St. Louis items like the next Anheuser-Busch product, Bacteria cultivating in a Washington University petri dish, and Boeing planes and missiles all could be matters of national security, a senior FBI official told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The bureau has launched a sprawling initiative to stop foreign governments and corporations from stealing fruits of Yankee ingenuity, said David Szady, head of the FBI’s counterintelligence unit. The bureau formerly focused its anti-spy efforts on foreign consulates in Washington and New York.
Places like the St. Louis region, with its wealth of defense contracting and university-based research, are fertile ground for espionage, Szady said. A developing nation can save years, not to mention billions of dollars, by stealing ideas and processes conceived here. “Chinese-American scientists, particularly in nuclear labs, will often ask us, ‘Why do you profile us?'” Szady said. “And the answer is, ‘We don’t profile you, the Chinese profile you'” to work for them. Szady and other U.S. security officials have routinely pointed to Chinese espionage as one of the biggest threats. Chu Maoming, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, called the accusations “irresponsible” and “totally groundless.” Szady said the FBI will not be profiling foreign students and workers. He said agents work behind the scenes developing awareness with potential targets and cultivating inside sources to watch for signs of spying.