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The Industrial Spy Game: FSB as Russian Economic Developer



Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian Federation (RF) has sought to reclaim its former glory and regain recognition as a great power.

Throughout this progression the national science base to the RF’s economic development is of high importance. This has been demonstrated through policy documents like the RF’s National Security Strategy from 2009. The focus of this analysis is to examine the role of RF intelligence-gathering activities for the purpose of domestic modernization.

The National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation up to 2020 identified five key high-technology sectors: energy, information technology (IT), telecommunications, biomedicine and nuclear technology (RF, 2009). Nanotechnology was also highlighted as an important investment and growth area. In 2010, the RF announced plans that scientific and technological centers would focus on the development and domestic commercialization of modern technologies, motivated in part by the success of America’s Silicon Valley (Medvedev, 2010). There are many ways a nation can bolster a science and technology (S&T) foundation, not just through domestic industry, and each nation tends to use multiple options. A critical way that is not often discussed in mainstream media sources is to procure foreign knowledge and equipment through espionage activities. Russia engages this path aggressively with the likes of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

There is little doubt that the FSB has been active in S&T intelligence collection, concentrating on foreign nations for domestic modernization and improving Russia’s competitiveness in the global economy. The modern era of intelligence-collection capabilities sees the American intelligence community as dominant. Before the modern era (pre-2001), the RF operated one of the world’s largest S&T information-gathering apparatus, which worked almost as a substitute for legitimate industrial domestic research & development (Almquist, 1990). For the RF, intelligence support to the scientific community and its own domestic industrial complex was the standard, not the exception, and in 2010 Russia confirmed that it made no secret of its motivations to gather S&T intelligence for the benefit of its national security interests defined broadly.

The RF intelligence complex, including the FSB, has been obliged by federal law “to assist the country’s economic development and its scientific and technical progress and to ensure the military-technical security of the Russian Federation.” This activity is in line with Article 8 of the Federal Law on the FSB. The collection of S&T intelligence and “industrial espionage practices established a template for Soviet and later Russian [FSB] intelligence gathering that remains in use to this day; as long as U.S. technology maintains its preeminent global position, such espionage will likely continue” (Sibley, 2004). This was validated in 2010 by the American ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence), which stated that the RF “continues to strengthen its intelligence capabilities and directs them against US interests worldwide. Moscow’s intelligence effort includes espionage, technology acquisition and covert action efforts.” (Blair, 2010) Jonathan Evans, the head of the domestic British Security Service (MI5), noted in 2007 that “the scope of the Russian intelligence gathering was equal to the Soviet effort during the Cold War… [and] that Russian intelligence services were particularly interested in British science and technology. (Brogan, 2007)

The RF, and specifically the FSB, has extensively leveraged operational cover from diplomatic missions abroad and the posting of illegal agents in their target countries to approach foreign researchers and entrepreneurs. They would often establish a career in one or several third countries, allowing agents to use academic research institutions or commercial companies as platforms for espionage activities (Kouzminov, 2006). But it has also been observed that the triumphs of human intelligence (HUMINT) operations during the former Soviet era are unlikely to be achieved in the present day RF. In the modern era the primary method for collecting S&T intelligence is through cyber espionage. In 2008, the US noted that more than 1 trillion USD worth of data was lost to cyber espionage (Ackerman, 2009). This fact is further confirmed with the knowledge that the RF is developing advanced offensive cyber capabilities (McAfee, 2009). In addition to cyber espionage, scientific and technological intelligence can be exploited through signals intelligence. This is another area where the RF intelligence services have leveraged the previous Soviet foundation with modern advancements in current technologies.

In conclusion, while the FSB has advanced significantly in S&T intelligence collection since the former Soviet period, “the FSB’s increased influence may prove to be counter-productive in terms of economic modernization and industrial restructuring. Despite its self-confidence, the FSB is scarcely prepared to manage all the industrial complexes with international standing.” (Gomart, 2008) This last point is crucial, as it implies that the gains made covertly through the intelligence community could in fact have an unintended detrimental effect on economic progress and industrial modernization happening more organically with native companies across Russia. This is not the desire effect, of course, but a consequence of the classical dilemma in modern market economies that try to figure out how much governmental intervention is positive before it hits a tipping point and becomes a net negative impact on development. This is not even considering the likely more severe stress this reliance on covert activity has on the entrepreneurial spirit and risk taking that is crucial for any developing economy in the 21st century. The Russian Federation operates no differently than the US intelligence community agencies in that it pursues its own national security interests and aims to improve its domestic standing on the global stage. The issue it should consider, however, is whether or not some old school spy thinking might be a less effective long-term strategy, even if it does produce more immediate results.



