US State Spies for Corporations

According to an important leaked report from the NSA, the US spy agency has been prepared to steal information from foreigners on behalf of US corporations. The internal document, exposed by The Intercept, explores ideas like hacking into “foreign R&D intranets” and stealing “proprietary information” in order to give the US a market and technology advantage in sectors including “energy, nanotechnology, medicine, and information technology.” Free market indeed.

Importantly, this leak exposes the US to the charge of hypocrisy when it accuses foreign countries, such as China, of spying on US corporations and stealing proprietary information. For example, CBS News reported in May 2014 that “In a landmark case, the Department of Justice announced Monday charges against five Chinese military hackers, accusing them of stealing trade secrets and other proprietary or sensitive information online.” [1]

More important than the hypocrisy of the US position is the danger to democracy represented by a state agency that has no transparency, democratic oversight, or accountability. The NSA, once again, has been caught in a bald-faced lie. Here is the email the NSA sent in 2013 to The Washington Post:

“The department does ***not*** engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”

The NSA was soon shown to have committed ample espionage. According to The Intercept,  the NSA has been exposed by documents in the Snowden archive to have spied

on plainly financial targets such as the Brazilian oil giant Petrobraseconomic summitsinternational credit card and banking systems; the EU antitrust commissioner investigating Google, Microsoft, and Intel; and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The NSA then modified it’s position, according to The Intercept, and claimed instead that it did not spy for economic or corporate benefit. But this claim is now falsified by the latest leak, which shows that the NSA has internally been quite open to internally exploring the option of committing espionage aimed at keeping US corporations on top of foreign corporations.

In a key passage from an internal document, the NSA contemplates a perspective in which, by 2025, the US may not be easily dominating the world, and might be contested by an alignment of China, Russia, India, and Iran. One possible outcome contemplated is a situation where is that “the United States’ technological and innovative edge slips.” It is possible for example that “the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of U.S. corporations,” a situation that “could put the United States at a growing—and potentially permanent—disadvantage in crucial areas such as energy, nanotechnology, medicine, and information technology.” In this case, the NSA suggests a possible response in which it engages in “a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through overt means, clandestine penetration (through physical and cyber means), and counterintelligence.” In other words, the NSA contemplates, in internal documents, cyber and corporate espionage as a totally viable option.

Insofar as we live in a democracy, all state institutions must be kept under democratic scrutiny, fully accountable and as transparent as possible. Flat out lying to the US public by the state that is “of and by and for” the public is simply intolerable. The director of the NSA must be forced to resign, since he is clearly incompetent to the task of public service in a democracy.

[1] The New York Times pointed out the hypocrisy in the US charges against China of espionage for market and corporate purposes, given that US spy agencies interpret their mandate as not only preventing harm and violence, but also maintaining a competitive advantage: “the [US] government does not deny it routinely spies to advance American economic advantage, which is part of its broad definition of how it protects American national security.”

Beyond the hypocrisy of the charge of economic espionage, the US has also conducted outright acts of cyberwar, such as when it used cyberwar techniques to attack and Iranian infrastructure with the Stuxnet computer worm.

This entry was posted in Business Interests--The Real Purpose of the State, Free markets?, How the state thinks. Bookmark the permalink.

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