A new docudrama released by the FBI tells the true story of Glenn Duffle Shriver, an American student and “textbook case of recruitment” who’s now serving four years in prison for conspiring with foreign intelligence officers while living in Shanghai.
Painful dialogue, a host of clichés and the overall Lifetime Original-quality of the film aside, the true events behind Shriver’s fate are pretty fascinating. Around October 2004, Shriver was nearing the end of his visa stay and needed some extra cash. He responded to an ad online seeking someone to write political papers for cash, and met up with a woman named Amanda, who paid him $120 to write about US-Sino relations.
Eventually, the woman introduced Shriver to a group of associates who were interested in forming a “friendship” with him, suggesting that he apply for a government job. At this point, Shriver realized that the the group was affiliated with the PRC government. “What, um, what exactly are you asking me?” he asks in the film, although he goes and applies for the CIA anyways.
The rest documents his entanglement with the crowd and his inevitable downfall after being uncovered and arrested by the FBI in 2010 at customs. The same year, Shriver pled guilty to conspiring to provide national defense information to China and was sentenced to four years in federal prison.
A cautionary tale is what this film serves to students in Shanghai carelessly sipping down buckets of fake liquor at Perry’s as if they’re not about to be picked up by PRC intelligence officers and become one of their disposable pawns. As Shriver stated in a warning posted to the FBI’s website: “A keen awareness is the most powerful weapon [against being recruited].”