The Scientist and the Spy

The Scientist and the Spy

A True Story of China, the FBI, and Industrial Espionage

Book - 2020
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A riveting real-life thriller about the rise of economic espionage from China, seen through the case of Mailong Ho, who tried to steal secrets from U.S. companies. For readers of Michael Lewis, John Carreyrou, and Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Publisher: New York :, Riverhead Books,, 2020
ISBN: 9780735214286
Branch Call Number: 364.168 Hvi
Characteristics: 321 pages ; 24 cm


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Feb 25, 2020

As a retired FBI agent who worked both foreign counterintelligence against China and Economic Espionage cases, I found this book fascinating. I did not know of this particular case before reading the book, and have no preconceived notions about the case itself. The prose flows smoothly here with the author’s engaging style. Her research is good but I got the impression there was a slight pro-China or at least pro-Chinese individuals leaning in her writing, which is only natural for someone who spent years there and no doubt has many friendships and deep roots there.

Investigating and prosecuting economic espionage cases is a very complex business and much of the investigator’s job cannot be brought out or appreciated in a book of this nature. Still, I think the author does a good job of discussing how victim companies are in a bind when the FBI or any law enforcement becomes involved and almost adversarial to the government in such cases. I wish she had spent a little more time on that. The criminal prosecution complicates their business, often threatening to reveal their trade secrets in court. If civil litigation is in process, which it usually is, the defense is handed the argument that the victim company is using the government as their agent or their investigator. The argument goes that the government shouldn’t put its finger on the scales of what is essentially a business dispute. My view is that a theft is a theft whether the victim is Molly’s Hair Salon or Megacorp and law enforcement should investigate crimes and prosecute thieves. A crime victim should be allowed to cooperate with law enforcement without being punished for it.

One glaring omission for those of us in the field is the issue of adequate protection. In order to have a crime under the EEA of 1996, whether trade secret theft or economic espionage, it is necessary to prove that the trade secret was in fact a secret, i.e. that it was sufficiently well-protected. The defense will always claim that it wasn’t really a secret, or not well-protected enough to be considered secret. In effect the argument becomes, “if my client was able to steal it, then it must not be a trade secret and therefore not a crime.” The crime, in effect, doesn’t ever exist. I consider the argument to be specious. The author confuses this issue with the technological value of the thing stolen. A trade secret doesn’t have to be technology at all. In fact, the most valuable trade secret in most companies is a Rolodex with names of customers or suppliers. It can be internal pay records and personnel performance reviews. It seems to me that the issue of protections afforded (or not) to the corn seed lines was, or should have been, a major issue in this case, yet it was little discussed.

Feb 20, 2020

It is absolutely excellent story about industrial espionage. Once you pick it up you will not be able to put it back down until the very last page!

Feb 10, 2020

GOAL: Persuade the reader to disregard economic espionage/economic warfare.
CONCLUSION: Either Comrade Hvistendahl is a completely dishonest subversive - - or she's the biggest airhead who ever existed?!
On p. 110, Comrade Hvistendahl [the author] shovels it out as she frequently does: she presents a false ploy, blaming the FBI for the traitorous/anti-humanist actions of Microsoft, Cisco, Apple, Yahoo, Narus, Google, et cetera [plus the DHS -- if they offshored the coding of the OPM's firewall software to China]; yes, the FBI SHOULD pursue economic espionage, comrade!
Sure, the FBI has a history of racist incompetence - - it was created by Napoleon's grandnephew to go after socialist politicians who were winning elective office in record numbers in the early 1900s - - does that justify Comrade Hvistendahls' support for the One Belt -- One Road -- One Virus -- and the aspiring One World Totalitarian Ruler?
Her bizarre support shines through in this book, a manufactured narrative from a Sinophile -- Mara Hvistendahl [who did not ruffle any red feathers as a reporter in China] -- which glosses over way, way too much, excluding many important points [I don't recall a single mention of "human rights" in this book]!?
Of course, this book was financially supported by that bastion of Wall Street disinformation, the New America Foundation. [Do they still house that austerity-for-the-90% program established by the Peterson Foundation back in 2012?]
I consider Comrade Hvistendahl to be a professional punk - - instead of a journalist - - for predictably mentioning the vile internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II [which is supposed to somehow excuse all the monstrous crimes of the Chinese Communist Party against the Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian people!] -- without realizing that it was promoted by John McCloy and Earl Warren to steal choice fruit/wine growing land [with attendant water rights] from Japanese-American growers; that they utilized the historic fact of precision bombings of weapons and fuel depots by Japanese attack squadrons at Pearl Harbor - - indicating inside knowledge of that naval base.
Although I've never voted republicon, I do agree with Steve Bannon's comments - - which apply to Hvistendahl and her ilk:
"Wall Street is the investor relations department for the Chinese Communist Party, because they're the ones that raise capital for them. The corporations are the lobbyists."
And Bannon continued about the ". . . egregious human rights abuses in China . . ."
Comrade Hvistendahl, my immediate ancestors fought against the Nazis, unlike somebody's ancestors who supported them!
Your book does NOT pass the stink test.

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