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Professor Gets 4 Years in Prison for Sharing Drone Plans With Students 354

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the read-before-you-sign dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Retired University of Tennessee Professor Dr. John Reece Roth has been sentenced to four years in prison after he allowed a Chinese graduate student to see sensitive information on Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. In 2004, the company Roth helped found, Atmospheric Glow Technologies, won a US Air Force contract to develop a plasma actuator that could help reduce drag on the wings of drones, such as the ones the military uses. Under the contract, for which Roth was reportedly paid $6,000, he was prohibited from sharing sensitive data with foreign nationals. Despite warnings from his university's Export Control Officer, in 2006, Roth took a laptop containing sensitive plans with him on a lecture tour in China and also allowed graduate students Xin Dai of China and Sirous Nourgostar of Iran to work on the project. 'The illegal export of restricted military data represents a serious threat to national security,' says David Kris of the US Department of Justice. 'We know that foreign governments are actively seeking this information for their own military development. Today's sentence should serve as a warning to anyone who knowingly discloses restricted military data in violation of our laws.' During his trial, Roth testified that he was unaware that hiring the graduate students was a violation of his contract. 'This whole thing has not helped me, it has not helped the university,' said Roth. 'And it has probably not helped this country, either.'"
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Professor Gets 4 Years in Prison for Sharing Drone Plans With Students

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:42PM (#28574915)

    droned on and on too but I wouldn't send them to prison for it!

  • Guilty. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Petersko (564140) on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:43PM (#28574921)
    He knew he wasn't supposed to do it, he was warned not to do it, he did it anyway. He pled guilty.

    If he didn't read his contract that's his problem. I also find it very unlikely.

    Why is this on slashdot?
    • Re:Guilty. (Score:5, Funny)

      by H0p313ss (811249) on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:47PM (#28574961)

      He knew he wasn't supposed to do it, he was warned not to do it, he did it anyway. He pled guilty. If he didn't read his contract that's his problem. I also find it very unlikely. Why is this on slashdot?

      Possibly to serve as a warning to others? That might be his whole purpose in life.

    • Re:Guilty. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thomasw_lrd (1203850) on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:59PM (#28575065)

      Because it's another crybaby story the govt. is evil, copyright is evil, and all nerds should be allowed free access to any information that is in the entire world. I'm surprised they didn't try to tie the iphone and google into it.

    • Re:Guilty. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by samkass (174571) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:09PM (#28575129) Homepage Journal

      If he didn't read his contract that's his problem. I also find it very unlikely.

      Agreed. ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) is something that all defense workers are trained in. It's also explained very carefully that if there's a violation it's not the government program's fault, it's not the company's fault, but it's the employee that's going to prison. It's a pretty strict standard. Even discussing things in the public domain for the wrong purposes can land you in hot water-- giving a citation (book name, page number) of public domain information can violate ITAR if it's in response to, say, a question about missile technology. In essence what you exported there was your expertise in leading the foreign national to that source of information.

      Incidentally, these are the same regulations that kept the old PowerMac G4's from being exported and led to the "tank" commercial at the time.

      • Re:Guilty. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Saturday July 04, 2009 @12:01AM (#28577863) Homepage Journal

        In essence what you exported there was your expertise in leading the foreign national to that source of information.

        I'd like to add to this, because many people here on /. who don't have experience in these areas often ask, "Why is it illegal for a member of the military/Boeing employee/Raytheon employee/etc to say publicly what can already be found easily on wikipedia or other sources?"

        The answer is: Because it verifies facts. An article by AP about the air force's new musical ice-cream truck UAV could only be written based on publicly-available facts or deduction. Once a member of the Air Force confirms to the press or anyone else that yes, we have a new ice-cream UAV and it is delicious, the subject is confirmed. Every member of the DoD, DoD contractors, and DoD researchers is like a walking snopes.com in that everything they say is scrutinized and accepted as the acting ultimate authority on the subject.

        Here's a real world example based on my own experiences. There are maps online of a certain base in Iraq that give very detailed, very accurate information. You can find it, but I won't tell you which one it is. OK. But when we do our predeployment briefing to that base, and which uses *that map*, and which is given by Intel and is secret/noforn- ALL cell phones go away, all the doors are closed, and all the window blinds are closed. The fact that we are using that map as a fact... Makes that map a *Fact*. Capital "F".

        See?

