New FBI Video on Espionage Recruitment: Game of Pawns

Game of Pawns: The Glenn Duffie Shriver Story video, dramatizes the incremental steps taken by intelligence officers to recruit Shriver and convince him to apply for jobs with the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency. 

Shriver Case: A Textbook Case of Recruitment

Glenn Duffie Shriver seemed like an average college student—majoring in international relations at a college in Michigan and interested in seeing the world. During his junior year (2002-2003), he attended a study abroad program at a school in Shanghai, People’s Republic of China (PRC).

He developed an interest in Chinese culture and had considerable proficiency in Mandarin Chinese, so after graduating from college in 2004, he returned to the PRC to continue his language studies and to look for work.

Around October 2004, Shriver—living in Shanghai and financially strapped—responded to an English ad offering to pay individuals to write political papers.

A woman named “Amanda” contacted him, met with him several times, and then paid him $120 to write a paper.

A few months later, she reached out to Shriver again, saying she thought the paper was good and asked if he’d be interested in meeting her associates. He agreed.

Amanda introduced him to two associates who said they were interested in developing a “friendship” with him and who began suggesting that he consider applying for U.S. government jobs.

Eventually, Shriver realized that the men and Amanda were affiliated with the PRC government; nonetheless he agreed to seek a government job.

Over the next few years, that’s exactly what he did—receiving a total of $70,000 in exchange for applying for jobs—until his scheme was uncovered and he was arrested by the FBI in 2010.

He ultimately pled guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Shriver later admitted in court that his ultimate objective was to get a job with a U.S. government agency that would give him access to classified information, which he would then provide to the PRC officers in return for cash payments.

To a recent college graduate, $70,000 seemed like a lot of money, and the promise of even more was too tempting for Shriver to pass up.

What he didn’t consider, though, were the long-term costs of his actions, which included, as one FBI investigator put it, “throwing away his education, his career, and his future when he chose to position himself as a spy for the PRC.”


Advice for U.S. College Students Abroad: Be Aware of Foreign Intelligence Threat

FBI, 14 April 2014

Three years ago, Glenn Duffie Shriver, a Michigan resident and former college student who had studied in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), was sentenced to federal prison in the U.S. for attempting to provide national defense information to PRC intelligence officers. (See sidebar for more on the case.)

According to the Institute of International Education, more than 280,000 American students studied abroad last year.

These experiences provide students with tremendous cultural opportunities and can equip them with specialized language, technical, and leadership skills that make them very marketable to U.S. private industry and government employers.

But this same marketability makes these students tempting and vulnerable targets for recruitment by foreign intelligence officers whose long-term goal is to gain access to sensitive or classified U.S. information.

Glenn Shriver—prodded by foreign intelligence officers into eventually applying for U.S. government jobs—cited his naivety as a key factor in his actions.

The FBI—as the lead counterintelligence agency in the U.S.—has ramped up efforts to educate American university students preparing to study abroad about the dangers of knowingly or unknowingly getting caught up in espionage activities.

As part of these efforts, we’re making available on this website our Game of Pawns: The Glenn Duffie Shriver Story video, which dramatizes the incremental steps taken by intelligence officers to recruit Shriver and convince him to apply for jobs with the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.

We’d like American students traveling overseas to view this video before leaving the U.S. so they’re able to recognize when they’re being targeted and/or recruited.

How do foreign intelligence officers routinely interact with students?

  • Foreign intelligence officers don’t normally say they work for intelligence services when developing relationships with students—they claim other lines of work.
  • Intelligence officers develop initial relationships with students under seemingly innocuous pretexts such as job or internship opportunities, paid paper-writing engagements, language exchanges, and cultural immersion programs.
  • As relationships are developed, the student might be asked to perform a task and provide information—not necessarily sensitive or classified—in exchange for payment or other rewards, but these demands grow over time.
  • Intelligence officers might suggest that students—upon completion of their schooling—apply for U.S. government jobs (particularly for national security-related agencies).

What can students to protect themselves while studying abroad?

  • Be skeptical of “money-for-nothing” offers and other opportunities that seem too good to be true, and be cautious of being offered free favors, especially those involving government processes such as obtaining visas, residence permits, and work papers.
  • Minimize personal information you reveal about yourself, especially through social media.
  • Minimize your contact with people who have questionable government affiliations or who you suspect might be engaged in criminal activity.
  • Properly report any money or compensation you received while abroad on tax forms and other financial disclosure documents to ensure compliance with U.S. laws.

Above all, keep your awareness level up at all times. “A keen awareness,” said Glenn Duffie Shriver in a warning to other students, “is the most powerful weapon [against being recruited.”

And when you return to the U.S., report any suspicious activity to your local FBI office. You can also contact your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate while abroad.


Michigan Man Sentenced 48 Months for Attempting to Spy for the People’s Republic of China

U.S. Department of Justice
January 21, 2011

WASHINGTON—Glenn Duffie Shriver, 28, of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was sentenced today to 48 months in prison for conspiring to provide national defense information to intelligence officers of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and David Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Court Judge Liam O’Grady.

On Oct. 22, 2010, Shriver pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information charging him with conspiracy to communicate national defense information to a person not entitled to receive it.

“Mr. Shriver sold out his country and repeatedly sought a position in our intelligence community so that he could provide classified information to the PRC,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride.

“Attempts to gain access to sensitive information are a serious threat to our national security. We are doing everything in our power to find and punish those who seek to betray our country.”

According to a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Shriver is proficient in Mandarin Chinese and lived in the PRC both as an undergraduate student and after graduation.

While living in Shanghai in October 2004, Shriver developed a relationship with three individuals whom he came to learn were PRC intelligence officers.

At the request of these foreign agents, Shriver agreed to return to the United States and apply for positions in U.S. intelligence agencies or law enforcement organizations.

Shriver admitted in court that he knew that his ultimate objective was to obtain a position with a federal department or agency that would afford him access to classified national defense information, which he would then transmit to the PRC officers in return for cash payments.

From 2005 to 2010, Shriver attempted to gain employment as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State and as a clandestine service officer with the Central Intelligence Agency.

Shriver admitted that, during this time, he maintained frequent contact with the PRC intelligence officers and received more than $70,000 in three separate cash payments for what the officers called his “friendship.”

In December 2009, Shriver received notice that he was to report to Washington, D.C., in May 2010 for employment processing activities with the CIA.

Shriver admitted that he communicated with a PRC intelligence officer that he was “making some progress” in obtaining a position with the CIA and that he would not be free to travel to PRC for another meeting because it could raise suspicion with federal agents conducting his background investigation.

Shriver admitted that he made false statements on the CIA questionnaire required for employment stating that he had not had any contact with a foreign government or its representative during the last seven years, when in fact he had met in person with one or more of the officers approximately 20 times since 2004.

He also deliberately omitted his travel to PRC in 2007 when he received a $40,000 cash payment from the PRC for applying to the CIA.

In addition, Shriver made false statements during a series of screening interviews at the CIA, and he admitted he made each of the false statements to conceal his illicit relationship with the PRC intelligence officers.

This case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Campbell of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Brandon L. Van Grack of the Counterespionage Section in the National Security Division are prosecuting the case.

Threats are Out There