The Director of National Intelligence released a statement Sunday in response to allegations that intelligence agencies have stolen industrial secrets and engaged in economic espionage in its mission of spying on foreign governments.
The statement comes in response to a new report that the NSA spied on Petrobras, a Brazilian oil company partly owned by the state.
Ilse Agner, Germany’s consumer protection minister, expressed fears over massive surveillance programs that could be turned into a “Trojan horse” that “covers up espionage against governments and companies,” according to Deutsche Welle.
In the statement, DNI James Clapper admits that while intelligence agencies such as the NSA collect foreign intelligence, they do not use their capabilities to “steal the trade secrets of foreign companies” or share that information with U.S. companies to help them gain a competitive edge.
Other economic and industrial groups have reacted in a similar fashion. They want to know what kind of data was recorded and how it was used. At the moment, the European business community only has suspicions that industrial secrets were stolen by US intelligence agencies. Typically, stolen technologies and products show up in the hands of competitors or foreign countries years after they were originally taken.
But according to Wagner, the amount of data collected creates an incentive for abuse.
“One has to consider that American security services employ many freelancers, contractors and consultants,” Wagner said. “It’s estimated that in Washington alone, up to 1.5 million contractors work for the security services.”
The latest statement also comes after other damning leaks from ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, which include allegations of collusion with U.S. tech companies to monitor some of the world’s most popular smartphones.
Here’s the full statement:
It is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters, and terrorist financing.
We collect this information for many important reasons: for one, it could provide the United States and our allies early warning of international financial crises which could negatively impact the global economy. It also could provide insight into other countries’ economic policy or behaviour which could affect global markets.
Our collection of information regarding terrorist financing saves lives. Since 9/11, the Intelligence Community has found success in disrupting terror networks by following their money as it moves around the globe. International criminal organisations, proliferators of weapons of mass destruction, illicit arms dealers, or nations that attempt to avoid international sanctions can also be targeted in an effort to aid America’s and our allies’ interests.
What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.
As we have said previously, the United States collects foreign intelligence – just as many other governments do – to enhance the security of our citizens and protect our interests and those of our allies around the world. The intelligence Community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies and monitor anomalous economic activities is critical to providing policy makers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security.
James R. Clapper
Director of National Intelligence
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