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Can the US Stop the Illegal Export of Its Technology? 351

Posted by samzenpus
from the not-a-chance dept.
coondoggie writes "Maybe people are more desperate or maybe there's just too much opportunity to make a quick buck but whatever the excuse, attempts to illegally export technology from the US has gone through the roof. The Department of Justice this week said it has placed criminal charges or convictions against more than 255 defendants in the past two fiscal years — 145 in 2008 and 110 in 2007. That 255 number represents more than a six-fold increase from fiscal year 2005, when the DOJ said about 40 individuals or companies were convicted of over 100 criminal violations of export control laws."
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Can the US Stop the Illegal Export of Its Technology?

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  • Excuse? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:17PM (#25563377)

    Information wants to be free, my friend, no matter what you and your fascist DoJAA think.

  • but... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JustNiz (692889) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:18PM (#25563383)

    Isn't it more than a bit arrogant and unrealistic to think the US is the only country with these technologies?
    I mean, I know many Americans like to believe the US invented absolutely everything and are ahead of everyone else technologically, but in fact they really didn't and aren't.

  • And the Answer Is (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PingPongBoy (303994) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:21PM (#25563441)

    Yes.

    Of course, by legalizing it.

  • Shocking (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kipin (981566) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:23PM (#25563455) Homepage
    Keep adding additional rules, regulations and laws and people tend to start breaking more laws since more of them exist to break.
  • Is it for real? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:28PM (#25563501)

    Is this spike for real, or is it the result of increased enforcement efforts?

    ...laura

  • Re:Excuse? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by philspear (1142299) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:28PM (#25563503)

    Yeah, and cows don't WANT to be eaten, but they taste good with barbecue sauce...

    Similarly, information might "want" to be free, but giving other countries our technology is a stupid move, so it's not going to.

    And what the fuck does "Information wants to be free" even mean or justify anyway?

  • Exporting DRM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cpghost (719344) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:33PM (#25563549) Homepage
    Where, oh where is the DoC and DoJ when it comes to forbidding the export of this abomination called DRM?
  • by giorgist (1208992) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:35PM (#25563567)
    The cost of educating a person is very high.
    What of the net import in technical expertise ?
    Often some of the very best students go to US, and end up staying and doing high end re-search.
    The US didn't have to pay to feed and bring up this person. If this person is 1 in 100,
    the US didn't have to pay and feed and educate 100 people and selectively keep only the best one without having to bother
    with the rest.

    I would say that the US is getting the good end of the deal

    G
  • Re:but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:39PM (#25563597) Journal
    Absolutely not. The laws of physics apply only to Americans.
  • by maglor_83 (856254) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:40PM (#25563613)

    The Department of Justice this week said it has placed criminal charges or convictions against more than 255 defendants in the past two fiscal years â" 145 in 2008 and 110 in 2007. That 255 number represents more than a six-fold increase from fiscal year 2005, when the DOJ said about 40 individuals or companies were convicted of over 100 criminal violations of export control laws

    So how many were charged and then aquitted in 2005?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:45PM (#25563659)

    I for one would prefer advanced fighter jet technology (i.e. F-22) to stay IN the united states and out of China, Russia, Israel, Iran...etc.

  • by gnutoo (1154137) * on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:48PM (#25563691) Journal

    We import bright people from around the world to do it for us. At least we used to. Many of them have gone back home to compete on fair terms. Others work at research centers funded by US multinationals like GE, Microsoft and IBM. Why the US seeks to restrict what foreign people make in foreign countries is as much a mystery as the IP Empire that claims ownership to the fundamental ideas involved. Less and less of this stuff is home grown and made.

  • Re:but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:56PM (#25563745) Homepage Journal

    Isn't it more than a bit arrogant and unrealistic to think the US is the only country with these technologies?

    Maybe not, but remember that our military budget is far larger than any other country's (even if you account for labor rates), meaning that we have the "most toys" because we spend the most on military stuff.
       

  • by cpghost (719344) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @08:58PM (#25563775) Homepage

    I mean, I know many Americans like to believe the US invented absolutely everything and are ahead of everyone else technologically, but in fact they really didn't and aren't.

    But this [wikipedia.org] is surely a US invented technology... and IMHO nothing to be proud of, as it already caused famines in Africa and, worst of all, was actually designed to lead to just that consequence.

    Maybe a few export bans of some US technology like this one wouldn't be so wrong, after all?

