Former spy and defense department secretary Robert Gates has identified France as a major cyber-spying threat against the US.
In statements that are bound to raise eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic, Gates (not Bill) nominated French spies as being number two in the world of industrial cyber-espionage.
“In terms of the most capable, next to the Chinese, are the French – and they've been doing it a long time” he says in this interview at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Rather than a precis, The Register will give you some of Gates's (not Bill) words verbatim, starting just after 21 minutes in the video, when he answers a question about America's recent indictment of five Chinese military hackers.
“What we have accused the Chinese of doing – stealing American companies' secrets and technology – is not new, nor is it something that's done only by the Chinese,” Gates tells the interviewer. “There are probably a dozen or fifteen countries that steal our technology in this way.
“In terms of the most capable, next to the Chinese, are probably the French, and they've been doing it a long time.
“I often tell business audiences, 'how many of you go to Paris on business?' Hands go up. 'How many of you take your laptops?' - hands go up. 'How many of you take your laptops to dinner?' - not very many hands go up.
“For years, the French intelligence services have been breaking into the hotel rooms of American businessmen, and surreptitiously downloading their laptops, if they felt those laptops had technological information, or competitive information, that would be useful to French companies.”
Gates attributes this to French business and government having operated “hand-in-hand since the time of Louis XIV”.
Piously, he reminds the audience that it's something America would never do: “We nearly are alone in the world in not using our intelligence services for the competitive advantage of our businesses.”