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February 26 Wednesday

The Scientist and the Spy: The FBI and the US-China Technological Battle, Mara Hvistendahl, Poynter Fellow

  • Wednesday, February 26, 2020 at 12:00PM - 1:30PM
  • SLB Room 121
  • Open To The Yale Community
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Description

In September 2011, sheriff’s deputies in Iowa encountered an ethnic Chinese man named Robert Mo near a field where a farmer was growing corn seed under contract with Monsanto. What began as a simple trespassing inquiry mushroomed into a two-year FBI operation in which investigators bugged Mo's rental cars, used a warrant intended for foreign terrorists and spies, and flew surveillance planes over corn country—all in the name of protecting the trade secrets of corporate giants Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer.

Mara Hvistendahl spent four years researching this unusually far-reaching investigation. Through previously unreleased FBI files and her reporting from across the United States and China, she describes a long history of shoddy counterintelligence on China, much of it tinged with racism, and questions the role that corporate influence plays in trade secrets theft cases brought by the U.S. government. Hvistendahl will discuss the roles that science, espionage, and paranoia play variously play in U.S.-China relations.

Mara Hvistendahl is the author of the book The Scientist and the Spy: A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage. Her writing has been published in The Atlantic, Popular Science, and WIRED. For eight years, she reported from Shanghai, where she was the China bureau chief for Science. Mara’s first book, Unnatural Selection, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. 

 

Sponsoring Organization(s)

ISP, Poynter