GAO: Sensitive Military Technology Can Easily Be Shipped Overseas

07/05/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sensitive technology, including parts that can be used in the development of nuclear weapons, guided missiles and IEDs, can be easily purchased in the US and illegally exported to countries known as shipping hubs for terrorist organizations.

That was the finding of a new report by the Government Accountability Office, in which the GAO set up front companies and fictitious identities to buy night-vision scopes used by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, triggered spark gaps used to detonate nuclear weapons, electonic sensors used in improvised explosive devices and gyro chips used in guided missiles and military aircraft.

Among the items purchased were infra-red flags used by U.S. military forces to help identify friendly soldiers during nighttime operations.

Terrorist and foreign government have increasingly attempted to purchase sensitive dual-use and military technology from companies in the US - in 2008, 145 defendants faced criminal charges for violating export-control laws, according to the Justice Department. About 43 percent of those charged were trying to ship the items to Iran or China.

When the GAO discussed their findings with the State Department, Commerce Department and law-enforcement agencies, they were not surprised by the results and admitted that there is no practical way to ensure seemingly unsuspicious packages can be consistently identified and searched.

Among the GAO's targets was a distributor selling oscilliscopes, which are used in the development of WMDs. That firm pled guilty in 2005 to illegally shipping the devices overseas and was fined $50,000.

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