The FBI and the National Counterintelligence and Security Center collectively released a dramatic short movie to raise awareness of how foreign entities like China target U.S. individuals with security clearances for espionage.
According to an FBI press statement, the film, titled “The Nevernight Connection,” is a fictionalized narrative inspired by the case of former CIA officer Kevin Mallory. The movie focuses on the fictional character, Daniel Landry, a man with knowledge of classified Navy information, who was recruited by the Chinese government to give up that information.
The full 26-minute film, titled “The Nevernight Connection,” was published on the FBI’s website and is available to watch below:
“The FBI and the National Counterintelligence and Security Center seek to raise awareness of this issue and help individuals in the private sector, academic and research communities, and other U.S. government agencies guard against this threat,” the FBI said in a statement accompanying the movie’s release.
The real-life Mallory was convicted in May of 2019 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, after he was convicted under the Espionage Act for conspiracy to transmit national defense information to an agent of the People’s Republic of China.
The FBI, in its accompanying press release, states, “China and other foreign governments are using professional networking social media sites to target people with U.S. government security clearances. Foreign intelligence services may use fake profiles, seemingly benign requests, the promise of lucrative payouts, and other tactics to try to gain non-public and classified information for their benefit.”
In the film, Landry is recruited by over the fictional professional networking and resume hosting site, RavIN. Landry is given an interview for a new job, and the Chinese agent interviewing him uses flattery and promises that he will not have to divulge any classified information with the new job opportunity, in order to lure in Landry.
Landry is later given a phone, preprogrammed with the real-life Chinese-operated WeChat social networking application. Unfamiliar with the app, the Chinese agent attempting to recruit Landry assures him that it is secured from governmental and “matrimonial” surveillance. The movie later reveals Landry used the WeChat application to send documents over to his Chinese contact. WeChat has been the subject of recent security concerns by U.S. officials, and President Donald Trump has recently attempted to enforce a ban on the application.
While on a business trip in China, Landry learns about another U.S. individual, identified by the last name Walters, who was charged with spying for China. As Landry attempts to learn more about the other individual charged with spying, Chinese censors repeatedly block tv signals to news stations reporting on Walters’ case. Landry visits an internet cafe to research Walters, but he is only able to research using the real-life Chinese Google alternative, Baidu, which blocks out U.S. news outlets and only allows him to find pro-Chinese government information, which portrays the charges against Walters as a “baseless accusation.”
The movie ultimately ends with Landry being discovered for his actions and arrested. The movie ends with a video of the actual arrest of Mallory, along with the caption, “Former CIA officer Kevin Mallory was sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiring to transmit national defense information to the People’s Republic of China. Mallory was first approached by Chinese intelligence officers using a fake profile on a social media platform.”
The FBI, in it’s accompanying statement, warns about suspicious, exclusive and scarce job offerings, flattery, urgent requests to move from one networking platform to another.
The FBI also says people should protect themselves against recruitment attempts by reviewing their social media and networking site account settings, only forming contact lines and networking connections with people they actually know, notifying applicable security officers about contacts by suspicious companies or individuals.