to study in 2004. Fluent in Mandarin, he answered an ad offering to pay him to write a political paper. While his role in the video is played by someone else, Shriver himself speaks at the end.

"The biggest thing is how friendly they were," he said.

"They basically created a rapport with him, once they ensnared him in the game is when they started popping the questions, and making suggestions about him applying for government jobs," said Lace.

The FBI said the cash-strapped student was paid $70,000 by the Chinese intelligence community to apply for U.S. Government Jobs, in particular with the CIA. Shriver did and was arrested in 2010.

"We see it very emblematic of the threat that's out there to other college students who might be targeted like him," said Lace.

"Recruitment is active, the target is young people, they throw money at them and see what happens," said Shriver.

The FBI said while U.S. students studying abroad are making themselves more marketable for the private industry, at government jobs they are also temping targets for foreign intelligence officials trying to get their hands on sensitive or even classified information.

"You're like oh wow, this is real, this really does happen, it can happen," said Brenna Quinn.

Brenna Quinn is a student with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott. She was required to watch the video before heading to China to study.

Quinn speaks Mandarin and said she wanted to be in military intelligence. She says being approached by foreign intelligence officers was always in the back of her head when she was abroad.

"When we'd go hiking or go do something, a bunch of us have blonde hair, so they'd come up to us wanting to take pictures of us, wanting to hang out... are they trying to get something, what do they want?," said Quinn.

"I don't think it's something to be afraid of, but I think it's a good realization of what can happen, and what does happen," she said.

The FBI said it's not easy to recognize an espionage recruiter or their subtle approaches.

"It's not going to be a guy in a trench coat... it's going to be in casual conversation, it might be buying a beer at a bar, or someone trying to become a friend," said Lace.

"There's a big effort over there to find out on what Americans are doing, why they're in China, what kind of information they may have," said Dr. Philip Jones.

Dr. Jones is a former CIA intelligence analyst and national security expert. He is the Dean of the College of Security and Intelligence at ERAU.

"Our graduates are people who can go into the intelligence community," said Jones.

Jones said about 20% of the students in the program study abroad. The FBI said recruitment isn't just happening in China but other countries as well. Dr. Jones requires all of his students to watch the FBI's video.

"And so that DVD is something that can alert them to the possible approaches, it's called being bumped in the intelligence world," said Jones.

Shriver pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

The video on the FBI's website showed him being interviewed from his prison cell.

"The motivation behind it was definitely greed and money, when you have money thrown at you, especially when you're in a place like Shanghai, it's a hard tap to turn off," said Shriver.

The FBI said it's not just college students who are targets, but defense contractors, and employees of high-tech American companies too.

The FBI's video is available here: http://www.fbi.gov/news/videos/game-of-pawns

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