Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich claimed foreign spies are targeting America’s colleges and must be stopped before it’s too late.
“Our higher education system is one of our greatest assets. Yet we do too little to defend it,” Gingrich wrote in a Friday op-ed for Fox News.
Gingrich said most international students come to American colleges to utilize the education system, but accused some of trying to exploit it for more sinister purposes.
“According to an advisory warning released by the FBI in 2011, foreign intelligence services target American universities to recruit students and faculty members to be agents of espionage and attempt to steal technical information and products,” the op-ed read.
“The FBI also reported that certain foreign actors illicitly exploit the student visa program and use universities as hubs to spread false information and political propaganda.”
He also cited an incident in March that saw nine Iranians charged by the Department of Justice for conspiracy to commit cybertheft at 144 schools.
Gingrich claimed various countries around the world are looking to infiltrate America’s education system.
In the op-ed, he wrote: “For example, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in February that China uses ‘nontraditional collectors, especially in the academic setting, whether it’s professors, scientists, students, we see … in almost every field office that the FBI has around the country.’
Wray added that China is ‘exploiting the very open research and development environment that we have, which we all revere. But they’re taking advantage of it.'”
Gingrich said that more policies must be created to “counteract this rising threat.”
“One path forward is the Stop Higher Education Espionage and Theft Act of 2018 (SHEET), which he introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in the Senate on May 22,” Gingrich wrote.
“If passed, the SHEET Act will give the director of the FBI the authority to formally designate a foreign actor as a ‘foreign intelligence threat to higher education.’”
“In order to receive such a designation, a foreign actor must have exploited the resources of an institution to engage in illicit activities such as espionage, fraud, theft of trade secrets, or interception of communications,” Gingrich explained.
Gingrich urged Congress to pass the SHEET Act to allow colleges to redirect their focus towards shaping future leaders.
“Doing so will allow such institutions to continue to be worldwide leaders for discovering, challenging, and growing new students, faculty, researchers and ideas,” he concluded.
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