Unauthorized Exports Of Military Equipment
Thursday, October 11th 2007, 3:17 pm
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) Missile technology, fighter jet parts, night vision goggles and other U.S. wartime equipment increasingly are being illegally smuggled into hostile nations, including China and Iran, the federal government said Thursday.
Last week, two Utah men were arrested for allegedly trying to sell parts over the Internet for F-4 and F-14 fighter jets, which are only flown by Iran. The week before, two engineers were indicted in San Jose, Calif., on charges of stealing computer chip designs intended for the Chinese military.
Government lawyers and investigators Thursday described a growing number of unauthorized exports that could be dangerous if the parts and supplies end up in the hands of terrorists or hostile nations.
``The concept of terrorists, criminals or rogue nations obtaining weapons and other restricted technology is chilling,'' said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, who oversees illegal export investigations as head of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Assistant Attorney General Ken Wainstein called new government efforts to crack down on illegal exports the Justice Department's top counterintelligence priority.
A Pentagon report noted a 43 percent increase in 2005 in what it described as suspicious foreign contacts with U.S-based defense companies.
Another report last year by U.S. intelligence officials found that a record 108 nations were trying to buy or otherwise obtain U.S. technology that is restricted for sale. It did not list which nations or specify whether some of them were U.S. allies.
Night vision goggles, body armor and equipment used in improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, have been in particular demand since the 2001 terror attacks that prompted the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, officials said. But some prosecutors have been reluctant to pursue the smugglers because illegal export cases can be very complicated and time-consuming to chase.
``These are incredibly complicated cases,'' Assistant Attorney General Ken Wainstein said, adding that training and assistance will be given to prosecutors and investigators working on a new task force under the departments of State, Justice, Homeland Security, Defense, Commerce and the FBI.
The task force largely will focus on U.S.-based exporters who sell or ship equipment overseas without proper authorization.