image Getting Information

Getting Information Out
Of Honest People Like Me


Methods of Operation

Topics in this module discuss methods that foreign intelligence services, foreign corporations and other intelligence collectors use to obtain protected information without recruiting spies. In today's global environment, foreign intelligence collectors employ both legal and illegal methods in a coordinated effort. Both types of methods can have the same damaging result -- loss of a technological edge in either military weapons or the global marketplace.

The focus in this module is on the legal methods, but the distinction between the two is not clear cut. Legal collection programs also have the benefit of identifying and assessing individuals with access to desired information who may be susceptible to recruitment as spies. And the distinction between legal and illegal is itself sometimes questionable. For example, there is no law against anyone, including a foreign national, removing discarded documents from your organization's dumpster or from a trash container outside your home. Until 1996, the United States did not even have a law against industrial espionage.

Legal collection methods take advantage of the openness of our society, modern communications media such as the Internet, our desire to be helpful to others, and often a reluctance to be suspicious about the motives of others. In other words, they are ways to obtain information from loyal Americans like you -- information that serves a foreign interest rather than the interest of the United States.

Foreign intelligence collectors can apply these techniques widely at almost no cost, and with almost no risk. Yet, the methods described here are surprisingly fruitful to the detriment of the U.S. economy and our military capabilities.

Discussion in this module covers only the legal and quasi-legal collection activities.. Espionage, the recruitment of spies, and technical operations are covered in Who's Doing What to Whom?, How Do I Know When I'm Being Targeted and Assessed? and Vulnerability to Technical Operations, as well as in Spy Stories and Treason 101. Special vulnerabilities while traveling abroad are discussed in Risks During Foreign Travel.



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