Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Asset Controls issues and enforces sanctions against particular countries. The Department of Commerce oversees the regulations for dual-use items. The Munitions List is under the jurisdiction of the Department of State.
Mr. Pelak gave an overview of why the United States is concerned with export controls, using several specific cases as examples. United States vs. Mayrow is a prosecution involving illegal export from the United States to Iran, through various other countries, of electronic components that could be used in building improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Another case involves the export of triggered spark gaps, which are used in medical devices that crush kidney stones, but can also be used to detonate nuclear devices. Ultimately, the goal of maintaining export controls and prosecuting violations is to protect the U.S. military and the broader public.
The Justice Department only deals with willful violations, not with negligent, accidental, or mistaken violations. The vast majority of export control violations that occur in an academic or research context fall into the latter category.
Steven Eisner, Export Control Officer at Stanford University, described how a university that performs fundamental basic and applied research ensures compliance with export control laws and regulations. Export controls address the transfer of technologies, hardware or software code, that have the potential to adversely affect U.S. national security. Such exports can take the form of physical shipments or the transfer of technical information through oral or visual disclosure, including specification sheets or blueprints. Hardware or information carried by hand is also considered an export.
The primary focus of compliance at Stanford is ensuring that the university only engages in research considered fundamental (basic and applied) and thereby stays within the safe harbor known as the “fundamental research exclusion.” The results of research intended for broad dissemination and sharing should be free from regulation. Fundamental research is increasingly international, at federal laboratories as well as at universities. For example, there is a great deal of information exchange between the Large Hadron Collider at CERN in Switzerland and Stanford University.