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May 15, 2008 

USA Today Reports on Prohibited Exports of Night-Vision Equipment and Technology

USA Today has reported on efforts by terrorist and other groups to obtain advanced U.S. military night-vision equipment and the U.S. Government efforts to prevent and prosecute such efforts:

The government has prosecuted more than two dozen businesses and individuals over the past 18 months for stealing night-vision gear or skirting prohibitions on foreign sales, according to a USA TODAY review of federal documents and public records.

In at least five cases, prosecutors linked shipments to terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. A few others were headed to Iran and Taliban forces in Afghanistan, court records show; several were destined for China and Japan.

"It's extremely serious — you're talking about adversaries of the United States getting equipment that we make to give our soldiers an advantage in the field," says Charles Beardall, the Pentagon's deputy inspector general for investigations.

The Pentagon joined the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce and State last year in a crackdown on illegal exports of combat-use military items and sensitive civilian goods with military uses. Night-vision goggles, scopes and cameras used by U.S. troops account for more cases than any other technology, says Steven Pelak, Justice's export enforcement coordinator.

The article notes that "since 2001, the government has charged more than 40 individuals or businesses with theft or illegal exports of night-vision technology" and "besides the two dozen cases prosecuted since late 2006" USA Today "also identified at least eight more under investigation."

A related story, U.S. Foes Seek Edge in the Dark, reports on efforts to obtain U.S. night-vision technology.

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