The Clinton Administration plans to crack down on allied governments that spy on U.S businesses, Administration officials said Thursday.
“No more Mr. Nice Guy,” said a senior intelligence official, referring to U.S. policy toward friendly governments or their agents found to be spying on U.S. firms.
The Administration plans to take far more active measures to foil such espionage, both domestically and abroad, said another official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
At home, the FBI has already stepped up its counterintelligence effort over the past nine months, dramatically increasing the number of its investigations into such cases--from 10 to 500 during the same period, the official said.
Abroad, the CIA is trying to work more with branches of U.S. companies and traveling American business executives to alert them to threats or find out what they know about potential problems, the official said.
U.S. officials declined to name the offenders publicly, but privately they singled out Japan, France, South Korea, Germany and Israel.
In addition, some less-industrialized allies, like Egypt, have been found trying to steal U.S. weapons technology, officials said.
The decision to go after governments that target U.S. business for espionage also reflects the Administration’s determination to help U.S. firms remain competitive on international markets in order to boost this country’s economic recovery, officials said.
The issue of foreign espionage against the United States surfaced in recent days over a French-language document assigning operatives to spy on 49 high-tech U.S. firms, including several top defense contractors, for technological developments and marketing strategies.
The document was mailed anonymously in recent weeks to several news organizations and U.S. government offices.
Partly as a result of the document, Hughes Aircraft decided to cancel its trip to the Paris Air Show later this year for fear of having its company secrets compromised, company officials said.