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NASA Government Security Space The Military Science

NASA Boss Accused of Breaking Arms Trade Laws 88

Posted by timothy
from the what-part-of-regulation-XXIII-459823(aiii)-don't-you-understand? dept.
ananyo writes "The head of NASA Ames Research Center may have fallen victim to restrictive arms regulations — just as a US government report recommends changing them to help the space industry. Simon 'Pete' Worden, who recently announced that Mars exploration would be done by private companies, has been accused of giving foreign citizens access to information that falls under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). ITAR has hampered U.S. firms seeking to export satellite technology. The allegations against Worden come just as the new report recommends moving oversight of many commercial satellites and related activities from the State department to the Commerce department, and some fear they could provide lawmakers with reasons to not ease export controls."
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NASA Boss Accused of Breaking Arms Trade Laws

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  • by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @01:53PM (#39880295)
    Laws written by the government don't apply to the government. This is just a simple misunderstanding (by the people caught NASA breaking the law).
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Yeah? Then why are Illinois' last two Governors in prison right now?

      • Re:Don't Be Silly (Score:4, Informative)

        by Grishnakh (216268) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:52PM (#39880901)

        Exactly. Whether laws written by the government apply to the government depends entirely on exactly how embarrassing the situation is, and how well connected the particular politician (or other government official) is (versus how well connected his opponents are).

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I've always said that a rich and powerful man only goes to prison when a richer, more powerful man wants him there.

      • Yeah? Then why are Illinois' last two Governors in prison right now?

        I guess there's no saving them when they are so corrupt that even other politicians are embarrassed by their actions.

      • by identity0 (77976) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @06:57PM (#39884243) Journal

        Well, it is Illinois. They technically don't have a government, only competing factional interests, like Somalia.

        • Well, it is Illinois. They technically don't have a government, only competing factional interests, like Somalia.

          Ah, so is that what they meant when they called it a "failed state"?

    • Nasa boss accused of breaking arms...

      did anybody else read the title this way as well? shoudl have read "accused of beaking arms-control." that's what the hyphen is for.

    • Re:Don't Be Silly (Score:5, Informative)

      by RKBA (622932) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @07:46PM (#39884651)
      NASA is very strict about what leaves the county even in an employee email. Everything, including computer software and documentation, must be submitted to a department within NASA for approval and an ITAR compliance statement attached to it. It's such a hassle that it almost makes it impossible to work with international partners of friendly nations (Norway for example). It's probably about some mundane engineering material necessary to insure compatibility with an international partner that some bureaucratic bean-counter is trying to use to justify his or her otherwise undeserved salary.
  • is funded by the public, there for should be accessible by the U.S. public. Over seas countries should have to pay a fee for using the technology. done and done
    • by Kenja (541830)
      Same can be said about stealth fighters, ICBMs, and anything else developed with tax payer dollars. Not 100% sure all of that information should be publicly available however.
      • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:17PM (#39880569) Homepage Journal

        Same can be said about stealth fighters, ICBMs, and anything else developed with tax payer dollars. Not 100% sure all of that information should be publicly available however.

        Why not? When a government has exclusive right to military technology, they in effect have an exclusive right to unlimited power, which is a gross violation of the Constitutional principle of liberty.

        Note that the Second Amendment provides no exclusions regarding what arms the citizens are allowed to own and carry - also note that the reason the Second Amendment exists is to allow the citizenry to defend ourselves not from each other, but from a tyrannical, oppressive government.

        • Note that the Second Amendment provides no exclusions regarding what arms the citizens are allowed to own and carry

          I'm sorry, I'm all for second amendment rights, but I don't think the framers of the constitution could possibly conceive weapons of mass destruction like nukes and biological weapons. I for one don't want you or anyone you know owning such weapons, ICBMs, ballistic missiles, etc.

          • I don't think the framers of the constitution could possibly conceive weapons of mass destruction like nukes and biological weapons.

            Nukes, perhaps not, but biological warfare has been around since party A realized that party B lacked immunity to certain diseases. Hell, in 1710 the Russian Army was using catapults to fling the bodies of bubonic plague victims within the wall of cities they held under siege.

            I for one don't want you or anyone you know owning such weapons, ICBMs, ballistic missiles, etc.

            Quick note: ICBM (Inter Continental Ballistic Missile) and "ballistic missile" are essentially the same thing. Moving on...

            I agree; however, in my case, "anyone you know" includes the government.

            How are the People supposed to prot

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Note that the Second Amendment provides no exclusions regarding what arms the citizens are allowed to own and carry

          The First Amendment provides no exceptions of any kind to free speech, but nevertheless we accept that there are reasonable limits that can be placed on certain things and then we just spend the rest of time arguing about what is "reasonable".

          Screaming "fire" in a crowded theater, libel and slander, revealing military secrets, etc. These are considered reasonable restrictions on the right of free speech.

          Same with the 2nd Amendment. There may be a lot more argument over where 'reasonable' is, and I think i

  • by DittoBox (978894) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @01:59PM (#39880377) Homepage

    "NASA Boss Accused of Breaking Arms"

    Das parts of NASA's loss of funds. You gots to break legs if youse wants to makes moneys.

