Archive for the ‘Arms Export’ Category


Mar

10

Maryland Pizza Shop Owner Pleads to Export Charges


Posted by at 11:06 pm on March 10, 2015
Category: Arms ExportCriminal PenaltiesDDTC

Da Dan Xia Weapons Cache by Colombia Prosecutor's Office [Fair Use]The owner of a Jerry’s Subs and Pizza franchise in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, pleaded guilty to shipping various rifles and rifle parts, including magazines, receivers, and sights, to Pakistan without the required license from the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls. According to the DOJ press release announcing the plea deal, Kamran Malik, the defendant, shipped the goods in packages with false return addresses and false descriptions of the contents. There is no indication as to  the intended recipients of the firearms and parts in Pakistan. As part of the plea deal, the Government has agreed to argue for a reduction in the offense level from 26 to 23, which would reduce the maximum penalty from 78 to 57 months.

Something else is going on here. There is also a sealed plea agreement supplement. That normally means that the defendant will be a cooperating witness and that the sealed supplement contains a cooperation agreement.  The purpose of sealing that information is to protect the cooperating defendant. Of course, since such supplements pretty much signal that the defendant is going to cooperate with the government, that purpose is largely lost. I suspect this means that the recipients of the items in Pakistan are of more than passing interest to the United States Government.

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Mar

9

Slow Boat From China: Keep Cuba in Arms Evermore


Posted by at 5:23 pm on March 9, 2015
Category: Arms ExportChinaCuba Sanctions

Da Dan Xia Weapons Cache by Colombia Prosecutor's Office [Fair Use]Colombia recently detained the Chinese vessel Da Dan Xia after it entered the port of Cartagena to unload part of its cargo. Based on an anonymous tip, Colombian officials searched the boat and found a boatload, so to speak, of weapons: 100 tons of gunpowder, just under three million detonators, 99 projectiles and approximately 3,000 cannon shells. All destined for Cuba. The ship’s documentation listed none of these goodies correctly, instead calling them spare parts and chemicals, and so the captain of the ship was hauled off the boat and arrested.

The Cubans aren’t saying anything and the Chinese are saying stupid things.

China’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday that the ship had been involved in “normal trade co-operation”. Hua Chunying said the ship was carrying ordinary military supplies to Cuba and was not in violation of any international obligations.

Of course, this does not explain why the items were not accurately described. But I can tell you the likely reason for that: Colombia is a signatory to the Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Material. That means that a transit permit would have been required for the ship to enter a Colombian port loaded up with this cargo. And, guess what? China did not want to bother getting a transit permit, largely, I suppose, because it did not want the United States, or anyone else, to know that it was selling this stuff to Cuba.

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Feb

18

The Sledgehammer Exception


Posted by at 10:18 pm on February 18, 2015
Category: Arms ExportDDTCITARUSML

Sanaá, Yemen by Rod Waddington [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/rod_waddington/16293960729[cropped]

When the Marines evacuated the U.S. Embassy in Sanaá, Yemen, there were reports that they left some of their weapons behind, in large measure because they were leaving on a commercial flight. At first the military said that crew-served weapons and machine guns were destroyed before departure, but that M-9 pistols and M-4 carbines were handed over to Yemenis before the boarded the plane.

Realizing that this was perhaps a giant SNAFU, the military later revised its story to take care of the pistols and the carbines

“Upon arrival at the airfield, all personal weapons were rendered inoperable in accordance with advance planning,” the statement said. “Specifically, each bolt was removed from its weapons body and rendered inoperable by smashing with sledgehammers. The weapons’ bodies, minus the bolts, were then separately smashed with sledgehammers.”

There you have it: nothing to see here because the military used the smashed-to-bits exception which authorizes a U.S. person to retransfer a defense article to a foreign end user as long as someone takes a sledgehammer to it first. You may be wondering if there is such an exception, and the answer is maybe yes and maybe no.

A few initial observations are in order. First, the Arms Export Control Act applies to the military and active duty troops just as it does to everyone else. Second, the ITAR prohibits unlicensed transfer of defense articles from one foreign end use to another foreign end use without a license. So, unless there is a sledgehammer exception, we have a problem here.

The only possible source for the sledgehammer exception is section 126.4, which states:

The approval of the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls must be obtained before defense articles previously exported pursuant to this exemption are permanently transferred (e.g., property disposal of surplus defense articles overseas) unless the transfer is pursuant to a grant, sale, lease, loan or cooperative project under the Arms Export Control Act or a sale, lease or loan under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, or the defense articles have been rendered useless for military purposes beyond the possibility of restoration.

At first glance, this appears to support the sledgehammer exception. The military says it rendered the bolts “inoperable.” The rest of the weapons, however, were just smashed. So, I think we don’t have to worry about the bolts, but did smashing the rest of the weapons with a sledgehammer render every other part and component of those weapons “useless for military purposes beyond the possibility of restoration”?  Those parts and components are defense articles in Category I(h) and each and every one of them needed to be sledgehammered beyond the possibility of restoration. That’s a lot of sledgehammering, and it seems to me unlikely that actually happened before the Marines hopped onto their flights out of Yemen.

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Sep

24

Get Smart: Chinese Spy Edition


Posted by at 4:51 pm on September 24, 2014
Category: Arms ExportCriminal PenaltiesDDTCTechnical Data Export

By General Artists Corporation-GAC-management. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADonAdams.jpgMeet Charlie and Alice, two self-professed PRC spies who branched out from smuggling crystal meth into the United States to attempting to export airplanes and military technology from the United States to the PRC. Things did not turn out so well for Charlie and Alice who probably should have stuck with drug trafficking. So, find a comfortable chair, grab a bag of popcorn, and prepare to be entertained by the story that unfolds in the Criminal Complaint filed against them and to which they just pleaded guilty.

