By Daniel Golden – Apr 8, 2012 5:00 PM ET
Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon contacted the Central Intelligence Agency in late 2009 with an urgent question.
The school‚Äôs campus in Dubai needed a bailout and an unlikely savior had stepped forward: a Dubai-based company that offered to provide money and students.
Frank Figliuzzi, assistant director for counterintelligence with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), sits for a photograph in front of a wall of convicted spy profiles at the FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., on March 29, 2012. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University speaks during a video taping in her office in East Lansig, Michigan on Dec. 17, 2010. Photographer: Kurt Stepnitz/Michigan State University via Bloomberg
Sergei Tretyakov, a former Russian intelligence agent. Source: Pete Earley via Bloomberg
Russian spy Lidiya Guryeva was pursuing a master’s degree in business at Columbia under the name of Cynthia Murphy. Guryeva was arrested for acting as an agent of a foreign power and deported to Russia. Source: U.S. Department of Justice via Bloomberg
Simon was tempted. She also worried that the company, which had investors from Iran and wanted to recruit students from there, might be a front for the Iranian government, she said. If so, an agreement could violate federal trade sanctions and invite enemy spies.
The CIA couldn‚Äôt confirm that the company wasn‚Äôt an arm of Iran‚Äôs government. Simon rejected the offer and shut down undergraduate programs in Dubai, at a loss of $3.7 million.
Hearkening back to Cold War anxieties, growing signs of spying on U.S. universities are alarming national security officials. As schools become more global in their locations and student populations, their culture of openness and international collaboration makes them increasingly vulnerable to theft of research conducted for the government and industry.
‚ÄúWe have intelligence and cases indicating that U.S. universities are indeed a target of foreign intelligence services,‚ÄĚ Frank Figliuzzi, Federal Bureau of Investigation assistant director for counterintelligence, said in a February interview in the bureau‚Äôs Washington headquarters.
While overshadowed by espionage against corporations, efforts by foreign countries to penetrate universities have increased in the past five years, Figliuzzi said. The FBI and academia, which have often been at loggerheads, are working together to combat the threat, he said.
Attempts by countries in East Asia, including China, to obtain classified or proprietary information by ‚Äúacademic solicitation,‚ÄĚ such as requests to review academic papers or study with professors, jumped eightfold in 2010 from a year earlier, according to a 2011 U.S. Defense Department report. Such approaches from the Middle East doubled, it said.
‚ÄúPlacing academics at U.S. research institutions under the guise of legitimate research offers access to developing U.S. technologies and cutting-edge research‚ÄĚ in such areas as information systems, lasers, aeronautics and underwater robots, the report said.
Welcoming world-class talent to American universities helps the U.S. sustain global supremacy in science and technology, said University of Maryland President Wallace Loh. He chairs the U.S. Department of Homeland Security‚Äôs academic advisory council, which held its first meeting March 20 and is expected to address such topics as federal tracking of international students.
Foreign countries ‚Äúcan never become competitive by stealing,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúOnce you exhaust that technology, you have to start developing the next generation.‚ÄĚ
Foreigners on temporary visas made up 46 percent of science and engineering graduate students at Georgia Institute of Technology and Michigan State and 41 percent at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2009, according to a federal survey. China sent 76,830 graduate students to U.S. universities in 2010-2011, more than any other country and up almost 16 percent from the prior year, according to the Institute of International Education in New York.
While most international students, researchers and professors come to the U.S. for legitimate reasons, universities are an ‚Äúideal place‚ÄĚ for foreign intelligence services ‚Äúto find recruits, propose and nurture ideas, learn and even steal research data, or place trainees,‚ÄĚ according to a 2011 FBI report.
In one instance described in the report, the hosts of an international conference invited a U.S. researcher to submit a paper. When she gave her talk at the conference, they requested a copy, hooked a thumb drive to her laptop and downloaded every file. In another, an Asian graduate student arranged for researchers back home to visit an American university lab and take unauthorized photos of equipment so they could reconstruct it, the report said.
A foreign scientist‚Äôs military background or purpose isn‚Äôt always apparent. Accustomed to hosting visiting scholars, Professor Daniel J. Scheeres didn‚Äôt hesitate to grant a request several years ago by Yu Xiaohong to study with him at the University of Michigan. She expressed a ‚Äúpretty general interest‚ÄĚ in Scheeres‚Äôs work on topics such as movement of celestial bodies in space, he said in a telephone interview.
