Chinese spies recruited a young American student to work for them by paying him to write an essay on US-Taiwan relations US court papers show.
The student, Glenn Duffie Shriver, now 28, of Detroit, Michigan, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to communicate national defense information and will be sentenced to five years in prison under a special plea bargaining deal.
Now US intelligence experts are using the case as a warning to other American students who go to China to learn Mandarin.
Prosecutors revealed details of Beijing’s espionage plot when Shriver appeared before a US federal court near Washington this week.
“This is another example of the breadth and depth of Chinese operations,” said former US intelligence executive Kenneth deGraffenreid.
The operations range from sustained cyber-attacks to deep-penetration agents inside the US government like the kind of agent Shriver was meant to be,” he said.
Shriver first went to China when he was 21 years old, to study Mandarin at East China Normal University in Shanghai for a year.
He returned to China the following year for a visit and was approached by a woman called Amanda who offered to pay him US$120 to write a political assessment of how US-China relations were impacted by Taiwan.
According to court papers, Shriver was then introduced to two Chinese intelligence officers identified as Mr Wu and Mr Tang.
They persuaded Shriver to continue working for them by returning to the US and getting a job in either the US State Department or the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The intelligence agents told him: “If it’s possible, we want you to get us some secrets of classified information.”
Shriver went home and took the Foreign Service exam twice — failing both times — in order to apply for a job with the State Department.
To keep his spirits up, the Chinese agents gave him a US$30,000 bonus.
Next, he applied for a job with the CIA and the Chinese gave him US$40,000 more.
Shriver told the agency that he had no contact with a foreign government, but during the extensive background checks it performs on potential employees, the CIA discovered that he had held 20 meetings with Chinese agents from 2004 to 2007.
US Assistant Attorney General David Kris told the court: “This defendant attempted to gain access to classified US national defense information by securing a position with the US government under false pretenses with the ultimate goal to providing that information to intelligence officers of the People’s Republic of China [PRC].”
“Through the diligent work of the agents, analysts and prosecutors assigned to this matter, the defendant’s scheme was detected and neutralized,” he said.
Prosecutor John Perren added that: “Shriver threw away his education, his career and his future when he chose to position himself to spy for the PRC. He failed to appreciate that the PRC simply created a friendship with him to use him. It’s a valuable lesson to others who might be tempted to do the same.”
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