One Country's Program
to length of topic, print
out for easier reading. Click
on PRINT in browser toolbar.
One Country's Program
To Obtain U.S. S&T Secrets
This is an account of how a country we call Technomia organizes and
manages a large program to obtain scientific and technological secrets from
the United States and other advanced countries. Technomia is a fictitious
name for a real country that is a friend and ally of the United States, not
an adversary. As
is true with many allies, however, its high-tech industries do compete with
the United States and others in the global marketplace.
The country name is changed
here in order to avoid an inappropriate focus of attention on this single
country. Technomia's systematic
program to acquire U.S. science and technology by illegal as well as legal
means differs little from what is being done by a group of other
countries, both allies and potential adversaries, that are also pushing the
development of high technology as a national goal. Almost 100 countries are
known to engage in some type of intelligence collection against U.S.
technology. U.S. programs to protect new technology that is critical to U.S.
military superiority and economic strength need to focus on the problem as a
whole, not just the actions of any single country.
The information here is
based on a collection of 44 newspaper articles that appeared in the Technomian media during the period 1994-2001. This
account is an abridged version, with country name deleted, of unclassified reports
published by the National Counterintelligence Center and its successor, the
Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive. The intended
audience for the articles in the Technomia was obviously the citizens of Technomia, not
U.S. intelligence and security agencies. However, we have also learned from
these articles, and there are lessons here for all individuals who are
responsible for protecting U.S. proprietary, export-controlled, and
In the mid-1990s, Technomian media began reporting
that, over the previous two years, the Technomia Government and Technomian companies
have been engaging in systematic efforts to obtain foreign proprietary technology
through "indirect methods." Faced with a decline in the competitiveness of its
products, the high cost of buying foreign technology, and the difficulty of
developing new technology through its own resources, Technomia contrived a number of alternative methods for obtaining access to the technological secrets of
more advanced countries.
According to Technomian press reports, these techniques ranged from
the use of academic exchange programs to the use of the country's
intelligence service for industrial espionage. Several of these programs for
acquiring U.S. technology reportedly targeted U.S. citizens through
databases of information on former Technomian citizens now living in the United States. Many such
initiatives reportedly were designed and managed by the Technomia Government
itself. The press reports described a number of Technomia's methods for obtaining foreign
technology, particularly from U.S. companies.
Despite its efforts, Technomia continued to suffer economic difficulties during the mid-1990s. As
part of its uphill struggle to break out of its economic doldrums, Technomia
increased its efforts to obtain foreign proprietary technology, according to
Technomia media reports. Mechanisms through which enhanced collection activity
was reported included "joint research," recruitment of foreign nationals,
outposts located in high-tech regions abroad, expatriate scientists, and the
National Intelligence Service's apparatus. In addition, the Technomian
Government reportedly formed a new committee to systematize foreign
technology collection and expand the number of overseas collectors.
According to the press reports, the most-wanted technologies sought from the United States by Technomian
companies and government research institutes were aerospace, automobiles,
bioengineering, computers, communications, electronics, environmental,
machinery and metals, medical equipment, nuclear power, and semiconductors.
Technomia's national laboratories were tasked by the government to "help
domestic industry overcome the economic crisis" by rendering "practical"
support for new product development and by "internationalizing their
research activities." Examples of the latter included the Technomia
Institute of Science and Technology (part of the Ministry of Science and
Technology) program to "conduct personnel exchanges, information
interchange, and joint research with 57 institutions in 19 countries." The Technomian Institute of Machinery and Metals (another affiliate
of the Ministry of Science and Technology)
planned to set up joint R&D centers at Stanford University and MIT to
"acquire leading future technologies." Technomia also sought to expand these "cooperative exchanges" across a wide
range of "state-of-the-art technologies."
Other countries also were increasingly targeted as sources of new
technology. Technomian science officers stationed at 10 Technomia
Government-funded research centers in other countries met to discuss ways
to boost their research activity, described by one officer as the
"systematic gathering of information on [host country] research institutes,
technologies, and personnel."
Direct exploitation of overseas scientists by Technomia Government
institutions was being stepped up by expanding the "brain pool" project
according to an Internet posting by the Technomia-American Scientists and
Engineers Association. Administered by the Ministry of Science and
Technology and executed by the General Federation of Technomian Science and
Technology Organizations through its chapters in eight foreign countries, the
brain pool project offers salaries and expenses to
"outstanding scientists and engineers from overseas" to share their
knowledge in "all fields of science and technology" with their counterparts
at Technomia national and corporate laboratories. In previous years, the
notices capped the number of positions to a few dozen, whereas in 1998, the
solicitation appeared to be open-ended.
Technomia companies likewise were increasingly eager to tap the expertise
of foreign scientists. Subsidiaries of
the country's major corporations "launched aggressive 'head hunting' operations" overseas aimed at scientists and
engineers in electronics and information science. Several companies reportedly held briefing sessions and recruitment exhibitions "at major
universities and research institutes in the United States and other
One company, in particular, was "securing competent
employees overseas by using Technomian students studying abroad on company
scholarships, its overseas branches, and its own research institutes
established in the United States as an information network. The overseas
recruitment of scientific talent was being pursued by the large corporations
and focused not only on established scientists but also on new graduates of
prestigious U.S. technical universities.