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:03PM (#25563835) Homepage

    Most of the stuff the US is still export-controlling either has commercial uses or non-US sources. If you look at the indictments, the big one was about someone exporting carbon fibre materials to the China Space Agency. Why is the US trying to stop that? There's some noise about how carbon fibre might be somehow used to enrich uranium. [neimagazine.com] China already has its own enrichment plants, nuclear weapons, and nuclear reactors. They don't need a centrifuge enrichment plant, except maybe for cost reduction. The US tries, for some reason, to slow down China's space program by refusing to export certain space-related items. Not that it makes much difference; the Chinese space program seems to be doing just fine.

    It's hard to think of anything in computing that you can't get outside the US. Nor is there any military computing application that really requires more compute power that you couldn't put together from stuff you could mail order from Taiwan or China.

    Arms control and technology export control are different issues. Arms control is intended to make it harder for people we don't like to get firepower in bulk. It's not about the underlying technology; it's about production. Most of the cases mentioned are pure arms control issues.

  • Sure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SleepyHappyDoc (813919) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:06PM (#25563869)

    Just as soon as they stop all the cocaine from coming in.

  • by quenda (644621) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:07PM (#25563873)
    That might help. [time.com]

    Which was the last US government that didn't illegally export arms?

  • Re:but... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Fluffeh (1273756) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:22PM (#25563995)

    Maybe not, but remember that our military budget is far larger than any other country's (even if you account for labor rates), meaning that we have the "most toys" because we spend the most on military stuff.

    If I was sarcastic I would reply with "And look at all the good it has done you". Luckily I am not sarcastic. No wait...

    I would really really love to know how the world would be today if the US (and hopefully all the others) put all their defense/war budgets into humanitarian/environmental projects instead. I wonder if it really would be a utopia or if it would have fallen into chaos without the threat of such vast arms.

  • by circletimessquare (444983) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [erauqssemitelcric]> on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:26PM (#25564045) Homepage Journal

    such as aluminum cylinders for refining uranium hexafluoride, or computer chips hardened against cosmic rays for ICBMs, are thing you don't pick up at newegg and reship to iran. simple as that

    if it is something the average american joe can buy, it is something the average iranian jamal can buy. nothing to be done about it except accept. nonissue, nonstory

  • Huh? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @09:32PM (#25564095)

    There is technology in the US not available elsewhere? News to me. In fact most interesting stuff is imported into the US today....

  • Re:but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @10:05PM (#25564359)

    It has nothing to do with arrogance or "IP" in the usual slashdot sense of the word. These export compliance laws have everything to do with countries we are attempting to sanction for whatever reasons.

    For computers of the grade I work on there are some 7-8 countries we are simply not allowed to sell to (mostly middle eastern), not even if it's through a local US based exporter. Considerable effort is made on our part to try to uncover the ultimate destination of your machine(s). I would recommend, for example, never jokingly saying you intend to buy the machine for nuclear weapons. You seriously will be turned down, probably forever, and seriously will be investigated by people not well known for adherence to laws in any country, including the US. That would be obvious to anyone actually intending to do so, of course, but more subtle means are used as well.

    This article is more akin to cuban cigars than pirated Britney Spears CDs. We know they have computers, but we don't want them to profit by our economic system in obtaining them. We can't stop them from manufacturing their own, or from buying from other countries...but by subtracting the US from the picture, like it or not, we can significantly hurt them. It does not matter what nationalities were involved in the design of a machine (often not American, or at least not by birth), it just matters who manufactured it. An Intel CPU should never show up in North Korea, for example.

    The technology/designs itself? I think we know they probably have many important pieces. But knowing how something works is entirely different than being able to build it, and do so on a wide enough scale to be a threat. That's mostly what the intent is.

  • Re:but... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PachmanP (881352) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @10:06PM (#25564371)

    I would really really love to know how the world would be today if the US (and hopefully all the others) put all their defense/war budgets into humanitarian/environmental projects instead. I wonder if it really would be a utopia or if it would have fallen into chaos without the threat of such vast arms.

    We'd be speaking Russian? Or German? Or maybe Chinese? Although maybe if you were blond and fair skinned it would be a utopia. Or maybe without the threat of the capitalists the communist utopia would have been achieved. That said I'm of the opinion that if someone doesn't have a really big stick all the people with medium sticks would spend ALL of their time trying to beat the sh*t out of the people with slightly smaller sticks... At least until the guys with the rocks started teaming up...

  • by quax (19371) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @10:23PM (#25564475)

    Recently I was forced to sit through an online training with regards to US export controls. The regulations are insane. I came away wondering why any high tech company would want to incorporate in the US with these kind of laws on the book. For instance you could be in violation if you show foreign visitors around your company and they get a fleeting look at a white-board that discusses a strong encryption algorithm. Same thing if you discuss such a "sensitive" technology on the phone with a foreigner. Absolutely and totally nuts.