Unaware of Credentials
She cited an affiliation with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a civilian organization, Scheeres said. The Beijing address Yu listed in the Michigan online directory is the same as the Academy of Equipment Command & Technology, where instructors train Chinese military cadets and officers. Scheeres said he wasn‚Äôt aware of that military connection, nor that Yu co-wrote a 2004 article on improving the precision of anti- satellite weapons.
Once Yu arrived, her questions made him uncomfortable, said Scheeres, who now teaches at the University of Colorado. As a result, he stopped accepting visiting scholars from China.
‚ÄúIt was pretty clear to me that the stuff she was interested in probably had some military satellite-orbit applications,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúOnce I saw that, I didn‚Äôt really tell her anything new, or anything that couldn‚Äôt be published. I didn‚Äôt engage that deeply with her.‚ÄĚ
Wrote About NASA
Yu later wrote a paper on the implications for space warfare of the NASA Deep Impact mission, which sent a spacecraft to collide with a comet. She couldn‚Äôt be reached for comment.
American universities have also trained Chinese researchers who later committed corporate espionage. Hanjuan Jin, a former software engineer at Motorola Inc., was found guilty in February in federal court of stealing the Schaumburg, Illinois-based company‚Äôs trade secrets and acquitted of charges she did so to benefit China‚Äôs military. She is scheduled for sentencing in May and has also filed a motion for a new trial.
Jin joined the company, now known as Motorola Solutions Inc. (MOT), after earning a master‚Äôs degree from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. While at Motorola, she received a second master‚Äôs, this time in computer science, from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. IIT‚Äôs own research wasn‚Äôt compromised, institute spokesman Evan Venie said in an e-mail. A Notre Dame spokesman declined to comment.
Study Abroad Targets
More Americans are heading overseas for schooling, becoming potential targets for intelligence services, Figliuzzi said. More than 270,000 Americans studied abroad for credit in 2009- 2010, up 4 percent from the year before. President Barack Obama has announced an initiative to send 100,000 American students to China, and China has committed 10,000 scholarships for them.
As a junior at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, Glenn Duffie Shriver studied at East China Normal University in Shanghai. After graduation, he fell in with Chinese agents, who paid him more than $70,000. At their request, he returned to the U.S. and applied for jobs in the State Department and the CIA. He was sentenced to four years in prison in January 2011 after pleading guilty to conspiring to provide national-defense information to intelligence officers of the People‚Äôs Republic of China.
‚ÄúStudy-abroad programs are an attractive target. Foreign security services find young, bright U.S. kids in science or politics, it‚Äôs worth winning them over,‚ÄĚ Figliuzzi said.
Unlike its counterparts in other countries, which rely on their own operatives, China‚Äôs intelligence service deploys a freelance network including students, researchers and false- front companies, said David Major, president of the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies in Falls Church, Virginia and a former FBI official.
China has ‚Äúlots of students who either are forced to or volunteer to collect information,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôve heard it said, ‚ÄėIf it wanted to steal a beach, Russia would send a forklift. China would send a thousand people who would pick up a grain of sand at a time.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
China also has more than 3,000 front companies in the U.S. ‚Äúfor the sole purpose of acquiring our technology,‚ÄĚ former CIA officer S. Eugene Poteat, president of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers in McLean, Virginia, wrote in the fall/winter 2006-2007 edition of ‚ÄúIntelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies.‚ÄĚ
U.S. and Canadian universities reaped $2.5 billion in 2011 from licensing technology, up from $222 million in 1991, according to the Association of University Technology Managers in Deerfield, Illinois.
‚ÄėOpened Some Eyes‚Äô
Universities ‚Äúmay not fully grasp exactly who they‚Äôre spinning off their inventions to,‚ÄĚ Figliuzzi said. ‚ÄúThe company could be a front for a foreign power, and often is. We share specific intelligence with university presidents, and we‚Äôve opened some eyes.‚ÄĚ
Michigan State‚Äôs Simon learned to be wary of front companies by serving on the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, established by the FBI and CIA in 2005. It ‚Äúmakes you more aware that you need to look below the surface of some of these offers,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúA short-term solution may turn into an institutional embarrassment.‚ÄĚ
Arizona State University President Michael Crow also sits on the board. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all a little perplexing and overwhelming,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre in the business of trying to recruit more students from China. We‚Äôre operating at a total openness mode, while we recognize there are people working beyond the rules to acquire information.‚ÄĚ
The Chinese embassy in Washington and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing didn‚Äôt respond to e-mailed questions.
