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FBI warns students studying abroad to be aware of foreign intelligence threat

The FBI released a stern warning for students studying abroad to be aware of foreign officials trying to recruit them to be spies.

The warning came after one student was sentenced to four years in prison for conspiring to commit espionage.

Local FBI agents say the danger is more prevalent than students realize.

"The recruitment is going on, don't fool yourself," said Glenn Daffies Shriver, a student convicted of espionage, in this video released by the FBI.

As Shriver sits in prison for conspiring to commit espionage, the FBI points to his story when highlighting the dangers of getting coerced into finding and giving up U.S. secrets to government representatives abroad.

"We want students to be able to be aware that when they go overseas, they could be targeted by a foreign intelligence service," said Robert Thibault, the FBI New Orleans counter-intelligence program supervisor.

FBI agents travel to universities using this video recreation of Shriver's story to show just how easy it is to fall into a trap.

In the video, Shriver's character explains, "to stay in Shanghai I needed a visa and a job. Then, one morning I spotted an online ad. The Chinese government was looking for students to write papers on Chinese-American relations."

"He just thought he was doing essays, and he would get money every couple of months for writing an essay," said FBI New Orleans Special Agent Nena Rahman.

As Shriver continued working, the FBI says, the Chinese government gave him more and more money.

"So the student, because they had been receiving money, feels obligated to reciprocate and provide information or services," Thibault explained.

In Shriver's case, he went as far as taking $40,000. In return, he was told to apply for a job at the CIA.

According to the FBI video, Shriver was caught failing a lie-detector test during the application process.

The FBI now warns students that Shriver's case is not unique.

"After the Shriver case first became public, we started getting more people calling in, more students calling in, and reporting similar suspicious approaches that they had experienced when they were overseas," said Thibault. "Most concerning would be China, Cuba and Russia."

Tulane student Juliana Cooper traveled to Cuba with a summer abroad program.

"We took classes at Universidad De La Habana," said Cooper. "I felt very welcomed, but I wouldn't discuss my opposition to Fidel [Castro] or anything while I was there."

FBI agents say most students have no idea about the threat.

"I think that's what we really want to make sure hits home is that these students know that this does take place. It's not something that you see on television or that your read about, that there are victims that this happens to," said Rahman.

"Espionage is a very big deal. You're dealing with people's lives. That's why it's such a big deal," Shriver said while sitting in prison in the FBI video.

The FBI offered these tips to help students watch out for similar threats while studying abroad.

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