From Publishers Weekly
The tools and tricks once used in the name of geopolitics have increasingly been applied to the private sector, according to this engaging overview of the rise of corporate espionage. With the end of the Cold War, spies on both sides of the Iron Curtain discovered there was money to be made renting out their skills to clients in such fields as pharmaceuticals, banking, and agriculture. Although the historical sections can drag in places, the book gathers steam every time Javers turns his focus to the technologies that have moved the field forward. From early wiretaps to the use of satellites, the author expertly explains how spies help clients sabotage corporate competitors or buy and sell stocks based on expected fluctuations in the price of corn. Generally more interested in strategy and gadgets than the ethical components of spying, the book flirts with painting a romantic picture of the profession before noting the less-than-glamorous occupations of corporate spies, including participating in the battle for supremacy in the pet food market.
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Journalist Javers traces spying activity, which began in Washington, D.C., in 1790, when the city became the capital, through the Civil War, when Allan Pinkerton was chasing Confederate spies, to Allen Dulles and the CIA developing drugs to enhance interrogations and in 2002 capturing traitor Robert Hanssen. The author also offers a fascinating explanation of the role of spies in today’s world economy with hundreds of firms globally in the corporate espionage business using as operatives alumni from the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, British M-15 and Russian KGB, and military intelligence officers. Firms are available in the private market from diverse independent contractors with backgrounds including SEC investigators and investigative reporters. Javers recommends that spy firms be revealed to the public through a spy register comparable to lobbying firms’ disclosure rules and be coordinated by the SEC. He contends, It’s time for the spy firms to come in from the cold. This is a must-read, excellent book. --Mary Whaley