Game of Pawns

The "Game of Pawns: The Glenn Duffie Shriver Story" video dramatizes the incremental steps taken by intelligence officers to recruit Shriver and convince him to apply for jobs with the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Video Transcript

Narrator: There is an old Chinese proverb--"Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move. And to win the game you must often sacrifice your pawns."

Glenn Duffie Shriver: Since my first Spanish class in middle school, I never met a language I didn't like. Spanish, French, Mandarin—I loved them all.

Junior year in college, I got to live the dream, a year abroad in Shanghai studying language and philosophy. What’s up, dog? [Speaking Chinese] It was going to be the best year of my life.

Shanghai was amazing. It fit me like a glove. I loved everything about it—the language, the culture, the nightlife, the people.

Friend: [Speaking Chinese] Yeah, she’s sweet.

Shriver: Yeah.

Friend: Fear not, my fair-weather friend. I have the credit card.

Shriver: Oh, your folks' credit card.

Friend: It’s for emergencies, and I do believe this qualifies. Awesome! Besides, it’s my going away party.

Shriver: Whoa. What are you talking about?

Friend: I'm headed home after the break.

Shriver: You're kidding me.

Friend: Dream’s over man, time to face the real world.

Shriver: This is the real world. I'm staying.

Friend: What are you going to do?

Shriver: Get a job.

Friend: No one is going to hire you. You've got to have the right visa.

Shriver: Sorry, man.

Friend: No. The right visa!

Shriver: So there it was my dilemma. To stay in Shanghai, I needed a visa and a job. Then one morning, I spotted an online ad. The Shanghai government was looking for American students to write papers on Chinese-American relations. That’s how I met Amanda.

Amanda: Hi, Glenn.

Shriver: Yes, Amanda. Nice to meet you. Thanks for having me.

Amanda: Thank you very much for coming. So how do you think the average American views China today?

Shriver: I think China is an enigma to many in our country. There are some who view China with suspicion, even fear, over the way you control your currency and your people, and quite frankly your fantastic economic growth.

Amanda: Well, what do you think?

Shriver: It’s complicated, but I found the people here to be remarkably free, and there is a fantastic entrepreneurial class emerging.

Amanda: You are a very thoughtful and candid young man, qualities I admire. We want to make Shanghai the business center of the world. We want Americans to think of Shanghai first when they expand to China. To do that we need to know how westerners perceive us as a country and as a city.

Shriver: So you want me to write about the business climate here?

Amanda: First, something political. Use your judgment.

Shriver: O.K. Cool.

I wrote a paper about the tensions between China and the United States over North Korea’s nuclear program. I was honest but took a neutral tone. Thank you, spell check.

I still can't believe you're leaving, man. You should be writing papers for these guys.

Friend: Why? What are they going to do with them?

Shriver: Uh, who cares? It’s just an essay. [Sighs] As long as they pay.

And pay they did. I wrote a number of papers and each time, Amanda paid me in cash.


Then she invited me to meet her supervisor Mr. Tang in a fancy downtown hotel.

Mr. Tang: So this is the bright young man I've heard so much about. Glad to meet you, Mr. Shriver.

Shriver: Please call me Glenn.

Tang: OK, Glenn. What impressed me most about your paper, Glenn, was your insight into the Chinese mind. Most westerners make no attempt to truly understand us.

Shriver: Most westerners have never lived here.

Tang: True. It is the destiny of our two countries to stand together as partners and bring peace and prosperity to the world. My generation has made tremendous strides towards this goal, but now it is up to people like you, the future leaders of the world, to bring this process to fruition. That’s why we would like to help you with your education.

Shriver: You want to help me?

Tang: Yes. We know that Shanghai is a very expensive city. We would like to help you by giving you a stipend.

Shriver: A stipend?

Tang: Yes. A quarterly sum to help you with your expenses while you remain in the country.

Shriver: Do you want me to write more papers?

Tang: Perhaps. We mainly want you to focus on your studies. Consider it a...[speaking Chinese]…a scholarship. Yes, a scholarship. Your country helps promising students, yes? We do the same thing. Will you allow us to help you?

Shriver: Well, yes. Thank you.

Tang: Excellent. Please let’s keep this arrangement confidential. We don't want to be flooded with requests.

Shriver: I understand. (Chinese phrase)

Tang: (Chinese phrase)

Shriver: It was $2,500.I was stunned, but what was I going to do, give it back? It was free money, no strings attached. I met with Amanda every couple weeks after that. We became good friends, talked about everything: life, love, politics.

Amanda: You are lucky Shanghai is a big city, or I'm afraid you'd run out of girlfriends.

Shriver: Oh, thanks a lot. I'm not that bad.

Amanda: So how is school going?

Shriver: [Sighs] It’s hard, but I’m loving it.

Amanda was pretty and smart, but we never went beyond being friends. It was just comfortable. Over time, I grew to like Mr. Tang as well.

