220.127.116.11 Intelligence-gathering: Spying
(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents. An archived copy of this page is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/7341.htm)
Intelligence-gathering has always been a major aspect of Self-Protection. It can involve obtaining military or commercial secrets, or it can be a means of uncovering activities which constitute threats.
Companies or governments can gain economic advantages cheaply by stealing commercial intellectual property. A CNBC CFO survey, 1 in 5 corporations say China has stolen their IP within the last year, shows the extent of the problem.
Stealing military secrets is partly defensive: ensuring that an enemy doesn’t gain a competitive advantage. Russia famously obtained atomic secrets to avoid being left behind, as reported by the BBC: Klaus Fuchs, the scientist and spy at Harwell.
If governments find out about security problems soon enough, they can avert some incidents and respond to others more effectively. If a local terrorist threat is uncovered at the start of its activities, it should be possible to use the law to imprison troublemakers and prevent the threat from growing.
People place a high value on their security so they might willingly accept some government surveillance – though they might resent the invasion of their privacy if there are no specific reasons for suspecting them. The extent of intelligence-gathering has become a subject of popular debate recently – as revealed in a BBC article, Edward Snowden: Leaks that exposed US spy programme.
A target country has no recourse in law against foreign spying, unless a spy is captured. And some spying is now done remotely, either using the Internet or drones.