Over the years, American universities have enabled China ‚Äúto leapfrog into the cutting edge of military capability on the way to superpower status,‚ÄĚ Richard Fisher, senior fellow on Asian Military Affairs at the International Assessment and Strategy Center in Alexandria, Virginia, said in an e-mail.
Chen Dingchang, the head of a Chinese military-sponsored working group on anti-satellite technology, led a delegation in 1998 to the University of Florida to learn about diamond-coating manufacturing, used in missile seekers and other systems, said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute in Arlington, Virginia, which studies Chinese aerospace technology. In a 1999 report in a Chinese journal, the authors, including Chen, said the university‚Äôs cooperation would assist in overcoming a technical bottleneck in China‚Äôs development of anti-satellite warheads.
‚ÄėUnlikely to Advertise‚Äô
‚ÄúA university may not know that a visiting engineer could be conducting sponsored research on a military program that could hurt Americans in the event of a conflict,‚ÄĚ Stokes said. ‚ÄúAn engineer supporting a People‚Äôs Liberation Army program is unlikely to advertise his or her purpose.‚ÄĚ
The University of Florida is ‚Äúunable to verify‚ÄĚ the incident, spokesman Stephen Orlando said.
Chen is a technology adviser at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., which didn‚Äôt respond to an interview request.
University administrators have traditionally viewed their role as safeguarding academic freedom and making sure that all students, domestic or foreign, are treated the same.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve been to campuses where deans would say to Chinese students, ‚ÄėThe FBI is coming to talk to you. You have no responsibility to talk to them,‚Äô‚ÄĚ Major said. ‚ÄúVery hostile environments.‚ÄĚ
Some faculty members remain uneasy about a partnership with federal investigators. ‚ÄúThe FBI thrives on a certain degree of paranoia, and it operates in secrecy,‚ÄĚ said David Gibbs, a history professor at the University of Arizona. ‚ÄúThe secrecy goes against so much of what universities are about, which is openness and transparency.‚ÄĚ
Stanford University avoids seeking contracts for ‚Äúexport- controlled‚ÄĚ research, which only Americans can work on without a license because it has implications for economic or national security.
‚ÄúStanford does not, nor will it, restrict participation of students on the basis of citizenship,‚ÄĚ President John Hennessy testified at a January 2010, congressional hearing in Palo Alto, California. More than half of Stanford‚Äôs doctoral candidates in the physical sciences and engineering come from outside the U.S., he said.
Asked by Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican congressman from California, if he had read that Chinese military intelligence uses Chinese students, Hennessy said, ‚ÄúI am aware of that.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúUniversities need to think that they are patriotic Americans, too,‚ÄĚ Rohrabacher responded.
Hennessy is on sabbatical and unavailable to comment, Lisa Lapin, a Stanford spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
After becoming Pennsylvania State University president in 1995, Graham Spanier sought closer collaboration with law enforcement. Reading that a president at another state university expressed shock that a faculty member was under investigation for terrorist ties, he resolved not to be similarly taken aback. He arranged a meeting with representatives of national security agencies including the FBI, CIA, Secret Service and Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
‚ÄúThis had never occurred before,‚ÄĚ Spanier said in a phone interview. ‚ÄúNobody from higher education had reached out.‚ÄĚ
If they were making inquiries at Penn State, they should let him know, and he would help, Spanier told them. ‚ÄúThat began a very fruitful collaboration,‚ÄĚ he said.
Shifting priorities after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to terrorism and espionage from organized crime and kidnapping, the FBI expanded the Penn State model into a national board.
Spanier approached other university presidents, and 90 percent agreed to serve, he said. Michigan State‚Äôs Simon took over as chair after Spanier stepped down as Penn State president last November in the wake of a scandal over sex-abuse allegations against a former assistant football coach. Simon and the FBI and CIA have agreed to expand the board and start a subcommittee on cyber-hacking.
