Archive for the ‘ITAR’ Category


Jul

19

Why One of the Swapped Prisoners Did Not Return to Iran.


Posted by at 9:55 pm on July 19, 2017
Category: Criminal PenaltiesDDTCITAR

Nima Golestaneh Mug Shot [Fair Use]
ABOVE: Nima Golestaneh

In January 2016 the United States and Iran engaged in a prisoner swap. None of the freed prisoners returned to Iran, instead they all chose to remain in the United States, including Nima Golestaneh, the only Iranian national in the group. (The remainder were dual U.S.-Iranian citizens). Golestaneh, who had been nabbed in, and extradited from, Turkey, had been convicted of a scheme to hack into Arrow Tech in Vermont and send its ITAR-controlled software back to Iran.

Now we have a pretty good idea why he may have been selected for a pardon and why he decided that going back to Iran might not have been such a good idea. Yesterday, two Iranians, Mohammed Ajily and Mohammed Rezakhah were added by OFAC to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (the “SDN List”) and the Department of Justice announced that an indictment against the two had been unsealed. The indictment reveals that Ajily and Rezakhah were Golestaneh’s co-conspirators in the hacking scheme, and it seems certain that Golestaneh made a deal and dropped the dime on Ajily and Rezakhah.

Both Ajily and Rezakhah are currently in Iran and probably have no current plans to visit Disneyland or anywhere else outside Iran. It’s also safe to assume that Golestaneh would not be welcomed with open arms should he turn up in Iran. In fact, that would be an instance of going from the frying pan (a U.S. jail) into the fire (an Iranian one).

The indictment details Golestaneh’s role in the hacking conspiracy. Apparently his job was to procure servers in Canada and the Netherlands. These enabled Rezakhah to download the Arrow Tech software without using an IP address from Iran, which likely would have been blocked by Arrow Tech. The software would not run without a hardware dongle from Arrow Tech, and Arrow Tech informed foreign customers that they would need an export license to obtain the dongle. That dongle not doubt contained the digital key needed to decrypt the program and allow it to run. It looks like Rezakhah hacked into Arrow Tech’s servers to obtain the digital key needed to decrypt the program.

Of course, it’s not just Rezakhah who has a problem in this scenario. If in fact, if Arrow Tech allowed foreign download of ITAR-controlled encrypted software without a license, that was arguably problematic. DDTC has taken the position that items are exported even if encrypted. And, if there is support for that position by DDTC, it can be found in this case, which demonstrates that there is always some possibility that the encryption will be broken. (It now appears that Arrow Tech distributes the software only by optical media and not by download). One has to wonder if the failure of DDTC to adopt rules like those adopted by BIS which exempt encrypted items from the definition of export is, at least in part, the result of what happened in this case.

One other thing bears noting here, namely, the most amusing irrelevant statement ever put in a criminal indictment. For some reason, the indictment notes that Ajily, Rezakhah’s co-conspirator “received certificates of appreciation for his work from several of the Iranian government and military entities.”   Seriously, he got certificates he could frame and hang on his office wall.  Awesome.  That was a clear violation of the law that forbids receiving certificates of appreciation from Iran.  I have to imagine that this factoid comes from Golestaneh who, when he was singing to the DOJ, said something on the order of  “Ajily got certificates and all I got was this lousy jumpsuit.”

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Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Mar

13

Ohio Company “Earns” ITAR “Certification”


Posted by at 4:27 pm on March 13, 2017
Category: DDTCITARPart 122

MJM Headquarters via Google Maps [Fair Use]It seems like it has been quite a while since I’ve seen a press release from a company boasting that it had “earned” or “achieved” ITAR “certification.” But MJM Industries obliges with this self-congratulatory press release.

Fairport Harbor, Ohio – MJM Industries, a contract manufacturer of custom over-molded cable and wire harness assemblies, has earned certification for International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliance. This designation will add to their growing portfolio of certificates and compliances such as ISO, WEEE, RoHs, REACH, UL, CSA, FM, MIL, and UL Canadian that verify MJM Industries’ commitment to producing high quality and reliable products.

As I’ve said before many times and will say again, all that an ITAR registration can “verify” is that someone at MJM figured out how to fill out and file a form and that MJM had at one time at least $2250 in its checking account.

But wait! There’s more!

Having the ITAR certification is the key to customer satisfaction.

Indeed it is. That and, oh, I don’t know, a free flashlight (shipping and handling extra) with every order.

