For years, Airbus has used bribery and other forms of corruption in unfair competition against American companies, according to President Clinton's former CIA chief.
In a March 17, 2000 Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "Why We Spy On Our Allies," former CIA Director R. James Woolsey addressed Europe's complaints that US intelligence services were spying on Airbus and another European company.
"Europeans flatter themselves if they think US intelligence is trying to steal their trade secrets," he wrote. "They don't have much worth stealing. Instead we're looking for evidence of bribery."
A European Parliament report objecting to the American electronic intelligence collection program called Echelon admits that American spies discovered that "Airbus agents were offering bribes to a Saudi official."
Airbus allegedly made lots of other bribes as well. "That's right, my continental friends, we have spied on you because you bribe," Woolsey wrote. "Your companies' products are often more costly, less technologically advanced or both, than your American competitors'. As a result you bribe a lot."
"When we have caught you at it," Woolsey continued in his address to European critics, "we haven't said a word to the US companies in the competition. Instead we go to the government you're bribing and tell its officials that we don't take kindly to such corruption. They often respond by giving the most meritorious bid (sometimes American, sometimes not) all or part of the contract. This upsets you, and sometimes creates recriminations between your bribers and your bribees, and this occasionally becomes a public scandal. . . .
"Why do you bribe? It's not because your companies are inherently more corrupt. Nor is it because you are inherently less talented at technology. It is because your economic patron saint is still Jean Baptiste Colbert, whereas ours is Adam Smith.
"In spite of a few recent reforms, your governments largely still dominate your economies, so you have much greater difficulty than we at innovating, encouraging labor mobility, reducing costs, attracting capital to fast-moving young businesses and adapting quickly to changing economic circumstances. You'd rather not go through the hassle of moving toward less dirigisme. It's so much easier to keep paying bribes. . . .
"Get serious, Europeans. Stop blaming us and reform your own statist economic policies. Then your companies can become more efficient and innovative, and they won't need to resort to bribery to compete.
"And then we won't need to spy on you."