Skip Menu

Return to Skip Menu

Main Content

Archive (2011-2014)

Bookmark this page and visit often for the most up-to-date news and events in the world of exports and sanctions regulatory compliance.

17 June 2014

ISU Grad Student Accused of Trying to Sell Military Secrets to China

By Michael Crumb, Editor

A graduate student at Iowa State University is one of two people arrested on allegations they tried to sell military secrets to China, according to court documents unsealed late Friday. 

Wentong Cai was arrested in Ames Jan. 22 as part of an investigation into alleged violations of the Arms Export Control Act, according to documents that first were reported Thursday by KOB-TV in Albuquerque, N.M.  It's not clear where Cai is being held. A business partner, Bo Cai, was arrested later and is being held in the Santa Fe County, N.M., jail, records show. It's not known if the men are related.  Wentong Cai and Bo Cai are suspected of trying to buy military sensors from an Albuquerque company and take them to China, according to documents obtained late Friday by the Ames Tribune.

According to the documents, federal agents seized a black Lenovo laptop computer and a Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone during the investigation. Wentong Cai, a graduate student working on his PhD in veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine, was involved in efforts to try to buy the ARS-14 sensors as early as March 2012, records show, and had exchanged emails with the device's manufacturer in Albuquerque about his interest in obtaining the devices.

He indicated that he would be using the sensors in research at ISU, but when informed by the company that a purchase order on ISU letterhead would be required, he told the company he was thinking of getting a Chinese company involved.

The company notified federal officials and investigators with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security worked undercover during the investigation, which lasted for several weeks.

Wentong Cai and Bo Cai believed they were meeting with a man who would sell them the sensors, which are used for military communications and lasers in ground and aerial military vehicles, but also have civilian uses. Instead, the man they were meeting was an undercover agent.

Wentong Cai said in a series of emails to the undercover agent that he wanted to buy 20 of the sensors, valued at $11,000 each, the documents show.

In one telephone conversation, Cai told the undercover agent he wanted to smuggle the sensors into China hidden in legitimate cargo, the documents said.  After a series of telephone and e-mail exchanges, Wentong Cai and Bo Cai met with the agent at their hotel in Albuquerque on Dec. 11, 2013. Both men, who are reportedly in the their late 20s, had a Chinese technology company send the undercover agent $27,000, according to the documents.  The undercover agent gave the men a nonfunctional sensor, which they accepted and carried with them as they boarded a plane from Albuquerque to Los Angeles. While the men tried to board a plane to China, U.S. customs officials found the sensor and confiscated it.  As part of the investigation, agents sought a search warrant from a judge seeking permission to search Wentong Cai's ISU email account.

Keith Bystrom, associate university counsel for ISU, said the university cooperated with investigators, but could not comment further. "I know there's a federal investigation pending, and we were advised not to discuss the federal investigation," Bystrom said.  The documents in the case are dated Feb. 21 but remained under seal until late Friday, when they were released by the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Mexico.

ISU spokeswoman Annette Hacker confirmed that Wentong Cai had been continuously enrolled at the university since 2009, and was working on his PhD as of January, but he never completed the program.  Cai received bachelor's and master's degrees from Nanjing Agricultural University in China before enrolling at ISU.  Officials with the Iowa State University Department of Public Safety said they assisted federal authorities with the investigation but provided no further details.

07 March 2014

2014 Virginia Tech InfraGard Meeting

3rd Annual InfraGard Meeting at Virginia Tech

Location: VCOM II Conference Center; 2280 Kraft Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24060

Date and Time: Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 7:30 AM - 4:30 PM.

The Virginia Tech Office of Export and Secure Research Compliance will be hosting the 3rd Annual InfraGard Meeting at Virginia Tech on April 15, 2014.  The presentations will cover topics such as Social Networking and Potential Risks, Emerging Technology Threats, Critical Infrastructure Protection, etc. Also, security industry companies and government agencies will have tables displaying security-related information.  Admission to the meeting is free.  Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

This meeting is open to InfraGard members and non-members, so please respond early to reserve your place.  If you know of others who would benefit from this meeting, please feel free to forward this email.  We will accommodate as many guests as possible.  If you have any questions, please contact Warren Lucero at or 540-231-7552.

If you are interested in joining InfraGard, please visit

To register, please complete the form located at:

You can view the agenda at:

2014 Virginia Tech InfraGard Meeting Agenda

All registrations must be received by April 8th, 2014.

06 March 2014

New Sanctions Guidance regarding temporary export of certain portable electronics to Iran

On February 7, 2014, the Department of the Treasury issued General License D-1 to the Iran Transaction and Sanctions Regulations with  new guidance regarding the export of certain services, software, and hardware incident to personnel communications to Iran. Under the General License, some university owned equipment, including some mobile phones, satellite phones, laptops, tablets, computing devices and peripherals and accessories, may be exported temporarily while travelling in Iran. 

The list of items which can be exported is included in the Annex to the General License:

As part of the international travel review process, OESRC will assist you in determining if your portable electronic devices and software meets the General License requirements.

Please contact if you have questions about this new guidance.

27 January 2014

Export Server and ITAR Email

New Information has been posted on the Export Server and ITAR Email pages, you can locate these pages under the Technology Control Plan Menu.

07 November 2013

Notice Regarding New Guidelines for Graduate Students Involved in Restricted or Classified Research

See Project Personnel Requirements Section on the Technology Control Plan Page

31 October 2013

Deemed Exports and Licenses in Biological Research

Relevant to recent events regarding communication of dual use research of concern, technology controls may also apply to technical data transmitted in oral or written form.

Export control regulations are federal laws that restrict the passage of certain materials, de­vices and technical information outside of the United States or to foreign nationals within the United States. These regulations apply to research activities that are not considered “fundamen­tal” research, or that which “is defined to mean basic and ap­plied research in science and engineering where the resulting information is ordinarily pub­lished and shared broadly within the scientific community.” Bio­logical research, including the agents studied, the equipment used, and the technology applied may be regulated by export con­trols. Relevant to recent events regarding communication of dual use research of concern, tech­nology controls may also apply to technical data transmitted in oral or written form. Discussion of export-controlled technology at conferences or even in labo­ratory settings should be evalu­ated for possible requirements for export control.

Export controls also apply to the release of controlled technol­ogy to a foreign national inside the United States. The term for such a release of technology is “deemed export”. Any foreign na­tional is subject to the “deemed export” rule except a foreign na­tional who (1) is granted per­manent resi­dence, as dem­onstrated by the issuance of a permanent resident visa (i.e., “Green Card”); or (2) is granted U.S. citizenship; or (3) is granted status as a “protected person” under 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3). Much more information is avail­able on the Bureau of Industry and Security website.

Many people have questions on what triggers a requirement for a deemed export license for biological research. There are several factors and Export Con­trol Classification Numbers (EC­CNs) to consider. The ECCNs that cover pathogens of con­cern are 1C351, 1C352, 1C353, 1C354, and 1C360. These agents are Australia Group listed or are Select Agents. However, it is not the pathogen itself that is the subject of control for a deemed export license, but the technology association with that pathogen. If the pathogen were to be shipped from the US to the foreign national, that would be a regular export license. A deemed export license is for a foreign worker in the US. If technology is to be exported to a foreign country, that is considered a technology export – the differ­ence is where the technology is imparted.

ECCN 1E001 is technology for the development or production (definitions below) of controlled biological agents. The key ques­tion is if the foreign national is learning how to “grow” a con­trolled pathogen using tech­niques that are not in the public domain or are not fundamental research. There are also exclu­sions from licensure based on publications (please review 734.8 through 734.12 and the appendix to 734 of the Export Administra­tion Regulations (EAR)). Release of controlled 1E001 technology would necessitate a deemed ex­port license if the scientist was learning “development” or pro­duction” of a controlled organ­ism. When you look at the EAR definition of these terms, it would mean the researcher would be licensed for how to grow, main­tain, quality check, etc a pathogen. Most of this technology is in the public domain. If the researcher was working on a sensitive proj­ect where they were working on biodefense or some other type of research that would not be allowed to be published and in­volved a controlled listed patho­gen being grown in non-standard conditions (not in the scientific literature), then 1E001 might ap­ply. There is also 1E351 disposal technology but it doesn’t really apply because biological agents are destroyed through autoclave, chemicals, etc, in standard uni­versal techniques.

Another area of concern is 2E001 and 2E002 technology controls for development and production - these would only apply if the re­searcher was developing 2B352 controlled biological equipment (fermenters, cross flow filtra­tion equipment, class 3 glove boxes, for example). The third area to look at is 2B301 which is “use’ of biological equipment. (see below). All six parts of the components of use as defined in the EAR must be met. Of course the technology might be public domain depending on what type of item they were learning to use. If someone from a CB2 country on the CCL country list (supplement 1 to part 738) country comes to the United States to learn how to operate, install, maintain, repair, overhaul, and refurbish 2B352 equipment then they should get a deemed export license. This is not the normal activity of researchers. In conclusion, a deemed ex­port license is only required for a foreign national in the United States learning technology controlled by the Export Administration Regulations.


Production: (General Technology Note) (All Categories)—Means all production stages, such as: product engineering, manufacture, integration, assembly (mounting), inspection, testing, quality assurance.

Development: (General Technology Note)—“Development” is related to all stages prior to se­rial production, such as: design, design research, de­sign analyses, design concepts, assembly and testing of prototypes, pilot production schemes, design data, process of transforming design data into a product, configuration design, integration design, layouts.

Use: (All categories and General Technology Note)—Operation, installation (including on-site installation), maintenance (checking), repair, over­haul and refurbishing.

More information is available here.

Kimberly Orr, DVM, PhD:

07 August 2013

Worldwide Travel Alert, US Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs

August 02, 2013

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula.  Current information suggests that al-Qa’ida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August.  This Travel Alert expires on August 31, 2013.

Terrorists may elect to use a variety of means and weapons and target both official and private interests. U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure.  Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services.  U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling.

We continue to work closely with other nations on the threat from international terrorism, including from al-Qa'ida.  Information is routinely shared between the U.S. and our key partners in order to disrupt terrorist plotting, identify and take action against potential operatives, and strengthen our defenses against potential threats.

We recommend U.S. citizens register their travel plans with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website. We strongly recommend that U.S. citizens Traveling abroad enroll in the Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).  STEP enrollment gives you the latest security updates, and makes it easier for the U.S. embassy or nearest U.S. consulate to contact you in an emergency.  If you don't have Internet access, enroll directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

For the latest security information, U.S. citizens traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's Internet website where the Worldwide Caution, Country Specific Information, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook as well. Download our free Smart Traveler app, available through  iTunes or  Google Play, to have travel information at your fingertips. 

In addition to information on the internet, travelers may obtain up-to-date information on security conditions by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, from other countries, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.  These numbers are available from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday through Friday, Eastern Time (except U.S. federal holidays).

18 July 2013

Universities Face a Rising Barrage of Cyberattacks


Published: July 16, 2013

America’s research universities, among the most open and robust centers of information exchange in the world, are increasingly coming under cyberattack, most of it thought to be from China, with millions of hacking attempts weekly. Campuses are being forced to tighten security, constrict their culture of openness and try to determine what has been stolen.

University officials concede that some of the hacking attempts have succeeded. But they have declined to reveal specifics, other than those involving the theft of personal data like Social Security numbers. They acknowledge that they often do not learn of break-ins until much later, if ever, and that even after discovering the breaches they may not be able to tell what was taken.

Universities and their professors are awarded thousands of patents each year, some with vast potential value, in fields as disparate as prescription drugs, computer chips, fuel cells, aircraft and medical devices.

“The attacks are increasing exponentially, and so is the sophistication, and I think it’s outpaced our ability to respond,” said Rodney J. Petersen, who heads the cybersecurity program at Educause, a nonprofit alliance of schools and technology companies. “So everyone’s investing a lot more resources in detecting this, so we learn of even more incidents we wouldn’t have known about before.”

Tracy B. Mitrano, the director of information technology policy at Cornell University, said that detection was “probably our greatest area of concern, that the hackers’ ability to detect vulnerabilities and penetrate them without being detected has increased sharply.”

Like many of her counterparts, she said that while the largest number of attacks appeared to have originated in China, hackers have become adept at bouncing their work around the world. Officials do not know whether the hackers are private or governmental. A request for comment from the Chinese Embassy in Washington was not immediately answered.

Analysts can track where communications come from — a region, a service provider, sometimes even a user’s specific Internet address. But hackers often route their penetration attempts through multiple computers, even multiple countries, and the targeted organizations rarely go to the effort and expense — often fruitless — of trying to trace the origins. American government officials, security experts and university and corporate officials nonetheless say that China is clearly the leading source of efforts to steal information, but attributing individual attacks to specific people, groups or places is rare.

The increased threat of hacking has forced many universities to rethink the basic structure of their computer networks and their open style, though officials say they are resisting the temptation to create a fortress with high digital walls.

“A university environment is very different from a corporation or a government agency, because of the kind of openness and free flow of information you’re trying to promote,” said David J. Shaw, the chief information security officer at Purdue University. “The researchers want to collaborate with others, inside and outside the university, and to share their discoveries.”

