Thursday, February 11, 2010

Unseemly realities of corporate spies

boston.com
Veteran journalist Eamon Javers shines light on the murky but expanding world of corporate espionage. What he finds is that global companies increasingly can avail themselves of the same spying and intelligence-gathering resources, from covert surveillance to satellite imagery, as the US government. When companies contract an “intelligence consultant’’ (i.e., a spy) to gather information on parties who may damage their bottom line, whether a critical journalist or a hostile environmental group, they’re paying for secrecy and deniability. As Javers admits about his task, “[s]ometimes it’s impossible to know the truth.’’

Javers’s narrative approach is to offer an overview of the diverse services private spies offer corporate clients. Javers is also interested in the ethical questions posed by corporate spying, though he tellingly provides no answers. The vast majority of private spies, he finds, are contractors who’ve left the CIA or military intelligence for the more lucrative world of corporate espionage. They’ll work for anyone “who can afford to pay,’’ Javers writes, including “corrupt companies, Russian oligarchs, [and] Middle Eastern sheikhs.’’

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