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.

The lapse by Atlanta-based Georgia Tech illustrates how colleges and federal arms-control regulators are often lax in enforcing Americans-only limits intended to prevent theft of military technology from U.S. campuses. Even as they enroll more graduate students from countries such as China and Iran, universities are conducting more research that is restricted to American citizens and permanent residents because of its national-security implications. Foreign governments are targeting universities to “obtain restricted information or products,” the FBI said in a 2011 report.

Culture of Openness

Eager to preserve their culture of openness and global collaboration, campuses are skirting — and even flouting — export-control laws that require foreigners to hold government licenses to work on sensitive projects.

Using unlicensed foreign students on export-controlled projects “happens all the time,” said Michael Deal, an international trade lawyer in Arlington, Virginia, and a former official at the U.S. Commerce Department, which regulates technology that has both civilian and military applications. “The academic world is completely undisciplined about it. Its casual approach has undoubtedly led to the erosion of the U.S. competitive advantage.”

Full article: Military Secrets Leak From U.S. Universities With Rules Flouted (Bloomberg Businessweek)