NSA -- Despite Claiming It Doesn't Engage In Economic Espionage -- Engaged In Economic Espionage

from the oh-look-at-that dept

The NSA has long claimed that it does not engage in "economic espionage." NSA and Defense Department officials have repeatedly insisted that while they do lots of other things, economic espionage is not on the list:
“The Department of Defense does engage” in computer network exploitation, according to an e-mailed statement from an NSA spokesman, whose agency is part of the Defense Department. “The department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”
These claims are made in a strange attempt to suggest that the NSA is somehow "better" than those like the Chinese, who absolutely do engage in economic espionage, looking for corporate secrets and the like. Of course, it's not entirely clear why not engaging in economic espionage is such an important moral argument for the NSA -- but, at the very least, the agency claims it has its limits.

Of course, it's already been pretty clear that this was more hot air than reality from the NSA anyway. Soon after the first Snowden leaks came out, it was suggested that there was evidence of economic espionage against Germany. Later revelations showed what appears to be economic espionage in Brazil. And, on top of that, we wondered why the US Trade Rep is listed as a "customer" of NSA intelligence if it wasn't doing economic espionage. Oh, and let's not even mention that former CIA boss and Defense Secretary Robert Gates has admitted to trying to do economic espionage, but stopping because the US wasn't very good at it.

Anyway, with all that it should be obvious that of course the NSA engages in economic espionage -- but as if to highlight this even more strongly, Wikileaks has now released more documents showing pretty clear economic espionage in the form of snooping on French finance ministers, looking to get information on "French export contracts, trade and budget talks."

As with the initial revelation that the NSA was spying on the French government, by itself, I don't find this too concerning. Governments spying on other governments is kind of how it goes. But it is notable that there's more evidence of economic espionage when the NSA is so insistent that it absolutely never engages in such tactics. It seems likely that the "out" the NSA would claim here is that it doesn't do economic espionage in the form of spying on companies to try to get their secrets. But it does other forms of economic espionage by spying on government officials engaged in trade deals and such... That seems like a distinction without much meaning.



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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 4:19am

    "Why, we'd never!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    me@me.net, 30 Jun 2015 @ 4:26am

    translation: they lied.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 4:44am

    At least we can rest assured that the only thing the NSA actually does not do is to tell the truth to the people.

    I feel so comforted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 5:40am

      Re:

      Funnily enough, you can find the truth by the magnitude of the lies from the NSA.

      I could easily, for example, enter tin-foil hat territory and sya that the NSA is a Cheno-Russian plant to discredit the US on any diplomatic missions.

      And that would still be closer to the truth than the NSA and DHS.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    privatefrazer, 30 Jun 2015 @ 5:01am

    economic interests

    the unused Scottish constitution mentioned 'protecting the economic interests' when it came to spying. A worrying coverall as presumably anti-frackers would fall into that category, as would we all one way or another.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 5:18am

    1) other nations will be more careful with the US
    2) people in the US will continue to believe everything they are told and continue to be surprised when it turns out that they lied and continue to accept it without questions.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 5:21am

    Recent events have shown that they can do whatever they want, lie about it both in public an in court, and get away with it, most probably with even more public funding than they had before. So yeah, why wouldn't they?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 5:58am

      Re:

      The law is flexible if you are good enough at bending the words: NSA does not engage in deliberately acquiring economic sensitive material for distribution to US companies.

      What it does is spying on international political organs, private people outside US and whatever else they acquire through their sloppy mass collection of everything and lackluster reductions. In the "unintentionally acquired data" economically sensitive data will inevitably surface and since a lot of NSAs data are meant to be spread, even though in a small circle of people, at least verbal retelling will spread through their contractors and other connections to US companies.

      Mass collection is the main problem here. In later stages, the economic espionage effect is impossible to protect against...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 5:26am

    Why economic espionage is such an important moral argument for the NSA

    Because spying for filthy lucre is low-class.

    They do it for higher reasons. For...honor.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 5:34am

    Funny how out_of_the_blue is all for espionage - until he thinks Google might have done it. Then he'll demonize it to no end.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    John Thacker, 30 Jun 2015 @ 6:21am

    The usual claim of the NSA is that it does not engage in economic espionage, but that it has a particular definition of economic espionage. Among other things, they say that spying to get evidence of other countries' companies engaging in bribery is not economic espionage. (US law has global reach for US citizens and US companies; certain activities, ranging from child prostitution to environmental restrictions to bribery, are illegal for US persons and US companies to do even in countries where it is legal.)

    Just as what they consider "collect" is not what you might think; intelligence isn't "collected" until it is processed and archived, as they give themselves the right to incidentally pick up US person communications in the process of tapping a wire so long as they discard it as soon as they can determine that. Therefore they say that they don't "collect" on US persons.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 6:32am

    it does not "spy" on companies....

    ... on purpose. It just collects all the data from international lines, and as it happens, there's a lot of data from companies in there.

    And it does not spy on average citizens either, it just happens with all that traffic they collect, there's that data in there.

