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30 Dec, 2023 12:57

How the US and its ‘friends’ keep stealing each other’s secrets

Western spooks targeting Russian industry have long indulged in a spying orgy among themselves
How the US and its ‘friends’ keep stealing each other’s secrets

“There is an active hunt not only for promising research, the data and parameters of our weapons, but also for our specialists who are especially valuable,” Russian Industry and Trade Minister Denis Manturov recently said, referring to Western spies and their efforts to seek information about Russian defense production by targeting industry experts.  

Well, approaching “soft target” experts for info is certainly a better bet for spies than trying to chat up a soldier whose BS-detector is more finely tuned to espionage. And Western spooks know this better than anyone else since they’ve been busy practicing – among themselves. 

Ultimately, all spying is about getting an economic advantage – whether in conflict or war, where the outcome determines the prominence of any future economic foothold, or more directly through theft of economically valuable secrets or the subversion of trade or competition. The current focus on the military conflict between Russia and the Western military alliance via Ukraine obscures the fact that for all the public proclamations of unity and solidarity by Western leaders, they’d all screw each other over economically if given even the slightest chance.

The Ukraine conflict has really underscored the American view of Germany as an economic rival, which once translated into Washington’s systemic criticism of Germany’s Nord Stream economic lifeline of Russian gas (before it was mysteriously blown up). Now, it’s seen in the form of Uncle Sam’s enticing of German companies to US shores with green tax breaks and plentiful energy as limited and pricey replacement American liquified natural gas sold to Europe has sparked German deindustrialization. It was a longtime dream come true for the US, having considered Germany a key competitor on the global stage since the early ’90s. 

In 1995, the Los Angeles Times reported that President Bill Clinton’s administration directed the CIA to “take economic espionage off the back burner,” and that even before Clinton, “it became clear that economic rivalry with industrial superpowers such as Japan and Germany was being viewed by the White House and Congress as a critical national security issue following the collapse of the Soviet Union.” 

By 1999, the European press was reporting the theft of wind turbine blueprints from German company Enercon, to the benefit of an American rival. The US electronic espionage service (the National Security Agency) was blamed for it, and for targeting at least 30 German firms. 

Berlin was apparently so outraged by US spying that its BND foreign spy service actually helped the same NSA industrially spy on German business interests and on its neighbor and fellow US ally, France, for over a decade in the wake of this incident, as the German press reported in 2015. It’s no secret that the Franco-German-led Airbus Group (the known as EADS) is really the only major global rival to Pentagon contractor and commercial jet maker Boeing, yet Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported at the time that Germany helped the US spy on it, too. So when current German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stood beside Biden before the Ukraine conflict and smiled while the latter mused like a mafioso about taking care of the Nord Stream pipeline of cheap Russian gas, it wasn’t the only time that Berlin appeared enthusiastic about bending over for Washington. 

Washington also long considered France to be an industrial powerhouse, particularly under former President Charles de Gaulle, whose official policy of nuclear power development turned the country into a cheap energy powerhouse to rival American industry – and therefore into a target for US industrial spying. The CIA station in Paris was rolled up and expelled in a 1995 French domestic intelligence operation that ended with Paris publicly accusing the US of economic espionage. While the details of that spy operation still remain murky after all these years, it appears to be the same kind of trade-related espionage that the US also practiced during the Clinton administration on another ally, Japan, amid automobile-related trade negotiations, as the Los Angeles Times reported in 1995. 

More recently, acquisitions of French industrial knowledge by US competitors have been the visible tip of the iceberg of Washington’s cut-throat methods of securing industrial advantages – like when France’s nuclear know-how division of Alstom was acquired by Pentagon contractor General Electric, as the heat was turned up on Alstom executives, including the CEO, jailed and charged in the US under American extraterritorial law for alleged corruption in developing countries.  

Of course, what remains unseen is far more egregious. About 100 French companies were targeted by NSA spies, Wikileaks reported in 2015 – “including almost all of the CAC 40” index of the country’s top businesses, according to France’s Liberation newspaper. 

Not that the French have been immune from dabbling in a little ami-on-ami spying. In 1993, two French officials were sent back to Paris after being caught spying on US industry under diplomatic cover. Around the same time, a French intelligence report leaked to the press cited “49 high-technology US companies, 24 financial services companies and US officials handling sensitive trade talks… which are being targeted by spies for their negotiating strategies,” Britain’s Independent reported at the time.  

These days, no one with even two brain cells who attends the Paris Airshow, or the Milipol internal security summit, leaves their computer or phone in their hotel room. Just like back in the days of France’s Concorde supersonic jet, Canadian and American intelligence services warned their executives to treat the plane as though it was bugged to pick up any conversations. 

Not to be forgotten is America’s “best ally,” Israel, cited by the US government in targeting American business people for research and development intelligence as far back as 1992 – and more recently through its military-grade Pegasus spyware and its larger cyber-surveillance industry, whose separation from the state is highly questionable at best and nonexistent at worst. 

Moscow’s public acknowledgement that it’s now actively the target of the West’s orgy of industrial espionage means that it now has the same choice as every cat owner. It can interpret any bite as an act of aggression, or just do what the West does among themselves and chalk it up to a love bite, all while plotting how to step on the offending cat’s tail – with plausible deniability, of course.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.