Government Steps Up Export Enforcement

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)announced on October 11, 2007 the launch of a national counter-proliferation initiative. The DOJ states that the initiative will be undertaken in conjunction with the State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) and the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). As part of the initiative, the DOJ's National Security Division has begun monthly meeting with the leadership of these offices to ensure that investigations, prosecutions, and enforcement issues are fully coordinated. Counter-Proliferation Task Forces have been formed in U.S. Attorney offices around the country in regions with large concentrations of high-tech businesses and research facilities.

DOJ states that the threat posed by illegal acquisition of restricted U.S. technology is "substantial and growing." It states that a 2006 U.S. Defense Department report found a 43 percent increase in the number of suspicious foreign contact with U.S. defense firms and an Intelligence Committee report issued last year found that entities from a record 108 nations were engaged in efforts to obtain controlled U.S. technology. 

DOJ reports that China and Iran pose particular concerns for U.S. export control with the majority of criminal prosecutions in recent years involving restricted U.S. technology bound for these nations. Recent prosecutions have involved illegal exports of stealth missile technology, military aircraft components, Naval warship data, night vision equipment, and other restricted technology destined for China or Iran.

The DOJ has appointed its first National Export Control Coordinator to implement this initiative and foster coordination among the different agencies involved in export control. Based in the Counterespionage Section of the National Security Division, the National Export Control Coordinator is responsible for managing the nationwide training of prosecutors and monitoring the progress on export control prosecutions around the country.  

In addressing these export control threats, DOJ states that law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors have stepped up their enforcement activity in recent years. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has recently doubled the number of agents assigned to export control cases and reports making 149 export-related arrest last fiscal year. The FBI reports that it is investigating approximately 125 economic espionage cases and has increased counterintelligence instructions for new agents by 240 percent.

The Commerce Department reports that more than 80 percent of its export convictions in fiscal year 2207 were related to WMD proliferation, terrorist support, or diversion to military end-use. In fiscal year 2007, the DOJ states there was more than a 50 percent increase in defendants charged with violating export control statutes compared to the prior year.