Some universities no longer allow their professors to take laptops to certain countries, and that should be a standard practice, said James A. Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy group in Washington. “There are some countries, including China, where the minute you connect to a network, everything will be copied, or something will be planted on your computer in hopes that you’ll take that computer back home and connect to your home network, and then they’re in there,” he said. “Academics aren’t used to thinking that way.”

Bill Mellon of the University of Wisconsin said that when he set out to overhaul computer security recently, he was stunned by the sheer volume of hacking attempts.

“We get 90,000 to 100,000 attempts per day, from China alone, to penetrate our system,” said Mr. Mellon, the associate dean for research policy. “There are also a lot from Russia, and recently a lot from Vietnam, but it’s primarily China.”

Other universities report a similar number of attacks and say the figure is doubling every few years. What worries them most is the growing sophistication of the assault.

For corporations, cyberattacks have become a major concern, as they find evidence of persistent hacking by well-organized groups around the world — often suspected of being state-sponsored — that are looking to steal information that has commercial, political or national security value. The New York Times disclosed in January that hackers with possible links to the Chinese military had penetrated its computer systems, apparently looking for the sources of material embarrassing to China’s leaders.

This kind of industrial espionage has become a sticking point in United States-China relations, with the Obama administration complaining of organized cybertheft of trade secrets, and Chinese officials pointing to revelations of American spying.

Like major corporations, universities develop intellectual property that can turn into valuable products like prescription drugs or computer chips. But university systems are harder to secure, with thousands of students and staff members logging in with their own computers.

Mr. Shaw, of Purdue, said that he and many of his counterparts had accepted that the external shells of their systems must remain somewhat porous. The most sensitive data can be housed in the equivalent of smaller vaults that are harder to access and harder to move within, use data encryption, and sometimes are not even connected to the larger campus network, particularly when the work involves dangerous pathogens or research that could turn into weapons systems.

“It’s sort of the opposite of the corporate structure,” which is often tougher to enter but easier to navigate, said Paul Rivers, manager of system and network security at the University of California, Berkeley. “We treat the overall Berkeley network as just as hostile as the Internet outside.”

Berkeley’s cybersecurity budget, already in the millions of dollars, has doubled since last year, responding to what Larry Conrad, the associate vice chancellor and chief information officer, said were “millions of attempted break-ins every single week.”

Mr. Shaw, who arrived at Purdue last year, said, “I’ve had no resistance to any increased investment in security that I’ve advocated so far.” Mr. Mellon, at Wisconsin, said his university was spending more than $1 million to upgrade computer security in just one program, which works with infectious diseases.

Along with increased spending has come an array of policy changes, often after consultation with the F.B.I. Every research university contacted said it was in frequent contact with the bureau, which has programs specifically to advise universities on safeguarding data. The F.B.I. did not respond to requests to discuss those efforts.

Not all of the potential threats are digital. In April, a researcher from China who was working at the Medical College of Wisconsin was arrested and charged with trying to steal a cancer-fighting compound and related data.

Last year, Mr. Mellon said, Wisconsin began telling faculty members not to take their laptops and cellphones abroad, for fear of hacking. Most universities have not gone that far, but many say they have become more vigilant about urging professors to follow federal rules that prohibit taking some kinds of sensitive data out of the country, or have imposed their own restrictions, tighter than the government’s. Still others require that employees returning from abroad have their computers scrubbed by professionals.

That kind of precaution has been standard for some corporations and government agencies for a few years, but it is newer to academia.

Information officers say they have also learned the hard way that when a software publisher like Oracle or Microsoft announces that it has discovered a security vulnerability and has developed a “patch” to correct it, systems need to apply the patch right away. As soon as such a hole is disclosed, hacker groups begin designing programs to take advantage of it, hoping to release new attacks before people and organizations get around to installing the patch.

“The time between when a vulnerability is announced and when we see attempts to exploit it has become extremely small,” said Mr. Conrad, of Berkeley. “It’s days. Sometimes hours.”


This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 18, 2013

An article on Wednesday about research universities in the United States facing a barrage of cyberattacks misidentified the employer of a researcher from China who was arrested and charged in April with trying to steal a cancer-fighting compound and related data. It was the Medical College of Wisconsin, not the University of Wisconsin’s medical school.

13 June 2013

3 N.Y.U. Scientists Accepted Bribes From China, U.S. Says


Published: May 20, 2013

It was, the chief federal prosecutor in Manhattan said on Monday, “a case of inviting and paying for foxes in the henhouse.”

Three researchers at the New York University School of Medicinewho specialized in magnetic resonance imaging technology had been working on research sponsored by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

But, prosecutors chargedon Monday, the three had their eyes on other business as well. They conspired to take bribes from a Chinese medical imaging company and a Chinese-sponsored research institute to share nonpublic information about their N.Y.U. work, according to the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.

The defendants, all Chinese citizens, included Yudong Zhu, 44, of Scarsdale, N.Y., an associate professor in the school’s radiology department who was described by the authorities as “an accomplished researcher and innovator.” He was hired by the university around 2008 to teach and conduct research related to innovations in M.R.I. technology, the authorities said.

After the National Institutes of Health awarded the university millions of dollars over five years to pay for Professor Zhu’s research, he arranged for the two other defendants to move to New York from China to work with him, prosecutors said. He also arranged for them to receive financial support from an executive of the Chinese imaging company who was also affiliated with the government-sponsored institute, officials said.

The two other defendants are Xing Yang, 31, and Ye Li, also 31, both of Hartsdale, N.Y. They were each described by N.Y.U. as research engineers at the medical school.

The support they received included graduate school tuition for Mr. Yang, a rental apartment for Mr. Li and, for both, travel between China and New York, prosecutors said.

Preet Bharara, the United States attorney, who announced the charges with George Venizelos, the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s New York office, said the defendants had “colluded with representatives from a Chinese government entity and a direct competitor of the university for which they worked to illegally acquire N.I.H.-funded research for the benefit of those entities.”

N.Y.U. said in a statement that it was “deeply disappointed by the news of the alleged conduct by its employees.”

“Through our internal review processes,” it said, “we became aware of possible irregularities pursuant to research being conducted through a grant from the N.I.H. to develop new M.R.I. technologies.” The university said that it had alerted the authorities and continued to cooperate fully with the investigation.

Dr. Zhu and Mr. Yang were both arrested on Sunday and ordered released on bond by a magistrate judge on Monday. All three defendants were charged with one count of commercial bribery conspiracy; Dr. Zhu was also charged with one count of falsification of records. A prosecutor said in court that Dr. Zhu had admitted to the F.B.I. that he had received almost $500,000 in the scheme.

Dr. Zhu’s lawyer, Robert M. Baum, said in court that N.Y.U. had recruited his client because he was “one of the world’s renowned experts in M.R.I. technology.”

Mr. Li was believed to have flown to China before charges were brought, Mr. Bharara’s office said.

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.

03 April 2013

Former Food Inspection Researcher Charged for Trying to Export Vials of Dangerous Pathogens

Allison Cross | 13/04/03 | Last Updated: 13/04/03 4:50 PM ET

RCMP have charged two former researchers with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for allegedly attempting to export dangerous pathogens that could infect humans and livestock.

Dr. Klaus Nielsen and Wei Ling Yu have been charged with breach of trust by a public officer, the Mounties said Wednesday in a news release.

Nielsen will appear in court later this month while the RCMP have issued a Canada-wide warrant for Yu’s arrest.

The RCMP began the probe after the CFIA reported the scientists in March 2011.

Dubbed Project SENTIMENTAL, the investigation focused on the former researchers’ “unlawful efforts to commercialize intellectual property belonging to the CFIA and a private commercial partner.”

RCMP apprehended Nielsen on Oct. 24, 2012 as he made his way to the Ottawa airport to fly to China. After he was searched, police found 17 vials of pathogens that testing revealed contained live brucella bacteria.

He was arrested for breach of trust by a public officer and the unsafe transportation of a human pathogen.

Police believe Yu is currently in China.

Intercepting Nielsen required the help of the Ottawa police, the RCMP’s Clandestine Laboratory Response Team and the Ottawa Fire Services Hazardous Materials Response Team, the RCMP news release said.

“The RCMP, in collaboration with their partners, were able to quickly and efficiently mobilize and respond to this threat which helped minimize the public’s risk of exposure to these contagious substances,” it said.

Brucellosis, the highly-contagious disease caused by exposure to brucella bacteria, can spread between different species of mammals, including humans. It particularly affects cattle, deer, goats, sheep and horses, although the bovine strain has been largely eradicated from Canada, according to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Canada declared itself free of bovine brucellosis in 1985. The disease infects the blood and lymphatic systems of cattle, resulting in infected reproductive organs, joints and mammary glands, as well as abortions and infertility.

Human cases are rare in Canada. Humans can contract the bacteria by inhaling, eating unpasteurized dairy products, or coming into contact with infected animals or their tissues.

Nielsen, who faces one charge under the Criminal Code and several under the Export and Import Permits Act, the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and the Human Pathogens and Toxins Act, is due in court in Ottawa on April 17.

A spokeswoman for the CFIA said the agency couldn’t discuss specific details of the case because of privacy regulations.

“The Agency conducted an internal review of laboratory security procedures to identify areas for improvement,” Lisa Murphy said in an email. “Measures to enhance security were put in place at all CFIA laboratories across Canada.”

In 2003, Nielsen, along with five other researchers, was awarded the Technology Transfer Award for his work developing a 15-second test for detecting brucellosis in cattle. In a photo posted on an archived page of the CFIA website, Nielsen poses alongside his colleagues.

“[In] Canada, the potential economic impact of an outbreak of such a disease is frightening,” reads the text accompanying the photo.

“Canada is a major exporter of animals, especially swine and cattle. Dr. Klaus Nielsen, lead scientist for the team, points out, “Our success rests on our ability to claim disease-free animals and products.”"

The researchers partnered with Diachemix, a U.S. company, to manufacture and license the brucellosis test.

“Known as “undulant fever” in humans, brucellosis lasts for months, inducing an intermittent fever and debilitating, flu-like symptoms,” the archived website reads.

“In developing countries, where dairy products from diseased cattle, sheep and goats are consumed, thousands of cases of human brucellosis still occur.”

James Scott, an associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said the pathogens Nielsen is accused of carrying wouldn’t have posed an immediate public threat.

“The reality of that hazard is that it’s pretty low,” said Scott, who studies biological hazards.

“The greater hazard is that this particular group of agents are potentially weaponizable and … in certain jurisdictions, they have been eradicated from livestock, like in Canada, so after the Herculean efforts required to eradicate pathogens like this from livestock, one doesn’t want to re-introduce them.”

Canada’s Public Health Agency and the Department of Foreign Affairs also assisted with the investigation, the RCMP said.

Klaus and Yu also co-authored a study about brucellosis detection, which was published in the Croatian Medical Journal in 2010.

National Post

02 April 2013

Medical College of Wisconsin Researcher Charged with Economic Espionage

Feds allege anti-cancer compound was stolen for China

By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

April 1, 2013

A researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin has been charged with stealing a possible cancer-fighting compound and research data that led to its development, all to benefit a Chinese university.

Huajun Zhao, 42, faces a single count of economic espionage, according to a federal criminal complaint, an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

Zhao was arrested Saturday and held without bail over the weekend pending a detention hearing in Milwaukee federal court on Monday, when he was ordered detained until trial. No date has been set.

John Raymond, president and CEO of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa, said the school is cooperating with the FBI, and directed all other questions to the FBI.

According to the complaint, Zhao worked as an associate researcher at the college, assisting professor Marshall Anderson by conducting experiments in pharmacology.

On Feb. 22, Anderson set down three pill bottle-size containers of a cancer research compound called C-25, and later noticed they were missing from his desk. After searching extensively for the bottles, he reported them lost or stolen on Feb. 26.

The next day, security video showed Zhao entering Anderson's office on Feb. 22, and leaving shortly after. No one else was seen entering the office on the videos. Security officials questioned Zhao, who didn't admit or deny taking the compound, but said he couldn't understand the questions, and that, regardless, everything would be resolved in 10 days.

The public safety manager of the college, Jessica Luedtke, contacted the FBI. She said Zhao had been disciplined months earlier for putting lab data on his personal computer. The college staff also discovered that on a professional researcher's website, Zhao claimed to have discovered a cancer-fighting compound that he wanted to bring back to China, where he had been from December till mid-February.

Since his return, his résumé lists him as an assistant professor at Zhejiang University in China.

Zhao was placed on administrative suspension and ordered to turn in all his access badges for the Medical College of Wisconsin after the Feb. 27 interview, according to the complaint.

On March 1, Zhao met with Anderson, college security and the FBI to go over his computer, hard drive and flash drive, where 384 items related to Anderson's C-25 research were discovered and deleted. He also had some research from another professor in the Hematology/Oncology department, without permission.

Among Zhao's paperwork, investigators found more C-25 research and a grant application, written in Mandarin, claiming he had discovered the compound and seeking more Chinese funding to continue research.

Anderson observed the application was identical to one he had submitted years earlier, in English.

During the same March 1 review, college security informed the FBI that after his suspension on Feb. 27, Zhao had remotely accessed the Medical College servers and deleted Anderson's raw data from the C-25 research, information the college was later able to restore.

Zhao denied stealing any research or deleting data, and again said he did not understand the questions, though his co-workers told investigators Zhao spoke excellent English and had lived in the United States several years.