        I realize that's at odds with much of what slashdottery stands for, but when lives are on the line secrecy matters. It may seem silly but it matters enough to people in the loop (like me...) to keep certain things under wraps.

        Another real-world example: My base public relations officer called me in Iraq (from the U.S.) to talk to me about my blog (which was about my deployment). He cautioned me, in no uncertain terms, to be "very, very careful what I include in my essays." And this was after I took pains to change names, places, times, patterns, etc so that my account could easily be from any shitty place* in the world if you didn't personally know where I was.

        -b

        *No offense Iraq, it was just the weather. No really.

  • by Mad Marlin (96929) <cgore@cgore.com> on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:44PM (#28574935) Homepage
    I had no idea that the US Military would get pissed if I shared details about how to build flying robots with people from Iran and China! I swear it!
    • by Dr. Zowie (109983) <slashdot@@@deforest...org> on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:43PM (#28575813)

      Since he seems to have been convicted under the EAR, which is a set of regulations having to do with rendering technical aid to foreigners, and not the ITAR, which is a set of regulations about exporting actual objects (such as munitions or rocket-control thingies), there is very close parsing required of the law to figure out what is Right or not.

      After all, the material he distributed wasn't classified, and in principle the 1st Amendment to the U.S. constitution allows you to say whatever you want to whomever you want (provided that you aren't directly inciting a crime, or lying, or distributing classified information). It's especially interesting because most violations of the EAR never get to trial -- they are generally settled by defense contractors who are eager to make good so that the flow of federal dollars doesn't dry up -- so this is likely to be a strong legal precedent. In this case, as in so many, my guess is that he had the standard language in his federal contract -- essentially "I agree to abide by ITAR and EAR" -- so that the regulations can be enforced via contract law even if the ITAR and EAR are eventually found to be unconstitutional if applied to general citizens.

      The most scary situation involving EAR/ITRAR is that I know of no legal precedent at all for the EAR in the case of a gifted, privately funded enthusiast just screwing around -- but it applies to many things that even hobbyists do now. If you take an interest in (say) cheap image stabilization systems or inertial guidance of vehicles, and share your work with some of your friends down at the rocket club (who happen to be exchange students from the Pacific Rim), the regulations say that you are liable for millions of dollars in fines and many years of jail time -- even though those technologies are well within the range of gifted college students today (and affordable for an enthusiast to tinker with). I have no idea what the outcome of such a case would be -- only that the legal bills would be immense and the hypothetical hobbyist's life would be put on hold for years, if the Feds decided to take an interest.

  • Not long enough (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m509272 (1286764) on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:45PM (#28574943)

    Should have been 40 years, idiot. Just bringing the laptop to China is shear stupidity.

    • by SheeEttin (899897) <sheeettinNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:55PM (#28575025) Homepage

      shear stupidity

      Maybe, but his haircut is irrelevant. This was just irresponsible.

    • by patro (104336)

      Should have been 40 years, idiot. Just bringing the laptop to China is shear stupidity.

      Not really relevant. The data can be copied from it just as easily in the US.

      Even the " prohibited from sharing sensitive data with foreign nationals" condition is a fluff, since a foreign nation can simply pay a US citizen to get the data.

      • Even the " prohibited from sharing sensitive data with foreign nationals" condition is a fluff, since a foreign nation can simply pay a US citizen to get the data.

        That US citizen would then be subject to the same legal sanctions the Professor got under the US laws prohibiting export of this information.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by ScrewMaster (602015) *

          Even the " prohibited from sharing sensitive data with foreign nationals" condition is a fluff, since a foreign nation can simply pay a US citizen to get the data.

          That US citizen would then be subject to the same legal sanctions the Professor got under the US laws prohibiting export of this information.

          That's actually the problem with a lot of our interaction in the "global economy". Take medical transcription, for example ... a lot of that is being outsourced to India. And when it gets stolen by some Indian bastard trying to make a quick buck, there's absolutely nothing our government can do. The thief is not subject to United States law. Consequently, there's no deterrent effect whatsoever when it comes to ripping off confidential data from our government or our citizens, and that's the reason the prof

  • Lying or stupid? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:49PM (#28574977)

    Let's see, he signed a contract saying he was prohibited from sharing sensitive data with foreign nationals, then he shared it with forign nationals. Now he says "he was unaware that hiring the graduate students (to do work in the project) was a violation of his contract"? He's either too stupid to be a professor, or he's lying.

    Have fun in prison bub.

    • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:05PM (#28575099)
      He made a poor choice, for sure, but a lot of academics live and work in a 'publish freely, collaborate frequently' mind-set that helps share knowledge and advance human understanding. The whole culture of scientific openness, testability and peer review is strongly at odds with the secrecy-is-paramount function of military endeavours. The two must work together if militaries are to benefit from the latest scientific knowledge but the goals of academics and military are not the same and I'm not surprised it leads to such mistakes.

      I'm a university UAV researcher myself; I know lots of folks who work with the military to get funding to do research they think is important. It comes with the territory, and most of us are pretty cluey about the defense applications of what we do. I have been to plenty of conferences where the guys from Iran and China are presenting trivial results or not bothering to present at all, only to attend every potentially valuable seminar they can. We know they're trying to use our stuff, they know they're trying to use our stuff, but we feel that sharing knowledge and putting it out there is crucial for the science.

      For that reason people are careful about the alliances they make with the military. Working on national security stuff generally means you can't publish anything valuable you come up. I know a few collegues well who can't say what they did between years X and Y when they go for a job interview - it can be kryptonite to your career.

      I don't think this guy was necessarily stupid or foolish - I think he was careless after being so used to the routine of publish or perish that he forgot who his collaborators were, and that was his mistake.

      • Re:Lying or stupid? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Green Salad (705185) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:55PM (#28575483) Homepage

        I simply don't buy into any arguments presented thus far, for defending a lighter sentence.

        I'm the absent-minded type. From experience, I can assure people that the sheer number of security briefings, security awareness tests and periodioc recertifications and signed contracts makes it so even the dumbest idiot can't claim they weren't aware. And yeah, it's corny or awkward as it is to say "I've agreed not to discuss it" to a loved one or potential employer.

        With experience, you learn to deflect the "but surely you trust me, don't you?" with "I trust you and think you deserve to know. However, that is not the issue. I gave a solemn promise and feel an ethical duty to make my word mean something. Please don't continue to put me in awkward situations or I will start to think less of you."

        The interview process in my own company involves and ethics/honor test that asks the applicant about classified work and if they start to give details, they're not invited back. Who wants to hire dishonorable people to work next to them? Not me.

        As far as employment, you can get validation that you were legitimately employed and others in the reseach/tech/engineering industry are used to dealing with it. All classified programs will have an associated FSO (Facility Security Officer) that can provide you process guidance and that persons name and contact info is made clear in the security training and if anyone legitimately wants help with this, drop me a line and I'll do my best.

        From experience, the real issue is lack of maturity and strong personal sense of ethics.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Artifakt (700173)

          It does pose an occasional hardship. I've applied at places that were totally clueless before. When your interviewer asks if you've ever had any management experience and you tell him you were a company commander, and he gets this blank look and you have to explain how you supervised and directed 90 or so people and had legal responsibility for over 1 billion dollars of equipment, and he still doesn't really see how that's management, and he says "But did you ever have to make any life or death decisions?",

      • I think he was careless after being so used to the routine of publish or perish that he forgot who his collaborators were, and that was his mistake.

        But he was also convicted of bringing data in his computer to China, even though he was warned by the university's Export Control Officer not to. That doesn't seem like an honest mistake. He was warned that this was a violation of ITAR and he chose to do it anyways. I have a feeling, no proof, that this was the more egregious of the two sets of charges.

      • by Nutria (679911)

        I don't think this guy was necessarily stupid or foolish - I think he was careless after being so used to the routine of publish or perish that he forgot who his collaborators were, and that was his mistake.

        When I warn my children over and over and over not to do X, and then they do X, with the sorry-ass excuse, "oh, I forgot, sorry", I don't send them on their way with a mild slap on the wrist...

        unpleasantness (sometimes physical, sometimes emotional) occurs, and it definitely hurts them more than it hurts

      • by LurkerXXX (667952)

        Sorry, I'm not buying it. I do medical research. Mostly open NIH funded stuff, but sometimes when grants are tough to come by I work on pharmaceutical company projects, which I sign NDAs about. I'm very careful not to let information protected by that NDA from slipping into conversation with other folks, let alone putting people from competitors on the project...

        The guy was far more than careless.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bzipitidoo (647217)

        Thank you for saying all that.

