Unsolicited Requests

Direct, unsolicited requests for U.S. defense industry program information or other proprietary S&T information is the most frequently reported foreign collection activity against defense industry. The requests may be faxed, mailed, e-mailed, or communicated by phone. This procedure is so popular because it is low cost, low risk, and often works.1

Unsolicited requests are often directed to individual employees by name, rather than to corporate marketing departments. There are two reasons for this. First, individuals are more likely to be unaware of or not care about company or organizational policy in responding to such requests. Second, the purpose may not be to actually collect information. The purpose may be a preliminary screening to identify those who are willing to be helpful by responding to such a request. The few who respond may then be targeted and assessed further by other means.

Various ploys are used to increase the likelihood of an initial response. For example:

  • The request is sent to individuals with the same national, ethnic, religious, or other background as the requestor.
  • The requestor claims to be a student requesting help with a thesis.
  • The requestor asks for a copy of a trade journal article authored by the recipient of the request. If the recipient responds, the requestor follows up with detailed questions about the subject of the article.

Many companies label an unsolicited request as suspicious when the information requested is on the Militarily Critical Technology List or is covered under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and would require a license for export.

1. Defense Security Service, Technology Collection Trends in the US Defense Industry, 1998.  And Defense Investigative Service brochure, Suspicious Indicators and Security Countermeasures for Foreign Collection Activities Against the U.S. Defense Industry, 1998.


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