'Spy catcher' discusses espionage at conference

Espionage doesn't have to be intentional spying or being a mole. Mishandling classified information can also put the warfighting capability at risk. (Air Force photo illustration by Margo Wright and April McDonald)

Espionage doesn't have to be intentional spying or being a mole. Mishandling classified information can also put the warfighting capability at risk. (Air Force photo illustration by Margo Wright and April McDonald)

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- In an increasingly impersonal world where friends are just a click away and your husband or wife may be waiting in the next chat room, retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and former spy chaser Lydia Jechorek said espionage is as easy as ever.
   "We are carrying these personal technologies like laptops and phones and we don't think of ourselves as being vulnerable," Ms. Jechorek said.
   The Air Force Office of Special Investigations Detachment 114 and Oklahoma City's FBI joined forces to present the Repellant Keeper conference designed to inform security managers, Department of Defense contractors and key personnel on ways to repel other countries who are approaching the developers or "keepers" of U.S. technology and proprietary information, Special Agent in Charge Jack Angelo said.
   "Foreign entities try to steal our technology and reverse engineer it so they don't have to spend millions of dollars on research and development," said Agent Angelo.
Agent Jechorek said it's the people that work in the companies and government facilities that are our first line of defense.
   Ms. Jechorek recalled that 1980s Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, then working as a U.S. Navy intelligence analyst, was caught because a co-worker found him walking out of the building with classified information and reported it to the supervisor.
   "Always be a little suspicious," Agent Jechorek said. "If you feel there is a problem, report it. It is just as important to prove innocence as well as guilt."
   Maj. Gen. Loren Reno, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center commander, agreed. He said it's not just the guards at the gate that protect U.S. resources, but security should be a priority for everyone on base.
   "We have to look at force protection as not just taking care of people and facilities, but taking care of our warfighting capability," Maj. Gen. Reno said.
   Agent Angelo said when U.S. technology is stolen, America looses its edge and it helps close the gap between the United States and other less technologically advanced nations.
   "Lives have been lost and U.S. companies have lost market shares and jobs," Agent Angelo said.
   Ms. Jechorek said that sometimes it is not that U.S. companies are outsourcing jobs to foreign nations as it appears, but rather these nations are stealing information, she said.
   Both agents warn that espionage doesn't have to be intentional spying or being a mole. Mishandling classified information can also put the warfighting capability at risk.
   Agent Angelo said that it is not only classified information that foreign entities are after. They look for any information that can possibly save them time, money and be advantageous for them. It could be as simple as the type of paint on the B-2 bomber.
   "Hostile intelligence services don't care what you have to access, they want everything," said Oklahoma FBI Special Agent Karen Cid, counter intelligence supervisor.
   She said people often think of spies or moles seeking intelligence information as sinister and easy to spot, but the opposite is true, she said.
   "They are nice people and use their personalities to obtain information," Agent Cid said.
   She said Oklahomans can be vulnerable because they are generally nice and want to be helpful, but she cautions everyone not to be afraid to ask questions.
   "Know who you are dealing with and what they are after," she said.
   But that is becoming increasingly hard when you can exchange business cards and regular e-mails and build a solid, seemingly trustworthy relationship online.