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Review :: International
Book Review: 'Spy Schools' By Daniel Golden
01 Mar 2018
An examination of how colleges and universities have become enmeshed in the world of espionage.
Daniel Golden’s Spy Schools.jpg
Pulitzer Prize winner Golden (The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys Its Way into Elite Colleges—and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates, 2006) turns his considerable fact-finding skills to an eye-opening chronicle of how higher education has evolved into a key source for obtaining military and technological intelligence.

The proliferation of international students at American universities has aided the CIA and FBI in gaining recruits in the global war of clandestine information gathering. Government agencies also infiltrate campuses through professors, often with the support of top university administrators. Beyond recruiting, they work with admissions offices and place students. An especially fertile area for spies is graduate and midcareer students. The schools targeted for espionage range from small colleges to large state universities to Ivy League institutions; Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government is one of the latter highlighted by Golden.

Foreign governments also see U.S. universities as vehicles for obtaining intelligence, and there are further battlegrounds at foreign universities and campuses of U.S. universities abroad. Such activities show how much the political climate has changed on campuses since the 1960s and ’70s and the congressional inquiries, such as the Church Committee, of that time. The author presents a stark picture of the expansion of espionage from the old cloak-and-dagger methods to the classrooms and research centers.

While the CIA has long recruited on college campuses, the FBI has evolved as an organization after 9/11; its expanded mission to ferret out foreign intelligence is conveniently met at colleges, which readily cooperate. With American institutions of higher education so committed to big-time athletics and—as Golden insightfully recounts—widely engaged in espionage, the question arises: what happened to the traditional role of education on our campuses?

A provocative look at the transformation of academia to a broad chessboard of international espionage.
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