Why Russian Spies Really Like American Universities — ProPublica – Now another graduate student at an urban East Coast university, who similarly cultivated powerbrokers and political operatives, is accused of being a Russian spy and taking orders from high-ranking officials in her homeland. Maria Butina, who received a master’s degree in international relations this past spring from American University in Washington, D.C., courted the National Rifle Association’s top guns and sought access to Republican presidential candidates Scott Walker and Donald Trump. She pleaded innocent last week to charges of conspiring to act as a foreign agent.
If the charges against Butina are accurate, she’s only the latest in a long line of Russian agents to infiltrate U.S. universities. Dating back to the Soviet era, Russian spies have sought to take advantage of academia’s lax security, collaborative, global culture, and revolving door with government. 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.