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US students going overseas must beware of recruitment by spies: FBI

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's counterintelligence division is increasing its efforts to alert and prepare American university exchange-students, or other young people, planning to study at higher education institutions in foreign nations, so they are educated about the possibility of being recruited by foreign intelligence services as "moles", according to a report released by the FBI on Monday.

U.S. students studying overseas may find themselves being recruited as spies by foreign intelligence services seeking our best and brightest.
Courtesy of the FBI

The FBI setup a video presentation on the Internet in order to reveal to students the ways in which foreign intelligence officers -- including agents who work for Islamist organizations or rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea -- recruit American students and encourage them to apply for jobs back home in government agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the State Department, the Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies that deal with classified information and covert operations.

The FBI in the video tells viewers that foreign intelligence officers do not usually reveal that they are working for their respective intelligence agencies or militant organizations during the "relationship developing phase" of American student recruitment. They initially begin developing relationships with students using the pretext of a temporary job or an internship. Usually the American student is offered a salary, bonus or stipend in order to sweeten the offer.

As relationships are created between the student and the covert intelligence agent, the student may be requested to perform a special task to provide information other than sensitive or classified information in exchange of cash or other compensation. While at first, the FBI warns, their requests appear innocent and of no consequence, as time goes on the demands for information increase.

Once the student is working for a U.S. government agency, the demands become more and more serious over time and one day the student finds him- or herself "in too deep" to blow the whistle. They have become a "mole" within the U.S. intelligence community.

The FBI cautions students going overseas to be "skeptical of money-for-nothing offers" or other promises that on their face appear too good to be true. The agency also advises student to be cautious when offered favors such as "cutting through the red tape" when applying for visas, government issued permits, and work papers.

In the midst of the Internet explosion of "social media web sites," the FBI advises students to be cautious about personal information posted on the Internet. They also advise students to avoid contact with foreign nationals who have questionable affiliations or who appear to be involved in unethical or criminal activities.

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