Among Enemies

Title:                      Among Enemies

Author:                 Luke Bencie

Bencie, Luke (2013). Among Enemies: Counter-Espionage for the Business Traveler. Mountain Lake Park, MD: Mountain Lake Press

LCCN:    2012953730



Date Updated:  March 3, 2017

Review by Jack Lee[1]

When we examine a piece of intelligence or analysis, it is wise to determine, among other factors, both the bona fides and the access of the source, and Luke Bencie more than passes muster on both scales. The brief “About the Author” section at the end of the book establishes Bencie as having traveled to over 100 countries over the past 15 years on behalf of the US Intelligence Community, as well as for the private defense industry, and as having become aware, some-times painfully he says, of the extents to which both foreign governments, industrial and even freelance operators will go to steal American business secrets.

Among Enemies is a primer for American business travelers, designed to inform on the threats they face by unfriendly parties, and the target-rich opportunity their proprietary information represents. Bende sets out to teach them, to some degree, how to think and act like a seasoned counterintelligence officer.

He identifies the information sought by the adversary —both business intelligence and intellectual property (BI/IP)—and, while acknowledging the technical differences between them, treats them as a single unit for unfriendly collection.

He dwells at some length on the significant and growing threat of cyber attacks on the various electronic devices carried by the business traveler, and what can be done to minimize or deflect these. He recommends a laptop dedicated to business travel which contains only the information germane to that specific trip which will be professionally scrubbed between overseas visits. Any BI/IP necessary to be with the traveler should be on a scrubbed thumb drive and neither device should ever be outside the control of the traveler. Tablets and cellphones are equally vulnerable and should be scrubbed pre- and post-trip and protected with equal care.

Three primary threat areas facing the traveler are the plane, the taxi, and the hotel. A seat companion on the plane and the loquacious cabbie could both be experts in elicitation, and friendly and gregarious Americans are frequently easy, affable targets.

Threats in the hotel have come a long way from the day when what we feared most was the concealed microphone in the room. The audio threat is still there, now complemented by video, which is often concealed above the work area so the camera can read what is being produced on the laptop (including passwords entered, for later use), and those cyber threats that no physical examination will detect.

The author quite properly discourages physical examination of the room in any case first, because what has been professionally concealed will not be found and, more importantly, because such an examination will be noted by the adversary who may well conclude that our traveler has had counterintelligence training and may himself be an intelligence officer. Either of these could be detrimental to the business purpose of the trip and, depending on the country, could lead to host government counterintelligence interest and provocation.

In either case, the business purpose of the trip will not have been met.

It is not only host government intelligence/security services that will be interested in acquiring BI/ IP. An entire industry of private collectors has arisen, frequently staffed by former government professionals, who collect information to sell to the people with whom the traveler is there to meet. They could be commissioned to do this, or they could be acting on their own initiative after having identified our traveler as a potential target of opportunity. These private collectors are aided by the freelancers—e.g., that taxi driver who may have come up with what is effectively an operational lead in the course of an airport to hotel ride, and receives a one-time payment from the professional who then pursues it.

The author correctly notes that attention to all these potential threats need not, and should not, result in paranoia, but rather in that professional virtue we call “situational awareness.” Being conscious of the threat, even before departing on the trip, being aware from moment-to-moment while abroad of one’s immediate situation, and acknowledging that while in that foreign country one is either always on or not far from that operational X, can aid in avoiding or minimizing unfriendly collection efforts, and contribute to a successful, leave-no-traces outcome. It will not be fun, but it is not a vacation.

[1] Lee, Jack. in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (20, 1, Spring/Summer 2013, p. 105). Jack Lee, former CIA DO, is the current Vice President of the AFIO Florida Satellite Chapter.


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