"People who are gainfully employed with the agency should not be doing anything else," says Rustmann. "It's a security problem if nothing else. They have so many secrets in their heads and now they're working with another boss. It's not a very comfortable situation. "
Of course, the vast majority of employees in the corporate intelligence industry have no ties to the CIA. The industry has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, and experts say most Fortune 500 companies now either hire consultants to help them gather intelligence about competitors or have units specifically dedicated to this task.
Most of the time, the work is mundane. Researchers search public databases, government filings, transcripts of television interviews and statements made at conferences to guess at their competitors' strategies. The practice of calling a company and posing as a non-threatening research firm, as CTC does, is also common practice. Buying trash, however, is considered unethical.
Nevertheless, every once in a while a large transgression makes it into the headlines.
In 2000, for example, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison admitted to having hired a private detective agency that stole trash from a Washington trade group supporting Microsoft.
Ken Garrison, head of the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, says most of the work done by his members involves carefully analyzing bits of information gathered legally and ethically.
"Multi-national companies have very long and specific ethics codes," he says, arguing that companies not only want to abide by the law but are also eager to operate ethically. "They don't want information gained by unethical means. This is not the image the company wants to put forth."