THOSE who feared that with the collapse of the Soviet Union the spy novel was effectively dead (or at least reduced to the sentimental level of historical fiction) have nothing to worry about. Espionage is not only alive and well, but Peter Schweizer's "Friendly Spies" leaves one feeling that perhaps Len Deighton and Robert Ludlum were never quite paranoid enough. Apparently the United States spent so much of the cold war worrying about its enemies, there was never enough time spent worrying about its fr iends.
As Schweizer's valuable new book demonstrates, nearly every one of America's major post-war allies - France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Israel - has mounted sustained espionage campaigns against the US. The motivation for this to say the least ungentlemanly behavior has been completely economic: While the US fought against communism, many of its closest friends were trying to catch up with the US economic juggernaut by whatever means available, says Schweizer.
These countries have often labored under economic limitations so severe that they see little difference between military and economic strategy. Resource-poor Japan, for example, devotes 80 percent of its intelligence assets to prying economic secrets out of the US and its Western allies.
Styles of economic espionage vary from country to country. The Japanese, who promote close cooperation between government and business, have concentrated on swiping technology innovations that could then be passed along to their corporate sector. The Israelis, with both their economy and national survival dependent on the weapons business, have put their resources into penetrating the US military-industrial complex. The German and the French intelligence services, with their more global outlooks, have ma de efforts to compromise American trade and economic policy at the highest levels.
Though this extensive mischief may be news to most readers, it is well known in US intelligence circles. As a former government official told Schweizer: "There is no question friendly countries and companies have been over here raiding the store."
Probably the only real US option is to run an aggressive counterespionage program to prevent foreign interests from continuing to subvert the American economy. Schweizer says such security measures will become increasingly necessary as international competition accelerates.
Besides doing an excellent job of reviewing the general policy implications of friendly spying, Schweizer retells a series of fascinating spy stories, each involving a different US "ally."
For example, he recounts one astonishing incident from 1964 in which a French countess burglarized Undersecretary of State George Ball's Paris hotel room while he slept in it. The prowling noblewoman lifted a set of documents specifying the American negotiating position at the world trade talks. French intelligence agents speedily photographed the papers, and the countess then returned them to the slumbering diplomat's room.
Fascinating stuff, but this information would have been even more gripping if Schweizer had clarified the degree to which France has opposed US efforts to bring down international trade barriers. In America's ongoing efforts to liberalize world trade, France has been and remains one of the chief adversaries.
"Friendly Spies" has neither footnotes nor index; simply a set of end notes for each chapter. Unfortunately, this makes it impossible to judge the reliability of Schweizer's more intriguing claims - a serious flaw in an otherwise important study.