Besides these company-led efforts, Technomians were establishing
independent "consulting firms" overseas whose function is to "scout out
technical manpower for Technomian companies" and broker the transfer
of "core technologies" to Technomia producers. One Technomian consulting firm opened offices in Los Angeles to "recruit
high-tech personnel in data communications." A personnel officer from a Technomia
company stated that fees of $100,000 are not considered excessive for the
services of a top foreign scientist and speculated that "hiring advanced
specialists from foreign countries" would increase.
In the United States, Silicon Valley is a favorite venue for informal
technology transfers through Technomia Government-backed outposts for
marketing and "information exchange." According to a Ministry of Information
and Communications press release of 17 November 1997, Technomia was
funding the creation of "incubators" in Silicon Valley designed both to
promote the sale of Technomia software products and conduct "technology
The Technomia telecommunications company was to create a capital fund
with Technomia communications equipment manufacturers to support Silicon
Valley-based American venture enterprises in advanced data communications.
The Technomia Advanced Institute of Science and Technology funded the establishment of a semiconductor
equipment-manufacturing firm in Silicon Valley, which is run by expatriate Technomians. The firm reportedly is designed to allow Technomia
graduate students "to acquire technology at the same time they earn dollars"
by performing research with world-class engineers.
Coordinating S&T collection efforts and integrating collection targets
with the needs of Technomia manufacturers -- long a bottleneck in Technomia's informal technology transfer programs -- entered a new
dimension as a result of programs undertaken by the Ministry of
Science and Technology's Science and Technology Policy Institute. According to a report released by
this institute on 9 December 1998, and cited by the Technomian press, the separate
collection programs run by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and
Industry, National Defense, and Science are to be brought together under a
"Science and Technology Foreign Cooperation Committee" meant to systematize
collection strategy, integrate local operations, and avoid duplication of
effort. The committee reportedly would be divided into groups of specialists
by geographical region who would interact with a council composed of
working-level personnel from organizations such as the Technomia Trade
Promotion Agency and the Science and Technology Policy Institute on the one hand, and national labs,
universities, and Technomia companies on the other.
Reportedly formed to counter the "increasing reluctance of advanced
countries to transfer their science and technology," the program entails
establishing local "Technomia Centers" to collect foreign S&T
information and to set up overseas branches of government bodies, national
labs, and companies "to provide information on foreign S&T." Moreover, to
"strengthen overseas S&T collection" and build an information system that
would link Technomia organizations to overseas sources of technology,
the Science and Technology Policy Institute
was to create an "Overseas Science and Technology Information Center" that
integrates the S&T information collected by "overseas associations
of Technomian scientists
and engineers, Technomian diplomatic and consular offices in
foreign countries, large Technomian trading companies, and the overseas
offices of national labs."
The Technomian-U.S. Science Cooperation Center, a Technomia Government-funded S&T collection facility and host to the
Technomian-American Science and Engineers Association, is
now well established. Items posted on its Internet Web site included an invitation for proposals to create new programs designed to
promote S&T cooperation and to help "Technomian and American scientists
develop and maintain permanent S&T networks."
The Technomian Government is continuing its efforts to recruit ethnic
Technomian scientists abroad to support state and corporate-defined research
programs, as evidenced by a Science Ministry posting that called for a
transnational "brain pool." The pragmatic nature of these efforts was
brought out in the posting, which emphasized the importance of making
concrete contributions to the country's S&T agenda.
According to a notice posted in April 2001 on the Technomian Science
Ministry's Web site, the ministry, in conjunction with liaison
organizations, renewed its sponsorship of the "brain pool" project to recruit
foreign technical specialists willing to share their accumulated expertise
with Technomia. The notice read in part:
The General Federation of Technomian S&T Organizations, in accordance
with the government's (Ministry of Science and Technology) plan to recruit
and make use of high-level overseas scientists (brain pool), is seeking
world-class superior overseas scientists and engineers willing to contribute
to raising our country's international competitiveness for on-site work at
colleges, companies, and Technomian R&D facilities. We hope for your wide
The notice invited overseas scientists with recognized skills in areas
"targeted for national strategic development" to apply. Some 30 different
fields were listed, ranging from basic science to applied technology.
Employment reportedly involved working with an existing R&D team or one
formed around the scientist's area of expertise. Lecturing at seminars and
before "scholarly associations" is also an option. Appointments ranged from
three months to two years.
The ministry advised that applicants should be "overseas Technomian
or foreign scientists and engineers" with more than five years postdoctoral
experience in a foreign country. However, exceptions would be made for those
who demonstrated outstanding research ability or who "possess know-how."
Periodic reporting in the Technomia media on the
development of these programs has continued at least through 2003.