Daniel Golden"s brand-new book contends the America"s upstream universities space a fertile reproduction ground for worldwide espionage.


A professor in ~ a top-tier American university was moderating a campus discussion on arms regulate in 2010 as soon as a Russian diplomat approached him, proffered a business card, and invited him to lunch. Because the professor organized a protection clearance, he was obliged to run this overture previous the FBI, which called him the the diplomat to be a Russian intelligence officer.

“I guess ns won’t satisfy him for lunch,” the professor said. “That’s one option,” the FBI said. “We’d choose you to accomplish him.”

So the professor ended up being a double agent. Over the following two year the Russian and the FBI each treated the professor come 10 lunches. The Russian plied him through gifts—a fine bottle of Posolskaya vodka, an $800 Victorinox Swiss military watch—and payment him $2,000 for an evaluation of the Afghanistan war. The professor turn the money end to the FBI however was allowed to store the watch, which he enjoys reflecting off at dinner parties. It’s the can be fried conversation piece: a bribe indigenous a Russian spy.


In 2008, when Kenneth Moskow died in a hill climbing accident, plenty of of his previous classmates in the midcareer routine at Harvard’s john F. Kennedy school of government were startled to find out from the obituaries the he had been a height CIA spy. He had actually told them, and also his professors, that he worked for the State Department—it to be the exact same cover he offered on assignment in Spain and Cyprus—and the school’s photograph roster noted him that way. The pretense likely helped him cultivate international classmates, consisting of ex–Guatemalan defense minister Héctor Gramajo and also José María Figueres, that was shortly to come to be president the Costa Rica.

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Most spy solutions view colleges as a element recruiting ground. People are many pliable in their late teens and early twenties,

Such vignettes illustrate exactly how U.S. Universities have come to be a favored arena for the an enig jousting that spy versus spy. In labs, classrooms, and also auditoriums, espionage solutions from nations such together China, Russia, and also Cuba vie for recruits who not just can assist them acquire insights right into U.S. Policy and accessibility to perceptible research however could someday achieve high-level jobs in the commonwealth government.

The FBI and also CIA reciprocate, arising sources among international students and also faculty and sending them residence as American agents. In a 2012 poll of staff at U.S. Universities who work-related with global students, 31 percent reported the the FBI had actually visited students within the previous year. Together one former U.S. Government official told me, “Both sides room exploiting universities.”

Campus life renders it basic for foreigners and Americans alike to conference intelligence. Also spies with no academic affiliation deserve to slip unnoticed right into lectures, seminars, and cafeterias and also befriend the computer scientist or Pentagon torture sitting beside them.

“Most if not all spy services view universities as a prime recruiting ground,” says Chris Simmons, a previous counterintelligence officer in ~ the U.S. Defense intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s intelligence arm. “People are most pliable in their late teens and early twenties, once they’re young and inexperienced. It’s basic for who trained in the art of manipulation to command them in a direction they’re currently inclined, or assist convince lock it’s what lock intended every along.”

Hidden and sometimes deceptive, the spy solutions exploit—and taint—the traditional academic ideals the transparency and independent scholarship. Nevertheless, as universities go after revenue and worldwide prominence by opening branches abroad and ramping increase enrollment the full-tuition worldwide students, they have actually ignored or also condoned espionage.

Columbia University company School, because that instance, didn’t rescind the master’s degree of Cynthia Murphy, a suburban brand-new Jersey mommy of two, when she turned out to be a Russian spy called Lydia Guryev, instructed by Moscow come “strengthen ties w. Classmates ~ above a daily basis incl. Professors that can help in task search and also who will have (or currently have) access to mystery info.”


Taking advantage of an unwary professor and also a startling absence of pundit property safeguards, Chinese graduate student Ruopeng Liu poached Pentagon-funded research at fight it out University ~ above invisibility and metamaterials (artificial products with properties not found in nature). The professor ultimately took away Liu’s an essential to the lab, however Duke still provided him a doctorate. Armed with the university’s research, Liu returned to China.

While it isn’t clear whether Liu was exhilaration on his own or for Chinese intelligence—in an interview that denied the he had engaged in any kind of wrongdoing whatsoever—funding from China’s federal government helped him begin his very own metamaterials firm and institute, and also he ended up being a billionaire. He was never ever charged through spying, yet an FBI interview v the professor about Liu’s activities was presented to one invitation-only audience in September 2015 under the title “The Theft that a an excellent Idea.”

Cuban intelligence has actually been especially active at universities in southern Florida, brand-new York City, and Washington, DC, consisting of the Johns Hopkins college of advanced International Studies. Together a graduate college student there, Marta Rita Velázquez befriended her other classmate that Puerto Rican descent Ana Belén Montes—and recruited her to spy because that Cuba. Montes increased to end up being the premier analyst ~ above Cuba in the Defense Intelligence company and “one the the most damaging spies in U.S. History,” according to Michelle valve Cleave, that headed U.S. Counterintelligence under chairman George W. Bush.

After supplying Cuban intelligence with names and also biographical sketches of an ext than 400 Cuba watchers in the U.S. Government, Montes was recorded in 2002 and sentenced come 25 years in prison. Meanwhile, the lesser-known Velázquez, one idealistic Princeton graduate who praised Fidel Castro in her an elderly thesis for following “the wisest” gyeongju relations plan “ever taken by a Cuban leader,” held key positions with the U.S. Agency for International advance in Nicaragua and also Guatemala. Married come a swedish diplomat, she stop USAID ~ Montes’s arrest and also fled to Sweden, i m sorry bans extradition because that spying.

Montes, unable to go back to the U.S., wherein she’s under indictment because that conspiracy come commit espionage, teaches Spanish and also English in a publicly high school in Stockholm. According to the principal, she “gets very good reviews from her students.”

