Espionage – The Second Oldest Profession

The FBI investigates espionage cases. They are prosecuted in federal court.

The federal crime of Espionage seeks to punish those who share sensitive information that could be harmful to national security interests. This includes stealing trade secrets. 흥신소

Governments are the broadest victims of espionage, but American firms, hospitals and universities are also frequent targets. Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917, just two months after the United States entered World War I. The Supreme Court upheld the law’s constitutionality in 1919.


In espionage, intelligence officers gather information that may be used for a variety of purposes. The gathered data may be useful in influencing battles, swaying governments, or changing the fate of the world. A person that a spy works with is called an agent. They do not receive formal training, but they may learn basic espionage tradecraft from an intelligence officer.

Espionage may involve stealing information from competing nations, companies, or individuals. It is most commonly associated with military intelligence gathering, but it can include economic espionage as well (such as when one company steals the secrets of another to gain a competitive advantage).

In the United States, if an individual exposes confidential government information that could damage national defense, they could be found guilty of espionage. The act is not always clear on its definition, but the Supreme Court has upheld convictions in the cases of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were convicted for spying for the Soviet Union during World War II. During times of conflict, a spy caught in the act cannot benefit from prisoner-of-war status (under customary international humanitarian law). However, they must be treated with humanity and not be punished without a trial.


Spionage is often described as “the second oldest profession.” Its roots are ancient: the Bible mentions a spying mission in a book called Joshua, and Roman Emperors used spies in large numbers. The growth of Europe into a series of nation-states in the Middle Ages increased the need for intelligence. In this period, a complex web of feudal lords swore fealty to monarchs and carried diplomatic messages verbally or in writing.

It became easier for spies to collect information in neutral countries after World War I. During the Cold War, the spy became a cultural icon. Movies like James Bond helped create a popular image of the suave, skilled agent engaged in international intrigue.

Today, espionage is primarily conducted by government agencies in the military, business and scientific fields. However, it also occurs in the private sector. A company in the United States might hire a counterspy to retaliate against competitors that steal trade secrets. Such efforts are also referred to as counterespionage. Cyber espionage has been growing in prominence since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, CrowdStrike’s Falcon OverWatch teams have reported a series of targeted intrusions against academic institutions involved in COVID-19 research, which are believed to have been perpetrated by Chinese actors.


Espionage focuses on gathering information that might be of military or political value. The 1917 Espionage Act imposes severe penalties for spying or disclosure of classified material that might endanger national security, harm economic interests or damage international relations. It’s the basis for movies such as “The Spy Who Knew Too Much” and novels like Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and James Fenimore Cooper’s The Spy.

In addition to military and political intelligence, governments seek industrial information. This type of espionage can involve stealing competitors’ products or getting insider information from employees. It can also be a threat to small companies that have unprotected trade secrets or patents.

Companies that develop new technology, such as computer companies, are particularly susceptible to industrial espionage. The FBI is working to raise awareness of the problem among business leaders and encourage them to take steps to protect their confidential information. Such protection can be as simple as ensuring that any mail sent to a company contains a five- or nine-digit code printed directly after the address. Such a system prevents mail from being opened and read by unauthorized individuals.


The information sought in espionage can be anything from a foreign country’s military technology to recipes or the names and addresses of business contacts. The information collected must be classified, and it may be obtained through hacking, bugging, or even breaking into a facility to steal physical documents.

Economic espionage involves clandestinely stealing information from an economic competitor. The practice has been around for millennia and has included the theft of ideas, formulas, and technology from competitors as well as companies that have developed new products.

To gain access to information, spymasters cultivate trust with their agents through methods such as empathy and building a relationship (perhaps by sharing interests or hobbies), showing vulnerability, and being honest—although the latter may be false. In order to be successful, a spy must also be able to keep secrets and act on the intelligence they receive from their handlers.

Companies are concerned about the possibility of industrial espionage, and they must take steps to protect their information. They should follow security guidelines such as NIST, FISMA, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. It’s also important to understand that it’s often employees who commit industrial espionage, and that effective detection and prevention procedures are necessary.


In the United States, federal law criminalizes espionage and other offenses that expose government secrets. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies investigate these cases, and prosecutors present them to a grand jury when appropriate. Typically, a conviction of this type of crime carries long prison sentences and other serious consequences. For members of the military, a court-martial may also impose death penalties and other severe punishments.

The practice of espionage has been in use since ancient times, and governments throughout history have stolen ideas, formulas, and technology from competing countries. In recent decades, businesses have developed counterespionage departments to protect their trade secrets from industrial spies.

The legality of espionage is a complex question. The largely secretive nature of the activity makes it difficult to gauge the extent to which it violates international law. Nonetheless, espionage is a form of intervention in the internal affairs of another country, which can violate the non-intervention principle of international law. Moreover, the methodical and contextual differences between active operations and cyber intelligence raise questions about whether or not they are consistent with this principle.