Espionage and Counterespionage

The theft of trade secrets is a common problem for businesses. This is known as industrial espionage. It is a serious concern for private companies as well as governments.


This type of espionage is carried out by foreign agents. These spies have access to government and private publications, business meetings, and industrial expositions.

Economic espionage

Economic espionage refers to the illegal targeting or acquisition of proprietary economic information. This type of espionage occurs across industries, but is typically perpetrated by foreign governments or agents. It is a federal offense under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, 18 U.S.C. SS 1831, and includes the unauthorized obtaining of trade secrets with the intent or knowledge that it will benefit a foreign government, government instrumentality, or foreign agent.

These offenses include the theft of engineering designs from an automobile or aerospace company, a chemical formula from a pharmaceutical or food company, new robotic manufacturing processes from a high-tech company, and pricing sheets from a company. This type of espionage is often the result of jealous competitors or disgruntled employees who are hired by other companies to steal information. It can also be carried out by state-sponsored actors, including Russia, China, and North Korea.

While stealing trade secret information is a serious crime, the government’s approach to it has been flawed. It has focused on both preventing the espionage by training private companies to safeguard their information and reacting to the espionage by prosecuting offenders under the Economic Espionage Act (EEA). This article explores why this dual-pronged approach is failing to stop a global wave of trade secret theft, which the IP Commission reports results in a 300 billion dollar loss of raw innovation annually.

Military espionage

The term “military espionage” refers to the clandestine gathering of information related to military strategy and the activities of a country’s armed forces. It also includes the stealing of classified documents. Such disclosures are illegal and can be punished under the Espionage Act of 1917, which was passed during World War I. The Supreme Court upheld this law in the cases of Schenck v. United States and the Rosenberg ring.

In addition to political and military intelligence, spies gather economic information. This type of espionage is known as industrial espionage and it is a serious criminal offense in many jurisdictions. It involves stealing trade secrets from competitors and transferring them to foreign governments or businesses. These spies are often trained experts in their targeted industry and can distinguish ordinary data from information that is vital to their own organization.

Whether a government accuses you of providing a terrorist group with secret documents or you’re accused of spying on your own country, you deserve a fair defense. The Bilecki Law Group has the experience and skill to handle your case.

Spies are often depicted in popular culture as sexy, powerful elites (such as James Bond) or comic fools (“Mad Magazine’s Spy v. Spy”). However, spies are actually real people who face serious consequences for their actions. If you’re accused of espionage, call us today to learn about your options for a solid defense.

Industrial espionage

Industrial espionage is a broad term that encompasses a wide range of activities, including the theft or disclosure of proprietary information to competitors. This information can be anything from manufacturing processes and techniques to confidential customer data and marketing strategies. It is often targeted against foreign companies, but it can also be carried out against domestic businesses. It is particularly common in technology-focused industries, where time to market is critical and research and development costs are high.

The FBI considers an offender guilty of industrial espionage if they disclose information without authorization. This is regardless of whether the disclosed information is closely held or a threat to national security. In the case of Chelsea Manning, for instance, the information she published included diplomatic correspondence and documents from Guantanamo Bay. While espionage is often associated with the notion of secret meetings between foreign officials and US military personnel, it can be committed in any way.

It is crucial for businesses to conduct background checks on employees who have access to confidential information. This will help prevent them from becoming double agents. It is also a good idea to conduct periodic checks on current employees who have privileged access. This will help to identify any red flags such as a sudden increase in living standards, unexpected trips, or increased debt.


The FBI’s counterespionage efforts are aimed at stopping foreign intelligence agencies from obtaining sensitive information on the United States. This can include everything from gathering information about military and economic operations, to attempting to disrupt the recruitment of agents for an adversary’s spying services. Counterespionage is often a matter of gathering human-source intelligence (HUMINT). While it may not have the glamour of James Bond, much of the work of a national intelligence agency is slow and painstaking. The agency’s employees spend their days reading trade journals, attending scientific or business conferences, and visiting industry expositions to collect information.

Intelligence agencies recruit spies, citizens of their host country who act as messengers or collectors for the agency. These spies are highly trained and often work in secret. They can be openly recruited as representatives of the intelligence service to their host nation or they can work covertly in non-official positions such as diplomats, trade delegates, and journalists. In addition to HUMINT, intelligence agencies employ a variety of technological methods including signal interceptions, satellite photography and analyzing publicly available information.

Although spies appear in popular culture as sophisticated and strong elites, most are actually ordinary citizens who work for intelligence agencies. Nevertheless, the crime of espionage is serious and can have a severe impact on the nation’s security. The 1917 Espionage Act, passed during World War I, imposes heavy penalties for spying or any activities that weaken or imperil the nation’s defense. Those found guilty of the crime may face years in prison. For example, Chelsea Manning was prosecuted under this law for revealing classified documents to Wikileaks.