Russian Federation (RF). (2009). National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation up to 2020. Russian Security Council. Presidential Decree No. 537.

Medvedev, Dmitry. (2010). Dmitry Medvedev met with winners of international school and student Olympics and university students who hold presidential scholarships. The Kremlin, Moscow.

Almquist, Peter. (1990). Red Forge: Soviet Military Industry Since 1965. New York. Columbia University Press.

Russian Federation (RF). (1995). Federal Law on Foreign Intelligence. No. 5-F, Article 5.

Sibley, K. (2004). Red Spies in America: Stolen Secrets and the Dawn of the Cold War. University Press of Kansas.

Blair, D. (2010). US Director of National Intelligence Annual Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community for the Senate select Committee on Intelligence. Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Washington, D.C.

Brogan, B. (2007). Soaring Number of Russian and Chinese Spies Diverting MI5 Attention from Terror Fight. Daily Mail.

Kouzminov, A. (2006). Biological Espionage: Special Operations of the Soviet and Russian Foreign Intelligence Services in the West. Greenhill Military Paperbacks.

Usdin, S. (2009). The Rosenberg Ring Revealed: Industrial-Scale Conventional and Nuclear Espionage. Journal of Cold War Studies. MIT Press.

Ackerman, R. (2009). Threats Imperil The Entire U.S. Infostructure. SIGNAL: AFCEA.

McAfee. (2009). Virtual Criminology Report 2009. McAfee, Inc.

Gomart, T. (2008). Russian Civil-Military Relations: Putin’s Legacy. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Washington D.C.

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Transnational Crimes in the Maritime Realm

Zaeem Hassan Mehmood



Maritime trafficking routes closely follow the commercial shipping lanes. The modalities, technologies and strategies put into place by criminals are often times more sophisticated in caliber than those used in regulated trade. The vast expanses of the sea, the complexity of the maritime transportation system, the immense volume of cargo transferred at each port, and the limited capacity for inspections of cargo creates opportunity for criminals. Seaborne trade in the maritime realm follows a defined set of “sea lines of communication” based on currents and weather. Because of the robustness of shipping and mass amounts of cargo moved, traffickers utilize the same shipping industry routes with great effect. Shipping and sea lanes tend to offer anonymity for criminals, whereas their activities can be hidden behind legitimate industries. Criminal activity, especially illicit trade in narcotics, humans, and weapons, has become so extensive that it is difficult according to various studies to rule out implications of states and corporations in the criminal enterprise.

Individuals from various nationalities, followed by multiple vessels flagged to different states, adds the UN Drug Trade Report 2019, are used in the networks which transit the waters of various states and call at different ports before reaching their final destination. Despite the abundance of laws designed to combat illicit trafficking and an apparent impetus to stop specific types of crime, government’s remains only marginally successful in preventing the global flow of illegal goods due to the overwhelming volume and complexity of the markets for illicit trade. Working in tandem, the maritime forces nevertheless have made successful efforts to disrupt the illicit supply chains as a result of sea-based security operations; cooperation and collaboration between law enforcement organizations.

Nevertheless, legal complexity arises as the high seas “fall outside the jurisdiction of any single state” under the United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The ocean space is to be collectively policed by all states governed by principles of Freedom of navigation. Piracy and the illicit trafficking of narcotics, humans, and weapons comprise the main varieties of transnational crime. UNCLOS addresses these matter of concern in the realm of the sea, where various articles provide guidance in order to curb or limit the threats. Article 110 expounds the customary rule that warships may “approach and visit” on the high seas “any ship that is suspected of piracy, human trafficking, unauthorized broadcasting; and is without nationality”; or, “is flying a foreign flag or refusing to show its flag.” Article 111 addresses the right of “hot pursuit”, allowing warships of one state to follow a vessel through the different maritime zones of the ship if based on “reasonable grounds,” it is suspected of illegal activity.

Narcotics Trafficking

UNCLOS under Article 108 empowers states to cooperate and offer assistance to suppress drug trafficking by other state-flagged vessels. Traditionally, drug traffickers used overland routes, but since last two decades, they have shifted transportation into the “Indo-Pacific Ocean”. The majority of this trafficking has proliferated in the littoral regions, and often within territorial waters. In the latter years, advancement in technologies, providing for larger ships have allowed traffickers to move further into the sea to capitalize “blue water” areas, outside the 12-nautical mile mark and at times further than the 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of any country. It is a documented fact that U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of illegal drugs, also according to various studies the source and transit zones of drug trafficking between South America and the U.S despite high patrols on the border.

