By Tank Murdoch
(TNS) As Democrats and Left-leaning media continue to point fingers at Russia for ‘meddling’ in our democratic institutions, the Trump administration is focusing on a much bigger influence operation involving American colleges and universities, including Ivy League Harvard and Yale.
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As The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday, a coalition of U.S. government agencies, law enforcement, and research funders like the National Institutes of Health have joined an investigation led by the Education Department to review foreign contributions by countries including China and Saudi Arabia.
The paper reported that so far, a review has discovered some $6.5 billion in unreported funding, particularly from entities tied to Beijing.
“The investigations into the Ivy League schools are the latest in a clash between U.S. universities and a coalition of federal officials … and a bipartisan group in Congress that have raised concerns about higher-education institutions’ reliance on foreign money, particularly from China,” the paper said.
The department described higher-education institutions in the U.S., in a document reviewed by the Journal, as “multibillion-dollar, multinational enterprises using opaque foundations, foreign campuses, and other sophisticated legal structures to generate revenue.”
U.S. universities have generally defended their international collaborations and said the Education Department’s reporting requirements remain unclear, which officials deny.
Universities are required to disclose to the Education Department all contracts and gifts from a foreign source that, alone or combined, are worth $250,000 or more in a calendar year. Though the statute is decades old, the department only recently began to enforce it vigorously.
The concern among Trump administration officials and members of Congress is that governments hostile to the United States are lavishing money on American institutions of higher learning — which are known to be havens for Leftists and Marxists — to “spread propaganda benefiting foreign governments” according to the document.
The idea isn’t to foment unrest within the country, per se, but to establish opportunities to steal prized research — especially China, which has been actively subverting U.S. government and education institutions for decades.
According to the document, the Education Department notes that foreign money most often flows to the richest U.S. universities, though “such money apparently does not reduce or otherwise offset American students’ tuition costs.”
U.S. officials said China uses a variety of means to target academia, including government-funded talent recruitment programs such as the Thousand Talents Plan.
The arrest last month of the chairman of Harvard’s chemistry department on federal charges of lying about receiving millions of dollars in Chinese funding through the program while the U.S. shelled out more than $15 million to fund his research group catapulted the issue into the spotlight.
Citing a recent Justice Department case, the Education Department has sent a letter to Harvard requesting records of gifts or contracts involving the countries of China, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
In addition, ” it also requested records regarding telecommunications giants Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. of China; the Kaspersky Lab and Skolkovo Foundation of Russia; and the Alavi Foundation of Iran, among others,” the paper reported.
The administration is actively campaigning against Huawei, a Chinese telecom giant intelligence officials are certain is using undisclosed “back doors” in its 5G equipment and software as an espionage conduit into government and corporate entities.
As NewsTarget reported Wednesday, the Trump administration is using this intelligence in a bid to convince allies not to contract with Huawei to provide their countries with 5G technology:
The U.S. government kept this highly classified intelligence secret until late last year, when American diplomatic officials provided the evidence to their counterparts in Germany and the U.K. That was a reversal from earlier U.S. policy, when, in the past, officials in Washington argued they didn’t need to provide hard evidence of the threat.
As for Kaspersky Lab, President Trump signed a bill into law in December 2017 banning the use of its antivirus software across all government agencies out of fear Moscow was using it as an espionage tool.
“The case against Kaspersky is well-documented and deeply concerning. This law is long overdue,” said Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who led calls in Congress to scrub the software from government computers. She added that the company’s software represented a “grave risk” to U.S. national security, Reuters reported.
Several months later, in May 2018, The Daily Beast reported exclusively that government officials were saying it was “impossible” to get Kaspersky Lab software off of U.S. government systems by the October deadline because it was “too deeply embedded.”
Iran, of course, is a known enemy.
The Education Dept. has warned the universities if they fail to comply and turn over the requested information, the matter may be referred to the Justice Department for civil or criminal action.
Universities are already pushing back, however, dismissing the national security concerns and claiming that funding from foreign governments, and China in particular, fund research that is ‘beneficial to humankind.’
The paper noted, however:
A February 2019 investigation by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations called foreign government funding of U.S. universities “a black hole” and said it found that nearly 70% failed to properly report funding from Chinese government-backed cultural and language programs known as Confucius Institutes.
Sens. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) and Tom Carper (D., Del.), who lead the Senate panel, said in a joint statement: “The fact that $6.5 billion in foreign gifts to U.S. institutions went unreported until now is shocking and unacceptable…We are pleased that the Department of Education is increasing enforcement efforts and taking a step towards ensuring academic freedom in America.”
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