A New Jersey woman, Hannah Robert, was arraigned on Monday on charges that she exported ITAR-controlled technical drawings without a DDTC license in violation of the Arms Export Control Act. The drawings allegedly involved parts for the F-15, the Chinook helicopter and other military aircraft as well as nuclear submarines.
According to the DOJ press release, Ms. Robert used an unusual method of exporting the technical drawings to her overseas contact:
Starting in October 2010, Robert transmitted the military drawings for these parts to India by posting the technical data to the password-protected website of a Camden County, N.J., church where she was a volunteer web administrator. This was done without the knowledge of the church staff. Robert e-mailed R.P. the username and password to the church website so that R.P. could download the files from India. Through the course of the scheme, Robert uploaded thousands of technical drawings to the church website for R.P. to download in India.
A key element in any export prosecution is scienter, that is, proof that the defendant knew that his or her conduct was illegal. If these allegations are true, the prosecution is not going to have a hard time in establishing that Ms. Robert knew that she should not have sent these drawings out of the country without a license.
For espionage aficionados, this technique is known as a dead drop and in the Internet era dead drops have been done on such places as draft folders of shared Gmail accounts (viz., the love letters of General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell). It’s probably safe to say that churches, whether brick and mortar or their virtual locations, are not the best location for a dead drop. The DOJ press release doesn’t reveal how Ms. Robert got nabbed but I have a pretty clear picture of some shocked vicar stumbling on these drawings late one night and calling the feds.