Finally, on Thursday, agents served a search warrant at Zhao's apartment and recovered a receipt for a package he sent to his wife in China on Feb. 28, the day after he was suspended from the Medical College.

They also found that Zhao had purchased, on Feb. 3 and Feb. 17, identical airline tickets to China from Chicago for April 2.

Asked about C-25, a spokeswoman for the Medical College said "it is being studied to see if it can assist cancer drugs in killing cancer cells and not damaging 'normal' cells," but declined further comment on the case.

According to Zhao's LinkedIn page, he has worked at the Medical College of Wisconsin since August 2011, and before that spent four years at the University of Cincinnati as a postdoctoral fellow doing breast cancer research. From December 2006 to July 2007 he did cancer research at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute in Tampa.

Zhao obtained his doctorate in pharmacology in 2006 from Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, according to the LinkedIn page.

His attorney, Juval Scott, said, "In this earliest stage of a complex case involving a talented professional accused of a serious crime, we look forward to rolling up our sleeves on Dr. Zhao's behalf."

26 March 2013

BIS Order Related to a Past Violation at UMass Lowell


12 March 2013

White House: President Issues Executive Order: “Administration of Reformed Export Controls”


By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Arms Export Control Act, as amended (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.) (the "Act"), and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Delegation of Functions. The following functions conferred upon the President by the Act, and related laws, are delegated as follows:

       (a) Those under section 3 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2753), with the exception of subsections (a)(1), (b), (c)(3), (c)(4), and (f) (22 U.S.C. 2753(a)(1), (b), (c)(3), (c)(4), and (f)), to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State, in the implementation of the delegated functions under sections 3(a) and (d) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2753(a) and (d)), is authorized to find, in the case of a proposed transfer of a defense article or related training or other defense service by a foreign country or international organization not otherwise eligible under section 3(a)(1) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2753(a)(1)), whether the proposed transfer will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace.

       (b) Those under section 5 (22 U.S.C. 2755) to the Secretary of State.

       (c) Those under section 21 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2761), with the exception of the last sentence of subsection (d) and all of subsection (i) (22 U.S.C. 2761(d) and (i)), to the Secretary of Defense.

       (d) Those under sections 22(a), 29, 30, and 30A of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2762(a), 2769, 2770, and 2770a) to the Secretary of Defense.

       (e) Those under section 23 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2763), and under section 7069 of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2012 (Public Law 112-74, Division I) and any subsequently enacted provision of law that is the same or substantially the same, to the Secretary of Defense to be exercised in consultation with the Secretary of State and, other than the last sentence of section 23(a) (22 U.S.C. 2763(a)), in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, except that the President shall determine any rate of interest to be charged that is less than the market rate of interest.

       (f) Those under sections 24 and 27 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2764 and 2767) to the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense shall consult with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury in implementing the delegated functions under section 24 (22 U.S.C. 2764) and with the Secretary of State in implementing the delegated functions under section 27 (22 U.S.C. 2767).

       (g) Those under section 25 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2765) to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of Defense shall assist the Secretary of State in the preparation of materials for presentation to the Congress under that section.

       (h) Those under section 34 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2774) to the Secretary of State. To the extent the standards and criteria for credit and guaranty transactions are based upon national security or financial policies, the Secretary of State shall obtain the prior concurrence of the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Treasury, respectively.

       (i) Those under section 35(a) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2775(a)) to the Secretary of State.

       (j) Those under sections 36(a) and 36(b)(1) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2776(a) and (b)(1)), except with respect to the certification of an emergency as provided by subsection (b)(1) (22 U.S.C. 2776(b)(1)), to the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense, in the implementation of the delegated functions under sections 36(a) and (b)(1) (22 U.S.C. 2776(a) and (b)(1)), shall consult with the Secretary of State. With respect to those functions under sections 36(a)(5) and (6) (22 U.S.C. 2776(a)(5) and (6)), the Secretary of Defense shall consult with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.

       (k) Those under section 36(b)(1) with respect to the certification of an emergency as provided by subsection (b)(1) and under sections 36(c) and (d) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2776(b)(1), (c), and (d)) to the Secretary of State.

       (l) Those under section 36(f)(1) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2776(f)(1)) to the Secretary of Defense.

       (m) Those under sections 36(f)(2) and (f)(3) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2776(f)(2) and (f)(3)) to the Secretary of State.

       (n) Those under section 38 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2778) to:

       (i) the Secretary of State, except as otherwise provided in this subsection. Designations, including changes in designations, by the Secretary of State of items or categories of items that shall be considered as defense articles and defense services subject to export control under section 38 (22 U.S.C. 2778) shall have the concurrence of the Secretary of Defense. The authority to undertake activities to ensure compliance with established export conditions may be redelegated to the Secretary of Defense, or to the head of another executive department or agency as appropriate, who shall exercise such functions in consultation with the Secretary of State;

       (ii) the Attorney General, to the extent they relate to the control of the permanent import of defense articles and defense services. In carrying out such functions, the Attorney General shall be guided by the views of the Secretary of State on matters affecting world peace, and the external security and foreign policy of the United States. Designations, including changes in designations, by the Attorney General of items or categories of items that shall be considered as defense articles and defense services subject to permanent import control under section 38 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2778) shall be made with the concurrence of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense and with notice to the Secretary of Commerce; and

       (iii) the Department of State for the registration and licensing of those persons who engage in the business of brokering activities with respect to defense articles or defense services controlled either for purposes of export by the Department of State or for purposes of permanent import by the Department of Justice.

       (o) Those under section 39(b) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2779(b)) to the Secretary of State. In carrying out such functions, the Secretary of State shall consult with the Secretary of Defense as may be necessary to avoid interference in the application of Department of Defense regulations to sales made under section 22 of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2762).

       (p) Those under the portion of section 40A of the Act added by Public Law 104-164 (22 U.S.C. 2785), to the Secretary of State insofar as they relate to commercial exports licensed under the Act, and to the Secretary of Defense insofar as they relate to defense articles and defense services sold, leased, or transferred under the Foreign Military Sales Program.

       (q) Those under the portion of section 40A of the Act added by the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-132) (22 U.S.C. 2781), to the Secretary of State.

       (r) Those under sections 42(c) and (f) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2791(c) and (f)) to the Secretary of Defense. The Secretary of Defense shall obtain the concurrence of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Commerce on any determination considered under the authority of section 42(c) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2791(c)).

       (s) Those under section 52(b) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2795a(b)) to the Secretary of Defense.

       (t) Those under sections 61 and 62(a) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2796 and 2796a(a)) to the Secretary of Defense.

       (u) Those under section 2(b)(6) of the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945, as amended (12 U.S.C. 635(b)(6)) to the Secretary of State.

Sec. 2. Coordination.

       (a) In addition to the specific provisions of section 1 of this order, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, in carrying out the functions delegated to them under this order, shall consult with each other and with the heads of other executive departments and agencies on matters pertaining to their responsibilities.

       (b) Under the direction of the President and in accordance with section 2(b) of the Act (22 U.S.C. 2752(b)), the Secretary of State, taking into account other United States activities abroad, shall be responsible for the continuous supervision and general direction of sales and exports under the Act, including the negotiation, conclusion, and termination of international agreements, and determining whether there shall be a sale to a country and the amount thereof, and whether there shall be delivery or other performance under such sale or export, to the end that sales and exports are integrated with other United States activities and the foreign policy of the United States is best served thereby.

Sec. 3. Allocation of Funds. Funds appropriated to the President for carrying out the Act shall be deemed to be allocated to the Secretary of Defense without any further action of the President.

Sec. 4. Revocation. Executive Order 11958 of January 18, 1977, as amended, is revoked; except that, to the extent consistent with this order, all determinations, authorizations, regulations, rulings, certificates, orders, directives, contracts, agreements, and other actions made, issued, taken, or entered into under the provisions of Executive Order 11958, as amended, and not revoked, superseded, or otherwise made inapplicable, shall continue in full force and effect until amended, modified, or terminated by appropriate authority.

Sec. 5. Delegation of Functions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Executive Order 13222 of August 17, 2001, is amended as follows:

       (a) Redesignate section 4 as section 6.

       (b) Insert the following new sections 4 and 5 after section 3:

"Sec. 4. The Secretary of Commerce shall, to the extent required as a matter of statute or regulation, establish appropriate procedures for when Congress is to be notified of the export of firearms that are subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce under the Export Administration Regulations and that are controlled for purposes of permanent import by the Attorney General under section 38(a) of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2778(a)) and appropriate procedures for when Congress is to be notified of the export of Major Defense Equipment controlled for purposes of permanent export under the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce.

Sec. 5.         

       (a) The Secretary of State is hereby authorized to take such actions and to employ those powers granted to the President by the Act as may be necessary to license or otherwise approve the export, reexport, or transfer of items subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce as agreed to by the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Commerce.

       (b) Notwithstanding subsection (a) of this section, items licensed or otherwise approved by the Secretary of State pursuant to this section remain subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce."

Sec. 6. General Provisions.

       (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

       (i) the authority granted by law to an agency, or the head thereof; or

       (ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

       (b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

       (c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.



White House Fact Sheet on Implementation of Export Control Reform


March 08, 2013.  Today, the Administration announced two key steps to further the goals of President Obama’s Export Control Reform Initiative, which is a common sense approach to overhauling the nation’s export control system.  President Obama signed an Executive Order today to update delegated presidential authorities over the administration of certain export and import controls under the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, and yesterday the Administration notified Congress of the first in a series of changes to the U.S. Munitions List.

Executive Order

   Executive Order 11958 delegated authority to control exports of defense articles and services to the Secretary of State and delegated the comparable authority to control imports to the Secretary of the Treasury.  The Department of State controls the export of defense articles and services on its U.S. Munitions List (USML); the Department of Justice controls their import pursuant to the U.S. Munitions Import List (USMIL) administered by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).  The USMIL was previously a subset of State’s USML.  The most recent comprehensive delegation of these authorities was in Executive Order 11958 of January 18, 1977.  The President’s new Executive Order updates delegated authorities consistent with the upcoming changes to our export control lists.  It supersedes and replaces Executive Order 11958 and amends Executive Order 13222 of August 17, 2001, that pertains to the Department of Commerce-administered controls.  The new Executive Order makes the following changes:

1) Consolidation of All Brokering Responsibilities with the Department of State:  The Arms Export Control Act requires the registration and licensing of brokering activities for defense articles and services for both exports and imports.  A broker is a person who acts as an agent for others in negotiating or arranging contracts, purchases, sales or transfers of defense articles or services.  The Executive Order consolidates and delegates to the Secretary of State all statutory responsibility for maintaining registration and licensing requirements for brokering of defense articles and services on either the State or ATF lists which both control defense articles and services under the Arms Export Control Act.  This one-stop approach provides better clarity for the defense trade community and makes it easier for industry to comply and for the U.S. Government to enforce.

2) Elimination of Possible “Double Licensing” Requirements:  Today the Department of State licenses entire systems, including any accompanying spare parts, accessories, and attachments, yet many of these items will be moved to the Commerce list which may mean that an exporter would need two licenses instead of one.  The President’s delegation, via an amendment to Executive Order 13222, will allow the Department of State to authorize those accompanying items that may have moved to the Commerce list and prevent any potential double-licensing requirement.  This ensures that the prioritization of our controls, in which we facilitate secure trade with Allies and partners, does not add new red tape.  Items licensed or otherwise approved by the Secretary of State under this delegation remain subject to the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce, including for enforcement purposes.

3) Congressional Notification Process:  The President has directed that the Department of Commerce establish procedures for notifying Congress of approved export licenses for a certain subset of items that are moved or that may move from the State list to the Commerce list.  A key feature of the President’s reform initiative is to enhance transparency with Congress and the public in the administration of our export control system.  This Executive Order ensures that, going forward, the Executive Branch will continue this transparency and notify Congress about export licenses for those certain items that, while no longer subject to the statutory notification requirements of the Arms Export Control Act, warrant continued transparency and notification to Congress.

4) Other Administrative Updates:  The Executive Order delegates to the Attorney General the functions previously assigned by Executive Order 11958 to the Secretary of the Treasury, reflecting the 2003 move of ATF to the Department of Justice from the Treasury (accommodated by Executive Order 13284).  It also makes a number of other necessary updates to ensure that the authorities to administer our export control system are current.

Changes to the U.S. Munitions List

       The cornerstone of the President’s Export Control Reform Initiative is the rebuilding of the two primary export controls lists, State’s USML and the Department of Commerce’s Commerce Control List (CCL) which primarily controls dual-use items, i.e., commercial items with possible military applications, and some military items of lesser sensitivity.  By law, everything on the USML is controlled equally, whether an F-18 fighter or a bolt that has been modified for use on that F-18, and each of these items requires an individual license.  This system has created significant obstacles and delays in providing equipment to Allies and partners for interoperability with U.S. forces in places like Afghanistan, and harms the health and competitiveness of the U.S. industrial base. Rebuilding our export control lists and moving less sensitive items from the State to the Commerce list will provide us the flexibility to more efficiently equip and maintain our partner’s capabilities while allowing us to focus on preventing potential adversaries from acquiring military items that they could use against us.