        The punishment doesn't strike me as particularly useful either. Seems too severe, especially when considering that he likely didn't mean to hurt the US. Do they want to scare off everyone? At the least it will cost more money to persuade others to work with them. I sure wouldn't go for a pitiful $6000 to face risks like that. Now we have one scientist locked up for 4 years where he probably can't do anything useful at all. And his career is toast. Maybe that part doesn

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by PhxBlue (562201)

          The punishment doesn't strike me as particularly useful either. Seems too severe, especially when considering that he likely didn't mean to hurt the US.

          Drunken drivers don't mean to kill people, but they do. If you can't be bothered to think through possible consequences before you do something, then you get to endure those consequences later.

          Me, I'd rather not see Department of Defense employees not helping Iran and China with their own UAS programs if it's all the same.

        • by abigsmurf (919188) on Friday July 03, 2009 @07:00PM (#28576315)
          The punishment will serve it's purpose well. You do not share state secrets, even if your intentions are innocent. You do not treat them so lightly as to absent mindedly give them out. This is an incredibly important message for the government to send out. If you send out a message of "oh you silly sausage, I'll let it go this time" you'll have leaks left right and center. It doesn't matter how innocous the person you're revealing it to seems. Spies go out their ways to be innocuous, or will try to get information from people you've told (which is even worse as it makes the spies much harder to identify). Giving out military secrets costs lives. Freedom of information is all well and good until people then use that information too kill (not just in warfare but innocent civilians, political opponents etc.)
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by kencurry (471519)

          Thank you for saying all that.

          The punishment doesn't strike me as particularly useful either. Seems too severe, especially when considering that he likely didn't mean to hurt the US. Do they want to scare off everyone? ...

          Huh? that's the whole point of putting him in prison. Society cannot trust him, so we pay to lock him up. hopefully he will learn his lesson in there, but at least he can't do any damage to our country from inside prison. And yes, we do want to scare off everyone else who is thinking about doing what he did.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:54PM (#28575013)

    You can't work on a top-secret project without signing very serious agreements with Uncle Sam. It just doesn't happen. Therefore he knew damned well he wasn't allowed to share this information, but did so anyway. What the fuck did he expect? What the fuck would *you* expect? If you expected to get away with something like that without consequence, you're a fucking moron.

  • by ZarathustraDK (1291688) on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:56PM (#28575035)

    and Sirous Nourgostar of Iran to work

    Did George Lucas get offspring in Iran or something?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @03:58PM (#28575049)

    I'm not entirely surprised by either the sentence, or the seeming lack of security consciousness on the part of the professor and possibly his school. When working on defense-related work it's always best to treat sensitive material with the respect it deserves - in many cases there's no need to go overboard with encryption, physical security, or whatnot, but reasonable measures (e.g., not bringing the Goddamned laptop overseas) should always be taken.

    However, from what I heard, the project Dr. Roth was working on wasn't entirely black-ops sort of stuff - he was merely integrating technology previously developed by himself (and others) under funding not remotely related to defense.

  • by pla (258480) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:01PM (#28575077) Journal
    "Openness", both ideologically and in the FOSS sense, forms one of the core requirements of successful academia.

    I don't blame or absolve the professor - He had a contract, and I suppose the legal details of this boil down to a matter of contract law (though I most certainly do have a problem with prison time rather than monetary damages for breach of contract). But I do blame both his university and the government itself.

    I blame the university for undermining any sense of credibility by selling out to the highest bidder at the expense of discrimination against an arbitrary list of students - Students who paid the same tuition as every other student, yet cannot experience the same intellectual freedoms as their peers all because some magic list-of-the-week says their Fearless Leader (whom in many cases they came to the US because they don't like the policies or education climate back home) pissed in our Cheerios.
    And I blame the government for foisting their homework onto a domain that largely considers secrecy either beneath consideration or outright contemptible. Don't want foreign students to have access to military projects? Simple - Give those projects to standard military-industrial contractors familiar with paranoid levels of obfuscation and mistrust such as Lockheed, Grumman, Boeing or the like. And if they do decide to tap academia for parts of their research, I blame them for not taking care to prevent any one group from having "enough" information to do anything useful with.


    You don't spank a baby for giggling at butterflies, and you don't hold it accountable if you give it a gun and someone gets hurt. Simple as that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bkpark (1253468)

      at the expense of discrimination against an arbitrary list of students - Students who paid the same tuition as every other student, yet cannot experience the same intellectual freedoms as their peers all because some magic list-of-the-week says their Fearless Leader (whom in many cases they came to the US because they don't like the policies or education climate back home) pissed in our Cheerios.

