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U.S. Dept. of Defense Confirms NCIS Espionage Investigation of Shell

By John Donovan

On 19 June 2010, I received a strange email claiming that in 2006, U.S. authorities launched an investigation into alleged industrial espionage by Shell Oil.

Some extracts:

Shell was implicated by their attorneys, the law firm of Vethan and Waldrop, and Matt Waldrop, principle partner of the law firm. Shell had been attempting to gain unlawful access to technical material that had been classified by the Navy Dept., Office of Naval Research in 2001. This material was the IP of a former employee. Shell was apparently trying to ‘muscle’ their way into gaining ownership of the IP material. This material was classified under DoE/DoD nuclear weapons classification authorities.

The above (alleged) conduct by Shell constitutes a capital crime under US law and there are no statutes of limitations regarding this conduct, for the company or the Shell officials involved…

To most people, the suggestion that Shell, a respected iconic global brand for as long as anyone can remember, could be involved in anything as underhanded as industrial espionage in an alleged attempt to steal intellectual property, would be inconceivable.

I, however, have a unique perspective on Shell IP theft and Shell espionage. Shell has stolen intellectual property from me on several occasions. It tried to keep the associated court settlements secret after I was forced to repeatedly issue High Court proceedings against the company. (See pdf of magazine feature – High Court papers unveil ‘secret’ Shell writ lossesspread over several pages, so it takes a little time to load).

Evidence of Shell’s spying operations against companies, individuals, NGO’s and even its own employees, are revealed in the article Royal Dutch Shell and the dark arts. It also details information about Shell’s IP theft carried out on an industrial scale.

Under the circumstances, readers will understand why I was not shocked by the latest allegations relating to Shell Oil. However, it still struck me as unlikely that Shell would target U.S. government classified information and that a U.S. investigation of Shell for alleged industrial espionage would have been launched.

Before writing it all off as a hoax, I decided to approach Richard Wiseman, Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer of Royal Dutch Shell Plc.

This is an extract from my email to him:

Is there any foundation to what is stated? If you say it is all untrue – that there is no substance to anything stated – then we will be not publish anything on the subject.

Mr. Wiseman was unable to give that straightforward assurance. For some reason, he twice declined my invitation in the email correspondence for Shell to deny the allegations. This suggested to me that there was substance to the allegations. Mr Wiseman must have checked the matter with his U.S. Shell colleagues before responding, yet would not issue a categorical denial, or indeed any denial.

I also sent an email to Mr. Matt Waldrop, the lawyer named in the allegations. I received no response at all from Mr. Waldrop. This again was revealing, because if there had been no substance to the allegations, he almost certainly would have denied the accusations and almost certainly issued threats about any publication of the allegations, which if true, would likely destroy his reputation and his career as an attorney.

In view of the lack of a denial from Shell and a lack of response or threats from Mr. Waldrop, I published an article containing the email correspondence. There was no response to the publication from either Shell or Mr. Waldrop. I expected no response from Shell, but the lack of any response on the part of Mr. Waldrop was very odd indeed given that he had just been publicly linked to an alleged criminal conspiracy to commit espionage. In view of the lack of ANY response from Shell or Mr. Waldrop to the initial article, I  decided to pursue the story.

Following my email correspondence with a U.S. intelligence source, and clearance obtained by that source from U.S. Dept. of Defense government attorneys, that source was authorized to confirm that an investigation directed at Shell USA was indeed initiated by the US Department of the Navy, Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS). Acting in his capacity as a senior high level United States Department of Defense investigative officer, this source had instigated the investigation.

The US Navy Department has declined thus far to provide any information relating to the status of the investigation. In this connection, I have seen current related correspondence involving U.S. government departments, including the FBI.

What seems to have happened is that a former Shell employee invented some ground breaking technology with applications relating to hydrocarbon exploration, and military uses relevant to submarine warfare and nuclear weapons design. Shell knew about the potential civil applications, and perhaps some military applications, but nothing specific about the technology which made the applications possible. This made it impossible for Shell to claim ownership when it could not even explain how the technology worked. Shell allegedly decided to get its hands on the technology by surreptitious means, rather than negotiating a commercial agreement/license with the inventor, its former employee, if indeed such a license would have been allowed by the U.S. government.

