>> Foreign spies stealing secrets on American campuses, that grim prospect driving new federal rules that would bar some non-American students from working on sensitive US research. Washington correspondent, Julia Edwards.>> There are certain research projects that work on defense secrets, or economic and trade secrets that, if exposed and exported to other countries, could pose a risk to national security in the United States.
The State Department said the universities are a soft spot for espionage. That culture of openness is actually a vulnerable target for spies.>> The rules are aimed at closing that security hole by restricting more research projects from foreign students, particularly those from China and Iran.>> Foreign nationals who are students would have to apply for a license to work on these projects.
China as, we know, has been pegged as a culprit for many cases of cyber espionage, as well as trying to steal US defense secrets in recent years.>> But the plan is sparking outrage at top universities.>> And documents seen by Reuters that have been sent to the state department from universities criticizing this rule, it's apparent that the universities think that the state department is overstepping its boundaries and trying to limit academic freedom in the United States by saying that certain foreign students cannot participate in research.
>> The schools want the best students, who often come from overseas, to work on their most high profile research projects. The number of foreign students on American campuses has grown exponentially in the past few decades to nearly 1 million. There are few known cases of student spies. But in 2008 an engineering professor from the University of Tennessee was convicted of illegally using foreign students from China and Iran in his research on Air Force drones.
He was sentenced to four years in prison.