Books | October 18, 2017 5:00 am

How Spy Agencies Use Elite Universities to Secretly Recruit Students

Daniel Golden's new book shows how Ivy League schools are breeding grounds for espionage.

A new book by Daniel Goldman, Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities, claims that U.S. universities have become the “favored arena for the secret jousting of spy versus spy.” In an excerpt of the book, published by Town & CountryGoldman writes that countries such as China, Russia and Cuba vie for recruits on campuses in order to get insights into U.S. policy and research.

But the FBI and CIA are also involved, and they develop sources among international students and faculty. They send them back home as American agents, Goldman writes. Thirty-one percent of staff at American universities who work with international students reported that the FBI had visited students within the past year, Goldman says.

Campus life makes it easy for people to gather intelligence, because anyone can slip into lectures, seminars, classrooms, or the cafeteria and befriend whoever is sitting next to them.

Chris Simmons, a former counterintelligence officer at the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s intelligence arm, told Goldman that “Most if not all spy services view universities as a prime recruiting ground.”

This is because “people are most pliable in their late teens and early twenties, when they’re young and inexperienced.” It is easy for trained experts to steer them in a certain direction.

Goldman writes that this trend has been surging because of two reasons. One is that there is a “growing intimacy between U.S. intelligence and academia” which is driven by “patriotic fervor and terrorism fears” in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. But the more important reason is the globalization of higher education. This has built friendships and understanding between previously hostile countries, and has overall improved the quality of teaching, research and education. However, Goldman writes that it has also fostered foreign spying at U.S. universities and their branches overseas.