Violating Export Controls ACE Act

Violating Export Controls ACE Act


The niche topic of export controls was brought to the public yesterday via a National Public Radio (NPR) segment during their All Things Considered program. A Chinese citizen was arrested on February 10, 2014 and charged with violating the Arms Control Export Act by trying to obtain and export accelerometers that are controlled under the ITAR’s United States Munitions List (USML). A full description of the case can be found in the Department of Justice (DOJ) press release.

What exactly is an accelerometer? In simple terms, it is an electromechanical sensor that detects movement. As the NPR segment highlights, accelerometers are found in consumer electronics, such as laptops and smart phones. However, they can also be used in guidance systems for military missiles. For those classification junkies, the term “accelerometer” appears four times in the USML under two different categories – Category XII covering Fire Control, Range Finder, Optical and Guidance and Control Equipment and Category II covering Guns and Armament.

I found it interesting that a key interviewee was a faculty member from the University of Washington, despite the commercial nature of the transaction in question. With this, the export community is reminded that higher education academic institutions are not immune and must also pay close attention to export controls regulations.

This enforcement case also highlights a potential “red flag” that organizations can watch for in transactions. The DOJ press release states Chin had gone to personally pick up the equipment. One might guess that an in-person pick up by the customer is not necessarily standard in such transactions.

There was a follow-up NPR segment where the familiar topic of Export Control Reform was discussed. The challenge of having the export control regulations keep pace with advancing technologies, specifically rapidly changing information technologies, was reinforced. The story brought to my mind the newly incorporated ECCN 0Y521 in the EAR’s Commerce Control List (CCL). It is intended to catch emerging technologies that warrant control, but aren’t outright listed in the CCL. Time will tell if this is an effective approach or if differing applications and interpretations of this ECCN by industry, academia, and government will result in confusion.

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