The Department of Justice announced today an expanded indictment of Sixing “Steve” Liu on additional charges that he violated the Arms Export Control Act through the unauthorized transfer of technical data relating to defense navigation systems. A previous indictment in April included one export count and two counts of making false statements to government agents. The new indictment covers eight counts of illegal exports, one count of transporting stolen goods, and two counts of false statements.
The charges arise from a secondary inspection of Liu by Customs and Border
Patrol Protection agents at Newark Airport on November 29, 2010, as Liu was returning from the People’s Republic of China. Although Liu allegedly told agents he had been visiting family in China, inspection of his luggage revealed conference badges and other evidence that he had attended a technical conference in China during that trip. The inspection also revealed that his computer had various documents relating to defense navigation systems from the company where Liu worked as an engineer.
There is no evidence that Liu actually disclosed any of these documents during his trip to China. However, simply carrying the documents into China, even if they weren’t disclosed to anyone there, is considered an export of those documents.
The criminal complaint that preceded the April indictment hilariously mangles the definition of “export” in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations in order to make the case that Liu exported the technical data at issue:
The regulations promulgated pursuant to the Act, known as the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (hereinafter, “ITAR”) define exporting to include, among other things: “[s]ending or taking a defense article out of the United States in any manner . . . by a person whose personal knowledge includes technical data.”
Sharp-eyed readers and fellow ITARnauts will no doubt notice the odd omission of “except” where the ellipses appear. Here’s how that section actually reads in full with the deleted words emphasized:
Export means: (1) Sending or taking a defense article out of the United States in any manner, except by mere travel outside of the United States by a person whose personal knowledge includes technical data.
Oops. What is supposed to be a sensible exception to the definition of “export” is turned into a new requirement by this misquotation.