Trial Begins for Man Indicted for Taking His Laptop to China

Posted by at 3:55 pm on September 13, 2012
Category: Criminal Penalties

Chinese FlagBack in September 2011 this blog reported on charges brought against Sixing “Steve” Liu, a U.S. citizen permanent resident working as an engineer on naval defense systems, arising from his traveling to China with a laptop on which he had allegedly saved work material that was export controlled. Opening statements were heard yesterday in Liu’s trial.

No allegations were made in Liu’s indictment that this material was actually disclosed to anyone in China because simply taking the data to China is considered an export, whether disclosed or not. Of course, even if taking the laptop to China constituted an export of the data on the laptop, Mr. Liu would not have committed a criminal offense unless he had the requisite criminal intent, that is, unless he knew that taking his laptop to China with that data on it, even if the data was never disclosed to anyone in China, was a violation of law.

Not surprisingly, the opening statement by Liu’s attorney focused on the absence of criminal intent by Liu and argued that Liu was unaware that taking his laptop to China with export-controlled data was illegal:

Liu’s training in the laws governing the export of defense materials consisted of 15 minutes on his first day of work, between sessions on employee benefits and sexual harassment guidelines, [Liu’s lawyer] said.

If true, I think I would agree that this was probably not enough time for export training and that the company involved might find itself in hot water for its own export violations if this were known by the export agencies.


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Copyright © 2012 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)


This wouldn’t be a first went to set this kind of example, John Reece Roth also took his laptop with him to china too. In his email folder he also had an export-controlled proposal I had sent him, and had told not to share, and Roth specifically agreed to only keep a hard copy in his files, but of course, as revealed in the trial evidence, he didn’t.

Also, as you probably know, Roth also made matters worst for himself, by asking one of his Chinese students to email him even more export-controlled information while he was there in China.

The moral of the story, should be perfectly clear, if you’re involved with research in any fashion, it is not safe to carry any kind of electronic device out of the country that has had any access to your work or work related email. Even if this man is found innocent, the time, legal costs, and stress is absolutely not worth risk.

Comment by Daniel Max Sherman on September 14th, 2012 @ 3:46 am

Is Liu a citizen, or a permanent resident? An article I read that was published in 2011 claims he’s a permanent resident. Just curious. Thanks.,%20Sixing%20Superseding%20Indictment%20News%20Release.html

Comment by Melissa on September 14th, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    I had seen reports that he was a U.S. citizen, but I’m guessing those were in error given your link. I’ve changed the post to reflect that. Thanks for the update.

    Comment by Clif Burns on September 14th, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

Dr. Sherman: As a Tennessean, I really feel like you got the shaft by the heathern yankee Department of [in]Justice. The Knox News, especially that girl “reporter” defamed you. DoJ perpetrated a fraud upon the Court.

Comment by Hillbilly on September 15th, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

@Hillybilly — why did you say, “especially that girl reporter”… and not, “especially that local reporter” or “especially that so-called reporter,” etc.? Surely her gender is irrelevant. (Unless you were trying to insult Matt Lakin??)

Comment by Chris W. on September 21st, 2012 @ 2:18 pm