FBI says Israel a major player in industrial espionage

More than 1,100 documented incidents of economic espionage and 550 suspected incidents that could not be fully documented were reported last year by major companies in a survey conducted by the American Society for Industrial Security. The L.A. Times obtained results of the survey.

The 1997 survey disclosed that high-tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley, are the most frequent targets of foreign spies, followed by manufacturing and service industries. Among the spies' most sought-after information are research and development strategies, manufacturing and marketing plans, and customer lists.

As a matter of policy, the FBI does not identify governments that sponsor economic espionage. But in a recent article in an academic journal, an FBI agent named some of the countries and provided a rare look into commercial spying by foreign intelligence services.

France, Germany, Israel, China, Russia, and South Korea were named as major offenders in the article by Edwin Fraumann, a New York-based FBI agent who teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. His article appeared in Public Administration Review, published by the American Society for Public Administration.

The FBI confirmed Fraumann's report that more than 700 foreign counterintelligence investigations involving economic espionage are pending before the bureau. The agency said economic spying by countries considered friends as well as adversaries of the United States has been increasing.