For years the United States has been worried about becoming a
target of foreign economic and industrial espionage. Sabotage is the act of
using spies to gain information about what a government or a company does or
plans to do.
For the year 2000, in particular, the U.S. business
community said that economic espionage cost them anywhere from $100–250 billion
in lost sales. The greatest losses, they noted, involved manufacturing
processing and R&D (research and development) information. With increasing
competition for limited resources, the business community projected these losses
to intensify in the coming years.
As is the business community, the U.S. government is worried
about three types of espionage—economic, industrial, and proprietary. Economic
espionage involves the covert targeting or gaining of sensitive information
that has financial, trade, or economic policy implications. Industrial
espionage involves the undercover gathering of information about a company to
acquire commercial secrets and thereby gain a competitive edge. Proprietary
information is that generally not found in the public domain and for which the
information’s owner takes special measures to protect it from getting into the
public domain. Often, proprietary information includes R&D plans for a
business or plans for emerging technologies.
An interesting espionage case was reported by the U.S.
government in its 2001 Office of the National Counterintelligence
Executive Report. Two business persons, one a Chinese national who was the
president of a Beijing company and the other a naturalized Canadian, pleaded guilty
to charges of exporting fiber-optic gyroscopes to the Peoples’ Republic of
China (PRC) without the required State Department permits. Exporting these
gyroscopes to the PRC is prohibited by U.S. law. It seems that the two business
persons purchased the gyroscopes from a Massachusetts company. They apparently
planned to export them to the PRC through a Canadian subsidiary of the Beijing
company. The “espionage” concern expressed by the U.S. government was that the
gyroscopes could be used in missile guidance systems and smart bombs.
Counterintelligence Enhancement Act of 2002.
Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive. Annual Report to Congress
on Foreign Economic Collection and Industrial Espionage. [Online, 2001.] http://