       The Administration notified Congress yesterday of the first in a series of changes to the USML, as required by Section 38(f) of the Arms Export Control Act.  Once the Congressional notification period concludes, these changes -- to current Department of State- administered controls on Aircraft and Gas Turbine Engines -- will be published, with an effective date of 180 days after publication.  The revised USML will enable the United States to better focus its resources on items that deserve the highest levels of export protection and on destinations of concern, while providing American companies with a streamlined export authorization process for thousands of parts and components. The remaining USML changes will be published on a rolling basis throughout 2013, and ultimately will update every category of defense articles to better meet current national security and economic challenges. These actions will improve our national security by better utilizing our export licensing and enforcement resources to focus on those items, destinations, and end-uses of greatest concern, improve interoperability with Allies and partners, and bolster the U.S. defense industrial base. 

       To follow developments in the President’s Export Control Reform Initiative, visit

04 March 2013

United States Government Policy for Institutional Oversight of Life Sciences Dual Use Research of Concern

20 February 2013

Our Office is Moving!

The Office of Research Compliance (ORC) and the Office of Export & Secure Research Compliance (OESRC) will be moving from the Corporate Research Center to North End Center, 300 Turner Street, Blacksburg, Virginia 24061, Suites 4120 and 4400, respectively. The preparations for the move have already begun, and during the week of April 1-5, 2013, our normal customer service activities will be somewhat impacted.  ORC and OESRC will be closed on Friday, April 5th, 2013 in order to complete the move.  We will be in our new offices on Monday, April 8th, 2013 and full service should resume by Tuesday the 9th.  If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the appropriate administrators.

02 January 2013

Experts differ on HHS select-agent proposal for H5N1

Robert Roos . News Editor

Dec 26, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – Some professional groups and scientists think it's a good idea to classify highly pathogenic avian (HPAI) H5N1 influenza viruses as "select agents" requiring special research precautions, while others say the step is unnecessary and would impede research, according to comments they have filed with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

For example, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), a physician organization, says H5N1 viruses should be in the select agent category, whereas the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) argues against the idea, noting that circulating H5N1 viruses have poor transmissibility in humans.

Several vaccine manufacturers recommend that the attenuated H5N1 strains used to make vaccines should not be included in any select agent designation, because that could slow vaccine development if an H5N1 strain gained greater human transmissibility.

Aside from the select agent question, the IDSA and some scientists suggest that H5N1 vaccination should be required for lab workers who handle H5N1 strains that can spread among mammals.

In mid-October HHS asked the public to comment on whether H5N1 should be designated an HHS special agent, which means that labs handling it would have to register with the agency and meet special requirements for physical security and personnel screening and training.

The department also asked for comments on whether special safety and containment measures are needed for research involving H5N1 strains with increased transmissibility in mammals. The request followed the publication earlier this year of two controversial studies describing genetically modified H5 strains that were capable of aerosol transmission in ferrets.

Officials originally had set a Dec 17 deadline for commenting, but last week they extended the deadline to Jan 31, 2013.

Because of the threat they pose to poultry, HPAI H5N1 viruses are already listed as select agents in the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) Select Agent Program. But the viruses are not on HHS's select agent list.

HHS's request for comments followed a determination by a federal interagency committee that H5N1 viruses may pose a severe threat to human health and safety. The finding came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Intragovernmental Select Agents and Toxins Technical Advisory Committee (ISATTAC), which includes members from various HHS and USDA agencies and the departments of Homeland Security and Defense.

The committee considered the findings concerning the transmissibility of genetically modified H5N1 viruses among ferrets, along with the virus's virulence and the low level of immunity in the population.

The comments submitted have been posted on an HHS Web site.

IDSA favors designation
In comments dated Dec 14, the IDSA said circulating H5N1 strains don't pose a severe threat to public health because they don't readily spread among humans, but H5N1 strains with increased mammalian transmissibility do pose such a threat, making select agent designation appropriate.

"It is crucial that extensive biosafety and biosecurity measures be taken to prevent accidental release or an act of bioterrorism," IDSA President David A. Relman, MD, wrote in the comments. Noting that the USDA already regulates H5N1 as a select agent, he said an HHS designation would ensure that the impact on human health is considered.

Relman also recommended that HHS consider "more extensive" biosafety and biosecurity requirements for work with H5N1 strains that have been lab-modified to increase their pathogenicity or transmissibility. Research on such strains is currently done in enhanced biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) conditions, according to previous reports.

In particular, Relman suggested that researchers who work with H5N1 strains that have increased transmissibility should receive an H5N1 vaccine when available.

Opposing views
In contrast to the IDSA, the ASM voiced opposition to regulating H5N1 as an HHS select agent. "Due to the extremely limited number of human illnesses seen despite widespread circulation of the virus and very poor transmissibility, it is hard to argue that currently circulating viruses represent a severe threat to public health and safety," the group wrote.

Because H5N1 is on the USDA's select agent list, "HPAI H5N1 already falls under the safety, security, and handling provisions of the select agent rule," the ASM said. "Adding HPAI H5n1 viruses to the HHS select agent list will not add any additional protections or oversight."

The group also said it "strongly disagrees" with the idea of making HPAI H5N1 a "Tier 1" select agent—a new HHS category that requires additional physical and personnel security precautions beyond those required for other select agents.

"Such a designation would inhibit important research activities related to these viruses," the ASM said.

An official with the Center for Biosecurity at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center agreed that a Tier 1 designation could hinder important H5N1 research, especially work involving international collaboration. But Gigi Gronvall, PhD, a senior associate at the center, said it is a "logical step" to list HPAI H5N1 as an HHS select agent, since it's already on the USDA select agent list.

But Robert Webster, PhD, an eminent virologist and avian flu researcher at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, wrote that putting H5N1 on the HHS select agent list "will further impede field surveillance in endemic regions of the world where the potential risks exist and prevent introduction of early containment." He added that a Tier 1 designation for circulating H5N1 viruses would make matters even worse.

On the other hand, Webster allowed that it might make sense to use the Tier 1 classification on lab-modified H5N1 strains that can spread between mammals via respiratory droplets.

In addition, he strongly supported the idea of giving an H5N1 vaccine to lab workers who handle H5N1 vaccines with increased transmissibility, saying it should be "absolutely mandatory." He also called for increased respiratory protection.

A vaccine maker's view
A Sanofi Pasteur official urged that lab-attenuated H5N1 strains used to make vaccines should be exempt from any HHS select agent designation. He did not comment on whether HPAI H5N1 strains should be treated as select agents.

"We beleive that LPAI [low-pathogenicity] strains should be exempt from CDC select agent status for reasons similar to those that are already used to exempt them from USDA select agent status," said Philip H. Hosbach, the company vice president for immunization policy.

If attenuated strains were classified as select agents, the additional regulatory burdens would delay vaccine development if a pandemic H5N1 strain emerged, Hosbach wrote.

Similar views were expressed by two other vaccine makers, MedImmune and Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.

See also:

HHS's index page for comments on the H5N1 select agent issue!docketBrowser;rpp=25;po=0;dct=PS;D=CDC-2012-0010

Oct 18 CIDRAP News story "HHS seeks comments on risks of H5N1 research"

Dec 18 CIDRAP News story "Experts at NIH meeting say H5N1 research moratorium may end soon"

07 November 2012

Why the Professor Went to Prison

By Daniel Golden on November 01, 2012

After lunch in his cell in the federal prison in Ashland, Ky.,John Reece Roth noticed something unusual. Tiny red ants were swarming across his floor, feasting on candy bar scraps. Knowing that ants establish a trail to and from their food, Roth devised a trap: a Möbius strip with an on-ramp but no off-ramp. Ants carrying their prize home would climb onto the strip—a sheet of paper half twisted to have only one side and one edge—and be corralled. Fortunately for them, Roth couldn’t test his contrivance properly because the Scotch tape needed to secure it is contraband at Ashland.

“I still have some inventing ability,” says Roth, in a resonant voice that once filled lecture halls at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Round-faced and bespectacled, he exudes poise and self-assurance, even wearing prison khakis and sneakers and leaning on a four-footed cane. Roth, an emeritus professor of electrical engineering, taught and researched at Tennessee for nearly 30 years. A former scientist at NASA, he holds 11 patents and has testified before Congress on nuclear fusion.

He’s also the only university professor or administrator ever prosecuted for violating the Arms Export Control Act (AECA). Convicted in federal district court in Knoxville in 2008 of using graduate students from China and Iran on U.S. Air Force research that was off-limits to foreigners, and taking a laptop with restricted files to China, he exhausted his appeals up to the Supreme Court, which declined last year to hear the case. He began serving a four-year prison sentence in January.

The AECA has been around for 36 years; that it’s being used for the first time against a 75-year-old man epitomizes the growing tension between national security and academic freedom. American universities have long forged relationships with their counterparts abroad and attract hundreds of thousands of foreign graduate students and professors, especially in engineering and science. At the same time, universities are doing more defense-related research limited by the act to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. As China, Iran, and other countries chase U.S. technological secrets, federal enforcement agencies see universities—and globe-trotting professors such as Roth—as a weak link. “The open environment of a university is an ideal place to find recruits, propose and nurture ideas, learn, and even steal research data,” the FBI said in a 2011 report. “It is unknown how the Chinese used the information they obtained from Roth, but because they invited him to visit China and he had a sensitive report e-mailed to him while there, it should be assumed they were interested in his research and planned to utilize it.”

From jail, Roth contends that true national security is rooted in tapping the world’s best minds, regardless of nationality. As he tells it, he’s a martyr for the open exchange of ideas. “I see this interpretation of the export control act and concern about homeland security as a deadly threat to free scholarly inquiry,” he says. “The problems I worked on in the plasma lab were not easy problems. They were hard problems. When anyone who does research refuses to hire Chinese or Iranian students, they’re cutting off their nose to spite their face.”

Roth has supporters. “I thought the whole thing was a waste of government money and time,” says Joseph Googe, former chairman of electrical engineering at the University of Tennessee, who hired Roth there. “The feds seemed to want to make a big case out of it.” Others are critical. “Roth was very industrious, a brilliant engineer, but his ego got in the way,” says A.J. Baker, an emeritus professor at Tennessee who consulted on the U.S. Air Force project and watched as Roth’s stubbornness helped shutter a cutting-edge research company with 25 employees. “He’s responsible for his own demise,” says Baker.

Roth’s high-handed approach to export controls also shattered the promising career of his former protégé and collaborator, Daniel Sherman. He cooperated with investigators and became a key witness against Roth, but also served a year in jail. “I don’t quite agree with him being as renowned as he thinks he is,” Sherman testified.
Roth’s basement ranch house in suburban Knoxville, abutting a golf course fairway, displays silk screens and other mementos from his Asian trips. In the garage, a Buick (GM) LaCrosse proclaims his research specialty on its license plate: “Plasma.” Plasma—the glowing ionized gas found in lightning, TV sets, and fluorescent lamps—is also the name of his cat. With his owner in prison, Plasma lives with Roth’s wife of 40 years, Helen.

The Roths, who have two children, are transplanted northerners. Helen, 70, comes from Cleveland. Roth grew up in Pennsylvania, where his father taught science education at a state college. A science fiction buff, Roth was president of the Rocket Research Society as an undergraduate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before earning his doctorate at Cornell in 1963 and going to work at NASA. When NASA cut funding for his research area, Roth left for the University of Tennessee in 1978.

Before his fall, he was best-known for his book Industrial Plasma Engineering, which came out in 1995. It was followed by a second volume in 2001. Both were translated into Chinese, prompting a flood of lecture invitations and graduate student applications from China. Roth has made at least eight trips to the country since the late 1980s and was named an honorary professor at two universities there. “You know, in China, Dr. Roth have a very high prestigious reputation,” testified Xin Dai, his Chinese student on the U.S. Air Force project. “It is almost like a dream to me to come over here. I appreciate him very much.”

The University of Tennessee encouraged Roth and other professors to recruit abroad. Because many top American engineering students opt for industry jobs over graduate school, the foreigners strengthened Tennessee’s research. “The caliber of foreign students applying to my work was much better than the general run of U.S. students,” Roth says, adding that most of them intend to become U.S. citizens.

While he attracted talent, Roth also gained a reputation for taking credit for his students’ innovations. In 1995, Mounir Laroussi, a former student who had become a research assistant professor working independently in Roth’s lab, developed a method of using plasma to sterilize liquids. He says he asked the University of Tennessee to patent his invention, only to learn later that Roth, who outranked him, was also claiming the discovery. Laroussi complained to university officials, who referred the dispute to an arbitrator. Laroussi, now a professor at Old Dominion University, received a patent in 1999. Roth says he had “a great deal of documentation” of his contribution.

After the Laroussi flap, Roth inserted an unusual clause into his letter offering research positions to graduate students. “No matter what the outcome of your research,” one letter obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek stipulated, “you should not expect to be considered an inventor of anything that results from activities that I originate or that you do under my general supervision.” The provision simply codified what is typical practice in university labs, says Roth, adding that he was generous in citing students as co-authors on scientific articles.
Daniel Sherman, 41, is six-foot-two with black hair and the high forehead of Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, whom family lore claims as an ancestor. He grew up in a Tennessee shack with an alcoholic mother and a series of abusive stepfathers, and ran away as a teenager, according to court documents. His high school math teacher helped pay Sherman’s freshman tuition at Tennessee, says Donny Palmgren, his former roommate, who’s co-authoring a memoir with him. When Sherman entered graduate school, Roth became his adviser. A rare American in Roth’s lab, Sherman found his Chinese counterparts unreliable, Palmgren says. Sherman and Roth “had argued for years about his inclusion of foreign students,” Sherman testified.

