DOJ targets illegal tech exports

The Justice Department, in a move to more aggressively prosecute people illegally exporting U.S. technologies, is creating task forces in regions with a high concentration of high-tech companies.

The Counter-Proliferation Task Forces will be established in a number of U.S. Attorney's offices around the country. They are intended to improve coordination among federal agencies involved in export control and to strengthen relationships and information-sharing with affected industries.

Foriegn companies often acquire American technology firms, including federal contractors involved in defense, homeland security and IT lines of business. But laws restrict the types of technologies that those acquirers are legally entitled to take, especially in electronics, computers, telecommunications, information security, sensors and lasers, and navigation devices and expertise.

Similar counterproliferation task forces already exist in the Southern District of New York, the District of Connecticut and the District of Maryland, where agents from the FBI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Commerce Department and other federal agents coordinate efforts.

Recent prosecutions in counterproliferation cases have involved China, Iran and Pakistan and items such as nuclear and missile applications, fighter jet components and sensitive Navy warship databases. There are at least 108 nations engaged in efforts to obtain controlled technology, Justice officials said in a news release.

"Foreign states and terrorist organizations are actively seeking to acquire U.S. data, technological knowledge and equipment that will advance their military capacity, their weapons systems and even their weapons of mass destruction programs. Many have targeted our government, industries and universities as sources of these materials," said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein said in the news release. "This initiative is a coordinated campaign to keep sensitive U.S. technology from falling into the wrong hands and from being used against our allies, against our troops overseas or against Americans at home."

The initiative also includes specialized training for prosecutors due to the complexity of the laws, authorities and classifications of information involved.

The Justice Department appointed its first national export control coordinator, based in the Counterespionage Section of the agency's National Security Division, to implement the initiative. Also, Justice will make efforts to improve information sharing and coordination with the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls and the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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