It was a dark and stormy evening in Manila when a counterfeit cigarette smuggler introduced two undercover agents working for the United States to Hui Sheng Shen, a/k/a “Charlie,” and Huan Ling Chang, a/k/a “Alice.” According to Mr. Counterfeit Cigarette Guy, Alice and Charlie could help the UCs obtain methamphetamine.

Alice and Charlie, explaining to the UCs that email was insecure, set up a drop email account, gave the UCs the credentials for the account, and said that they should communicate via messages left in the draft folder. (This method is not particularly effective in hiding communications from the government when you’re dealing with undercover agents but, whatever, it’s the trendy spycraft du jour.) Using this method, a deal for a kilo of meth was consummated and shipped to the UCs in tea bags hidden in computer towers. (Of course, no customs inspector would ever be suspicious of tea bags in computer towers so this is yet another example of top notch spycraft by Charlie and Alice.)

Emboldened by their world-class narcotics deal, Charlie and Alice decided to move on to bigger things and just kinda casually dropped into a subsequent conversation with the UCs that they would, oh, by the way, like to buy a military aircraft. Because, naturally, guys who buy drugs normally have a warehouse of military aircraft that they can sell to the people they buy drugs from.  And Charlie and Alice wanted not just any airplane but a honking huge E-2 Hawkeye reconnaisance aircraft. “Sure, Charlie, I’ll leave one for you at the front desk of your hotel after you wire me $100 million dollars.”

Of course, knowing the sensitivity of such an operation, Charlie and Alice wanted to refer to the Hawkeye in code as the “Big Toy.” That way, they could always claim, if caught, that they were really talking about a 12-ton toy Tonka truck. At this point, one of the UCs hits comedy gold when he says to Charlie and Alice:

“Do you guys realize what this thing is?.. . This thing is like a um 757 plane — it’s on aircraft carriers. Those things don’t just disappear.”

Undeterred, Charlie and Alice still kept negotiating to buy the “big toy,” stating that their buyer, which they described as the “Chinese C.I.A.,” could afford it. The UCs, however, managed to steer them to something more manageable, something that could fit in a backpack, namely, a Raven RQ 11B UAV. Charlie and Alice explained that they could smuggle the UAV out of the United States by having scuba divers or remote-controlled submersible vehicles carry the items to an off-shore Chinese ship. They also planned to get the manuals out by taking pictures of the manuals, deleting the pictures from the memory cards and then having their friends in China recover the deleted images.

There were, of course, two problems with the deleted image trick. First, everyone (even Customs) knows about it and can easily detect and recover deleted images on digital camera memory cards. Second, Charlie and Alice were arrested while taking the pictures.

For those who want to try at home the recovering deleted images trick, here’s a quick guide on how to do that.

 

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Sep

17

Turkish Citizen Indicted For Foreign Downloads of Submarine Drawings


Posted by at 7:11 pm on September 17, 2014
Category: Arms ExportCriminal PenaltiesDDTCITARUSML

By U.S. Navy via http://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=16778 [Public Domain]Alper Calik — a Turkish citizen and co-owner of Clifton, New Jersey based Clifmax LLC — has been arrested based on a criminal complaint, dated September 12, charging him, among other things, with violating the Arms Export Control Act by exporting without a license certain drawings relating to the NSSN (Virginia) class submarine. (And, no, I am not reporting this case simply because the company is named Clifmax, although that is, leaving the alleged criminal conduct aside, an awesome name for a company.)

At the heart of the allegations are two drawings that Calik downloaded from a DoD database after signing the Military Critical Technical Data Agreement which must be signed in order to gain access to the DoD drawing database at issue. The criminal complaint alleges that Calik downloaded these images while in Turkey and attempts to assert that Calik knew doing this was illegal because he had signed the Military Critical Technical Data Agreement.

However, the Military Critical Technical Data Agreement is hardly specific about what is or is not permitted with respect to the drawings, saying only this:

[The undersigned] acknowledge[s] all responsibilities under applicable U.S. export control laws and regulations (including the obligation, under certain circumstances, to obtain an export license from the U.S. Government prior to the release of militarily critical technical data within the United States) or applicable Canadian export control laws and regulations, and (2) agree[s] not to disseminate militarily critical technical data in a manner that would violate applicable U.S. or Canadian export control laws and regulations.

Suffice it to say that this certification is poorly drafted and confusing, mentioning an export license only in the context of releasing the data “within the United States.” Nor does the certification that he would not “disseminate” the data clearly prohibit him from downloading the information for his own personal review in a foreign country. Obviously, such downloads do in fact violate U.S. exports if the downloads include ITAR-controlled technical data, but this certification neither makes that clear nor establishes that Calik had the necessary criminal intent when he downloaded the documents

The complaint alleges that there were legends restricting export on the drawings involved, but does not quote those legends. Whether these legends are enough of a predicate to support the criminal intent necessary for conviction on the export charges depends on what those legends said and that remains to be seen.

UPDATE:  Two commenters make an excellent point about using the legends on the drawings as indicia of criminal intent: Calik would have only seen the legends after he downloaded the drawings in Turkey.  The significance of this point is magnified even further when you consider this statement from the criminal complaint:

Beginning in or around 2009 to the present time, ALPER CALIK downloaded approximately one hundred thousand drawings. some of which were subject to U.S. export control regulations without obtaining export licenses from the U.S. Department of State. ALPER CALIK was not in the United States when the majority of the drawings were downloaded.

At issue are only two of these one hundred thousand downloaded drawings, which would have revealed the legends only after being downloaded.  The overwhelming portion of the remainder of the drawings not having any indication that the downloading of these or other drawings might be problematic.

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