The FBI handpicks universities for the board, Figliuzzi said. It looks at how much research they conduct, as well as ‚Äúsensitive cases — where is there a potential problem? Then we make an invitation.‚ÄĚ
Board members must have security clearances. FBI officials brief them about cases on their campuses, and the presidents in return guide federal investigators through the thickets of higher education.
When a foreign entity compromised the computer system of a major university, the bureau contacted the school‚Äôs information- technology administrators, who denied that they had a security breach. The FBI consulted Spanier, who persuaded the university‚Äôs president to meet with the bureau.
‚ÄúThat opened the door to a higher level of cooperation,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThe problem was solved.‚ÄĚ
Similarly, the bureau warned Simon that research in behavioral science by a foreign graduate student at Michigan State ‚Äúmight breach the security of corporate America,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúWe were able to find a way for the student to complete his research and still modify it in a way that took away the national security issues.‚ÄĚ
Beyond resolving such cases, the FBI has also alerted board members to the overall threat, most dramatically through a presentation by a former Russian spy. As a colonel in Russian intelligence and its deputy resident in New York from 1995 to 2000, Sergei Tretyakov set his sights on Columbia University and New York University, according to ‚ÄúComrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia‚Äôs Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War‚ÄĚ (2008), by Pete Earley.
Mingled With Professors
‚ÄúWe often targeted academics because their job was to share knowledge and information by teaching it to others, and this made them less guarded than, say, UN diplomats,‚ÄĚ Earley quoted Tretyakov as saying. A typical task was to obtain information about ‚Äúa study of genetically engineered food being done at New York University.‚ÄĚ
At the board meeting, Tretyakov described to the presidents how Russian spies used to go to campus events and mingle with professors. ‚ÄúIt certainly seemed very bold to me that they felt they could interact with faculty and students and attend seminars,‚ÄĚ Spanier said. ‚ÄúWe never really think about that happening on our campuses.‚ÄĚ
In 2009, around the time Tretyakov was briefing the presidents, a Russian spy, Lidiya Guryeva, was pursuing a master‚Äôs degree in business at Columbia under the name Cynthia Murphy, the 2011 FBI report said. Russian intelligence instructed her to strengthen ‚Äúties w. classmates on daily basis incl. professors who can help in job search and who will have (or already have) access to secret info,‚ÄĚ and to report on their potential ‚Äúto be recruited by Service.‚ÄĚ
Columbia and NYU declined to comment.
Tretyakov died in June 2010. That month, Guryeva was arrested for acting as an agent of a foreign power and deported to Russia.
Posted Tuesday, April 10, 2012 by Donna Calvin
Please share this Watchwoman post on your Facebook page, Linkedin, Google+1, Twitter to all your friends, Please click ‚ÄúLike‚ÄĚ, Share, and Leave Comments.¬†
Visit Word Warriorette, a free Yahoo Group, and subscribe to be notified (one email a day) of new posts on Watchwoman.
DISCLAIMER: Beliefnet puts paid advertisements on ‚ÄúWatchwoman on the Wall‚ÄĚ blog site including some that would never be approved of by the King James Bible, Pastor Ernie Sanders of Doers of the Word Church, What‚Äôs Right-What‚Äôs Left Radio Ministry, the Voice of the Christian Resistance, Geauga County Right to Life and Donna Calvin.¬† We at www.WRWL.org do not condone, endorse, adhere to, practice or believe in many of the topics and some of what other bloggers promote or their religions at Beliefnet.¬† However, Mrs. Calvin has no control of what Beliefnet displays.¬†¬† She blogs at Beliefnet because she is in the missionary field ministering to true believers posting articles and commentaries informing pro-life, conservative Christians of recent anti-Christian acts and hostile legislation to God‚Äôs Agenda and His Will for the world.¬† Hopefully, unbelievers will read these along with the salvation message of Jesus Christ as written in the Gospel of John, Chapter 3, according to the King James Bible, and be saved.¬† A missionary must go into the unbelievers‚Äô territory to reach them.¬† Her mission is to Proclaim Warning to a Nation that has forgotten their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the only Truth, the Life, and the only Way to the One God the Father.
Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/watchwomanonthewall/?p=4928