Foreign Visits: What Is Inappropriate?


The Defense Security Service continues to receive reports from companies with U.S. Government facility clearances concerning inappropriate conduct by foreign personnel during the course of visits to the facilities. Inappropriate conduct during visits is a frequently reported modus operandi (MO) associated with foreign collection activity. While visits may be more costly and slightly more risky to the foreign entity, visitors usually gain access to the targeted facility. For this reason, this MO, while not the most frequently used, is assessed to be the most damaging form of collection activity because it can result in the loss of some technology as a result of the visit. Once in a facility, good collectors can manipulate the visit to address some or all of their collection requirements. Visiting foreign scientists or engineers can take acquired technology back to their own country and apply it directly to their needs without having to wait for it to arrive through a bureaucratic intelligence collection process.

The Techniques

While the vast majority of foreign visits take place without incident, many do result in some inappropriate or suspicious activity taking place. Reported cases involving inappropriate conduct during a foreign visit include "wandering" visitors who become offended when confronted; hidden agendas that involve questions beyond the scope of what was approved for discussion or the fraudulent use of data exchange agreements; arriving at a facility unannounced; taking notes and photographs; holding "commercial" discussions when the U.S. Government refuses to officially sponsor the visit; and last minute or unannounced additions to a visiting delegation. Many of these techniques are specifically designed to produce potentially embarrassing incidents for the host in order to obtain collection objectives as a result of the host attempting to be conciliatory.

Case Studies

Many reports of inappropriate conduct during a foreign visit involve taking advantage of the escort and making the escort a vulnerability instead of a security countermeasure. This happens most frequently when there is an insufficient number of escorts to control the size of the visiting delegation. In other instances, the escort has not been properly briefed on "what to protect" and "how to respond to questions." During a visit to an aeronautics facility, a foreign delegation of 10 people was provided with one escort. The visiting delegation recognized the vulnerability and used an opportunity during a rest room break to split the delegation, thereby causing half the delegation to be unescorted in an area with export-controlled technology.

A frequently used technique by several foreign military attachés within the U.S. is to arrive at a contractor facility unannounced in a three-piece suit with a business card. The civilian business attire makes the military attaché appear less threatening to the facility personnel. However, the technique itself is to arrive "unannounced" and rely on the courtesy of the company's management to permit the attaché access to the facility. On several occasions, and at separate facilities within the Washington, D.C., area, military attachés solicited unclassified papers and brochures and engaged in conversations to determine other venues for exploitation. What the company personnel may not have realized is that most foreign military attachés are either intelligence officers or acting in the capacity of intelligence officers.

Another popular technique is to add or switch a person at the last minute as part of a visiting foreign delegation. This technique also relies on the courtesy of the company's management to permit the person being added or switched into the facility. Sometimes the person being added or switched is a commercial or military attaché from an embassy or consulate. The reason for adding or switching a visitor is the visitor believes the available time is reduced in which the company can perform a check on the background of the visitor, thereby increasing the likelihood of slipping an intelligence officer into the facility.

Security Countermeasures

Some recommended security countermeasures to mitigate vulnerabilities associated with these collection techniques are relatively simple, inexpensive, and effective - if implemented.

  • Do not allow suspicious unannounced foreign visitors access to the facility. Simply tell them no one is available, and that they should schedule an appointment for another date.
  • Do not allow last minute additions or substitutions to a foreign delegation to have access to the facility. Ask them to remain in the lobby while the others are permitted access. This could potentially keep an intelligence officer out of the facility and encourage proper visitation procedures.
  • Verify personal identification against the original visit request when foreign visitors arrive to ensure they are who they say they are.
  • Ensure there is a sufficient number of escorts to control a visiting delegation if it should be split into multiple groups.
  • Ensure escorts are briefed as to what is critical within the facility and that they know what requires protection from the foreign visitors.
  • Ensure facility employees are briefed as to the scope of the foreign visit and to not discuss anything beyond what is approved.
  • If a visitor becomes offended when confronted during a security incident, recognize the confrontation as a collection technique and ask the visitor to leave the facility if he or she cannot abide by the rules.
  • Do not permit any cameras or note taking if something in the facility is "sight sensitive."

Public Release #981210-01