Piracy and Armed Robbery at Sea

Piracy has been one of the most ancient forms of maritime crime that is treated rigorously under the provisions of UNCLOS. Article 101 defines piracy as “any illegal act of violence or detention, any act of depredation, committed for private ends by the crew or passengers of a private ship or private aircraft on the high seas against another ship or aircraft, outside the jurisdiction of any state.” The latter parts highlights an important aspect that piracy is a type of transnational crime conducted by non-state actors in international waters. Article 105 of UNCLOS grants everystate the authority to seize any vessel, associated property and to arrest any persons engaged in piracy. Domestic courts of the state conducting the seizure have the mandate prosecute the pirates under domestic law and determine what to do with the vessels; however, to date the courts remain inadequate or unsupported in many places.

Piracy became a security issue of international concern since the last decade and half, primarily in the Horn of Africa, Gulf of Aden, and the Red Sea largely due to weak patrolling and sea blindness by the littoral states of the region. However, to an extent order at sea has been maintained with the presence Combined Task Force-151(CTF-151), focused on counter-piracy, and Combined Task Force-150 (CTF-150) to combat illicit activities at sea. Supported by several U.N. Security Council Resolutions, these task forces have “engaged with regional partners to build capacity and improve capabilities to protect global maritime commerce and secure freedom of navigation.” 

Piracy in the Asia-Pacific remains a matter of concern, however most of the incidents are underreported and those reported are of such small scale that they cloud the assessment of major piracy events. In the region, although piracy has been contained in the eastern region of Africa whereas it has proliferated in the western Africa around the Gulf of Guinea. This subject-matter experts conclude is a result of an increased trafficking in narcotics from Latin America, along with the various other illicit elements involving illegal fishing and human trafficking. The increased in piracy is a reminder for states that piracy remains a persistent and widespread challenge to maritime security. The recent activities in Somalia and Yemen foreshadow a resurgence of piracy in the region, encouraged by trafficking of light weapons and small arms, along with non-state actor’s unprecedented access to ship monitoring, tracking devices, and use of unmanned systems and long range communications.


United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) identifies only certain types of transnational crime that affect maritime security, but there are many varieties and combinations of criminal activity that affect security and safety from the high seas to internal waters. Domestic laws however need be brought in line with international law, and cooperative partnerships between the states, law enforcement, and militaries to combat illicit activity needs to transcend the morass of politics that are often a hurdle in the way of more comprehensive legal regimes. It is recommended that information and intelligence sharing, along with TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) need to be employed by the maritime forces to ensure freedom of the seas. UNCLOS provides a strong framework and multilateral efforts to deter criminal activity at sea for a more secure, safer operating environment for all. However, it is the difficulty in effective prosecution and applying of an equitable punishment to the culprits, involved in piracy, human trafficking and illicit drugs that must serve as a reminder to all states that much awaits for an all-inclusive solution.

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Fighting Corporate Espionage by a Counterintelligence Agent

Bob Budahl



Corporate executives must bear the responsibility of today’s evolving corporate world entering into a global community where not only are the exposures to such a wide market area lucrative to an already thriving business, but also to a grave danger of the companies’ trade and technology secrets, systems, financial accounts and much more. No longer is “Security” to the facility and personnel all that is required. Many foreign countries and interests take short cuts to becoming competitive through the theft of trade secrets, products and overt and covert espionage of all sorts. Some of these entities are now facing a growing challenge from United States corporations with safeguarding of commercial information, proprietary information, and economic factors.

Many of the tactics utilized in private sector counterintelligence have much in common with the secrets and information the government does its best to safeguard from theft of foreign governments or non-traditional actor threats. The FBI estimates U.S. Corporations lose over $100 billion annually. There are open and legal methods of collection open that are harmful and a good counterintelligence program should target this as well as illegal activities such as electronic eavesdropping, hacking, etc. Passive counterintelligence tries to curtail what a collector may do through countermeasures, and awareness training. Active counterintelligence will prove beneficial to identify and detect a threat, and will conduct operations including eliminating threats or ongoing targeting. A mitigation policy should be of avail. After an attack it may raise shareholder concern which needs to be quelled quickly. Quick realization of a threat and implementing action promptly and efficiently can stop immeasurable damage.

