Top counterintelligence official highlights foreign espionage threats

In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell speaks with Mike Orlando, the acting director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, about the range of foreign espionage threats facing the U.S. from adversaries and challengers like Russia and China. Orlando and Morell discuss how “non-traditional collectors” within the academic and business sectors are increasingly tasked by foreign governments to steal intellectual property and other secrets. Orlando, a career FBI agent who has specialized in counterintelligence, explains how NCSC has sought to warn U.S. private sector entities against espionage threats that have evolved in range and sophistication. 


  • Adversaries targeting private sector: “So, if you look back 20 years ago, what we were most concerned about was intelligence services targeting the U.S. government for classified information or targeting DOD technologies. And what we’ve seen over the last 20 years is the shift to private sector intellectual property research and development, particularly by China, who has been the most egregious one in stealing those technologies. And we’ve also seen their capabilities of China and Russia move from not only the human operations, but to cyber operations and to technical collection that has made it a difficult target to work.” 
  • Espionage threat from the Chinese government: “We believe that there’s no other country than China that poses the most severe intelligence threat to America. We’re looking at $200 billion to $600 billion dollars a year in losses to intellectual property theft by China. And that’s been going on for the last 20 years. That’s a pretty staggering number of loss to us. And when you look at China’s national plans, as I said earlier, it’s one where it’s to put us essentially out of business. And I think the concerns for this generation ahead is that if we don’t stay ahead of this, we will be disadvantaged both economically and in the national security arena as well.” 
  • “Non-traditional collectors”: “[W]e’ve seen a pivot to these non-traditional collectors, which are students, researchers, businesspeople, people who have legitimate…