      'Hate to pull you down from your clouds, but you are way off. First of all, none of these graduate students, at least in physical sciences, actually "pay tuition". Usually in one way (working as teaching assistant or research assistant) or another (grants and fellowships), they will not only attend the school tuition-free, they will also get paid living expenses. I should know, I'm one of these graduate students (although not an international one).

      In fact, if it's a public institution, these foreign graduat

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by blueg3 (192743)

      Students who paid the same tuition as every other student, yet cannot experience the same intellectual freedoms as their peers all because some magic list-of-the-week says their Fearless Leader (whom in many cases they came to the US because they don't like the policies or education climate back home) pissed in our Cheerios.

      Actually, ITAR regulations require that no foreign nationals work on the project -- not just ones from countries like China and Iran. Many universities (or individual professors) do actually reject any ITAR projects, since it places significant restrictions on them and their students.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ScrewMaster (602015) *

        Many universities (or individual professors) do actually reject any ITAR projects, since it places significant restrictions on them and their students.

        Correct. And they're within their rights to do just that. This guy apparently did not.

    • "Openness", both ideologically and in the FOSS sense, forms one of the core requirements of successful academia.

      So what? Academia isn't under discussion - corporate research and development is.

      I don't blame or absolve the professor - He had a contract, and I suppose the legal details of this boil down to a matter of contract law (though I most certainly do have a problem with prison time rather than monetary damages for breach of contract).

      He didn't go to prison because he broke his contrac

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by physicsphairy (720718)

      I blame the university for undermining any sense of credibility by selling out to the highest bidder at the expense of discrimination against an arbitrary list of students - Students who paid the same tuition as every other student, yet cannot experience the same intellectual freedoms as their peers

      We are talking about a project funded by DOE grant money, not student tuition, and usually the way these things work is that the university skims a whole lot off of that and effectively the DOE subsidizes the tuition of the foreign nationals by providing these projects.

      But I don't think the argument holds water anyway. I mean, I pay my taxes the same as anyone else, but would you honestly say this merits my having equal access to nuclear missile silos and chemical weapons laboratories as any other citize

  • Plasma actuator (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Bromskloss (750445) <auxiliary.addres ... l.com ['mai' in > on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:03PM (#28575087)

    Forget the prison sentence, I want to learn about the "plasma actuator that could help reduce drag on the wings of drones". (This is a tech site, remember?) So, how do these work?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:10PM (#28575143)

    OK, so I'm in Canada, and everyone knows that Canadians are slackers when it comes to security (sarcasm for the humor challenged).

    The prof had to be ignoring the rules deliberately. The paperwork I had to sign required the details of every student working on the project. They didn't have to be security cleared but they sure did have to be Canadian or American. There was no chance to skip over that clause in the contract; a security guy read it to me out loud and made damn sure I understood what it meant.

    • by legirons (809082)

      The paperwork I had to sign required the details of every student working on the project. They didn't have to be security cleared but they sure did have to be Canadian or American.

      we have rules like that too. they're not much related to actual security problems, but they are damned useful in circumventing employment discrimation laws...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:21PM (#28575227)

    A big problem/bug/feature of American academic engineering research groups is that the graduate students and post-docs are predominantly foreign, typically from China and India. American citizens with advanced engineering degrees are a dying breed - Americans don't (in general) aspire to get PhDs in engineering.

    So if you are soliciting proposals to American universities for defense-related research, be warned that whomever is doing the research (even if they themselves are citizens and cleared) are likely doing that research in a room full of foreign nationals.

  • by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:24PM (#28575243) Homepage
    ...until I Googled "plamsa actuator" and found a relevant article ranked number one...

    http://www.engr.uky.edu/~jdjacob/fml/research/plasma/index.html [uky.edu]

    ...and a bunch of other good articles listed after it.

    Does the DOD think they not have the Internet in China and Iran?

    Just by reading this article, you can get a good sense of the concept, which has to do with creating high-speed, non-mechanical aircraft control surfaces via boundary layer manipulation. Is this really that big of a secret?

    I'll post more on this after I investigate the thump on the roof and see who's at the front door.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by thepainguy (1436453)
      Yes, I'm replying to myself...

      It's kind of funny (or pathetic) but many advanced technologies (like stealth and hypersonics) start out this way. Some guy in some academic lad has a weird idea that actually works. The DOD then takes the concept black and tries to wipe out all traces of the idea's prior existence. They weren't very good at that back in the 70s and 80s and there's no way they are going to be able to do that today, given the power of the Web.
      • by copponex (13876)

        That doesn't remove their obligation to crush anyone who threatens their authority.