The leaders in the private sector need to be proactive and realize that it is no longer only local threats they face. The threats can be global and may not only be an economic threat but also a threat to national security. In the U.S. private sector ties to the Defense, Intelligence and other government entities can be vast with a great deal of interplay and interconnectedness. Also, corporations do not employ many of the safeguards put in place by the defense and other government departments. Compartmentation, clearance, and many operations taken for granted in the government aren’t serving the corporate structures well-being at all or as well as it should be. The Economic Espionage Act of 1996, Title 18, Sections 1831 and 1832 of the U.S. Code covers economic espionage and also if they are considered trade theft prosecutions.

Where once economic espionage meant directly infiltrating a company or recruiting an employee within the corporation our biggest challenge today is cyber espionage. In reality secrets and information are stolen often and not even known they were taken. And a much less chance of apprehension. Cybercrimes operate in a stealth mode in many ways, but in a contrast way can be identified and detected and countered with effective counterintelligence methods. The U.S. economy has changed over the past 20 years. “Intellectual capital rather than physical assets now represent the bulk of a U.S. corporation’s value.”

With the growth of cybercrimes including corporate espionage some tips for safeguarding and thwarting foreign hostile intrusions include

Conduct real-time monitoring of networks and retaining access records

Software tools for content mgt., data loss prevention, network forensics

Encrypt data on servers

Utilize multi-factor authentication measures such as biometrics, PINS, passwords

Mobility policy in which measures are developed to oversee which connections can and cannot be made to corporate systems

Limits on social networking

Establish contingency plans

Many others

When deciding to emplace a counterintelligence program to safeguard a corporation the first stepis to conduct a risk assessment by assessing vulnerabilities and estimating the consequences of losing critical assets. This should be headed up by a board member or senior executive.

Then move to step two in which groundwork is laid for establishing a corporate counterintelligence program. Hire a manager dedicated to counterintelligence. Hook up the company’s security, intelligence assurance, general counsel and HR departments. Develop liaison with government law and intelligence. Ensure centralized management of the counterintelligence program. And have legal counsel provide guidance on the counterintelligence program actions.

Identify the Capabilities needed

Threat awareness and training

Analysis, Reporting and Response

Suspicious activity reporting

Counterintelligence Audit

Counterintelligence Investigations.


Implement the Counterintelligence Program

A basic counterintelligence program description will look something like this: PM (Program Manager) interplay such as:

PM develops and implements CI program

PM oversees a centralized CI Program office

PM maintains insight into all corporate elements

PM is responsible for liaison with US Government

Security officers responsible for tactical CI

PM provides CI guidance through training programs

Also be aware that not only high tech companies are targeted since the targeted information they seek may be deemed important by who is doing the shopping.

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Where does allegiance lie?

Bob Budahl



Dongfan “Greg” Chung who is a native of China and a naturalized U.S. Citizen had “secret” security clearance while working with Rockwell and Boeing Corporations on the Space Shuttle project. He had retired in 2002 but returned a year later as a contractor until fall 2006. The government proved Chung committed espionage by taking and concealing Boeing secrets regarding the Delta IV rocket and also the Space Shuttle. He did this for the People’s Republic of China. He was convicted on charges of acting as an agent of the PRC as well as economic espionage.

The investigation of a different engineer working within the U.S is what led to Chung’s investigation and resulting conviction. He was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison.

The Chinese had sent letters requesting information as far back as 1979. In correspondence with the PRC Chung expressed his wishes to help the PRC modernize. He also sent 24 manuals related to the important B-1 Bomberfrom Rockwell Corporation which was very damaging.

Travel trips to the People’s Republic of China occurred on multiple occasions to lecture but he also met with government officials. In letters from his handlers they use his wife Rebecca and Chi Mak to transmit information. In the fall of 2006 FBI and NASA agents searched his home and discovered more than 250,000 documents from Boeing, Rockwell and others which were secret.

The Shuttle Drawing System or “SDS” that Rockwell and Boeing engineers created held information regarding performing processes regarding the Space Shuttle. The engineers need a password and authorization to be able to access this system and files. This is a clear case that defensive counterintelligence measures could have prevented printing, concealment and removal of documents from the workplace. One great example of offensive counterespionage was the search of Chung’s trash which led to much revealing evidence.Also his extensive travel to the PRC was an indicator that his scope of activities while in the PRC were above speaking engagements, seminars, teaching, personal. The authorities did conduct offensive counterintelligence to the best of their abilities once it learned via the other agent implicated in similar dealings with the PRC.

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