The Department of Education (DoED) is conducting an investigation into foreign governments funding U.S. universities, and they have found that governments such as Russia, China and Qatar have given them a staggering $1.3 billion.
These are the preliminary findings in an ongoing investigation into six different universities, and Education Secretary Betsy Devos believes that much more money could be discovered before the investigation concludes.
“It is already a reporting requirement for schools to report all foreign contributions. From my perspective, it’s a simple requirement: Report all foreign money you get.” DeVos told the Washington Examiner.
“We’re going to continue to raise the flag on this, and we think, just given what we’ve seen scratching the surface, there’s a lot there that has gone undetected,” she added.
Devos believes that this is an urgent national security issue that must be addressed and resolved.
“We’re raising this issue and letting schools know that we’re going to be paying attention in ways that hasn’t happened before,” she said.
The universities under review include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Texas A&M, Cornell, the University of Maryland, Georgetown, and Rutgers. Acting general counsel Reed Rubinstein called the initial findings very “disturbing” in a letter to the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, the Education Department.
The country that appears to be most involved in funding universities is China, which has been recently implicated in a plot that has planted moles throughout the U.S. bureaucracy and yielded a treasure trove of sensitive intel about their chief geopolitical rival.
“One university received research funding from a Chinese multinational conglomerate to develop new algorithms and advance biometric security techniques for crowd surveillance capabilities,” Rubinstein said.
Investigators have discovered that five of the six universities they are studying had contact with Huawei, the telecommunications giant based in China that deemed a national security threat. One university even had multiple contacts with the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Committee while another university took gifts from a foundation “suspected of acting as a propaganda and influence front.”
While China may be the worst offender, the investigation also found that Russia and Qatar have been conducting similar operations to influence U.S. universities with foreign cash. One university had a relationship with Kaspersky Lab, a cybersecurity company with suspected ties to Russian intelligence that the Trump administration has banned from being a federal contractor.
Rubinstein points to court documents indicating that Qatar donations are conducted for the explicit purpose of peddling influence, and secrecy is often tied to any agreement.
“Apparently, similar provisions are often part of foreign money agreements,” Rubinstein wrote. “Unfortunately, the Department cannot confirm whether donors and recipients use such provisions to justify nonreporting and nondisclosure of foreign source donations to the U.S. government and the American taxpayers.”
The investigation has also uncovered that “one university accepted funds from the arts of a foreign government to create an ‘academic’ center expressly for the dissemination of propaganda and to conduct other ‘soft power’ information activities,” although the specific country was not named.
“The evidence we have reviewed to date tracks congressional findings that American colleges and universes have provided unprecedented access to foreign governments, corporations, and persons without adequate oversight,” Rubinstein said.
Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Tom Carper (D-DE) are aware of the problem and has released a bipartisan 109-page report stating that foreign countries “seek to exploit America’s openness to advance their own national interests” and “the most aggressive of them has been China.” They point to China’s Thousand Talents Program as particularly pernicious and dangerous to U.S. interests.
“China unfairly uses the American research and expertise it obtains for its own economic and military gain,” they said.
“These failures continue to undermine the integrity of the American research enterprise and endanger our national security,” the subcommittee’s senators said.
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