Russian intelligence understands that today’s professor of international relations may be tomorrow’s assistant secretary of state, and vice versa. Although cyber-spying and hacking offer opportunities to glean secrets at less personal risk, the traditional strategies of human espionage persist, and sending a spy to school is prominent among them.
It’s easier, cheaper and less conspicuous for Russian intelligence to enlist a student or professor who can be steered to a federal agency than to lure someone already in a sensitive government position. Exploiting open campuses, spies slip unnoticed into lectures, seminars and cafeterias, where they befriend the computer scientist or Pentagon adviser sitting beside them.
U.S. universities, ever-sensitive to their finances and global relationships, have largely ignored the threat of foreign espionage
If the charges against Maria Butina are accurate, she’s only the latest in a long line of Russian agents to go undercover on U.S. campuses.