21 August 2007

Spies For Hire: CTC International Group

Spies For Hire: CTC International Group
Security World (English edition)
August 21, 2007

The heat is oppressive in the Southeast Asian jungle. Belligerent Cambodians under orders to locate and kill all traitors have invaded Angkor Wat. The spy, evading capture, hides out in the control tower of an old airport. In a moment of misguided heroism, he steps outside to study the action in the trenches. Suddenly, an enemy bullet slices the air a few inches above his head. In a barrage of gunfire, the spy manages to escape unharmed.

It sounds like a scene from a James Bond movie, but it was an all-too-real experience for former CIA officer and West Palm Beach resident Fred Rustmann. After 24 years of “living in a womb” of clandestine operations that took him from Addis Ababa to Saigon, Rustmann retired from the agency with such high-profile accomplishments as helping deflect an Arab hijack operation and rescuing a fellow spy from captivity - and torture - in Ethiopia.

But what’s a spy to do when he comes in from the cold? The retired lifestyle seemed a tad tame after his heart-in-mouth capers so, recognizing his information gathering expertise was a valuable commodity, Rustmann started CTC International Group, a business-intelligence company based on Clematis Street.

“Corporations that want to compete better overseas need introductions to key people and access to hard-to-get information,” Rustmann says, explaining that getting information from rival firms is no different than getting it from enemy governments. “We obtain that information through the same techniques the CIA uses.”

That means using a network of ex-CIA and KGB officers around the world, all of whom have access to top decision makers. The spies themselves don’t get their hands dirty. The recruit locals to work undercover, enticing them with such motivators as money, recognition or revenge. “Every problem on earth can be solved with information,” he says. “Our job is to figure out who has that information and target that individual.”

Though it’s tempting to label this work as “industrial espionage,” it isn’t that at all. “The difference is a legal one,” Rustmann says. “Industrial espionage employs techniques that are illegal, like bugging or bribing. We draw the line there. We trick people a lot into giving us the information, but we don’t break any laws. I won’t go to jail for anybody.”

Since CTC’s inception in 1992, Rustmann and his spy-net have provided sophisticated intelligence guidance on environmental issues, international law, risk analysis and internal leak identification.

CTC International Group was founded in 1992 to fill the need for high quality, affordable business intelligence. Its executives are mostly former officers of the Central Intelligence Agency, with unique training, experience, and contacts. All the personnel and associates are hand-picked because of their exceptional qualifications, and they are licensed investigators and members of several international investigative organizations. To ensure the highest quality product possible, it uses the same basic organizational structure as the CIA; it has an operational component that collects information from a wide variety of sources and an analytic component that synthesizes, analyzes, and reports the information to the client. The analysts also identify any existing gaps and task the operation department to collect the information to fill those gaps. They also work closely with the client to ensure that the investigation is answering their specific questions. Additionally, because they use clandestine collection methods, CTC International Group is able to maintain complete confidentiality for the client. It uses the same methodology whether they are undertaking an international or domestic investigation.

CTC takes its name from the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center (Rustmann commanded the center’s overseas station prior to his retirement). The company maintains a low profile and runs just like what it is: a miniature CIA with representatives in London, Paris, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok, Addis Ababa, Cyprus, Mexico and elsewhere. All dealings with CTC are conducted through the firm’s corporate headquarters in Florida.

The “can-do” attitude of the CIA, from which its employees are drawn, is readily apparent. While it can do, and has done, about everything possible in the world of business intelligence, its principal activities fall into five main areas:

Providing risk analysis for basic corporate decisions.
Finding international partners for American businesses.
Conducting targeted intelligence collection to obtain specific information needed by clients.
Conducting counterintelligence to protect clients from the loss of proprietary information and ensuring the safety of corporate personnel.
Conducting special operations such as exfiltration of threatened executives, the release of hostages or the return of children kidnapped and taken out of the country by a parent without legal custody.
Each type of assignment requires skills CTC operatives developed at the CIA such as computer research, hostile area operations, contact interviews and information extraction and evaluation. Clients receive periodic progress reports and an end-of-assignment wrap-up written by operatives who are highly educated and experienced in producing intelligence packages for American and foreign leaders.

“Providing risk analysis information is usually the mundane part of our business, although it occasionally gets exciting,” Rustmann said, “but without this type of information a business can’t be effective internationally.” Risk analysis information is a collection of basic information about a country’s economic, political and cultural data - a rundown on local business practices and the interplay between government and business. It also includes advice on criminal and, if applicable, insurgent/terrorist activities and how to deal with them.

“Risk analysis is the foundation that any business must lay prior to getting involved overseas,” Rustmann insists. “It gives a company the information it needs to determine whether or not to expand into a given country and, if so, how to do it effectively.”

Far too many businesses fail to address this area in their planning and pay a price for their neglect. According to Rustmann, a U.S. truck-exporting company expanded operations into a Middle East country without doing its homework. Once it had gotten in too far to gracefully back out, it discovered its major competitor was the brother-in-law of the ruler of the country. No one would buy a truck from any company that the brother-in-law did not control. The result was a costly failure for an American company and several “former” company executives. CTC could have easily alerted the company to the situation prior to investing in its expansion effort.

The term “business intelligence” is used to cover a wide-range of information needs by the business community. The aim of CTC International Group is to provide information to allow a client to solve whatever problem they may have. These needs range from conducting confidential investigations of prospective employees and joint-venture partners to risk assessments, market analysis and company/market viability studies. Competitor intelligence helps companies make important strategic and tactical decisions.

CTC’s extensive web of high level international contacts and knowledge of cultures and business climates allows them to provide clients with important information on how to accomplish business goals in foreign countries and to introduce clients to the important members in government and business circles.

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