  • by Shoten (260439) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:03PM (#39880425)

    ITAR serves an important purpose by stating what technologies/goods should not be given to other countries because they comprise munitions or technologies related to them. But the trick is that controlling information is a problematic thing, especially when you get into esoteric aspects of technology. It gets even worse with "dual-use" technologies. A while back, Toshiba fell afoul of similar rules when they shared technology they use in their washing machines with a company in the USSR. Unfortunately, that same technology is also used to make quieter screws (propellers, for you land-loving sorts) for ships, and thus, submarines. At one point, the 128-bit encryption-capable version of Internet Explorer was equally prohibited for export.

    The rules also seem totally nuts when you see how they play out. You can discuss things with US Citizens, but only if you're in the US. Unless you're abroad, but in a place the US controls. But not if you're in the US and there's a person here on a visa nearby.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:38PM (#39880731)

      Toshiba sold four 5-axis milling machines and four 4-xis milling machines to the USSR. In its export application, Toshiba Machine falsely described the machinery as two-axis machine tools. Anything over two-axis violates COCOM.

      Read that again: Toshiba didn't innocently stumble into the export of a dual-use machine that might or might not have been approved depending on bureaucratic review whims, they flat out lied in order to export machines which were explicitly and unconditionally prohibited.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But then, finding ways to circumvent stupid-ass rules is a moral imperative in itself.

        • by drkstr1 (2072368)

          But then, finding ways to circumvent stupid-ass rules is a moral imperative in itself.

          True that.

    • The ITAR laws are retarded and don't help anyone except foreign companies competing with American companies. PGP was banned but apparently printing out the source code and mailing it was legalâ"freedom of speech, duh!!! Why bother? We're not the only source for dual use technologies. Russia, France, Germany et al are all willing to supply the stuff so who cares?

    • by PPH (736903) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:57PM (#39880947)

      Which is why any company with half a brain and a foreign subsidiary will take any R&D that has the remote possibility of being classified as 'dual use' and move it overseas. Then you can kiss your US job goodbye.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2012 @03:30PM (#39881279)

      I wish it was restricted to dual use. I worked in the defense industry building stuff for the Navy, but no weapons, only commercial grade stuff. ITAR applies to that too. Our ITAR specialists use this example: If you buy a coffee pot off of the shelf of Wal-Mart, it is not ITAR controlled. If you now paint that coffee pot gray to fit to a Navy standard, and is in all other ways identical to the black one you bought, it is now a Defense Article and is ITAR controlled. Just by painting it the color the Navy wants.

      We ran into issues several times where we were given permission to tell a Canadian company what we wanted (called a TAA, granted by the State Dept and takes about 6-8 months to process), basically giving them performance specs of a system we wanted so they could quote us a system that met those specs. It came in, but there was a defect. So we sent it back to get it repaired. By sending back our supplier's own product to his facility to get a defect fixed, we violated ITAR because we were not given the right to export material, only data (that's called an MLA, and can take 10-14 months to process).

      And by the way, the term is not US Citizens. You can't use US Citizens, because under ITAR rules the definition of a US citizen doesn't invalidate that person from ITAR regulations (he may be a dual citizenship person, or a US citizen who is on a watch list). The term is non-US person.

      Ridiculous. I am so glad I moved to the commercial world.

    • by k6mfw (1182893)
      I never can understand uproar on ITAR, etc. when we export our design and engineering overseas. Geez, foreign countries don't need spies, they just hang out on their turf and we'll send them the factory and design labs.
    • The rules also seem totally nuts when you see how they play out. You can discuss things with US Citizens, but only if you're in the US. Unless you're abroad, but in a place the US controls. But not if you're in the US and there's a person here on a visa nearby.

      To give an example relevant to the original story, I worked for many years on the International Space Station. Note the International part. Nonetheless, when we had visitors from our foreign partners, we had to cover up our whiteboards and computer monitors lest they see some forbidden data. This being a piece of hardware occupied by foreigners most of the time once it's in orbit. Pretty silly, right?

    • by jd (1658) <.imipak. .at. .yahoo.com.> on Thursday May 03, 2012 @07:58PM (#39884783) Homepage Journal

      A great example was PGPi, the European "International" version of PGP. If you took a copy of the software into the US, you weren't allowed to take it back out again.

      The article has others, such as the guy who was banned from seeing the NASA commentary on code he'd written for them under contract because he wasn't cleared. (He can be given a contract, but be banned from completing it? Impressive.)

      25 years or so ago, a UK government department was forbidden from selling a Cray supercomputer to, I think it was UCL (University College, London), by the American government because UCL had Russian students. There were rather unveiled threats made, as I recall, by the American government, which declared that all US semiconductors were US soil regardless of what country they were in.

      I'm dual-national US/UK, and have run into similar problems myself when working on US government projects as my "official" nationality varied between individuals.

