17 March 2000. Thanks to DB.
We look forward to seeing and hearing James Woolsey and Duncan Campbell openly debate this controversy, in Congressional hearings, on global TV, the Internet, MilNet and IntelNet -- and all the Echelon surveillance stations based in countries of those who "can't compete with the US."
See transcript of Woolsey's March 7 remarks on economic espionage to the Foreign Press Center: http://cryptome.org/echelon-cia.htm
The Wall Street Journal, March 17, 2000
By R. James Woolsey, a Washington lawyer and a former Director of Central Intelligence.
What is the recent flap regarding Echelon and U.S. spying on European industries all about? We'll begin with some candor from the American side. Yes, my continental European friends, we have spied on you. And it's true that we use computers to sort through data by using keywords. Have you stopped to ask yourselves what we're looking for?
The European Parliament's recent report on Echelon, written by British journalist Duncan Campbell, has sparked angry accusations from continental Europe that U.S. intelligence is stealing advanced technology from European companies so that we can -- get this -- give it to American companies and help them compete. My European friends, get real. True, in a handful of areas European technology surpasses American, but, to say this as gently as I can, the number of such areas is very, very, very small. Most European technology just isn't worth our stealing.
Why, then, have we spied on you? The answer is quite apparent from the Campbell report -- in the discussion of the only two cases in which European companies have allegedly been targets of American secret intelligence collection. Of Thomson-CSF, the report says: "The company was alleged to have bribed members of the Brazilian government selection panel." Of Airbus, it says that we found that "Airbus agents were offering bribes to a Saudi official." These facts are inevitably left out of European press reports.
That's right, my continental friends, we have spied on you because you bribe. Your companies' products are often more costly, less technically advanced or both, than your American competitors'. As a result you bribe a lot. So complicit are your governments that in several European countries bribes still are tax-deductible.
When we have caught you at it, you might be interested, we haven't said a word to the U.S. companies in the competition. Instead we go to the government you're bribing and tell its officials that we don't take kindly to such corruption. They often respond by giving the most meritorious bid (sometimes American, sometimes not) all or part of the contract. This upsets you, and sometimes creates recriminations between your bribers and the other country's bribees, and this occasionally becomes a public scandal. We love it.
Why do you bribe? It's not because your companies are inherently more corrupt. Nor is it because you are inherently less talented at technology. It is because your economic patron saint is still Jean Baptiste Colbert, whereas ours is Adam Smith. In spite of a few recent reforms, your governments largely still dominate your economies, so you have much greater difficulty than we in innovating, encouraging labor mobility, reducing costs, attracting capital to fast-moving young businesses and adapting quickly to changing economic circumstances. You'd rather not go through the hassle of moving toward less dirigisme. It's so much easier to keep paying bribes.
The Central Intelligence Agency collects other economic intelligence, but the vast majority of it is not stolen secrets. The Aspin-Brown Commission four years ago found that about 95% of U.S. economic intelligence comes from open sources.
The Campbell report describes a sinister-sounding U.S. meeting in Washington where -- shudder! -- CIA personnel are present and the participants -- brace yourself -- "identify major contracts open for bid" in Indonesia. Mr. Campbell, I suppose, imagines something like this: A crafty CIA spy steals stealthily out of a safe house, changes disguises, checks to make sure he's not under surveillance, coordinates with a spy satellite and . . . buys an Indonesian newspaper. If you Europeans really think we go to such absurd lengths to obtain publicly available information, why don't you just laugh at us instead of getting in high dudgeon?
What are the economic secrets, in addition to bribery attempts, that we have conducted espionage to obtain? One example is some companies' efforts to conceal the transfer of dual-use technology. We follow sales of supercomputers and certain chemicals closely, because they can be used not only for commercial purposes but for the production of weapons of mass destruction. Another is economic activity in countries subject to sanctions -- Serbian banking, Iraqi oil smuggling.
But do we collect or even sort secret intelligence for the benefit of specific American companies? Even Mr. Campbell admits that we don't, although he can't bring himself to say so except with a double negative: "In general this is not incorrect." The Aspin-Brown Commission was more explicit: "U.S. Intelligence Agencies are not tasked to engage in 'industrial espionage' -- i.e. obtaining trade secrets for the benefit of a U.S. company or companies."
The French government is forming a commission to look into all this. I hope the commissioners come to Washington. We should organize two seminars for them. One would cover our Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and how we use it, quite effectively, to discourage U.S. companies from bribing foreign governments. A second would cover why Adam Smith is a better guide than Colbert for 21st-century economies. Then we could move on to industrial espionage, and our visitors could explain, if they can keep straight faces, that they don't engage in it. Will the next commission pursue the issue of rude American maitre d's?
Get serious, Europeans. Stop blaming us and reform your own statist economic policies. Then your companies can become more efficient and innovative, and they won't need to resort to bribery to compete.
And then we won't need to spy on you.