18 February 2007

Economic Intelligence: Wake-up Call...

Chris Cooper plays a traitor in the movie based on the true story of Robert Hanssen. "Breach" is a wake up call for the United States to continue its counterintelligence initiatives with vigor. However, this story is written not from the perspective of Hanssen, but that of another FBI employee who assisted in his capture and prosecution.

Based on the true story, FBI upstart Eric O'Neill enters into an operational risk power game with his boss, Robert Hanssen, an agent who was ultimately convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union. Eric now lives in Washington, DC and is an attorney, he never became an FBI agent. His role played by Ryan Phillippe, shows the audience how even Eric was skeptical that someone like Hanssen could be a traitor.

Critical to the agency’s ability to arrest and convict Hanssen was the placement of 26-year-old special surveillance operative Eric O’Neill in Hanssen’s office. Working directly under Hanssen, O’Neill was able to provide the team of investigators with information needed to take down one of the worst spies in the history of the United States.

Shortly after being intimately involved in the Hanssen investigation, O’Neill left the FBI to study law. O’Neill also took time to work on a book based on his experiences, which ultimately led to Breach, a film about his involvement in the Hanssen case.

Counterintelligence is the number 2 priority behind Counterterrorism at the FBI.

The Cold War is not over, it has merely moved into a new arena: the global marketplace. The FBI estimates that every year billions of U.S. dollars are lost to foreign competitors who deliberately target economic intelligence in flourishing U.S. industries and technologies, and who cull intelligence out of shelved technologies by exploiting open source and classified information known as trade secrets. Foreign competitors who criminally seek economic intelligence generally operate in three ways to create their spy networks:

1. They aggressively target and recruit susceptible people (often from the same national background) working for U.S. companies and research institutions;

2. They recruit people to locate economic intelligence through operations like bribery, discreet theft, dumpster diving (in search of discarded trade secrets), and wiretapping; and,

3. They establish seemingly innocent business relationships between foreign companies and U.S. industries to gather economic intelligence including classified information.

In an effort to safeguard our nation's economic secrets, the Economic Espionage Act (EEA) was signed into law on October 11, 1996.

How to Protect Your Business from Espionage: 6 steps
1. Recognize there is a real threat.
2. Identify and valuate trade secrets.
3. Implement a definable plan for safeguarding trade secrets.
4. Secure physical trade secrets and limit access to trade secrets.
5. Confine intellectual knowledge.
6. Provide ongoing security training to employees.

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