It is entirely inappropriate (and criminal) for a multinational corporation to instigate industrial espionage operations on an international basis, targeting individuals, families, NGO’s, activists campaigning on an entirely legal basis, and allegedly even trying to steal classified technology from a friendly government with whom the UK is said to have a special relationship.

Such behavior could be expected from the fictional criminal organizations depicted in James Bond novels, but not from a global oil giant claiming to operate within its own much-trumpeted General Business Principles.

In reality, Royal Dutch Shell management, backed up by an in-house army of eight hundred lawyers, apparently believes it is so powerful and influential that it is not subject to national or international law, or any ethical norms.

Threats – including death threats – allegedly made against conscience driven whistleblowers leaking information and/or Shell internal documents to the author of this article, should heighten concern about the dark side of Shell.

For these reasons, I will bring this matter to the attention of every UK MP. This includes every UK government minister. Information I have previously circulated to MP’s in association with a Shell whistleblower, retired Shell International HSE Group Auditor, Bill Campbell, resulted in a criminal investigation by Grampion Police concerning allegations of corruption against Shell and others. Grampion Police submitted a file to the Scottish legal authorityThe Procurator Fiscal – and a decision is imminent on launching a prosecution.

I will also send information about the alleged Shell Oil espionage operation to appropriate high level members of the U.S. government.

I would have thought that American authorities would be greatly disturbed to say the least that a foreign owned U.S. company, whose parent corporation was seeking to strengthen its close ties with past and current fanatical state sponsors of terrorism, including regimes possessing huge hydrocarbon reserves, is allegedly responsible for industrial espionage targeting classified technology, including technology relating to nuclear weapons design and naval warfare.

The US Navy and the Royal Navy work together operationally VERY closely, and in a highly coordinated and cooperative fashion. The strategic nuclear forces of the US Navy and the British Royal Navy essentially function as a single navy, with the UK providing about 20% of total force levels. Furthermore, there is extensive technology exchange between the two navies.

With these facts in mind, it is clear that Shell’s (alleged) industrial espionage operation threatens the security of BOTH navies, and the national security interests of BOTH nations.

However, from the information I have seen, Shell is not the only alleged culprit in this sinister affair. Incompetent conduct of the US Office of Naval Research is allegedly responsible for allowing this situation to develop. ONR should have followed US law by providing the appropriate secure storage facilities for the classified materials. Its failure to do so may have constituted a criminal (and willfully malicious?) violation of US law.

Unclassified records (allegedly) also show that the misconduct (criminal?) of ONR’s scientific community resulted in the deliberate and unauthorized release of highly classified material, which may have the potential of affecting the security status of not only the US Navy’s strategic nuclear submarine fleet, but also that of the Royal Navy. Not only that, the release of that material may have the potential of contributing directly to the spread and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and therefore may have the potential of compromising the efforts of the US and the UK, and NATO, et al, to halt the spread of these weapons to rogue nations and terrorist organizations.

While the (apparent) failure of the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research to properly secure the highly classified material as required by US law (Atomic Energy Act of 1954), followed by alleged unauthorized release of that highly classified material, may not have been a direct violation of the 1958 US-UK Mutual Defense Agreement, it was definitely a violation of the ‘spirit and intent’ of that agreement.

The evidence we have exposed of a rogue multinational foreign owned corporation, with unhealthy close ties with the FBI on the one hand and rogue nations on the other, allegedly running an espionage operation in the USA deliberately or inadvertently targeting stealth and nuclear weapons design technology, should set alarm bells ringing from the White House to 10 Downing Street.

Military technology may not have been Shell’s prime target, but if Shell’s (alleged) efforts had succeeded, it would have acquired classified information of immeasurable value to Iran, with whom Shell was anxious to seal a deal to develop the giant South Pars gas field in defiance of USA sanctions. That technology would probably be of great interest and perhaps great value to the Russians, another nation with vast oil and gas resources, with whom Shell has had somewhat of a rocky relationship. This technology could likewise be of great value to the Chinese, with whom Shell is developing ever closer ties for the exploitation of apparently vast shale gas reserves.

