Big Business / Intelligence

Schweizer, Peter. Friendly Spies: How America's Allies Are Using Economic Espionage to Steal Our Secrets. New York: Atlantic Monthly, 1993. 342 pages.

Initially this book didn't look too hopeful -- it lacked an index and Schweizer, as a policy analyst for the National Forum Foundation, was one of those who once believed that the Soviets were behind most terrorism. Now that U.S. intelligence can no longer use the Soviet threat to justify their bloated budgets, they seem to be desperate for a new raison d'etre. Like a rabbit out of a hat, the Soviet terrorist threat is replaced with the "economic espionage" threat. It seems just a bit too convenient.

But this book turns out to be surprisingly informative and worthwhile. No one even tries to deny that Japan, Germany, France, South Korea, and Israel use their intelligence services to steal secrets from U.S. business, and Schweizer provides numerous examples. Now that economic competition has replaced Cold War politics, it is necessary to be aware and watchful. The question is whether U.S. intelligence should be unleashed against the threat. Some argue that the best defense is a good offense, and there is no such thing as ethics in international business. Others feel that a counter- intelligence role would be sufficient, with new laws that could toss a few foreign business spies in jail now and again. Another question: How do you define the national interest when the corporations targeted by these spies are themselves transnational in both operation and ownership?

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