Long-Term Foreign Visitors
Long-term foreign visits to U.S. defense contractors, national laboratories or other companies or research laboratories in the private sector can pose a serious threat to security unless appropriate countermeasures are taken to mitigate the vulnerabilities associated with the foreign presence.1
Given access to scientific, technical, or other proprietary information, foreign experts can gain for their home country information that will erode the U.S. lead in militarily critical technologies. Often the difference between the technology used in unclassified research and a classified weapons program is nothing more than the "application" of the technology. The vast numbers of foreign scientists visiting the U.S. make it difficult to assess the full extent of the problem.
Foreign scientists and engineers sometimes offer their services to research facilities, academic institutions, or defense contractors. This can be an effort to place a foreign national inside the facility to collect information on the technology available there. Some prominent foreign scientists who obtained employment with U.S. companies have immediately begun sending acquired information via fax transmissions back to their former associates in their home country, using their native language so the U.S. company could not monitor what was being sent.
As part of a joint venture, one cleared contractor had a number of foreign representatives working on unclassified projects. "One of them was caught hacking into the unclassified, but proprietary local area network system. This person accessed company proprietary source code information. He was expelled from the facility, but the computer intrusions continued a few days later. The suspected perpetrators were the remaining representatives from the same country. Since the start of the joint venture, the foreign representatives had stated their desire for the source codes."2
In some instances, at a foreign government or corporation's behest, foreign graduate students serve as assistants at no cost to professors doing research in a targeted field. The student then has access to the professor's research and learns the applications of the technology.
Some foreign governments routinely task their graduate students in the United States to acquire information on a variety of economic and technical subjects. In some instances, the students are contacted and recruited before they come to the United States to study. Others are approached after arriving and are recruited or pressured based upon a sense of loyalty or fear of their home country's government or intelligence service. The security officer of a cleared U.S. defense contractor reported the company's desire to employ the son of a prominent foreign scientist from a European country. A name check of the scientist revealed he had previously cooperated with his country's foreign intelligence service.
One allied foreign government has an organized program to send interns abroad as an alternative to compulsory military service. In return for exemption from military service, the intern has the specific task of collecting foreign business and technological information. A student from this country recently offered to work "free" for a U.S. company that has a U.S. Government contract for classified work.
The following indicators should trigger security concern:
Without sustained security and counterintelligence awareness training programs, assimilation of foreign personnel into the work environment usually results in a relaxation of security awareness among U.S. employees. Security compromise is a frequent result. Appropriate security countermeasures may include:
Related Topic: Short-Term Foreign Visitors.