    But it does not spy on them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      A minor correction..., 30 Jun 2015 @ 10:55am

      Re: it does not "spy" on companies....


      And it does not spy on a̶v̶e̶r̶a̶g̶e̶ ̶c̶i̶t̶i̶z̶e̶n̶s̶ those who agree with every government policy, either.

      There, fixed it for ya.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 10:58pm

        Re: Re: it does not "spy" on companies....

        Ah, but the only way they can ever be sure that they agree is by spying on them, so they spy on everyone.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Groaker (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 6:55am

    The NSA does not engage in economic espionage. The NSA does not spy on foreign leaders. The NSA does not spy on Americans. The NSA does not collect mass data. The NSA doesn't ....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Edward Teach, 30 Jun 2015 @ 7:30am

    How does a corporation get on the distribution list?

    The real issue is which US companies get the "economic intelligence", isn't it? Because that means that someone, US Trade Rep, or Executive Office or NSA is playing favorites with US companies, rather than letting the market decide.

    This is a lot like the revelation of US/UK code breaking during WW2. Knowing that Nazi and Imperial Japanese codes were deciphered makes the Allied Generals and Admirals look a lot less heroic and a lot more human. Knowing that US companies get "economic intelligence" makes the whole "free markets! Free trade!" arguments seem a lot less magical.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MadAsASnake (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 7:47am

    Reminds me of the Iraqi information minister claiming with a straight face that the Americans had been repelled with American tanks pushing in behind him with little resistance. NSA has about the same level of credibility on this issue.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jlaprise (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 8:13am

    The NSA is *gasp* telling the truth

    From all the evidence and history, the NSA does not engage in economic espionage. However, this needs unpacking. In many countries including France, economic intelligence is passed from the government to the private sector for the specific purpose of giving domestic industry an advantage. Known examples of US economic espionage entail the discovery of wrongdoing including bribery and foreign economic espionage. The US government has used this knowledge to counter such activity by threatening to bring legal action or simply make these revelations pubic. There is no evidence that I am aware of where US intelligence services provide intelligence to the private sector for their illegal advantage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      GEMont, 1 Jul 2015 @ 6:07pm

      Re: The NSA is *gasp* telling the truth

      So what you're saying, is that the NSA, unlike say, regular Americans, is innocent until proven guilty.

      All very nice until you realize that the only authority capable of investigating their activities and proving them guilty of economic espionage, is their employer - the United States Federal Government - who would be implicated as well by that same proof of guilt.

      I suspect the USG would claim the fifth amendment allows them to refrain from self incrimination, and thus allows them to refrain from investigating their own or their employees criminal activities, such as spying for economic reasons and this pretty much eliminates any possibility that the USG would then prove their employees were doing economic espionage.

      "There is no evidence that I am aware of where US intelligence services provide intelligence to the private sector for their illegal advantage."

      That statement and a couple of bucks will get you a cup of coffee.

      As long as we have no idea who you are, this claim remains utterly invalid, since without being a very high ranking member of the "company", or the USG itself, you could not possibly be aware of any evidence of "US intelligence services providing intelligence to the private sector for their illegal advantage.", because no such evidence has been made public by the only authority that is capable of doing such investigation and disclosure.

      ---

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 8:31am

    True

    "It seems likely that the "out" the NSA would claim here is that it doesn't do economic espionage in the form of spying on companies to try to get their secrets."

    At least in Germany that seems to be true. They didn't directly go after f.e Siemens but they did tell the german counterpart (BND) to spy on Siemens for them iirc. So technicly they are correct. But because of various treaties made over the past 50ish years Germany can't deny such a request so...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 9:32am

    Dumb Blonde (erm...NSA) Go Here:

    NSA customer: How do you eat an elephant?

    NSA: Well, first you have to collect all the elephants...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Jun 2015 @ 9:55am

    "we don't commit treason" while actively committing treason could apply as well.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 30 Jun 2015 @ 1:11pm

    Lying is what the NSA does.

    In fact, I don't think they ever give truthful information to anyone. They only give less false information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Davif, 1 Jul 2015 @ 1:07pm

    dismantle

    So whats the process to shut the intelligence community down? What a complete waste of money. And what do we have to show for it? It certainly has done wonders for our international relations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 1 Jul 2015 @ 1:23pm

    Dismantle?

    Most of their monster budgets go towards arranging for their next monster budget, whether bribing / extorting representatives or facilitating enhanced revenues. There may be some efforts towards doing work to justified its purpose beyond that.

    So yeah, every dollar they get goes to a massive infrastructural army whose primary purpose is to stop what you are suggesting from happening.

    It's not just a lot of fire, it's a massive conflagration.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Kraut, 24 Apr 2017 @ 10:56pm

    Old article, I know, but wow is it wrong

    This author clearly has no idea what "economic espionage" is, nor do most of the commenters.

    Here's what it's not: spying on trade delegations

    Here's what it is: government spy agencies accessing the systems of private foreign corporations and passing the info they glean to their nation's companies. China does this on a grand scale. The US does not do this at all.

    Facts are fun

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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