        Secret military contracts and projects are unethical, unconstitutional, and ineffective, because they are always misused. Without accountability, there's no hope for good behavior, especially when you're dealing in unlimited power. In order to keep their houses in order, the DoD and CIA and other organizations who don't even have names are required to commit evil on top of evil.

        I think the only thing more preposterous to the

      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday July 03, 2009 @06:14PM (#28576025) Journal
        The reason for classifying it is that, without the DoD's extra work, it's difficult to know which ideas really work. There are lots of ideas coming out of academia that look great on paper but won't actually work due to engineering limitations or overlooked variables. If you know which are worth investigating further (because someone else has already done the feasibility analysis) then your R&D costs are much lower. Considering the fact that modern war basically boils down to economics, it's a legitimate concern.
  • $6K - WTF? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:25PM (#28575261)

    What the hell kind of contract with the DoD is only $6K?
    The cost of a security clearance for one person is at least $40K.
    Maybe it was one stage of a multi-stage contract, but with the way the news and prosecutors like to exaggerate everything you think they would have quoted the cost of the entire thing.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by bkpark (1253468)

      What the hell kind of contract with the DoD is only $6K?

      There must be a typo somewhere. My travel grant to India this year is not too far off from that amount.

      Or, if there was no mistake, that's probably the consulting fee personally paid to the professor himself (usually grants pay for grad students, postdocs, and equipments, not the professor's salary, although probably his travel expenses and such).

      P.S. According to the AP article linked from TFA, "Roth, 71, testified at trial that he didn't believe he broke the law because the research had yet to produce any

  • by lordsid (629982) on Friday July 03, 2009 @04:52PM (#28575461)
    At the very least he should have received a life sentence. In reality he should have received the death penalty. This is straight up treason of the highest order. The guy was warned not to work on it with the students in question, not to mention he was warned not to take the laptop to china with the sensitive information on it. Some may feel like this is an over reaction but in reality its an under reaction.
  • by Red Midnight (1440977) on Friday July 03, 2009 @05:05PM (#28575561)
    Why are we even talking about this? The prof was either a complete idiot (and should put his Ph.D. back in the cereal box he got it from) or intentionally broke the law as some act of defiance. What is unclear? He knows he's working on a "secret" project used by the military. He probably got told 6 ways through Sunday he can't talk about it. And he goes to jail because he did what he was told to not do. To say he should not get jail time, or that he's from an academic world, defies logic and COMMON SENSE. Gee, this is a secret military project, I think I'll not only take the data/laptop to China, but I'll share it with Chinese and Iranian students. Gimme a break. It makes no sense. It's much more likely, IMHO, that he was giving a one-finger salute to the US. Even if he weren't, he's a moron, and ignorance of the law is not a valid defence.
  • Nuts (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 03, 2009 @09:26PM (#28577091)

    Big defense contractors have done this stuff and nothing happens to them, maybe a little fine. Presidents "authorizing" missile guidance tech transfers to china..zip, no impeachment or charges (example:clinton/loral) Supposedly allied nations (Israel) caught shopping mil gear we gave them, some missile, to china..nothing happens to them. Chinese and other foreign students all over every research establishment/university in the US..every single possible "crown jewel" tech and sensitive "IP" that exists...nothing, totally legal. A subsidiary of cheney's/halliburton, doing business in iran well past the so called embargo..nothing happens to them.

    The professors big crime? He isn't a connected fatcat, that's all.

  • For starters, the good professor is an idiot. He has worked on DoD contracts, and either knew or should have known that from the moment he started developing on the DoD's dime, any technology he dealt in not already a standard part of a BSEE/CS/Chem/Physics degree program in the US was going to be suspect under ITAR [state.gov].

    In addition, the import and export of any commercial item is subject to review under the Export Administration Regulations [doc.gov] of the DoC. And, as Dr. Roth is being reminded the hard way, "export" can occur the moment a foreign national or domestic agent of a foreign nation groks your IP.

    You may not agree with the law as it stands, but the Federal Government is on very strong Constitutional ground with respect to whatever border controls it chooses to enact. So, your options are: 1) follow the laws, 2) not follow the laws, and/or 3) bug your representatives to change the law. You can select (2), and many do, but it's kind of like not paying your income taxes for a few years: it sucks big time when you get caught.

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