With NASA funding, Roth, Sherman, and NASA scientist Stephen Wilkinson began exploring aerodynamic applications of plasma. In 1997, using a broken piece of glass with wires taped on it, Sherman demonstrated that an electrical device known as a plasma actuator could control the motion and direction of air. With proper adjusting of voltage and other design features, an actuator can enhance flight performance by ensuring that air flows smoothly over a wing. Roth graciously offered for Sherman to be the sole inventor, Palmgren says. Sherman declined, and the three researchers shared the patent.

The breakthrough impressed the U.S. Air Force. In April 2005 it awarded a $749,751 contract to Atmospheric Glow Technologies, a Knoxville firm founded in 2000 by Sherman and two other University of Tennessee scientists to develop a model actuator to guide a drone.

The relationship between Roth and AGT was unusually guarded. Roth owned between 3 percent and 5 percent of AGT, and the company licensed his inventions from the university’s research foundation. Nevertheless, the company didn’t give him a management role, and, fearing that Roth might reveal its proprietary research in his articles or lectures, even banned him from the premises. Roth says he had no ambitions to run AGT and asked its executives himself not to tell him any trade secrets. Nevertheless, Roth complained to AGT and the foundation that they were lagging in commercializing his discoveries.

To placate him, and to be able to continue touting his name, AGT handed Roth and the university a $73,000-a-year subcontract. A university official who reviewed the subcontract missed a potential stumbling block, the trial would reveal. As Roth had cautioned Sherman in October 2004, the project would be “subject to export controls.”

Export controls occupy a middle ground on the secrecy scale between basic research, open to any nationality, and classified work, which requires a security clearance. Before a foreign national can participate in export-controlled research, the university must first obtain a license from the government. The State, Commerce, and Energy departments each have different sets of export controls. State’s regulations apply to military research, such as the Air Force project. Sharing information with foreigners in the U.S., as Roth did, is considered exporting by the State Department, which typically denies licenses for students from about 25 countries, including China and Iran.

The federal government depends on universities to disclose violations, and once they do, it usually lets them off with a warning. But faculty members say the line between basic and export-controlled research is blurry. Regulations exempt fundamental research that’s ordinarily publishable or in the public domain—an exception Roth contends covered his work. “The fact that it is possible to do your due diligence and still run afoul of export controls is something a lot of us in the field are concerned about,” says Carl Lon Enloe, a physics professor at the U.S. Air Force Academy. “It’s personally a little bit scary.”

The University of Notre Dame’s Center for Flow Physics and Control avoids trouble by a simple expedient: rejecting foreigners from prohibited countries. U.S. citizens make up 80 percent of graduate students at the center, where six of eight projects are export-controlled, says director Thomas Corke. He turns down applicants from the Middle East because obtaining approval for them or segregating them to basic research is “just too difficult,” he says.

Roth preferred to use foreigners—and he didn’t always tell the government about them. In April 2005, discussing a proposal for another Air Force contract, he advised Sherman in an e-mail to omit reference to a Chinese scientist’s participation.

The use of plasma actuators for aerodynamics was arguably in the public domain. At least a half-dozen countries were researching actuators; the Russians had put one on a glider. Arms traffic regulations don’t specify actuators as a controlled item. Still, the Air Force restricted AGT’s contract because it was part of a weapons program. The goal was to improve the combat ability of drones by replacing cumbersome mechanical flaps with lighter actuators.
Xin admired Roth from afar. Born in central China, he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hunan University of Science and Technology, where he encountered Roth’s work. “Anybody interested in plasma engineering know Dr. Roth,” he would later testify. He applied to study for his doctorate under Roth, and joined the lab in 2002.

Roth liked Xin, and insisted on using him on the Air Force project over Sherman’s objections. Sherman was reluctant to confront his mentor Roth, and later admitted he deliberately ignored indications that the research should have been restricted to Americans. To allay Sherman’s fear that Xin would spirit AGT’s trade secrets to China, Sherman and Roth compromised. While Xin would conduct basic research in Roth’s lab, a U.S. graduate student, Truman Bonds, would handle more sensitive tasks such as wind tunneltesting at AGT and withhold that data from Xin.

This arrangement soon proved impractical. In July 2005, with the approval of both Sherman and Roth, Bonds and Xin began sharing reports. The following May, Roth proposed replacing Xin, who was about to earn his doctorate and leave the lab, with an Iranian, Sirous Nourgostar, a graduate student with a background in plasma aerodynamics. Taken aback, Sherman and AGT refused. Only a month earlier, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had announced that Iran had enriched uranium, prompting a diplomatic crisis.

Roth complained to Robin Witherspoon, who oversaw export-control compliance for the university. He said AGT was telling him how to run his lab and argued that a Chinese national had been working on the project for a year, so an Iranian shouldn’t be a problem. Witherspoon soon realized that the project was export-controlled. She warned Roth, who was about to leave for a two-week lecture tour in China, not to take sensitive files there or talk about the project.

While Roth headed to China, the university disclosed these concerns to AGT, the FBI, customs, and the State Department. When Roth returned, federal customs agents met him at the airport in Detroit. They photocopied documents in his briefcase and luggage, including one of Xin’s weekly reports about the project and an agenda indicating Roth had lectured in China on using plasma to control aircraft.

Roth then flew to Knoxville, where FBI agents with a search warrant seized his laptop and a thumb drive containing another report by Xin. While there was no evidence that Roth opened that file in China, just bringing it there violated export controls. They also found a draft of a paper on plasma aerodynamics that Roth had been working on. Because Roth’s own e-mail wasn’t functioning in China, Roth asked Xin to send him the manuscript via a Chinese professor’s e-mail address. In other words, Roth had arranged for Xin to send a sensitive document to a Chinese scientist.

Explaining that they were interested in the controversy that had arisen over his research before he left for China, the agents interrogated Roth in a corner of the airport lobby for two hours. Roth repeatedly denied that Bonds, the American student, had shared data with Xin, FBI agent Kevin Gounaud testified.

In later FBI interviews, Roth pontificated with the freedom normally accorded a professor with tenure, but not looked so kindly upon by FBI agents, or, later, jurors. He argued that discriminating against foreign students was prohibited by university policy, and that “would essentially trump” export controls. He also proclaimed that Iran didn’t deserve its “bad guy status.” Both pronouncements would haunt him at trial. In a letter to Tennessee’s faculty, he denounced the FBI’s “outrageous fishing expedition,” the “federal intervention and snooping,” and “this Orwellian gulag we have created in the name of national security.”

Tightening the noose, the FBI equipped Xin with a recording device and sent him to talk with Roth. The gambit failed. When Xin confided that he was worried about testifying before a grand jury, Roth encouraged him to tell the truth.

To avoid multiple charges, Sherman agreed to pleadguilty to one count of conspiring to violate export controls. He supplied e-mails and journal entries and testified against Roth. Despite his cooperation, he was sentenced to 14 months in prison and served one year. His career and personal life disintegrated. He was barred from working on federal contracts and his relationship with a longtime personal partner broke up. He filed for bankruptcy in 2011, citing income of $1,200 a month and debts of almost $400,000, mainly student loans.

AGT sought bankruptcy protection in March 2008 and pleaded guilty that August to 10 counts of export-control violations. The University of Tennessee wasn’t prosecuted. It didn’t know of or condone Roth’s actions and disclosed them to the government once they came to light, says Assistant U.S. Attorney Will Mackie. “I was surprised the university didn’t even get its hand slapped,” says former AGT Chief Executive Officer Thomas Reddoch.

Indicted on 17 counts in May 2008, Roth refused to plea-bargain. “He told me, ‘I won’t go to my deathbed having admitted that I betrayed my country,’ ” says his lawyer, Thomas Dundon. Even facing ruin, Roth fretted about his foreign students. Before Nourgostar was to testify for the prosecution, Roth phoned to assure him that the defense would not raise any issues affecting his visa. “He was extremely honest, one of the greatest mentors I ever had,” Nourgostar says. Hours after being convicted on all counts, Roth called again, expressing regret that he could no longer be Nourgostar’s adviser.

Rather than protesting Roth’s fate, higher education has been tightening up. Representatives of more than 75 universities have attended Department of Justice and FBI presentations about the case. The University of Arizona in October began requiring participants in export-controlled projects to pass an online training course that includes discussion of Roth.

The University of Tennessee beefed up contract review and export-control training, says Gregory Reed, associate vice chancellor for research. After benefiting for decades from Roth’s prestige and research grants, the university shielded itself from legal liability this past April by shredding his office library: 200 cubic feet of books, laboratory notes, and scientific articles, including 300 by Roth himself. “That was his career being shredded,” says William Dunne, associate dean for research and technology at the college of engineering, who disposed of Roth’s collection at the behest of university lawyers.

While distancing itself from Roth, the university continues to cultivate China. It agreed in May to open an institute on campus to teach Chinese language and culture. A Chinese government subsidiary will provide $150,000 in startup funds and recruit and pay instructors.

Even a low-security prison like Ashland is no place for the aged and infirm. Roth, who had a triple bypass about 25 years ago and suffers from osteoarthritis, can barely walk. Hard of hearing, he wears an aid or lip-reads. He had planned to spend retirement fixing antique radios he’d bought on summer vacations in Maine, and tackling the third volume of his book. “It will never be written now,” he says.

Stoically, he makes the best of his plight. He praises prison staff as “competent and caring,” boasts about the myriad citations on Google (GOOG) Scholar for his publications, and remains hopeful that he will be vindicated. “Sometimes stubborn people are right,” he says. At least he no longer has to contend with red ants; other inmates blocked them by sealing a crack with petroleum jelly.

18 October 2012

Smartphone Users Should Be Aware of Malware Targeting Mobile Devices and Safety Measures to Help Avoid Compromise

The IC3 has been made aware of various malware attacking Android operating systems for mobile devices. Some of the latest known versions of this type of malware are Loozfon and FinFisher. Loozfon is an information-stealing piece of malware. Criminals use different variants to lure the victims. One version is a work-at-home opportunity that promises a profitable payday just for sending out email. A link within these advertisements leads to a website that is designed to push Loozfon on the user's device. The malicious application steals contact details from the user’s address book and the infected device's phone number.

FinFisher is a spyware capable of taking over the components of a mobile device. When installed the mobile device can be remotely controlled and monitored no matter where the Target is located. FinFisher can be easily transmitted to a Smartphone when the user visits a specific web link or opens a text message masquerading as a system update.

Loozfon and FinFisher are just two examples of malware used by criminals to lure users into compromising their devices.

Safety tips to protect your mobile device:

  • When purchasing a Smartphone, know the features of the device, including the default settings. Turn off features of the device not needed to minimize the attack surface of the device.
  • Depending on the type of phone, the operating system may have encryption available. This can be used to protect the user's personal data in the case of loss or theft.
  • With the growth of the application market for mobile devices, users should look at the reviews of the developer/company who published the application.
  • Review and understand the permissions you are giving when you download applications.
  • Passcode protect your mobile device. This is the first layer of physical security to protect the contents of the device. In conjunction with the passcode, enable the screen lock feature after a few minutes of inactivity.
  • Obtain malware protection for your mobile device. Look for applications that specialize in antivirus or file integrity that helps protect your device from rogue applications and malware.
  • Be aware of applications that enable Geo-location. The application will track the user's location anywhere. This application can be used for marketing, but can be used by malicious actors raising concerns of assisting a possible stalker and/or burglaries.
  • Jailbreak or rooting is used to remove certain restrictions imposed by the device manufacturer or cell phone carrier. This allows the user nearly unregulated control over what programs can be installed and how the device can be used. However, this procedure often involves exploiting significant security vulnerabilities and increases the attack surface of the device. Anytime a user, application or service runs in "unrestricted" or "system" level within an operation system, it allows any compromise to take full control of the device.
  • Do not allow your device to connect to unknown wireless networks. These networks could be rogue access points that capture information passed between your device and a legitimate server.
  • If you decide to sell your device or trade it in, make sure you wipe the device (reset it to factory default) to avoid leaving personal data on the device.
  • Smartphones require updates to run applications and firmware. If users neglect this it increases the risk of having their device hacked or compromised.
  • Avoid clicking on or otherwise downloading software or links from unknown sources.
  • Use the same precautions on your mobile phone as you would on your computer when using the Internet.

If you have been a victim of an internet scam or have received an e-mail that you believe was an attempted scam, please file a complaint at

11 October 2012

Changes in select agent rules concern public health labs

Oct 10, 2012 (CIDRAP News) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised its list of potentially dangerous biological agents and toxins and the regulations covering them, and some of the changes have public health laboratories concerned.

The CDC has dropped 23 items from the official list of "select agents and toxins" and has added three viruses to the list: the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) coronavirus and two hemorrhagic fever viruses: Lujo, from Africa, and Chapare, from South America.

"At the end of the day the list is shorter. We think it's more focused on the agents of highest concern to public health," said Rob Weyant, PhD, director of the CDC's Division of Select Agents and Toxins.

In addition, the agency has designated a new category of agents, called Tier 1, for those deemed to pose the biggest risk of deliberate misuse with potential for high casualties and economic and social disruption. Labs that handle these agents will be subject to new security requirements, including a "personal reliability" program to ensure that personnel with access to the agents are trustworthy.