      In short, ITAR and similar restrictions are routinely abused - and even when not abused are a severe constraint on US progress AND a crippling influence on relationships between the US and Tier 1 nations.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...from time to time, and it's a big problem. Anything "cool" is illegal for US citizens to export. Gen3 nightvision or any nightvision related accessories. Sling mounts, rifle stocks etc, all ITAR'd even if it's just a piece of bent metal. And even if china is already mass producing it.
    Even if there's already (overpriced) distributors outside of US, you can't. Does it matter if "terrorists" has to spend 3000usd instead of 2500usd on a piece of kit?

    I really, really hope that USA lets up for their extremely

  • by BenEnglishAtHome (449670) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:09PM (#39880491)

    Those regulations hapmper everybody. The folks in the gun lobby will tell you that they are a backdoor attempt at gun control and they make a good case (if you're a firearms accessories and parts merchant, you literally can't drop a simple magazine spring in a box and mail it abroad without mounds of expensive paperwork) until you realize that it screws up *everybody*. Anything can be defined as "arms" if you're willing to stretch the term enough to server your particular agenda and, under ITAR, it's been stretched to a ridiculous degree, already. The anecdotes in the article (yes, I read it, so flog me) are just the tip of the iceberg.

    • Clearly I'm having a "my spelling skills took the day off" day. My apologies.

      hapmper == hamper

      enough to server == enough to serve

      If I find more, I'll just sit here and scream and not bother with another post.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      No, they don't make a good case.
      And ITAR is a good thing, mostly.

      But hey, don't read up on it, understand it's intent or history, just keep posting anecdote.

      • What we have here is, "he said, she said."

        But hey, don't post any supportive arguments or citations for your claims, we'll just take your word for it.
  • It's all in the timing.

  • by geogob (569250) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @02:56PM (#39880939)

    working in the aerospace field, I have to deal with ITAR related issues all the time. It's is really burdensome for the industry outside the US and, in the end, mostly hurting the US Industry. Having such regulation within the NATO countries is quite silly if you ask me and it is the best incentive for those nations to develop their own industry. In the end we always get parts or expertise outside of the US if we have a choice.

    But don't think the grass is greener everywhere. Other countries have similar export regulations that aren't any less a PITA. I quickly think problems we have with BAFA [www.bafa.de] in Germany, although those issues are nowhere as complicated as those create by ITAR.

    On many project requirements, you find on top of the list "No ITAR regulated parts/software/whatever"... and this trend is expending as people learn to work without new providers outside of the US and these providers gain the required expertise. Hell! Even some US projects now aim for systems without any ITAR regulated components! Your guess on the impact of such a trend on the US industry is just as good as mine.

    • I dealt with ITAR all the time too last year. When you mentioned Germany, I am reminded of a funny situation. Like here, they also have strict export restrictions. For one item that was already imported from there and in our hands, additional paperworked needed to be filled out so it was proposed to ship the item back to Germany and then immediately import it back to the US.
    • by jd (1658)

      Agreed that there are problems everywhere (I'm firmly convinced that the Norse were onto something with their mythology of Loki - we see evidence of it in every government). Agreed that such regulations hurt everyone -- NASA's "Beowulf" software was classified as munitions for a while, as I'm sure older Slashdot readers will remember. It resulted in the software being smuggled into Canada and developed there.

      I would want to ask the US Congress this - is the US truly made stronger, more capable and more comp

    • I have a (UK) project involving a certain chip manufactured by Rockwell. There is an exceptionally terse datasheet available online. I asked for a a little more, and Rockwell, while courteous, basically declined to help me, citing ITAR. The chip is a CCD (sensitive to the infra-red), but otherwise nearly obsolete, and the datasheet I wanted was something similar to the common documentation for the 555 timer chip. The idea that I might build a guided missile out of this thing is laughable.

      • by geogob (569250)

        Yes, all Infrared imaging systems, or part thereof, are protected under ITAR. Nobody (maybe some stlll do) in Europe buys IR detector in the US anymore for this reasons. That's one place where the German, French and Israeli industries gained a lot because of ITAR.

  • "allegations surfaced that a NASA director may have broken the rules when he gave foreign nationals access to an agency research facility."

    My guess as to what happened.

    So there was no actual *item* being exported.

    My guess, it was some foreign researchers coming over to do research, most likely, and most likely of a usual and unclassified nature and it was an ordinary approval.

    So now, "unnamed whistleblowers" make allegations that somewhere the foreigners may have picked up some information which happens to

  • Why not, laws don't mean shit anymore.

  • I used to work for a large satellite operator that, at one time, was an NGO. As a non-US company, ITAR didn't apply, and because of the nature of the work, it attracted talent from all over the world.

    Then it went to private ownership, and the division I worked for here in the US suddenly became subject to ITAR. We had some time to prepare before the transition, but we had to start jumping through all sorts of hoops to ensure compliance. There were cases where people (mainly subsystems engineers) could not p

  • In their last report to Congress last month, the DOD very specifically detailed how they wished to *relax* the ITAR constraints: see
    http://www.defense.gov/releases/release.aspx?releaseid=15198 [defense.gov]
    who just points the report itself.
    From the exec. summary:
    "In summary, the Departments agree that maintaining non-critical satellites and related components on the USML and monitoring low-risk launch activities provide limited national security benefits. Moreover, this practice places the U.S. space industrial base at a

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