“We’ve learned the primary activity at American university is beer pong and sexting.”

Harkening back to the Cold War, a resurgence of spying on U.S. universities is alarming national security officials. As universities become more global in their locations and student populations, their culture of openness and international collaboration makes them increasingly vulnerable to theft of research conducted for government and industry. Recent federal reports cite increases in foreign countries seeking sensitive research through such tactics as offering to study with American professors, downloading files from the laptops of U.S. researchers attending international conferences and using “front” companies to license technology developed in academic laboratories.



  1. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist says:

    Surely this is, or should be, an issue of CONFLATION? The part of a university that is open is the liberal arts and even basic science and general knowledge type stuff?

    Once you start working on cutting edge military/national security type stuff, that should be a different department/location/staff of “University” acitivity??

    Well, sounds more like an excuse to look up women’s dresses, but if there is a need for more security, the relevant staff should simply be required to take a few seminars and then fire those who don’t follow the rules.

    Easy Peasy.

  2. Mac Guy says:

    Spies. Not spys.

  3. sargasso_c says:

    Research carried out in universities is in the public domain. You only need to visit a library. Where security is of concern, that research is not conducted in the university and it is not published.
    University academics are often hired as adjunct researchers by corporations and the government on a project by project basis, and special measures are taken to secure that research output.

  4. Glenn E. says:

    This just proves that the Colleges don’t care who or what they sell down the river. Just as long as the money is bright green, they’ll accept anyone, foreign spy or not.

  5. Glenn E. says:

    I use to be the argument for keeping rocket scientists and nuclear physicist well employed (on the public’s dime) , was to keep them from defecting to Russia. Well not we’ve got the college profs who taught the former, selling out what they know to anyone, anywhere. No loyalty to the US, what so ever. And certainly no secrecy agreement. How come that only seems to apply to people who work on assembly lines and such. But NOT to those in executive positions. Like retired Generals, Admirals, heads of state, government contracted college researchers? What? The higher you go, up the food chain. The more your 2nd career, trumps concerns of national security and commercial propriety? But lowly plant janitor, better keep his trap shut of life, about what little he knows, or they’ll sue hid ass! How come nobody at the top ever gets sued for taking what they know from one corporation or country, to another? Because you got to know they only got hired elsewhere, based on what they know from their previous position. Usually, a direct competitor.

  6. CrankyGeeksFan says:

    This reminds me of the F.B.I.’s Library Awareness Program of the mid-1980s.

    “downloading files from the laptops of U.S. researchers attending international conferences…” This is theft that occurs in a foreign country, and probably doesn’t have much to do with the fact that the university the U.S. researcher is affiliated with has foreign students.

    “using “front” companies to license technology developed in academic laboratories.” This again doesn’t implicate foreign students of a particular university. Just do proper homework on the licensing company.

    Former Penn State U. President Graham Spanier was chair of the National Security Higher Education Advisory Board started by the F.B.I. He was forced out in the wake of the Sandusky Affair.

  7. MikeN says:

    cut back on student visdas.

    • CrankyGeeksFan says:

      Many universities now recruit foreign students on a full-time basis; thus, in the last five years, the number of foreign students has increased significantly at the undergraduate level. At the University of Washington, foreign students pay three times the tuition rate of Washington State residents. It has allowed UW to have 1/4 of its freshman attend without tuition.

      It’s all about money since universities are going through painful cuts right now.

      The University of Southern California has 7,200 foreign students with about 1/3 of that number coming from China.

      From the Bloomberg article: Foreigners on temporary visas make up more than 40 percent of graduate students in science and engineering at leading universities such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology. China sent 76,830 graduate students to U.S. universities in 2010-11, more than any other country and up almost 16 percent from the prior year.

      I can tell you that if what I saw at a major state university in the early 2000s is indicative then without foreign students many schools would not have graduate mathematics, computer engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, or physics departments.