Two trends have actually converged to develop this surge in scholastic spying. The first is the cultivation intimacy in between U.S. Intelligence and academia, driven partially by patriotic fervor and terrorism fear in the wake up of the September 11, 2001, attacks. Deterred by student protests and also faculty hostility during the Vietnam era, the CIA, FBI, and other protection agencies have returned in force, forging a tenuous alliance that spies and also scholars.

September 11 led to a quiet reengagement the a the majority of the academy with the nationwide security community.

“September 11 led to a quiet reengagement the a most the academy with the national security community,” says Austin Long, who taught security plan at Columbia University. Perhaps much more than anyone else, Graham Spanier is responsible because that this rapprochement. As president that Pennsylvania State university from 1995 to 2011, he helped establish and chaired the nationwide Security greater Education Advisory Board, which fosters dialogue in between intelligence agencies and also universities. He likewise gave FBI-sponsored seminars for administrators in ~ MIT, Michigan State, Stanford, and also other universities, and also opened doors for the CIA transparent academia.

“What a CIA person can’t carry out is contact the president’s office and, when the secretary answers, say, ‘I’m indigenous the CIA and also I want an appointment,’” Spanier called me. “Before everyone would carry out that, ns would call the president. The presidents all knew me. They would certainly take my call.” In 2007 the CIA honored Spanier v a medal because that “outstanding service.” (This past June he was sentenced to two months in prison in relationship to the Jerry Sandusky scandal because that failing to immediately alert law enforcement as soon as he heard the the previous assistant soccer coach had actually allegedly molested a boy in a locker room shower.)


The second, and also perhaps even much more important, reason for the increase in campus spying is the globalization of greater education. Globalization has developed friendships and also understanding in between hostile countries, and also improved the top quality of teaching and research. That has additionally fostered foreign spying in ~ American universities and their branches overseas, and also a corresponding spike in U.S. Initiatives to recruit worldwide students and professors.

Academic hike to and from the joined States has soared, and people walk in both direction offer opportunities for espionage. The number of Americans researching abroad doubled between 2001 and also 2015, come 313,415. In 2015–’16 the variety of international students at U.S. Universities topped 1 million because that the first time, almost seven times the complete in 1974–’75 and more than twin the 1999–2000 figure. The number of foreign-born scientists and engineers functioning at U.S. Colleges and also universities climbed 44 percent in the decade between 2003 and 2013, native 360,000 come 517,000. When most global students, researchers, and professors concerned the United says for legitimate reasons, universities room an “ideal place” for foreign intelligence “to find recruits, propose and nurture ideas, learn and even steal research study data, or location trainees,” the FBI report in 2011.

This country’s spy services would quite sweet-talk researcher from Iran or China at a U.S. Campus or on neutral turf 보다 in their hostile homelands. The CIA, ns learned, has actually secretly spent millions of dollars staging scholastic conferences roughly the human being for the objective of luring nuclear researchers out of Iran. V an intermediary, frequently a businessman, the firm would collection up a conference at a prestigious institute on an aspect of nuclear physics that dovetailed through the research study interests that a specific particular scientist in Iran’s weapons program. There, a CIA agent—posing together a student, a technological consultant, or one exhibitor—would record the target alone because that a few minutes and also press him come defect.

One night, ~ the day’s proceedings had ended, audio and visual monitoring of an Iranian scientist’s hotel room confirmed that he to be still awake, when his minders from the Revolutionary Guard to be sleeping. A CIA certified dealer tapped softly on the door, and the scientist opened it. “Salam habibi,” the agent said, putting his hand end his heart. “I’m native the CIA, and I desire you to plank a plane with me to the united States."

The CIA gains accessibility to influential foreigners v its connection with Harvard"s Kennedy school of Government. Kenneth Moskow was one of a lengthy line that CIA policemans who enrolled undercover in the school’s midcareer program, gaining accessibility to up-and-comers worldwide. That the 214 midcareer participants in 2015–’16, 79 were American; the 135 international students represented 75 countries. College administrators—but not faculty—are usually mindful of CIA policemans in the student body and also safeguard their covers. “We will safeguard your identity,” one administrator said. “We serve the government. This is our government.”


The CIA and also Harvard caution the clandestine officers against formally recruiting classmates. Yet nothing stays clear of them native grooming potential informants, maybe over a beer at a Harvard Square bar or at among the school’s countless social functions. After graduation a CIA officer have the right to renew the acquaintance abroad or at a Harvard reunion, and tap his old buddy for information—still without necessarily expose his true employer.

The CIA sent out Thomas Gordon, a previous agent, come Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Germany, Bosnia, Egypt, Kuwait, the UK, Oman, Somalia, and Washington, DC—and Harvard. “We acquired the brief prior to I left. We were not to it is in doing our typical job when we obtained there, no to it is in recruiting,” Gordon told me. “I said, ‘Sure.’ ”

the added, “But, that course, in that line that work, you keep your line open up for future consideration. It’s like going into the NFL draft. Friend meet world you can end up knowing later on in her career... Together corny together it is, there’s a camaraderie. I have the right to pick up the phone and call anyone on the alumni list.”

Adapted native Spy Schools: how the CIA, FBI, and Foreign knowledge Secretly make use of America’s Universities, by Daniel Golden, released by Henry Holt and Company. © 2017 through Daniel Golden. All rights reserved.

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This article shows up in the November 2017 issue of Town & country Magazine.

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Daniel GoldenGolden is a an elderly editor in ~ ProPublica and the author of The Price that Admission: just how America"s Ruling course Buys Its method into elite Colleges--and that Gets Left exterior the Gates.
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