NSA industrial espionage and Snowden

by Chris Zappone

Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day

Bill Murray in the film Groundhog Day

Ed Snowden claims the NSA conducts industrial espionage – which is what the US accuses China of doing.

Everything in story seems to hang on one quote, which forms the basis of headline. Snowden says:

“If there’s information at Siemens that’s beneficial to U.S. national interests — even if it doesn’t have anything to do with national security — then they’ll take that information nevertheless”

It’s still far from clear that this is same state-directed economic/industrial espionage fed back into business, of the sort the US accuses China of. In fact, the industrial espionage story doesn’t seem different from claims made September 2013 articles regarding the NSA tapping Brazilian state oil company Petrobras.

The big question is what does the NSA do with the information that has economic/industrial uses? Snowden says the NSA will take the information, yes. But is it leaked/given/fed to/sold to to US business?

It would be surprising if there was the kind of cooperation reportedly seen between China’s PLA and the SOEs, and which gives the minds behind the information-economy in the US such headaches. This is important because Snowden’s claim goes to the heart of the US grievances with China. If this is truly new news, (e.g. the NSA is working hand-in-glove with US business to help enrich insiders) then the US will have lost this battle and any moral authority on this issue.

If there is a sort of willful confusion about this between Snowden and the media, it simply obscures the fundamentals of a huge issue dividing the US and China. The fact that Snowden, who is reportedly not in possession of the NSA information, is rehashing some earlier claims makes it a kind of Groundhog Day revelation.

If that’s true, it may signal a renewed urgency on Snowden’s part to bounce himself out of diplomatic limbo, back to the US.  It may also signal an pause, if not end, to the string of revelations linked to him. We’ll see.