FBI Agents Concerned With Possible Chinese Technology Theft At Universities, Includes Oklahoma
Oklahoma's two biggest universities have responded following FBI investigations involving academic research projects across the county.
The Associated Press reveals some schools have possible ties to China, and alleged technology theft.
Oklahoma State University was mentioned in the AP article.
The AP’s headline states, "US researchers on front line of battle against Chinese theft.”
While another other outlet, Gaylord News, a student-run production within the University of Oklahoma, wrote days later, "Feds Searching for Spies at OU and Other Universities"
Student journalist, Ryan Gaylor reports "FBI agents visited the Norman" and "Health Sciences Center" campuses "over the summer...".
While it's not clear what the agency found, the article points to one program that is under scrutiny, the "China's Thousand Talents program," which is sponsored by the Chinese government.
OU staff recently got an email titled, "Government Investigators Auditors and Agents on Campus"
Here is part of that message:
“State and federal agencies have recently increased their review of... grants and contracts, controlled research, and interactions with international institutions and researchers. The University has seen an increase in on-campus visits by investigators and agents..."
OU provided comment to News 9:
“To our knowledge there is no current investigation being conducted by the FBI or any other federal agencies. The email we believe the student reporter is referencing, was a yearly notice announcing routine visits made by auditors, government officials and federal agents. Having members of the FBI or any other federal agency visit campuses known for research isn't an uncommon practice. As part of the FBI’s coordination with federal science and technology agencies, officials visit universities across the country to educate faculty and researchers on areas of emerging concerns.”
In an interview with student media, Anil Gollahalli Vice President and General Counsel to the Presidents and Board of Regents for The University of Oklahoma said the email was sent out as reminder of policies and procedures.
“We want to make sure that we are being in the best step and best practice with where the federal government is in disclosing conflicts of different institutions,” said Gollahalli.
While the FBI will not confirm its involvement, the AP filed open records requests with 50 schools across the country and provided clear connections.
The organization reported finding an FBI pamphlet "warning China does not play by the same rules of academic integrity...".
As for Oklahoma State University, the AP reveals agents asked about "possible misuse of funds" and "quantum computing" on that campus.
The AP report states universities are called "vulnerable targets" for "wholesale theft of technology."
A Senior OSU Media Relations Spokeswoman released this statement:
"At Oklahoma State University, we enjoy a very strong and positive relationship with our local FBI. We have policies and procedures in place, so OSU researchers keep us informed of any outside funding or employment. We take the public trust very seriously and are dedicated to protecting our national interests."