This from the FBI's October "Threats" newsletter:
(U) New Spy Game: Firms’ Secrets Sold Overseas by Their Own Employees (The New York Times,
17 OCT 2010)
(U) For five years, Mr. Huang was a scientist at a Dow Chemical lab in Indiana, studying ways to improve insecticides. But before he was fired in 2008, Mr. Huang began sharing Dow’s secrets with Chinese researchers, authorities say, then obtained grants from a state-run foundation in China with the goal of starting a rival business there. Now, Mr. Huang, who was born in China and is a legal United States resident, faces a rare criminal charge, that he engaged in economic espionage on China’s behalf.
Law enforcement officials say the kind of spying Mr. Huang is accused of represents a new front in the battle for a global economic edge. As China and other countries broaden their efforts to obtain Western technology, American industries beyond the traditional military and high-tech targets risk having valuable secrets exposed by their own employees, court records show.
(U) Rather than relying on dead drops and secret directions from government handlers, the new trade in business secrets seems much more opportunistic, federal prosecutors say, and occurs in loose, underground markets throughout the world. Prosecutors say it is difficult to prove links to a foreign government, but intelligence officials say China, Russia and Iran are among the countries pushing hardest to obtain the latest technologies. “In the new global economy, our businesses are increasingly targets for
theft,” said Lanny A. Breuer, the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division. “In order to stay a leader in innovation, we’ve got to protect these trade secrets.”
(U) Mr. Huang, 45, who says he is not guilty, is being prosecuted under an economic espionage provision in use for only the seventh time. Created by Congress in 1996 to address a shift toward industrial spying after the Cold War, the law makes it a crime to steal business trade secrets, like software code and laboratory breakthroughs. The crime rises to espionage if the thefts are carried out to help a foreign government. Economic espionage charges are also pending against Jin Hanjuan, a software engineer for Motorola, who was arrested with a laptop full of company documents while boarding a plane for China, prosecutors said. Over the last year, other charges involving the theft of trade secrets, a charge less serious
than espionage, have been filed against former engineers from General Motors and Ford who had
business ties to China. And scientists at the DuPont Company and Valspar, a Minnesota paint company, recently pleaded guilty to stealing their employer’s secrets after taking jobs in China.
(U) In two past espionage cases involving American computer companies, defendants said they saw a chance to make money and acted on their own, knowing that the information would be valuable to Chinese companies or agencies. In several cases, Chinese government agencies or scientific institutes provided money to start businesses or research to develop the ideas; that financing is what gave rise to the espionage charges. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, appointed by Congress to study the national security issues arising from America’s economic relationship with China, said in a report last year that even in instances without direct involvement by Chinese officials, China’s government “has been a major beneficiary of technology acquired through industrial espionage.”
(U) China has denied that its intelligence services go after American industries. China’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the subject, but spokesmen for the Chinese foundation and the university that worked with Mr. Huang said they were not aware of any espionage. “If it’s true, we will start our own investigation into it,” said Chen Yue, a spokesman for the Natural Science Foundation of China, which gave Mr. Huang grants to conduct research there.American officials and corporate trade groups say they
fear economic spying will increase as China’s quest for Western know-how spreads from military systems to everyday commercial technologies.