Daily Israel Report

FBI Says Foreign Spies Infecting US Campuses

Foreign countries are exploiting their increasing number of students in the United States as well as US students abroad to spy.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 4/10/2012, 7:48 PM

Research or spy?
Research or spy?
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Foreign countries are exploiting their increasing number of students in the United States as well as U.S. students abroad to spy, according to a comprehensive report by Bloomberg News.

“We have intelligence and cases indicating that U.S. universities are indeed a target of foreign intelligence services,” Frank Figliuzzi, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) assistant director for counterintelligence earlier this year.

The reports of spying on the United States is in addition to Muslim academics' activities against Israel and often promoting terror.

Bloomberg News singled out several universities where apparent spying or spy plots were uncovered.

A federal survey has revealed that “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” according to the newspaper.

Foreign intelligence agencies find universities an “ideal place to find recruits, propose and nurture ideas, learn and even steal research data, or place trainees,” according to a 2011 FBI report.

One example cited in the report was an Asian graduate student who arranged for researchers in his home country to visit an American university and take unauthorized photos of equipment for the purpose of copying its construction.

In another case, Michigan State University contacted federal officials when a Dubai-based company offered a large sum of money, setting off concerns that the source might be connected with Iran and place the university in violation of sanctions. An Iranian connection was not proven, but the university decided to turn down the offer of $3.7 million and sacrifice an undergraduate program.

Figliuzzi said the FBI and universities are cooperating to counter attempts by foreign countries, particularly China, to obtain classified information through academic research.

“Placing academics at U.S. research institutions under the guise of legitimate research offers access to developing U.S. technologies and cutting-edge research," the FBI report stated.

A University of Michigan professor told Bloomberg News that he has granted several requests from Chinese scientist Yu Xiaohong to study with him. However, the woman scientist’s Beijing address is the same as the Academy of Equipment Command & Technology, “where instructors train Chinese military cadets and officers.”

Feeling uncomfortable, the professor stopped accepting the requests from the Chinese scientist.

“It was pretty clear to me that the stuff she was interested in probably had some military satellite-orbit applications,” he told Bloomberg. “Once I saw that, I didn’t really tell her anything new, or anything that couldn’t be published. I didn’t engage that deeply with her.”

At Stanford University, more than half of its doctoral candidates in the physical sciences and engineers are foreigners.   

Foreign companies also have paid American students abroad to spy for them. One student from Michigan was sentenced to four years in jail for conspiring to provide national defense information to Chinese intelligence agents, in return for more than $70,000.