The CEO brought the group onto one of the colorful factory floors and turned toward them. Normally friendly and always wearing a smile, this time, his look was stern and he appeared circumspect. He swept his eyes over them before he spoke.

“Now remember, no messing about. No touching, no tasting, no telling.”

There was a look of confusion among the group.

“No telling what?” one of the older men in the group asked.

The CEO turned away from them again, but spoke loudly enough for them to hear.

“You see, all of my most secret inventions are cooking and simmering in here. Old Slugworth would give his false teeth to get inside for just five minutes, so don’t touch a thing!”

Nope, this isn’t some Robert Redford or Tom Cruise spy thriller. Anyone born before 1990 (and a few born after) know that this scene comes from one the greatest corporate espionage thrillers of all time: “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” (Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. My daughter happened to be watching it while we were hanging out, and it gave me an idea.) This got me thinking. What are the differences between corporate espionage and intelligence related to national security, and has the line become blurred?

Espionage, corporate and national-security related, is as old as time itself. (For a bit more history, check out some of my history of intelligence-gathering articles.) Père d’Entrecolles was a French Jesuit missionary in the early 1700s, but by some descriptions, he was also an industrial spy. In those days, China was the leading maker of high-quality porcelain, and d’Entrecolles learned the secret techniques for manufacturing the ceramic by gaining access to the kilns, studying Chinese books, and getting “many particulars from my neophytes, several of whom work in porcelain.” (It seems that someone was doing some recruiting and case officer-ing.)