It's the Tier 1 requirements that concern the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), according to Chris N. Mangal, MPH, the APHL's director of public health preparedness and response. She said the association is worried that the new security requirements will prove too burdensome and may prompt labs to give up their registration with the federal Select Agent Program. And that in turn could impair their ability to respond to infectious disease threats, she said.

The Tier 1 list includes Ebola virus, Francisella tularensis (the cause of tularemia), Marburg virus, variola major and minor viruses (smallpox), Yersinia pestis (plague), Clostridium botulinum and botulinum toxin (botulism), Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), Burkholderia mallei (glanders), and Burkholderia pseudomallei (melioidosis).

The CDC detailed the select agent changes in an Oct 5 Federal Register notice. They follow the agency's biennial review of the program, which included a round of public comments. Some of the new rules take effect Dec 4, while others become effective on Apr 3, 2013, according to the notice.

There are 312 labs that participate in the CDC Select Agent Program covering human pathogens and toxins, according to CDC spokesman Jason McDonald. Another 50 labs are in involved in the animal and plant Select Agent Program under the US Department of Agriculture's supervision.

Personnel screening, physical barriers
Weyant said the personal reliability program required for labs that handle Tier 1 agents has two parts: a formal pre-access screening program and ongoing monitoring. The latter is intended to provide reporting avenues for staff members who have concerns about suspicious behavior by other lab workers, he told CIDRAP News in an interview.

Increased physical security will also be required for labs working with Tier 1 agents, Weyant said. For example, "A Tier 1 entity needs to have three demonstrable barriers between the public and regulated material. We've established a good guidance document about that."

In addition, he said, "We require that at least one barrier have an intrusion detection system, something that would tell a security function that an unauthorized person is trying to get in."

Mangal said the APHL likes some of the select agent changes. "We're definitely pleased that they've taken off Coccidioides and the Shiga toxins" from the list, she said. "These were things we had previously commented on and asked them to remove."

Coccidioides are fungi that cause respiratory disease. Mangal said a variety of treatments are available for Coccidioides infections, so it didn't make sense to keep them on the list. Shiga toxins are very difficult to aerosolize for weapon use, and Escherichia coli strains that produce Shiga toxins are not on the list, so it also made sense to drop the toxins, she added.

"Where I'm concerned is that they've retained a lot of the agents that state and local public health labs test for," Mangal said. "B anthracis is in the Tier 1 category, which means that a lot if not all of our state public health labs will be impacted by the new requirements that come along with Tier 1."

APHL sought exemptions
The APHL had formally asked the CDC to exempt Laboratory Response Network (LRN) reference labs from the Tier 1 requirements. "We based that on the existing practices in the labs, and also the fact that they possess very limited quantities of select agents," Mangal said.

The LRN is a network of about 165 labs, including 100 public health labs, designated by the CDC and APHL to help respond to potential bioterrorism events and other infectious disease threats.

The APHL also had asked the CDC to drop the nonpathogenic Pasteur strain of B anthracis, botulinum toxin, and toxin-producing strains of C botulinum from the Tier 1 list, Mangal reported. Public health labs in the LRN keep small amounts of these agents and toxins for quality-control purposes, using them to help confirm the presence of a threat agent, she explained.

The CDC turned down the APHL requests. In the Federal Register notice, the CDC said the LRN labs could use attenuated strains of select agents, which are excluded from Tier 1, for their quality-control testing purposes.

Weyant commented, "We have been working with the leadership of the LRN to identify excluded strains of select agents that can be maintained by laboratories without meeting the Tier 1 requirements. The Pasteur and Sterne strains of Bacillus anthracis are examples of these strains."

As for dropping B anthracis Pasteur strain from Tier 1, in the Federal Register the agency agreed that the strain by itself does not meet the Tier 1 criteria, but said that dropping it from the list could pose a risk of creating virulent strains through the combination of the Pasteur strain with the Sterne strain, an attenuated strain that is not in Tier 1. The CDC promised to continue evaluating exclusion requests as new information becomes available.

Mangal agreed that labs could use attenuated strains of Tier 1 agents for quality-control testing, but she said that practice raises more questions. For example, if a lab not registered with the Select Agent Program were to identify B anthracis or some other Tier 1 agent in a sample, it would be required to either destroy it or send it to another lab within 7 days, she said.

"From a scientific perspective, you may not want the lab to destroy the agent until they've had an opportunity to further characterize it and get more genetic details," she said. "We don't want to promote [the practice] that once you've identified an agent you destroy it within 7 days."

As for the new requirements for labs that handle Tier 1 agents, the APHL is mainly concerned about the personal reliability assessments, Mangal said.

"The main added requirement on this is the entity is now required to perform a pre-access suitability assessment," she said. "They [staff] already go through a background check with the Department of Justice. This is more of an entity-specific assessment. "

"The CDC has provided a guidance document, and we'll be reviewing that to gain some insights on how to perform [the assessments] and what it means to the labs in the LRNA," she said.

The bottom line is that public health labs will probably be pondering whether to continue participating in the Select Agent Program, according to Mangal.

"In coming months I anticipate significant discussion within the public health lab community as to whether to maintain their select agent registration," she said. "There's obviously value in maintaining it—there are security standards that come with that that help prevent access to select agents—but what the labs will have to look at is what are the costs to meet the new Tier 1 requirements, and what are the ongoing costs."

Adding SARS to the list
Weyant cited no specific reason for designating the SARS coronavirus a select agent, beyond comments the CDC received from experts and the public. He said the step has been considered during every biennial review of the program since the SARS epidemic in 2003.

The virus sickened more than 8,000 people and killed 916 in about 30 countries that year. The SARS virus is a coronavirus, and the emergence of another novel coronavirus in September has focused some renewed attention on SARS.

During the latest review, Weyant said, "The input we got from experts and the public really reinforced the public concern over the potential dangers of the virus. Also, we considered that there were lab-acquired infections in China and Singapore" in the aftermath of the 2003 epidemic.

CDC data suggest that more than 120 labs possessed the SARS virus at some point, and the majority of those are registered with the CDC to handle select agents, Weyant said.

"Currently it looks like a dozen or less" have the virus, he added. "Now that the [revised] rule has been published, we'll be seeking any additional labs that may have the virus."

With SARS designated a select agent, labs that possess samples will have to register with the program or else destroy the samples or ship them to another lab.

Registration is a sizable task. Labs are required to develop security, biosafety, and incident response plans, along with training programs and drills, Weyant explained.

"Anyone in these entities who would have access to regulated materials must go through a screening done on our behest by the FBI," he said. "Typically we'll do a site visit prior to providing the certificate of registration, and we'll review their physical security, biosafety, inventory control, and training programs.

"It's a fairly extensive process, and that's why we provide 180 days to come into compliance."

See also:

CDC Federal Register notice

USDA Federal Register notice on changes in animal and plant select agent program

Jun 15, 2011, CIDRAP News story about paring select agent list

10 October 2012

Time to Check the Entity List: Eleven U.S. and Russian Companies and Individuals Charged in Illegal Export Scheme and 165 Added to BIS’ Entity List

On Wednesday, October 3, 2012, a Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment was unsealed charging eleven U.S. and Russian companies and individuals for their alleged involvement in a scheme to illegally export high-tech microelectronics from the United States to Russian military and intelligence agencies.  The scheme allegedly involved a systematic conspiracy to obtain cutting-edge microelectronics manufactured in the United States and export them for use by Russian military and intelligence government end-users without obtaining the required export authorizations from the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).  Sound like the latest Bond movie? 

The microelectronics, including analog-to-digital converters, static random access memory chips, microcontrollers, and microprocessors, were exported by Houston-based Arc Electronics, Inc., to a Russian-based procurement firm, Apex Systems, LLC.  To evade the U.S. export licensing requirements, the defendants provided false end-user information in connection with the purchase of the goods, concealed the fact that the goods were intended for export, and falsely classified goods on export records submitted to BIS.  For example, Arc reported to U.S. suppliers that it was a manufacturer of benign products such as traffic lights, rather than an exporter.  Both firms, as well as certain of the firms’ owners and employees, are charged with conspiring to violate and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Arms Export Control Act, and with conspiring to commit wire fraud.

How Might this Clandestine Scheme Affect Your Business?

Concurrent with unsealing the indictment, BIS issued a final rule adding 165 foreign individuals and entities to the BIS Entity List for their role in connection with the illegal export scheme.  These newly listed individuals and companies are located in a number of countries, including those not typically identified as transshipment zones, including: Belize, Canada, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Kazakhstan, Russia, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the British Virgin Islands. 

For each new listing, a BIS license is now required to export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) all items “subject to the EAR,” including all EAR99 items.  And, no license exceptions may be applied.  Moreover, BIS is enforcing a policy of “presumption of denial” in its license review.  A full copy of the unpublished final rule is available here.  The new listings have not yet been updated in the “Entity List” on BIS’ website (Supplement No. 4, Part 744 of the EAR). 

Importantly, BIS includes a “Savings Clause,” which states that exports or reexports carried out under a License Exception or without a license (NLR) that involve one of the newly listed entities may proceed, so long as the items were “en route aboard a carrier to a port of export or reexport” on the date of BIS’ publication of the final rule.  The export license requirement therefore goes into effect when the Entity List changes are formally published in the Federal Register, likely next week.  

What Does this Mean for Your Company?

Comprehensive company-wide customer screening and due diligence practices for all potential export transactions are the best mechanism for protecting your company from engaging in unlawful conduct.  The newly listed entities and persons involved here range from the actual foreign end-user to those involving the receiving, transshipping, and facilitating of the illegally exported controlled commodities.  Thus, the new listings include end users as well as other logistics providers and supply chain members. 

Remember, the BIS end-user and end-use requirements apply to all individuals and entities, U.S. and non-U.S. alike, who export, reexport, or transfer items subject to the EAR.  Therefore, it is essential to closely monitor the BIS Entity List, as well as the other restricted end-user lists maintained by the U.S. government, prior to engaging in any export transactions.  Once again, this case highlights that companies must undertake “know your customer” reviews of new and existing accounts, and inquire about any “red flags” that arise during the course of a transaction and indicate that the items may be destined for a prohibited end-use, end-user, or destination.

Contact any attorneys in Venable's International Trade and Customs Group for additional details on how your company might enhance its customer screening practices, as well as due diligence steps to consider prior to engaging in exports, reexports or transfers of U.S. origin items.

Federal Register list of Newly Embargoed Entities:

08 October 2012

US Panel: China Tech Giants Pose Security Threat

WASHINGTON (AP) — American companies should avoid doing business with China's two leading technology firms because they pose a national security threat to the United States, the House Intelligence Committee is warning in a report to be issued Monday.

The panel says U.S. regulators should block mergers and acquisitions in this country by Huawei Technologies Ltd. and ZTE Corp, among the world's leading suppliers of telecommunications gear and mobile phones.

Reflecting U.S. concern over cyber-attacks traced to China, the report also recommends that U.S. government computer systems not include any components from the two firms because that could pose an espionage risk.

"China has the means, opportunity, and motive to use telecommunications companies for malicious purposes," the report says.

The recommendations are the result of a yearlong probe, including a congressional hearing last month in which senior Chinese executives of both companies testified, and denied posing a security threat.

A U.S. executive of one of the companies said the firm cooperated with investigators, and defended its business record. Huawei is a "globally trusted and respected company," said William Plummer, vice president for external affairs.

The bipartisan report is likely to become fodder for a presidential campaign in which the candidates have been competing in their readiness to clamp down on Chinese trade violations. Republican Mitt Romney, in particular, has made it a key point to get tougher on China by designating it a currency manipulator and fighting abuses such as intellectual property theft.

The committee made the draft available to reporters in advance of public release Monday, but only under the condition that they not publish stories until the broadcast Sunday of a CBS' "60 Minutes" report on Huawei. In the CBS report, the committee's chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., urges American companies not to do business with Huawei.

The panel's recommendations will likely hamper Huawei and ZTE's ambitions to expand their business in America. Their products are used in scores of countries, including in the West. Both deny being influenced by China's communist government.

"The investigation concludes that the risks associated with Huawei's and ZTE's provision of equipment to U.S. critical infrastructure could undermine core U.S. national-security interests," the report says.

The report says the committee received information from industry experts and current and former Huawei employees suggesting that Huawei, in particular, may be violating U.S. laws. It says that the committee will refer the allegations to the U.S. government for further review and possible investigation. The report mentions allegations of immigration violations, bribery and corruption, and of a "pattern and practice" of Huawei using pirated software in its U.S. facilities.

Huawei is a private company founded by a former Chinese military engineer, and has grown rapidly to become the world's second largest supplier of telecommunications network gear, operating in more than 140 countries. ZTE Corp is the world's fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer, with 90,000 employees worldwide. While their business in selling mobile devices has grown in the U.S., espionage fears have limited the companies from moving into network infrastructure.

The report says the companies failed to provide responsive answers about their relationships and support by the Chinese government, and detailed information about their operations in the U.S. It says Huawei, in particular, failed to provide thorough information, including on its corporate structure, history, financial arrangements and management.

"The committee finds that the companies failed to provide evidence that would satisfy any fair and full investigation. Although this alone does not prove wrongdoing, it factors into the committee's conclusions," it says.