By the way, I found out I can take the written test for the State Department at the U.S. Consulate, so, I don't know, I'm thinking about applying for a job there

Tang: That would be wonderful. You are a natural-born diplomat. They could use your insight into China, and with your language skills, you would almost certainly come back to us. You should do it, Glenn. Yes, you should.

State Department test proctor: Please read and sign the non-disclosure form on the first page of the test. It states your understanding that unauthorized disclosure of its contents can result in civil and criminal penalties. Do not break the seal until you've signed it and I've told you to begin. All signed? You may begin.

Tang: It’s OK, Glenn. I've heard the test is very difficult. Many people fail it the first time. I'm sure you'll pass if you try again.

Shriver: I don't know, maybe I'm just not cut out for the State Department.

Tang: We know how hard you studied for this test. Take this with our appreciation.

Shriver: I can't.

Tang: Your State Department may not appreciate such a promising young man like yourself, but we do. You can count on our friendship, Glenn.

Shriver: Thanks.

Tang: How can we help you with this test? What was your problem area?

Shriver: Well, the geography section was ridiculous…

After that meeting, I didn't hear from Mr. Tang or Amanda for a couple of months. I was busy in school and I kind of forgot about it. Then I got a text message from Amanda asking if we could meet. She was happy to see me, but when we went to see Mr. Tang, there was someone else there, too.

Tang: Glenn. It’s good to see you again. I have someone special I'd like you to meet. This is Mr. Wu, one of our top officials in our Shanghai government.

Shriver: Mr. Wu was an impressive figure and was treated with great deference by Mr. Tang. He made me feel a little uncomfortable.

Mr. Wu: I have heard many good things about you, Mr. Shriver, so I wanted to meet you in person.

Shriver: Thank you.

Wu: Please. We are very interested in the friendship of young Americans who can help us build economic and political ties between our two countries.

Shriver: Well, I've always dreamed of working in international relations, so you have my attention.

Wu: Good. We would be very interested in the success of your career. I understand you are going to take the State Department test again. Very good .But I wonder have you ever considered applying for work with other agencies?

Shriver: Um, like what?

Wu: Like CIA.

Shriver: What, um--what exactly are you asking me?

Wu: Mr. Shriver, our economies are intertwined. All we seek is information to improve relations between us. Working for CIA would be beneficial for both you and us. Think about it. (Chinese phrase)

Shriver: There’s an old Chinese proverb--"Life is like a game of chess, changing with each move"...and the next move was mine.

[Dialing cell phone] Mr. Woo, it’s Glenn (Chinese phrase) Listen. I'm going to need $40,000 to start. OK. Yes, yes.

Whoo! Why did I do it? I don't know. I guess it was just hard to turn off the tap. It wasn't like I had actually done anything wrong. There’s a good chance the CIA wouldn't even accept me. I could just take the money and run, but the CIA was interested and asked me to come to D.C. for an interview. It was good timing since I was headed home for a visit anyway.

I'd been back to the U.S. many times before> I never tried sneaking in so much as pocket lint. Now I was sitting in line at U.S. Customs with $40,000 strapped to my belly.

Customs official: Next. Hey, buddy. Next.

Shriver: Hey. How’s it going? Hi.

Customs official: Passport? Customs form? Sir, are you bringing in any food, fruits, any alcohol or tobacco products with you today?

Shriver: No.

Customs official: More than$10,000 in currency?

Shriver: I wish.

Customs official: So what were you doing abroad?

Shriver: I told my friends I was leaving the country until the Lions had a winning season.

Customs official: Lucky you made it back.

Shriver: Actually I was studying in Shanghai.

Customs official: All right, sir. Well, welcome home.

Shriver: Thank you. Have a good day.

Customs official: Thanks, you too. Next.

Shriver: I made it. I was free, and it did feel good to be back. I had a day to kill before the interview, so I decided to rent a car and went to visit my dad. I hadn't seen him in quite some time.

Shriver’s father: Thought you were in China?

Shriver: I flew back for an interview with the CIA.

Shriver’s father: The CIA? Ha ha ha!I can't believe any son of mine would ever work for the man.

Shriver: Work for the man? Dad, I'm going to be the man.

Shriver’s father: It’s good to see you. Your brother will be happy to see you, too. Hey, Ted!

Come on in. So how’s your mother?

Shriver: Eh, the same.

Shriver’s father: Want a beer?

Shriver: Sure. So how you doing?

Shriver’s father: Eh, you know, getting by. Where did you get that? You been robbing Chinese banks?

Shriver: No. I opened up an English language school on the sly. I've been killing it over there. I want you to have it. Maybe you can pay off the house.

Shriver’s father: Ted, get in here! Well, you may not believe this, but your brother is back, and he brought home the bacon.

Ted: Holy crap! Where the hell did you get all of this cash?