  • by EmbeddedJanitor (597831) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @10:36PM (#25564589)
    This is as old as the hills. When I lived in apartheid South Africa in the 1980s the sanctions made it illegal to export various chips to South Africa. They still got there disguised as legal electronic components. The middle men made a killing. Limiting availability might have made USA etc voters happy, but all that really happened was that the South African military industry got a shot in the arm, building its own stuff and selling it to other willing customers. Same deal for the South African nuclear program.

    Nothing much has changed. Smaller stuff like special electronics can be easily hidden inside perfectly legal consumer electronic devices and the $8/hr TSA guy working at the airport will never know the difference. Unless you completely seal borders (??how??) and cut off all tourism etc, you're just doing it for show.

  • Bizarre Math (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Wednesday October 29, 2008 @11:11PM (#25564809) Homepage

    The Department of Justice this week said it has placed criminal charges or convictions against more than 255 defendants in the past two fiscal years -- 145 in 2008 and 110 in 2007. That 255 number represents more than a six-fold increase from fiscal year 2005, when the DOJ said about 40 individuals or companies were convicted of over 100 criminal violations of export control laws.

    Apparently they went to the "baffle them with bullshit" school of math - if the above is an accurate depiction.

    In 2005, 40 individuals were convicted.
    In 2007 and 2008 combined, 255 were indicted.

    In 2005, enforcement effort was ???
    In 2005, indictment count was ???
    In 2007 and 2008 combined, conviction count was ???
    In 2007 and 2008, enforcement effort was ???

    From the above, we can conclude: very little. The only thing we can say for sure about those numbers is that "six-fold increase" is bullshit. If every single one of those 255 individuals indicted is convicted on at least one count (extremely unlikely), the annual rate is only 127.5, which is only 3x. Even that would only speak of conviction rates, not attempt rates. Enforcement has almost certainly increased given the general increase in federal participation in intellectual property and trade secret law.

    I'm not saying it has not grown, nor whether it should be a greater or lesser focus at the federal level. But the above statement, if accurately portrayed, is disingenuous at best, and deceitful at worst.

    The first step in having a serious discourse about federal policy is to present the issue honestly.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30, 2008 @12:08AM (#25565165)
    Sorry, that's completely unnecessary. Fascism works perfectly well with an armed populace.. They simply have to be stupid enough to be led around by emotive arguments. For example, the argument "OMG, the other guy wants to take away all your money and guns!!1!" would work perfectly well on you.
  • by PPH (736903) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @12:30AM (#25565279)

    The problems start if you are a US company, building something for the average Joe and the Pentagon would like to buy one. Like some sort of advanced GPU for high performance gaming that could also be used for processing radar images or SIGINT [wikipedia.org] and cryptanalysis. Suddenly, your chip becomes restricted under the jurisdiction of ITAR [wikipedia.org]. So, if you are smart, you incorporate offshore and have your chips made at foreign founderies. You have your R&D subcontracted to firms in India or Russia. Then you can ship your stuff around the world freely. If the DoD wants some for one of its projects, you direct them to these foreign sources.

    If you are feeling real nasty, you can set your government sales office up in Tehran, Havana, or Pyongyang. Or France.

  • Re:Excuse? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by philspear (1142299) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @01:43AM (#25565633)

    If all information was free and open, then maybe some countries would spend more time brokering peace and improving the world instead of making sure that they are able to crush their enemies first.

    Good lord, what species are you talking about? If Iran had a nuke, they'd destroy Israel or give it to Al Quaeda who would blow up New York. Mutually assured destruction only worked in the cold war because the stakes were so insanely high and both parties were semi-rational. You can't say the same about north korea or Iran, or suicide bombers. I'm a pretty extreme liberal, but there is absolutely no way giving everyone the know how to build weapons is going to end well.

    I don't understand blind nationalism.

    Well, obviously, as you're not seeing it right now. That was realism.

    I love where I live, but if the politicians here get much worse, I'm either leaving the country or revolting.

    Well, then it's a very VERY good thing you don't know how to build a missile.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Thursday October 30, 2008 @09:50AM (#25568417)

    For instance you could be in violation if you show foreign visitors around your company and they get a fleeting look at a white-board that discusses a strong encryption algorithm.

    Maybe that's just a bad example, but I don't see that as "nuts" at all. If you were writing the requlations, how would you put it? "Foreign visitors can look at sensitive claissified data, but only for n seconds, and only if . . . ?" Isn't it much easier, and more sensible, to say "foreign visitors can not look at such data?"

  • Re:Excuse? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 30, 2008 @11:14AM (#25569861)

    you know, sometimes i wonder, just how close we would be to those sci-fi movies, if we would put all our technology together, regardless of patents and military secrets ... i think we would have colonized Mars by now ...

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