In Washington, Huawei executive Plummer said Friday the company cooperated in good faith with the investigation, which he said had not been objective and amounted to a "political distraction" from cyber-security problems facing the entire industry.

All major telecommunications firms, including those in the West, develop and manufacture equipment in China and overlapping supply chains require industry-wide solutions, he added. Singling out China-based firms wouldn't help.

Plummer complained that the volume of information sought by the committee was unreasonable, and it had demanded some proprietary business information that "no responsible company" would provide.

In justifying its scrutiny of the Chinese companies, the committee contended that Chinese intelligence services, as well as private companies and other entities, often recruit those with direct access to corporate networks to steal trade secrets and other sensitive proprietary data.

It warned that malicious hardware or software implants in Chinese-manufactured telecommunications components and systems headed for U.S. customers could allow Beijing to shut down or degrade critical national security systems in a time of crisis or war.

The committee concluded that Huawei likely has substantially benefited from the support of the Chinese government.

Huawei denies being financed to undertake research and development for the Chinese military, but the committee says it has received internal Huawei documentation from former employees showing the company provides special network services to an entity alleged to be an elite cyber-warfare unit within the People's Liberation Army.

The intelligence committee recommended that the government's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, bar mergers and acquisitions by both Huawei and ZTE. A multi-agency regulatory panel chaired by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, CFIUS screens foreign investment proposals for potential national security threats.

Last year, Huawei had to unwind its purchase of a U.S. computer company, 3Leaf Systems, after it failed to win CFIUS approval. However, Huawei employs 1,700 people in the U.S., and business is expanding. U.S. revenues rose to $1.3 billion in 2011, up from $765 million in 2010.

ZTE has also enjoyed growth in its sale of mobile devices, although in recent months it has faced allegations about banned sales of U.S.-sanctioned computer equipment to Iran. The FBI is probing reports that the company obstructed a U.S. Commerce Department investigation into the sales.

The intelligence panel says ZTE refused to provide any documents on its activities in Iran, but did provide a list of 19 individuals who serve on the Chinese Communist Party committee within the company. ZTE's citing of China's state secrecy laws for limiting information it could release only added to concern over Chinese government influence over its operations, the report says.

21 September 2012

Iranians Denied U.S. Visas Hit by Political Crossfire

By Daniel Golden - Sep 20, 2012 12:01 AM ET

A promising future in academia and business beckoned Majid Abbasi. His research on how welding affects the properties of steel earned him a doctorate from Brigham Young University and a job offer from the University of Alabama. He was also seeking to patent and commercialize a technique he’d invented to improve cleaning of contact lenses.

Then he made a fateful move that shattered those prospects: he visited his parents.

After the 1979 revolution, the number of students from Iran dwindled. Today, while Iranian undergraduates remain scarce in the U.S., the graduate-student population has rebounded, especially in the sciences. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Majid Abbasi'S research on how welding affects the properties of steel earned him a doctorate from Brigham Young University. Photographer: George Frey/Bloomberg

Since Abbasi went home to Iran on vacation in December, the U.S. government has barred him from returning. The State Department twice denied him visas, saying it had reason to believe he would engage in espionage, sabotage or prohibited export of sensitive information. Alabama withdrew its offer. Because of U.S. sanctions on trade with Iran, the startup that licensed his contact lens concept can’t pay him.

“My first reaction was the famous American slang: Holy Cow, seriously? I’m a scientist and avoid politics,” Abbasi, 31, wrote in an e-mail. “Sabotage, espionage, technology transfer are baseless, unfair labels. I do not appreciate such labels.”

Abbasi’s work isn’t sensitive, faculty members at Alabama and Brigham Young said.

“Majid was a gem everyone in the department knew and enjoyed being around,” said Tracy Nelson, a professor of mechanical engineering at Brigham Young.

No Visas

As growing tensions and sanctions over Iran’s nuclear program spill into academia, Abbasi’s plight is becoming more common. At least half a dozen Iranian graduate students in engineering who were slated to attend universities such as Michigan State, Southern Illinois, South Carolina, Pittsburgh and Northwestern this year couldn’t come because the U.S. rejected their visa applications under the same espionage clause, Bloomberg News has found.

The visa denials run counter to the policy of the Obama administration, which has reached out to Iranian students and has said that its sanctions are designed to hurt Iran’s regime, not its people. The U.S. eased travel restrictions for some Iranian students in May 2011, and opened a “virtual embassy” in Tehran in December to foster communication. Enrollment of Iranian graduate students at U.S. universities more than tripled to 4,696 in 2010-2011 from 1,475 in 2004-2005, according to the Institute of International Education in New York.

More Barriers

“You -- the young people of Iran -- carry within you both the ancient greatness of Persian civilization and the power to forge a country that is responsive to your aspirations,” President Barack Obama said in a March 2011 message marking the Iranian New Year. “Your talent, your hopes, and your choices will shape the future of Iran, and help light the world. And though times may seem dark, I want you to know that I am with you.”

Now, more Iranian students are likely to face further barriers to entering the U.S. under legislation Obama signed last month. It ordered the Secretary of State to deny visas to any Iranians seeking to take coursework to prepare for careers in Iran’s energy industry, nuclear science, nuclear engineering or a related field.

The Senate Banking Committee drafted the provision. Chairman Tim Johnson, a South Dakota Democrat, “wanted to make sure we weren’t inadvertently allowing technology or knowledge transfer” that could undercut U.S. sanctions prohibiting assistance to Iran’s oil industry and nuclear program, committee spokesman Sean Oblack said.

The State Department approved the restriction, said Jamal Abdi, policy director of the National Iranian American Council, an advocacy group in Washington.

‘Upper Hand’

“There’s a tug of war inside the State Department between supporters of outreach to the Iranian people and those who want to broaden sanctions,” Abdi said. “The new law suggests that the sanctions advocates have gained the upper hand.”

Tensions have been building between the U.S. and Israel over a possible Israeli strike on suspected Iranian nuclear weapons facilities. The visa denials likely reflect both classified intelligence information and concerns that students could pose a danger in the event of war with Iran, said Fred Burton, a former State Department special agent focused on Iranian terrorism.

“If you think about the saber rattling and war footing that everybody’s discussing, you want to minimize the probability of attacks here domestically,” said Burton, now vice president of intelligence for geopolitical consulting firm Stratfor in Austin, Texas.

Talented Pool

American universities are eager to tap Iran’s students, many of whom excel in science and math. Iran finished eighth among 100 nations in the 2012 International Mathematical Olympiad, a math championship for high school students. Presidents of half a dozen universities including Carnegie Mellon, Rice and the University of Florida visited Iran in late 2008 to foster academic ties.

Of 23 new Iranian graduate students whom the University of Florida expected to enroll this semester, only 16 have shown up, University of Florida President Bernie Machen said. The other seven may have been denied visas, or have had difficulty transferring funds from Iran because of the sanctions, he said.

Iranian students are “a pool of very talented young people who desire further education in this country,” especially in science, engineering and math, Machen said. “We’re disappointed. Politics trumps education in this case.”

An Iranian this year won a Northwestern University fellowship for outstanding first-year graduate students in mechanical engineering, only to be refused a visa. His admission has been deferred, university spokeswoman Pat Tremmel said.

Espionage Operations

At the same time, Iranian espionage increasingly worries federal authorities.

“Iran’s intelligence operations against the United States, including cyber capabilities, have dramatically increased in recent years in depth and complexity,” James R. Clapper, director of National Intelligence, testified before Congress in January.

The Obama administration is also facing political pressure from Congress and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to crack down on Iran.

“From Day One in 2009, Congress has been coming at the administration like a steamroller on Iran-related issues in an effort to box us in,” said Reza Marashi, a former officer on the State Department’s Iran desk and now research director of the National Iranian American Council.

Romney’s Call

On Sept. 9, Romney called for “crippling sanctions” and criticized what he called Obama’s “policy of engagement” with Iran. “That policy has not worked, and we’re closer to a nuclear weapon as a result,” Romney said.

No Iranian students have been criminally prosecuted in the past five years for exporting restricted U.S. technology or munitions to Iran, according to the Justice Department. It declined to comment on whether any investigations are under way for export or espionage violations involving Iranian students.

Once in the U.S., Iranian students generally may only work on fundamental research that is publishable or in the public domain. They typically aren’t eligible for licenses that foreigners need to conduct weapons-related research under federal rules on arms traffic.

The State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs refused visas to 262 non-immigrants worldwide under Section 212(a)(3)(A)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act in fiscal 2011, up from 101 in 2010 and 13 in 2000, according to the State Department.

Appeals Difficult

The provision states that the consular officer “knows or has reasonable ground to believe” that the alien seeks to enter the U.S. to “engage solely, principally, or incidentally in any activity” to violate U.S. law related to espionage, sabotage or prohibited export of “goods, technology or sensitive “information.” Protected by a long-standing legal doctrine known as consular non-reviewability, denials are hard to appeal.

Consular officers “are erring on the side of caution, maybe if they have an inkling of a doubt,” said Marashi. “When elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled.”

Not all of the people turned away are Iranian. A Chinese graduate student admitted to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 2010 was denied a visa for the same reason, said Linda Gentile, director of the school’s office of international education.

Denials are based on “all the information we have available to us” after extensive reviews by federal agencies, said State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Finan, who declined to discuss individual cases. “If we’re denying the visa for that reason, it’s necessitated because of the evidence.”

Visa applicants from Iran warrant special attention if their academic pursuit appears on a U.S government list of “critical fields” used in developing weapons of mass destruction, according to a State Department manual.

Interview Questions

Consular officers “are not expected to be versed in all the fields on the list,” the manual states. “Rather, you should shoot for familiarization and listen for key words or phrases from the list in applicants’ answers to interview questions.”

When Ali Moslemi was a graduate student in mechanical engineering at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, he went home on vacation in December 2009. He had to wait 10 months before his visa to return to the U.S. was granted. He earned his doctorate in 2010 and works in the oil industry in Houston.

Authorities may have held up his visa because he was researching propulsion, Moslemi said. While the U.S. stopped releasing the alert list about a decade ago, the last publicly available versions identified rocket propulsion technologies as a critical field. Moslemi, though, was working on a type of propulsion known as pulse jet, which occurs in heartbeats and in the swimming of squid and jellyfish, not in rockets, he said.

‘Dangerous Guy’

“It wasn’t military but it had the word propulsion,” said Moslemi, president of the Iranian Students and Graduates Association in the United States. Consular officials “are not technical people. If there’s a match, they say, ‘He’s a dangerous guy.”’

Iran was the leading foreign source of students at U.S. universities in the 1970s before the Islamic revolution that brought the current regime to power. The influx peaked at 51,310 in 1979-1980, triple the number from the second-biggest supplier, Taiwan. Some returned to Iran and became professors, who now guide their students to the U.S.

After the 1979 revolution, the number of students from Iran dwindled. Today, while Iranian undergraduates remain scarce in the U.S., the graduate-student population has rebounded, especially in the sciences.

Brain Drain

Iran ranked seventh among countries sending graduate students to the U.S. in 2010-2011, up from 26th in 2004-05. The University of California enrolled 255 Iranian graduate students in 2011, up from 29 in 1999.

Outdated lab equipment and disillusion with the repressive regime drive the exodus of Iranian science graduate students. They’re also drawn by U.S. universities’ lofty reputation and financial support for graduate study, students said. Once they finish their degrees, they often seek jobs here rather than return to Iran.

The Iranian government doesn’t mind the brain drain of potential dissidents, said Mohsen Milani, an Iranian-born professor of politics at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

“The thinking is, ‘We have a large reservoir of brilliant students,”’ Milani said. “If we lose a few of them, that’s okay. That means less trouble internally.”

Mostafa Rahmani, director of the Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Washington, didn’t respond to written questions.

Multiple Entry

The Obama administration tried to help Iranian students last year. Responding to complaints from Iranian-American groups that students couldn’t risk going home for weddings or funerals because they had to reapply to enter the U.S., it introduced a two-year, multiple-entry visa in May 2011 for Iranian students whose research isn’t sensitive or technical.

Obama personally approved the change, said Marashi, the former Iran desk officer at the State Department.

Announcing the multiple-entry visa, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told students, “As long as the Iranian government continues to stifle your potential, we will stand with you. We will support your aspirations, and your rights.”

Multiple-entry visas are granted sparingly. Less than one- fourth of Iranian students at U.S. universities receive them, with the rest on single-entry status, according to an April 2012 survey by the student association headed by Moslemi.

U.S. Priority

Alan Eyre, the State Department’s Persian language spokesman, sought to reassure Iranian students last month. U.S. foreign policy “has nothing to do with granting or denying visas,” he said on Voice of America’s Persian Service.

“One of the priorities of the U.S. government is to make it easier and faster for Iranian students to come to the U.S. and continue their studies,” Eyre said.

Not so for Arash Khajeh. When the University of South Carolina offered him a full scholarship in its mechanical engineering Ph.D. program, he sought a visa at the U.S. embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Iranians travel to Dubai, Turkey, Armenia and elsewhere for visa interviews because the U.S. doesn’t have a consulate in Iran.

“I have been looking for a talented and motivated researcher,” Addis Kidane, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at South Carolina, wrote to the embassy. “His research is open to non-U.S. citizens.”

