ITAR Abuse

Photo Aug 12, 11 42 04 AMI’ve worked according to ITAR rules for many years. Each of those years, I attended mandatory training which included a moderately comprehensive examination. Over those years, I have taught highly technical and sometimes defense-related topics in the United States and overseas to citizens of many countries including some to which the ITAR regulations applied “first hand”. Penalties for failing to comply with the ITAR stipulations are severe and include fines and incarceration — these folks aren’t kidding — and, needless to say, I was very careful to toe the line.

I know ITAR.

President Obama has recently proposed changes in the interpretation of ITAR such that it would restrict discussions on blogs and other internet sources.

These discussions on various gun-related blogs including here (http://www.flat5.net), in the reloading group of Facebook and at the hundreds of other open websites are accessible anywhere in the world that has Internet service provided they are not blocked from its citizens by their government.

North Korea with its stringently limited access to the internet is one such example where a government restricts what its citizens can know of the world. And the Peoples Republic of China is another, albeit allowing the majority of its citizenry access to the internet but, at the same time, blocking certain websites from view. Such actions by individual governments prevent their citizens from finding out what’s really happening in the world. Gun-related blogs, message forums and chat lines have never been considered under the provisions of ITAR. The information and discussions on those sites have been accessible for decades and subject only to blockage by web service providers under the control of foreign governments.

Changing the ITAR rules as President Obama is proposing will have little to no practical effect. The information is already out there. Anyone interested could simply make a local backup copy of the information before any new ITAR interpretation is enforced. They would then have a complete copy.

The “wget” command, widely available on most OSes directly or by download, makes this as simple as typing the websites main URL after “wget”. This ancient utility then “gets” the top-most web page, makes a local copy on your computer, and then follows every link in that web page to every other web page, discussion and conversation on that website. This “copy of follow the links” action continues recursively until the entire website has been copied. For a big website, this could take some time but, nonetheless, it is exhaustive and started with a simple command. Just let “wget” do the work.

Changing the application of ITAR rules as President Obama has proposed will not enhance national security in any way. The cat, as they say, is already out of the bag. Indeed, that cat and its kittens and several generations thereafter are not only out of the bag, they’re at the house next door, all over the neighborhood and having more kittens under everyone’s porch!

The information is free for the taking and has been for decades.

So, why change the rules now?

Because it isolates and disconnects the shooting community.

  • Who are others that feel the same way I do?
    Without meeting places, we won’t know each other.
  • Is someone starting a petition, gathering signatures or organizing a march to protest this?
    Without communication, no one will know something is happening they might not like.

It’s about control.

Changing the rules in this way weakens the citizenry. It isolates us from each other and, in so doing, makes it easier to enact future more limiting regulations without awakening coordinated dissent.

ITAR is ITAR — International Trade Agreement Regulations. It’s purpose is to protect US defense capabilities by limiting the distribution of weapons and, equally important, information about those weapons that might then be used to defeat our troops.

But denying citizens their First Amendment rights under the guise of ITAR doesn’t protect defensive capabilities of the USA. Instead it protects the defensive capabilities of the US government against its own citizens.

Is the government to serve the people, or are the people to serve the government?

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