FBI Short Film Warns American Students To Not Spy for China, So, Um, Thanks For That

The FBI has produced a short film warning American students against spying for China, which was posted on YouTube Monday. At about thirty minutes long, Game of Pawns: The Glenn Duffie Shriver Story seems an attempt by the FBI Counterintelligence Division to combat the prevalence of espionage recruitment efforts by the Chinese government. Efforts which, however you feel about the FBI's foray into docudrama, are well-demonstrated in Shriver's real-life story.

In 2004, American citizen Shriver was living abroad in Shanghai, China and learning Mandarin. He'd visited the Chinese metropolis once before on a 45-day study program in college, and graduated since with a Bachelor's Degree in international relations. He then answered a seemingly harmless ad to author a paper on the subject of U.S.-Chinese relations. His resulting work was met with praise by a Chinese woman named "Amanda" who paid him $120 for the trouble, the first step in a cagey effort — ultimately successful — to coerce Shriver to spy for the Chinese government.

After meeting with Amanda and two other men she put him in connection with — all three of them, unbeknownst to him, members of China's Ministry of State Security — Shriver began receiving a regular "stipend," and was encouraged to get a job working at one of America's information-rich agencies. And considering he collected over $70,000 in such "stipends," you could guess pretty easily that it wasn't just charity.

fbi on YouTube

Under prompting from the trio, Shriver applied to work for the State Department, failing their test both times, then tried his luck at the CIA. This was his last, worst mistake — he was arrested not long after his interview, having been tracked by U.S. authorities for some time.

The thrust of the video is to try to prevent other young Americans from meeting the same fate that Shriver did, who was convicted for conspiring to spy in 2010, and is currently on year three of a four-year sentence. And there's a fair criticism to be made, beyond just the xenophobic, cringe-worthy edge that the film begins on — playing hackneyed, stereotypical music underneath a sagely voice issuing a foreboding "old Chinese proverb" — that the story doesn't really illuminate anything that hard to figure out on your own.

fbi on YouTube

But it's important, so just to be clear: If random Chinese people start paying you tens of thousands of dollars while encouraging you to get a U.S. government job, to send otherwise unavailable information? You're probably being recruited into a spying operation. And these kinds of methods, by Shriver's own jailhouse account, are prevalent.

Espionage is a very big deal, very big deal. You’re dealing with people’s lives, and that’s why it’s such a big deal. Recruitment’s going on. Don’t fool yourself. The recruitment is active, and the target is young people. Throw lots of money at them, see what happens.