Khajeh’s visa was denied under the espionage clause. Hoping to get a visa from another embassy, Khajeh, 29, deferred his enrollment at South Carolina until next semester, he said.

Permanent Vacations

Other Iranians already attending American universities have taken vacations home that turned out to be permanent. After obtaining his visa at the U.S. embassy in Ankara and entering Michigan State University in 2009 as a graduate student in mechanical engineering, Saleh Rezaei Ravesh maintained a 4.0 grade-point average, according to university administrators. His research, partly funded by NASA, involved developing software to simulate turbulent flows in problems such as weather forecasting.

Ravesh practiced a traditional Iranian musical instrument, the santour, which is a Persian dulcimer, and gave a concert on campus. He also sympathized with the Arab Spring uprisings and attended rallies celebrating rebel victories over the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, according to lab mate Husam Abdulrahman, a Libyan-American.

“He liked freedom,” Abdulrahman said.

‘Absolute Nightmare’

Last December, Ravesh went home to see his ailing mother. Farhad A. Jaberi, a Michigan State professor and native of Iran, tried to dissuade Ravesh, who worked in his lab, because he feared visa problems might delay the student’s return. While Ravesh’s research couldn’t be used to design actual engineering systems, some terminology could be misconstrued as sensitive, Jaberi said.

Ravesh, 28, hasn’t been able to come back. After the U.S. consulate in Dubai denied him a visa under the espionage clause, he tried Tashkent, where the consular officer rejected him on the spot without giving a reason, Ravesh said. He had an interview in Ankara July 19, and is waiting for a decision. His belongings, including his santour, remain in the U.S.

“It has been an absolute nightmare and overwhelming stress for me, my wife and the rest of my family,” he said.

If he cannot leave Iran by the end of 2012, he is likely to face compulsory military service, he said. He’s barred from working in Iran until those duties are completed, he said.

Ravesh “is not an espionage type of guy,” said Peter Briggs, director of Michigan State’s office for international students and scholars. “It’s not like Mata Hari.”

Research Sponsored

Majid Abbasi, the Brigham Young scientist, is also back in Iran, unemployed. After earning his master’s degree from Sharif University of Technology, Iran’s premier engineering school, he arrived at Brigham Young in 2006. Several companies and the National Science Foundation sponsored Abbasi’s research on welding and joining, which was a significant contribution to the field, said Nelson at Brigham Young.

Gregory Thompson, a professor of metallurgical and materials engineering at the University of Alabama, offered Abbasi a post-doctoral appointment starting in March 1, 2012. While Thompson also conducts research for the Department of Defense, Abbasi would have worked on fundamental science funded by the university, Thompson said.

Abbasi, who enjoyed mountain biking and snowboarding, found the contact lenses he wore for those activities irritated his eyes. Using a microscope he modified to examine his own lenses, he developed a method of cleaning lenses. He and two others are seeking a patent.

‘Red Flags’

“He’s primarily the science behind the device,” says co- applicant Jacob Allred, who was in Abbasi’s research group at Brigham Young.

Then Abbasi, who hadn’t seen his parents for more than five years, decided to go home for two months.

Nelson and Allred warned him against it. “I said, ‘Majid, I think that’s a bad idea,”’ Nelson said. “My feeling was, if you go home for a month or two, and come back, it looks bad. It looks like you’re taking information in and out. Or the government thinks you’re meeting with someone over there.”

After the U.S. consulate in Beirut denied his visa on April 16, Alabama couldn’t wait for Abbasi any longer. Nelson then invited him to return to Brigham Young as a post-doctoral fellow. Abbasi’s visa application was again rejected on Aug. 1.

U.S. sanctions against Iran prohibit Abbasi from playing any role in Soniclenz LLC, a company established by Allred and a business partner, which licensed the contact lens invention and is developing a prototype.

“We have asked Majid to participate” in the company as soon as it’s allowed, said Allred, an engineer with Exxon Mobil Corp. “I’ve done things with Majid personally, academically and in business. None of them raise any red flags.”

20 September 2012

Commerce Updates Entity List- Adds Sichuan University

Sichuan University has been designated as an “Entity”  on the Commerce Department’s Entity List based on a review by the Departments of Commerce, Defense, and State. It has been designated as an entity because the Departments of Commerce, Defense and State have determined that  “there is reasonable cause to believe, based on specific and articulable facts, that the entity has been involved, is involved, or poses a significant risk of being or becoming involved in activities that are contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States and those acting on behalf of such entities may be added to the Entity List pursuant to this section.” (15CFR 744.11(b))


As specified in Commerce Department export regulations, Sichuan University ,including its  faculty, employees, or students) is  ineligible to receive any items subject to the EAR without a specific export license to the extent specified in the Entity List supplement. The embargo is comprehensive for  Sichuan University.   Virginia Tech is prohibited from exporting any items, software, or technology  subject to the EAR to the Sichuan University subject to Export Administration Regulations (EAR) without an export license- licenses will be evaluated on a case by case basis by the Commerce Department in the case of Sichuan.   15CFR 744.1(c)

18 July 2012

NASA Director Alleged to Have Violated U.S. Satellite Law on Space Technology Collaboration

By Sharon Weinberger of Nature magazine --  Advocates of international trade and collaboration in space technology thought that they were making headway against rules that restrict both in the name of US
security. But on the same day that the US government released a long-awaited report that recommends easing those regulations, allegations surfaced that a NASA director may have broken the rules when he gave foreign nationals access to an agency research facility. It is not yet clear whether the allegations will strengthen
the case for preserving current restrictions.

The allegations were brought by unnamed whistle-blowers to US Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, who asked about the accusations in a letter to NASA administrator Charles Bolden on 18 April. At issue is whether Simon `Pete' Worden, director of the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, gave foreign citizens access to information that falls under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), a set of rules that aims to prevent the transfer of potentially strategic technologies to foreign countries. Critics have long complained that ITAR unduly hampers US companies that seek to export satellite technology; it has also created hurdles for academic and government research institutions -- including NASA Ames -- that have collaborators in friendly nations such as the United Kingdom and Canada.

30 April 2012

Military Secrets Leak From U.S. Universities With Rules Flouted

For 15 days in late 2009, Internet users in 36 countries, including China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, viewed sensitive information about U.S. weapons technology that was supposed to be for American eyes only.

The disclosure, which prompted a rebuke from a U.S. State Department official, came from a Georgia Institute of Technology course for federal employees and contractors on infrared technology used in weapons-aiming systems for aircraft, ships and tanks. Asked by instructor David Schmieder to copy the course onto a DVD, Georgia Tech’s media staff instead uploaded it to servers.

13 April 2012

Bird Flu Studies Mired In Export Control Law Limbo

Scientists who created mutant forms of bird flu want to see their research published, and an influential advisory committee recently gave them the green light after a debate that lasted for months.

But one of the manuscripts is now being blocked from publication because of Dutch legal controls on the export of technology that could potentially be used for weapons.

It's just the latest example of how complicated international export control laws have affected the debate over what to do about two studies on bird flu.

09 April 2012

U.S. Colleges Infected by Foreign Spies: FBI – Businessweek

View the full article at Business Week.

12 March 2012

Executive Order Blocking Property of the Government of Syria and Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Syria

On August 18, 2011, The president signed an Executive Order imposing further sanctions on Syria which include

  • A ban on "new investments" in Syria;
  • A broad ban on exports, reexports, sales, or supplies from the United States or by a U.S. person to Syria of "any services";
  • A prohibition on U.S. imports of, and other transactions or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products;
  • A facilitation prohibition on U.S. person involvement, directly or indirectly, in a transaction by a non-U.S. person that would be prohibited as to a U.S. person.

Virginia Tech interprets the ban on services to include providing educational services (including distance learning) to Syrian nationals (including students, in both Syria or in third party countries outside of the United States (e.g., Egypt)), without license from Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) for the exportation of such educational services.

24 February 2012

NY Times: "Traveling Light in a Time of Digital Thievery"

By NICOLE PERLROTH, 10 Feb. SAN FRANCISCO — When Kenneth G. Lieberthal, a China expert at the Brookings Institution, travels to that country, he follows a routine that seems straight from a spy film. He leaves his cellphone and laptop at home and instead brings “loaner” devices, which he erases before he leaves the United States and wipes clean the minute he returns. In China, he disables Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, never lets his phone out of his sight and, in meetings, not only turns off his phone but also removes the battery, for fear his microphone could be turned on remotely. He connects to the Internet only through an encrypted, password-protected channel, and copies and pastes his password from a USB thumb drive. He never types in a password directly, because, he said, “the Chinese are very good at installing key-logging software on your laptop.”

29 August 2011

Executive Order Blocking Property of the Government of Syria and Prohibiting Certain Transactions with Respect to Syria

On August 18, 2011, The president signed an Executive Order imposing further sanctions on Syria which include

  • A ban on "new investments" in Syria;
  • A broad ban on exports, reexports, sales, or supplies from the United States or by a U.S. person to Syria of "any services";
  • A prohibition on U.S. imports of, and other transactions or dealings in, Syrian-origin petroleum or petroleum products;
  • A facilitation prohibition on U.S. person involvement, directly or indirectly, in a transaction by a non-U.S. person that would be prohibited as to a U.S. person.

Virginia Tech interprets the ban on services to include providing educational services (including distance learning) to Syrian nationals (including students, in both Syria or in third party countries outside of the United States (e.g., Egypt)), without license from Office of Foreign Asset Controls (OFAC) for the exportation of such educational services.

18 July 2011

DoD Proposes New Security Requirements and Cyber Incident Reporting for DoD Contracts

On June 29, 2011 the Department of Defense proposed a rule that would modify the DFAR contract clause 252.204-7000 Disclosure of Information Clause, imposing basic and enhanced security measures for any Defense Contracts requiring contractor custody of or access to “Department of Defense Information” (DoD Information). Certain types of information would require enhanced protection IAW guidelines in NIST 800-53, FIPS 199 & 200, and data disposal IAW NIST-88.

  • Information designated as critical program information in accordance with DoD Instruction 5200.39, Critical Program Information Protection;
  • Information designated as critical information in accordance with DoD Directive 5205.02, DoD Operations Security Program;
  • Information subject to export controls under International Traffic in Arms Regulations and Export Administration Regulations;
  • Information exempt from mandatory public disclosure under DoD Freedom of Information Act Programs (DoD Directive 5400.07);
  • Information bearing current or prior controlled access designations (e.g., FOUO, Sensitive but Unclassified, Limited Distribution, Proprietary, etc);
  • Technical data, computer software, or other data covered by DoD Directive 5230.24, Distribution Statements on Technical Documents; and
  • Personally identifiable information (to include Privacy Act and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act information).

The rule also proposes rigorous cyber-incident reporting requirements, which computers or information systems with DoD Information are compromised or potentially compromised.

When the proposed rule becomes an interim or final rule, more detailed Technology Control Plans than currently prepared at Virginia Tech for controlled unclassified DoD contracts will be required. OESRC is working on templates in anticipation of this new rule.

Comments on the new rule are due August 29, 2011.

11 January 2011

DoD/DSS Publishes 2010 Unclassified Edition of Targeting U.S. Technologies: A Trend Analysis of Reporting from Defense Industry

The U.S. Department Of Defense's Defense Security Service (DoD/DSS) has published its 2010 unclassified edition of Targeting U.S. Technologies: A Trend Analysis of Reporting from Defense Industry. DoD Instruction 5200.39, dated July 16, 2008, requires DoD/DSS to publish a classified report, along with an unclassified companion report, detailing suspicious activities occurring within the cleared contractor community. Key findings of this 2010 report include:

For the past decade, entities from the East Asian and the Pacific region have been, and continue to be, the most active collectors targeting cleared industry. East Asian and Pacific collectors continued to target aggressively cleared industry for classified and restricted technology and information. This pervasive threat exploits relationships with industry, circumvents export control laws, and boldly uses cyber attacks to target U.S. information resident in cleared industry.

The use of the commercial sector, with the intent to make contacts more innocuous when targeting industry, continued to dominate more traditional, government-affiliated collection attempts. For the fourth year in a row, commercial entities’ contact with cleared industry surged, with these purported private sector entities seeking an unprecedented number of privatized research and development (R&D) ventures with U.S. cleared industry. Analysis suggests that while some of this increase is no doubt a reflection of increased globalization of the marketplace, this likely represents, in part, an apparent shift on the part of foreign governments to mask officially-sponsored collection efforts as seemingly less-alerting inquiries.

Exploitation of the Internet to acquire illicitly technology and information, both through direct email requests and also through the medium of cyber operations, continued to dominate industry reporting. The Internet continued to offer foreign intelligence entities a low-cost, high gain method to target cleared industry for sensitive or classified technology and information. The exponential growth of the Internet allowed for increased connectivity for legitimate global business and also as a means for surreptitious access to cleared contractor facility networks.

Marine sensors technology has increased as a priority target. In FY09, foreign entities increased overt targeting and collection of cleared contractor-developed marine sensors technology and information. Accelerated by increasing maritime trade competitiveness and an aggressive regional marketplace for marine-related technology, foreign entities increased collection of naval R&D initiatives in efforts to modernize naval arsenals and increase maritime-based capabilities.

11 January 2011

US Appeals Court Upholds Sentence of U. of Tennessee Ex-Professor Who Passed Military Secrets