Shriver: I earned it. I've been slinging English like crack in China. Everyone wants to learn it.

Shriver’s father: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, son. Hey, it’s good to have my boys together again.

Shriver: Hey. It’s good to see you, bro.

I felt good that day, as good as I ever had.[Sighs] I was dead tired when I got to my room. There was an e-mail from the CIA confirming my interview the following morning.[Cell phone vibrates] And then I got a text from Amanda.

I felt relatively confident going into the interview.

CIA employee: Mr. Shriver. Yes, right this way.

Shriver: And then there was the polygraph.

Polygraph examiner: Do you intend to lie at any time during this polygraph test?

Shriver: No.

Polygraph examiner: Is your name Glenn Shriver?

Shriver: Yes.

Polygraph examiner: Has a member of a foreign government asked you to be here today?

Shriver: No.

Polygraph examiner: Are you presently in Langley, Virginia?

Shriver: Yes.

Polygraph examiner: Have you ever met with representatives of the government of the People’s Republic of China?

Shriver: No. Well, what do you mean by representatives? Don't all the teachers in China technically work for the government?

Polygraph examiner: Just answer truthfully yes or no to the best of your knowledge. I'll ask the question again. Have you ever met with representatives of the government of the People’s Republic of China?

Shriver: Yes.

Polygraph examiner: Have you ever taken money from representatives of the government of the People’s Republic of China?

Shriver: No.

Polygraph examiner: OK. At this time, are there any questions on this test that you would like to change your answer to?

Shriver: Yes. Uh, I mean, uh, no.

Polygraph examiner: How about you take a break, and we'll pick it up after?

Shriver: OK.

I wasn't prepared for this. I was in over my head. What do I do?

Polygraph examiner: What do you mean you quit?

Shriver: Uh, I--I'm not interested in the position anymore.

Polygraph examiner: That’s your option, Mr. Shriver, but I must warn you this isn't going to go away if you lie during any phase of this process.

Shriver: I understand that, and that’s not it. I just don't think that this kind of work is a good fit for me, so--I'm sorry to waste your time.

Come on, man! Errgh! As I left the CIA, I was in full panic. What had I done? Oh, no, no, no, no. Damn it.

Yes, sir?

Security guard: You might want to keep this inside.

Shriver: Thanks. Have a good day.

I didn't know where to go, where to turn, but I had to get away. I booked a flight and made it with minutes to spare.

Voiceover of airline attendant: At this time, the doors have been closed. Please take your seat and fasten your seatbelts and make sure your seatback and folding trays are in their upright position. We will be departing shortly.

Shriver: I couldn't believe it. I was actually going to pull it off.

Federal agent: Glenn Shriver, please come with us.

Shriver: Look. I made some mistakes, but I didn't really break any major laws.

Federal agent: The courts disagree.

Shriver: OK. I understand legally I conspired, but I didn't give them any secrets, and I don't think I would have even if I got the job.

Federal agent: You might have been a bright young student, Glenn, but you were clueless about the game you were playing. We've had our eye on your for some time. [Camera clicks]

Shriver: [Flashback video clip] I'm not interested in continuing. I'd like to quit. I'm sorry for wasting your time.

Federal agent: He’s cooked.

Second federal agent: [Telephone rings] Command post? This is Special Agent Young. Agent Hardy? He quit, walked out of the poly.

Third federal agent: OK. We're on him. Hey, Joy. Subject is on the move. He’s departed Langley driving east on 123 in his rental car.

Fourth federal agent: Roger that. Target acquired.

Federal agent: And do you think the Chinese would have just let you say no? Don't you think they documented every meeting you had with them? [Camera clicks] If you didn't give them what they wanted willingly, they would have used those recordings to blackmail you. You were just a pawn, one of many.

Excerpts of an interview with the real Glenn Duffie Shriver:

I’ll never be able to work for the U.S. government. Probably a lot of the major businesses will not be interested in hiring me. There are definitely a lot of negative effects associated with being a felon. That’s a stigma I'm going to have to, you know, beat down.

They say everyone has their price, and you know, when you're being told "Hey. you don't have to do anything about it…we just want to be your friend. Here’s $10,000, no big deal.” That’s hard to say no to. Recruitment’s going on. Don't fool yourself. The recruitment is active, and the target is young people. Throw lots of money at them, see what happens.

I don't know what I would have done in this situation if everything had gone the way the Chinese agents foresaw it. If I was placed in that position, yeah, I'm going to tell you "No. I would never do that," and I don't think I would. On the other hand, if I see a video of my 24-year-old self accepting $20,000 and I work for the CIA, and they're like, "Hey, we've got this video…get us these secrets…it’s not really a big deal…It’s just something very small, " I don't know what I would do. You can talk about what you should have done all day long, but really it only matters what you did do.

Espionage is a very big deal, very big deal. You're dealing with people’s lives, and that’s why it’s such a big deal.

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