Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Foreign Espionage and U.S. Counter-Intelligence Strategy

I've recently been tasked by the Hudson Institute to research US counterintelligence strategy, and I was pretty amazed by how much foreign espionage actually goes on in the US. By order of rank, Chinese intelligence operations are the biggest with Russia coming in second and Cuba, Israel, France coming in behind. The Chinese threat is particularly serious, focusing primarily on technology, science and economics. In a rather comical statement, Joel Brenner, the National Counterintelligence Executive, said Chinese espionage operations are "eating our lunch." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but its got to be bad.

Take formal state espionage threats and combine them with non-state threats from terrorist organizations and you get the 2005 National Counterintelligence Strategy and its recent modification last March. Both documents are designed to complement the 2002 National Security Strategy; identifying a full range of potential enemies, the intelligence operations they may be conducting, how they might be conducted, and how counter-intelligence operations would proceed in disrupting their efforts.

Both documents echo earlier concepts from the National Security Strategy, asserting that traditional methods of hostile ops have changed with the emergence of international terrorism. Thus, the focus of U.S. counterintelligence has changed from targeting formal spies to the “larger population of foreign visitors,” as well as anyone else who may be involved in intelligence collection activities.

The new strategy also notes that the targets of foreign agents have expanded, including “private businesses, scientists, foreign students and trade shows,” which extend beyond the normal range of clandestine missions. As such, the new strategy calls for incorporation into the routine of everyday life. Thus, the strategy includes an economic dimension to counter-intelligence, which“represents a philosophic approach that can bring coherence to many areas of national policy.” However, “to be effective the national counter intelligence strategy requires that essential processes and features be inculcated into government structures and business models.” It assigns particular relevance to protecting social structures "whose importance may be unknown even to those who control them." That odd statement becomes a bit insidious when you find out it refers to academics.

The Washington Times reported in late February that "The FBI and other U.S. counterintelligence agencies are stepping up efforts, including outreach to academics, to counter Chinese intelligence efforts after a string of damaging spy cases over the past five years." Robert Sutter, a former CIA officer and current professor at Georgetown University, refused to cooperate in counterintelligence operations and advised other academics to do the same. A former FBI counter-intelligence analyst noted that academics aren't cooperating as they have in the past, because "Smart people then wonder if they talk to these [FBI] guys they might slice and dice what is said and send it over to the Justice Department for an espionage prosecution... When you're dealing with counterespionage, it will suck you in."

So don't get sucked in ya'll.

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