The Federal Bureau of Investigation is launching a new campaign against espionage. They say U.S. college students who study abroad are potential targets of foreign intelligence agencies.
Agents from the People’s Republic of China paid one American student $40,000 to apply for a job with the CIA. He was caught and sent to federal prison.
The campaign involves a 30-minute movie produced by the FBI called "Game of Pawns.” It's based on the real-life events surrounding former college student Glenn Duffie Shriver.
The movie starts out with an actor playing Shriver starting his semester abroad in Shanghai. He's intoxicated by the city and culture, so he decides to stay past his semester.
He finds a job online writing papers for what turns out to be a front for an intelligence agency. His new Chinese friends start showering him with money and gifts.
At some point he realizes that they want something more from him. Shriver is encouraged to take the State Department test and they eventually ask him to join the CIA.
In the movie, Shriver asks to be paid $40,000 from Chinese intelligence agents in return for applying.
In a later scene, Shriver sits in a CIA interview where he's polygraphed. They ask questions if he's ever been contacted by or received money from representatives of the People’s Republic of China.
Shriver panics and decides to skip the rest of the interview. The movie then shows Shriver boarding a plane back to China, but the handcuffs are slapped down by federal agents before takeoff.
The real Glenn Duffie Shriver is finishing out his four-year sentence for espionage in a federal detention center in Ohio. The FBI has also posted an 8-minute jail house video interview with Shriver.
"Recruitment is going on. Don't fool yourself. The recruitment is active and the target is young people, throw money at them and see what happens," says Shriver sitting in the corner of an interview room wearing beige prison-issued clothes.
The entire interview is captivating, as he describes how he was recruited and eventually turned by Chinese intelligence. Conspiracy to commit espionage carries a life term in the United States, but because he did not actually divulge any secrets to the Chinese, his official charge was just espionage.
"By the time they realize something’s amiss, they're in over their heads," says Special Agent Stephen Emmet from the FBI Atlanta field office.
Emmet says foreign governments are not targeting college students for the information they know now, but what they could learn later in their careers.
"They're investing in these students and they're in it for the long haul." Emmet said.
We asked local college students and administrators to watch the film and give us their impressions of "Game of Pawns.”
Shay Lorans graduated from Georgia State University and is studying abroad in Hong Kong for three weeks this summer. She said the video is a little on the dramatic side, but it gets the point across.
"Watching this video has made me want to look into this more," says Lorans.
Noah McDaniel just returned from a semester studying abroad in the Middle Eastern country of Oman, and is returning next fall. He's a sophomore cadet at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega, one of the six senior military colleges in the country.
McDaniel loved his time spent overseas and said he never felt in danger. He thought “Game of Pawns” made a clear message to be aware when traveling abroad and that he would use that new knowledge when he returns to Oman next semester.
"A great number of our students are cadets that participate in these international programs and it certainly could affect they're future," says John Wilson, director of the Center for Global Engagement at North Georgia. "We're always concerned about any issue that affects the safety and future of our students."
Wilson says all North Georgia students leaving the country go through an extensive orientation program and get one-on-one counseling from study abroad advisers.
"One of the biggest things I focus on during my orientation is just to be aware," says Camille Bearden, a University of North Georgia student adviser.
Bearden says she doesn't want to scare students when they travel overseas. She says study abroad is an amazing opportunity for students to experience different cultures outside of the United States.
Emmett stresses that when students are outside of the U.S. that they should be aware of any situation that's too good to be true. He says that if you feel like something doesn't feel right that you should contact someone in the U.S. Foreign Embassy.