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Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Jul

12

Catfish Row


Posted by at 9:47 pm on July 12, 2016
Category: Criminal PenaltiesDDTCITAR

Jason Bourne [Fair Use]The affidavit in support of the criminal complaint filed against Gregory Allen Justice for passing allegedly export-controlled data to an undercover FBI agent is a lurid potboiler, a train wreck that you can’t stop watching, a bizarre mashup of David Lynch and Austin Powers. Worse, you don’t know whether to laugh at the defendant, feel sorry for him or recoil in horror.

The tawdry affair starts with Justice, with an extremely ill, housebound wife, getting “catfished” by a woman who aroused his interests by sending him pictures, allegedly of herself, but in fact pictures of an Eastern European model. Justice, in hopes of replacing his sickly wife with a trophy wife, started sending “Chay” (the catfisher’s nom de doom or screen name) boxes of cash and gifts from Amazon including a $900 iPhone, a flat panel television, a charcoal grill and other goodies. Soon Justice was short of cash and, apparently enamored with James Bond, Jason Bourne and the be-wigged Russian spies on the television series The Americans (honestly, I’m not making that up) decided to become a Russian spy and sell everything he could lay his hands on about the satellites made by his employer.

Being a real-life spy is much harder than being one on TV or in the movies, and Justice screwed things up before he even got started. In November 2015, he stuck a thumb drive in his computer. Game over. This set off alarm bells at his employer and everything he did on his computer after that was monitored, recorded, saved, analyzed and handed over to the feds in a neat box with a pretty bow on top. As a result, the closest Justice ever got to a real Russian was when he stood in line at Starbucks behind a guy (from Kansas) reading Tolstoy.

In January his car was surreptitiously searched, and a handwritten note with the address of the Russian Embassy in Washington, DC, was found. One month later an undercover agent, pretending to be a Russian spy, called Justice and negotiated the purchase of documents and information from Justice. For the next three months, there were numerous phone calls and five in-person meetings between Justice and the undercover agent posing as a Russian spy. You can’t help but wonder if the sting stretched out so long because the FBI was having fun with this guy. He was low hanging fruit who liked to discuss recent episodes of The Americans and express his admiration of James Bond and Jason Bourne.

None of this was necessary because he signed a receipt for the money he was given by the undercover agent for the first drop of documents. Yes, you read that right. He signed a receipt for the money. Seriously. I’m not even a spy, nor have I pretended to be one, in my spare time, on TV, or otherwise, and even I know that you don’t sign receipts for the money that the Russkies pay you for spying.

Above and beyond all this, the affidavit says that Justice asked the fake spy to help him buy drugs that, it appeared, he planned on using to get his wife out of the way and close the deal with “Chay.” And he was also apparently supplementing his spy payments by dealing GHB, a controlled substance, on the side.

The real question, of course, in this: how much time and money was spent in building the case against a guy who makes Austin Powers look like Albert Einstein and who, apparently, never sold any documents to anyone other than the FBI? I’m sure that the FBI relished all the giggling over war stories that this case would yield but, frankly, I would imagine there are better uses of investigative time, money and resources. The minute he signed that first receipt, it was time to break out the cuffs.

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Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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Apr

8

Customs Seizes $40 Worth of Ammunition; Breaks Arm Patting Own Back


Posted by at 8:25 pm on April 8, 2015
Category: DDTCITAR

Ammo Seized by Customs via http://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/2015-04-07-000000/cbp-seizes-ammo-slated-export [Public Domain - Work of Federal Employee]
ABOVE: Ammo Seized by CPB


It must be a slow day at CPB. They find and seize two 50-round boxes of ammo in a container of household goods on their way to Honduras and then issue a press release congratulating themselves on saving the United States from imminent destruction and doom. CPB Houston Port Director Dave Fluty could scarcely restrain himself:

These types of seizures represent our vigilance and commitment to protecting our nation by enforcing the laws and regulations on behalf of many other federal agencies.

Because, obviously, these 100 bullets would wind up in the hands of Honduran criminals who would sneak back into the United States with them and wreak havoc.

What makes the hoopla over 100 rounds of ammo even more interesting is that CPB gets the law wrong:

Permanent or temporary export of ammunition via shipping container requires the exporter to register with Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls who [sic] has published a [sic] guidelines for firearms exports.

No, no and no. Section 122.1(a) of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations requires registration by any person “who engages … in the business of … exporting defense articles.” Section 123.17(e) permits the export without a license of up to 1,000 cartridges for nonautomatic firearms without a license provided that the cartridges are “for personal use and not for resale.” To say that this exception for limited ammunition exports for personal use can only be used by individuals who register as a business is not only wrong but absurd.

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Copyright © 2015 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
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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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Copyright © 2015 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)