View Full Version : Spying on your allies?

11-20-2005, 02:44 AM
I always took it as a matter of course that countries would spy on their allies. It just seemed like common sense -- the first part of the "keep your friends close but your enemies closer" equation. I doubt think there's a lot of super-intense espionage among allies, but there's gotta be some level. By that reckoning I assume that the US has a few spies or secret agents at work in London and Ottawa, among other world capitals (and, of course, vice-versa). That came up in a conversation with a friend recently, and she said the idea is ludicrous, and that it doesn't happen. So who's right?

China Guy
11-20-2005, 02:52 AM
absolutely, the US spies on it's allies and erstwhile allies as well as everyone else. I've known a few people that worked for "the company" over the years, and while they don't go into specifics they will confirm that yep we do spy on friends.

11-20-2005, 03:17 AM
There's been several folks who've gotten busted selling intelligence secrets to the Israeli's, and they're most certainly a US ally.

11-20-2005, 03:19 AM
Thanks, that's what I figured. It seemed naive to think that we didn't, but the friend I mentioned is a) quite smart, and b) not a bit naive in most situations (she can be a bit over-cynical at times, actually), so I thought it was worth asking.

Any idea what would happen if London found an American spy at work? Must be very awkward, diplomatically -- I bet they'd try to keep it low profile.

11-20-2005, 07:39 AM
Any idea what would happen if London found an American spy at work? Must be very awkward, diplomatically -- I bet they'd try to keep it low profile.

They would ask him to leave. How discretly would depend on whether or not the UK (or whatever other US ally) would have an interest in making a big fuss about this.

Most of the spying done by the USA in Europe is industrial/technological spying, generally in sensible areas like technologies that could be used in weapon systems, but sometimes also on the behalf of major/strategical US companies, or when big international contracts are at stakes.

Little Nemo
11-20-2005, 08:59 AM
Also a lot of "spying" is done pretty much openly among allies. When an American military officer is invited to tour a British military base or watch a military exercise, the British know that he will file a report on what he saw with his superiors.

11-20-2005, 09:06 AM
MI5 caught bugging ally’s UK embassy (http://cryptome.org/mi5-bug.htm)

the CIA is devoting substantial resources to economic spying on America's allies, http://www.motherjones.com/news/outfront/1995/05/dreyfuss.html

The secret reality of spying on allies (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1477686,00.html)

The Friendly Spook: Why allies spy on allies. (http://www.slate.com/id/2106079/)

Espionage Cases 1975-2004 (http://www.dss.mil/training/espionage/)

If a spy is also a diplomat, the solution is simple, the spy is declared persona non grata and sent home. If the spy is not a diplomat, and is caught in a foreign country, the spy can be prosecuted, but seldom are. Historically, espionage prosecution was resisted due to the potential for public disclosure of national security information." In fact, "prosecution involving classified information is one of the most difficult undertakings of our legal system."

11-20-2005, 09:22 AM
France's DGSE is infamous for spying on everyone, whether enemy or ally.

They used to get a regular mention as a threat in security awareness briefings.