Ebrahim Moosa - Radio Islam International | 15 October 2015
A vivid read from The Guardian last week revealed in shocking detail the modus operandi of the CIA in dispatching operatives to attend academic conferences, for vested interests, and even the staging of outwardly reputable academic conferences of the agency’s own.
The article was an edited excerpt from the book, Spy Schools: How the CIA, FBI, and Foreign Intelligence Secretly Exploit America’s Universities. In it, author Daniel Golden reveals how the CIA has secretly spent millions of dollars staging scientific conferences around the world, with an ostensible interest in nuclear physicists and technology.
It is alleged that symposia are convened exclusively for the purpose of luring out experts from countries the USA deems to be hostile. At these a great number of attendees are intelligence operatives who don name tags only revealing their first names. Such is the degree of subterfuge that in some cases, operatives have even been placed among kitchen workers and hotel staff, just so that certain pre-identified experts may be enticed.
At other events where the CIA is not the organiser, it would send its own agents undercover, or enlist professors who might be going anyway to report back.
“The CIA arranges conferences on foreign policy issues,” Golden writes, “so that its analysts, who are often immersed in classified details, can learn from scholars who understand the big picture and are familiar with publicly available sources.”
Although the agency is the chief convener of many such events, its name will hardly ever be found on a conference’s formal invitation and agenda. Instead, it outsources event planning and management to contractors such as Centra Technology Inc. who are assisted with funding and provided with a list of guests to invite.
Experts are naturally drawn to such events, given the attraction of fully-paid travel and accommodation, as well as the prospects of making their research more prominent on a global stage, and coupling work with tourism. Given the layers of deceit at play, hardly any invited academic attendees would even be remotely aware of the true identity of the organisers of such events.
On the nuclear front, it is alleged that the CIA actively rigged such conferences to seek out experts from Iran, Pakistan and Korea, amongst others, enticing them to defect to USA.
Where defection is not an option, experts are courted with the bait of financial assistance for their research.
“Once the CIA pays a foreign professor,” the article suggests – “even if they are unaware at first of the funding source, it controls them, because exposure of the relationship might imperil their career or even their life in their native country.”
A key takeaway from the report is perhaps the prudence it implicitly suggests in approaching events of this nature.
“..conferences lend themselves to espionage,” Golden writes.
“The importance of a conference may be measured not just by the number of Nobel prize-winners or Oxford dons it attracts, but by the number of spies. US and foreign intelligence officers flock to conferences for the same reason that army recruiters concentrate on low-income neighbourhoods: they make the best hunting grounds. While a university campus might have only one or two professors of interest to an intelligence service, the right conference – on drone technology, perhaps, or Isis – could have dozens.”
“Every intelligence service in the world works conferences, sponsors conferences, and looks for ways to get people to conferences,” one former CIA operative is quoted as saying.
While the unsuspecting attend such events seeking enlightenment or networking opportunities, few will ever realise their attendance doubled up as an act in “a drama that simulated reality but was stage-managed from afar.”
“We tend to flood events like these,” Golden cites a former CIA officer who writes under the pseudonym Ishmael Jones as saying.
For him, and many others in the global intelligence community, such events are seen as little more than alluring “watering holes” for information gathering.
You can read the full article HERE