Former CIA Director And Defense Secretary Says CIA Tried, But Failed, To Do Economic Espionage

from the this-doesn't-make-the-us-look-any-better dept

US intelligence officials still seem to think that there's some big distinction between the kind of intelligence work the US does versus the kind that other countries do. US officials time and time again claim that they don't do "economic espionage" -- even though it's pretty clear that they do it, just through indirect means (i.e., while they don't hand trade secrets over to companies, they're certainly using economic information to impact policy and trade discussions).

Former Defense Secretary and CIA boss Robert Gates continued this sort of tone deaf line of thinking from US intelligence defenders by claiming that French intelligence downloads the contents of laptops from businessmen visiting Paris:
"There are probably a dozen or 15 countries that steal our technology in this way,” Gates said in an interview the Council on Foreign Relations posted online Thursday. “In terms of the most capable, next to the Chinese, are the French — and they’ve been doing it a long time.”

Gates, who was also director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the first Bush administration, said that when he talks to business audiences, he asks, “How many of you go to Paris on business?’ Hands go up. ‘How many of you take your laptops?’ Hands go up. ‘How many of you take your laptops to dinner?’ Not very many hands.”

“For years,” Gates said, “French intelligence services have been breaking into the hotel rooms of American businessmen and surreptitiously downloading their laptops, if they felt those laptops had technological information or competitive information that would be useful for French companies. France has been a mercantilist country — the government and business have operated hand in hand — since the time of Louis XIV.”
Throwing everyone else under the bus does nothing to make the US and the NSA's activities any better, and it's bizarre that intelligence officials seem to think they have the moral upper hand here. Almost no one sees it that way. They just look petty.

Even more bizarre: for all of Gates' talk about how the US doesn't do economic espionage... he then basically admits that he tried to do exactly that and failed:
But despite his attempt to work with, in his words, five or six commerce secretaries, “I never could get one of them interested in being the facilitator of getting that kind of CIA information to American companies. So this is something we don’t do."
Uh... he says "this is something we don't do" while admitting that he tried to do exactly that. He was just stymied by whoever was Commerce Secretary. If a more... permissive Commerce Secretary were in the job, it would be a very different story, now wouldn't it? In fact, this is a pretty major admission. For all the talk of "we don't do that," what Gates really means is "we tried to do economic espionage, and we would do economic espionage, if we could."

Suddenly, the moral high road doesn't look so high.
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Filed Under: cia, economic espionage, france, nsa, surveillance, us


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2014 @ 8:32pm

    Re:

    Perhaps a "No way man, I invest in foreign stocks too!" thing. Upside of globalism I suppose.

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