This election season, the dangers of unfair business practices and even corporate espionage perpetrated by the Chinese have been mentioned often by both of the presidential campaigns.
But in a column in The New York Times, Eamon Javers points out that we rarely worry about or hear about the long tradition of Americans spying on American companies. Here’s one case:
Take the case of John Broady, an audacious wiretapper who in the mid-1950s set up an eavesdropping nest at an apartment in Midtown Manhattan. Working with a source inside the phone company, he set up equipment capable of tapping and simultaneously recording 10 phone lines in the area. Among Mr. Broady’s clients was the drug company Pfizer, which hired him to tap the phones of its own employees and those of a competitor, Squibb.
Mr. Broady was ultimately undone by an anonymous tipster, most likely someone inside his organization. Bizarrely, at his trial he claimed there was a nefarious Chinese angle to his scam — he said he’d used the equipment to spy on a rogue Chinese Air Force general who’d stolen millions from his government. Mr. Broady said that someone who wanted to stop the investigation had killed one of his own agents in Mexico. “I didn’t want them to knock me off, like they did my man,” he said, breaking down in tears. “I have a wife and kids.” The jury thought it was an act, and Mr. Broady received a two- to four-year prison sentence.
The best tale mentioned? There was recently a spy in the candy business known as “Deep Chocolate.”
Silly names aside, Javers argues that we need to take this spying more seriously.
We’re going to try to get Javers on next week to tell us more about the history and the current state of corporate espionage.