Because of the unusual nature of some of the information supplied to me from the USA during the course of my investigation, I deemed it appropriate to inform the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) of these matters.

This is not the first time that I have been drawn into matters involving an investigation of Shell Oil USA by a U.S. federal authority. In 2009 I was approached by a U.S. government department investigating allegations of corruption against Shell Oil. At their request, I supplied Shell internal documents which had been leaked to us and subsequently received an email expressing gratitude for my “great help”.

Ironically, Shell Oil USA, in conjunction with Royal Dutch Shell Corporate Affairs Security (CAS), had at that time, just instigated a global espionage operation against me involving the National Cyber-Forensics Training Alliance, a Pittsburgh based cybercrime unit partly staffed and funded by the FBI. NCFTA has the task of “hunting down some of the world’s most wanted online criminals.” The operation, which has the objective of stopping the leakage of Shell insider information to me, is apparently still in progress. I discovered this information from Shell internal emails obtained from an impeccable source.

So I can personally testify that Shell Oil USA does resort to industrial espionage.

Under the circumstances, it seems appropriate to pose some related questions:

1) Should a foreign owned company, such as Shell Oil USA, who engages in industrial espionage, including apparently  industrial espionage directed against the government of the United States, be allowed to do business with that government, now or at any time in the foreseeable future?

2) Is it appropriate for such a company (foreign owned) to be allowed to use USA law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, and specialist cybercrime facilities, such as NCFTA, to target people such as me, operating on an entirely non commercial basis, drawing attention to Shell’s abject failure to abide by its own much-trumpeted businesses principles?

3. In 2004, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission imposed a huge fine on Shell for committing securities fraud – one of the biggest securities frauds in history. In 2008, Shell Oil’s role in a sex and drugs scandal involving corrupting employees of the Minerals Management Service of the Department of the Interior made the headlines. Shell also has a terrible track record for employee fatalities. It’s notorious “Touch F*** All” safety culture on North Sea Oil rigs cost the lives of offshore employees in the Brent Bravo explosion. On 3rd October 2010, the Wiesenthal Center called for a boycott of Royal Dutch Shell because of its continued trading with the fanatical regime in Iran, which has supplied the roadside bombs that have maimed and killed many American and British soldiers courageously serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given this track record, should this thoroughly unethical and devious foreign owned company be allowed to explore for and produce oil and gas at great profit from US territorial Arctic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico waters?

Some of the above information is incorporated in my more recent and more detailed email correspondence with Mr Wiseman.

I have also supplied Shell with a copy of a narrative which discusses in detail the history of events of this intriguing saga. (LINK TO NARRATIVE WILL BE INSERTED) The extremely serious nature of the (alleged) conspiracy to commit espionage by a foreign owned company, Shell USA, with US citizens acting as agents and accomplices, targeting information classified by U.S. military authorities is detailed in the narrative.


It turned out that Mr Wiseman was not available until 11 October. As can be seen from the email correspondence with Mr Michiel Brandjes, (Company Secretary & General Counsel Corporate, Royal Dutch Shell Plc) Shell was unwilling to say anything in response to the allegations, not even the successive “No comment” replies received from Mr Wiseman when we first approached Shell about these allegations in June, before we had received confirmation of a U.S. investigation of alleged industrial espionage by Shell.

I did attempt to contact by email other parties mentioned in the HISTORICAL NARRATIVE. No response has been received. With regard to the Texas law firm of Vethan and Waldrop mentioned above, Charles Vethan and Matt Waldrop are apparently still working together. Their names both appear on the website of The Vethan Law Firm, PC.

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One Comment

  1. Wolf-Bulder says:

    Not all multinationals are created equal. If they control energy they can bypass national security of any nation and still function with impunity. And they are a force on par with any small or medium countries, like says:

    “Money is power. And wherever large amounts of money collect, so also new centers of power form. The latest historical manifestation of this is the modern corporation.

    Make no mistake, these new power centers are not democracies. We don’t vote for the CEO’s or their policies (unless we are: rich enough to be significant shareholders, informed enough to know what’s going on, and compassionate enough to care about more than just personal profit), yet our destinies are increasingly in their hands. “