The Changing Face of Espionage in America

04.07.08 | 1 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Financial incentives and external coercion play a diminishing role in motivating Americans to spy against the United States, according to a new Defense Department study (pdf). But divided loyalties are increasingly evident in recent espionage cases.

“Two thirds of American spies since 1990 have volunteered. Since 1990, spying has not paid well: 80% of spies received no payment for espionage, and since 2000 it appears no one was paid.”

“Offenders since 1990 are more likely to be naturalized citizens, and to have foreign attachments, connections, and ties, and therefore they are more likely to be motivated to spy from divided loyalties.” Even so, the majority (65%) of American spies are still native born.

The changing circumstances surrounding the practice of espionage today require revision of the existing espionage laws, the study concludes.

“Recent espionage cases involving stateless transnational groups illustrate the strain of how to sort out and apply … ambiguities in the current [espionage] statutues.”

The new study was performed for the Defense Personnel Security Research Center, with the support of the Counterintelligence Field Activity (which reportedly may soon be dismantled). A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “Changes in Espionage by Americans: 1947-2007,” by Katherine L. Herbig, Defense Personnel Security Research Center, March 2008.