May 21, 2014

NYT Article Highlights US NSA Corporate Spying, Mentions Spying on Mexican Oil Company

New York Times, May 21,  "Fine Line Seen in U.S. Spying on Companies"
The New York Times ran an article today noting that the Chinese have accused the NSA of applying a double standard regarding spying on companies to obtain trade advantages. Although the article leaves a lot out and uses language like "digging into corporations" instead of infiltrating their communications, it is exceptionally bold in implying that a double standard exists:
In each of these cases, American officials insist, when speaking off the record, that the United States was never acting on behalf of specific American companies. But the government does not deny it routinely spies to advance American economic advantage, which is part of its broad definition of how it protects American national security. In short, the officials say, while the N.S.A. cannot spy on Airbus and give the results to Boeing, it is free to spy on European or Asian trade negotiators and use the results to help American trade officials — and, by extension, the American industries and workers they are trying to bolster.
Among the things the article almost says but steps back from the brink of actually documenting with existing information from the NSA leaks, is that:
1) NSA stolen data is used to help US companies compete in the global market. This violation of basic trade rules caused Brazil to snub Boeing and go with Saab for a long-coveted $4.5 billion contract for jet fighters shortly after the NSA scandal broke.

In the context of all we now know about NSA operations thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, the defense offered by national intelligence director James Clapper rings hollow indeed:
“What we do not do, as we have said many times,” James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said after some of the initial N.S.A. revelations last year, “is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of — or give intelligence we collect to — U.S. companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”
2) NSA spying operations make a mockery of the US's draconian global intellectual property crusade.

3) The NSA defends its disregard for international or local laws abroad. The New York Times puts it  euphemistically: "The N.S.A. says it observes American law around the globe, but admits that local laws are no obstacle to its operations." That the law is no obstacle is a polite way of saying that it is wantonly disregarded.

All this is critical to Mexico as it reviews the implementing legislation on energy reforms. We have always known that PEMEX is among NSA targets--and not just for national security reasons. The agency is ascertaining reserves, the shape of reforms, conditions for investment. Glenn Greenwald says in an interview with CNN Español in September of last year:
There are documents that indicate that one of the issues they most spy on Mexico for is energy and oil. They (the NSA) are interested in these issues, not just national security or drugs like most people think. They are interested in economic and energy resource issues." (my translation)
 The Mexican government is carefully controlling information that could affect the future of the energy sector privatization legislation. Information that the Chinese will present regarding NSA spying to benefit U.S. corporations will not help to convince those who are already reluctant to relinquish Mexican natural resource management (and profits) to U.S. oil companies.

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