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NASA Government Security Space The Military Science

NASA Boss Accused of Breaking Arms Trade Laws 88

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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 [] 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2012 @04:09PM (#39881969)

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

  • by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> 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.

Competence, like truth, beauty, and contact lenses, is in the eye of the beholder. -- Dr. Laurence J. Peter