One Country's Program

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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 media 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 classified information.

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 Europe and Russia 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 Europe." 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 such company reportedly was established in Moscow by "specialists engaged in technology transfers from Russia on behalf of large Technomian businesses." Another 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 exchange activities."

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 participation.

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.