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FBI Warns U.S. Students Traveling Abroad: Don’t Be a Pawn

Washington, D.C. April 17, 2014
  • FBI National Press Office (202) 324-3691

The FBI Counterintelligence Division is launching a nationwide “Don’t Be a Pawn” campaign to help prepare U.S. college students for traveling overseas. According to the latest numbers, more than 283,000 U.S. college students study abroad each year. Prior to travel, most students get advice and direction from their colleges and universities about what to expect while traveling abroad. One aspect of that experience their schools might not prepare them for, however, is the possibility that a foreign intelligence service might try to recruit them while abroad to eventually steal secrets from the U.S. government.

The FBI Counterintelligence Division partnered with the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (ONCIX) to illustrate the threat posed by foreign intelligence services by producing a film called Game of Pawns. Based on a true story, the film features Glenn Duffie Shriver, a student studying overseas who was asked by a foreign government to apply for U.S. government jobs with the goal of obtaining secret U.S. government information. Before obtaining employment, however, the FBI arrested Shriver. Shriver was subsequently convicted of conspiracy to communicate national security information, an espionage violation.

“Students who plan to study abroad are excited about the journey and experience. The last thing on their minds is what could go wrong when they are thousands of miles from home. We hope this movie demonstrates the dangers they may face and how to avoid them,” said FBI Counterintelligence Division Acting Assistant Director Randall Coleman. “Foreign intelligence services have shown they are willing to wait years if needed for students to get jobs and rise through the ranks. Our job is to make sure the students recognize the threat and know how to react before they get sucked in.”

“ONCIX is proud to have partnered with the FBI on the production of the Game of Pawns movie. The movie has played a significant role in our outreach efforts to educate American academia on how foreign intelligence services target and attempt to recruit American students studying abroad,” said Frank Montoya, the National Counterintelligence Executive. “Productions such as the movie Game of Pawns are essential and very practical tools for sensitizing the public and private sectors to our nation’s growing counterintelligence mission. The Game of Pawns video now will be more widely available to the public via the ONCIX.gov and FBI.gov websites.”

The FBI encourages students and parents to visit www.fbi.gov/gameofpawns to watch the film and access additional resources and information, including how, where, and why foreign intelligence services are targeting students; how students can protect themselves from being targeted; and how students can report suspicious activity.

“We want students to enjoy their time abroad and use it as an opportunity to learn and grow. We also want them to be smart about it by preparing them for what may seem like a game but is actually a real danger,” said Coleman.