Surprise, surprise, DoD equipment found in Iran

Keep your eye on the ball:

Fighter jet parts and other sensitive U.S.
military gear seized from front companies for Iran and brokers for
China have been traced in criminal cases to a surprising [surprising? media, you fail!] source: the
U.S. Defense Department.

In one case, federal investigators said, contraband bought at
auction from Defense surplus stocks was delivered to Iran, which
President George W. Bush had in his “axis of evil” grouping. Just
Tuesday, the State Department branded Iran as the world’s worst
exporter of terror

In the Iran case, a Pakistani arms broker convicted of exporting
U.S. missile parts to Iran resumed business after his release from
prison
. He purchased Chinook helicopter engine parts for Iran from a
U.S. company that had bought them in a Pentagon surplus sale.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents say those parts made it to
Iran
. [I’m sure you or I could get military aircraft parts to Iran, right?]


Sensitive military surplus items are supposed to be demilitarized,
rendered useless for military purposes, or if auctioned, sold only to
buyers who promise to obey U.S. arms embargoes, export controls and
other laws.

Yet the surplus sales can operate like a supermarket for arms dealers.

“Right Item, Right Time, Right Place, Right Price, Every Time. Best
Value Solutions for America’s Warfighters,” the Defense Reutilization
and Marketing Service says on its Web site, calling itself “the place
to obtain original U.S. Government surplus property.”

Federal investigators are increasingly anxious that Iran is within
easy reach of a top priority on its shopping list: parts for its
precious fleet of F-14 “Tomcat” fighter jets
the United States let Iran
buy in the 1970s when it was an ally.

In one case, convicted middlemen for Iran bought Tomcat parts from
the Defense Department’s surplus division. Customs agents confiscated
them and returned them to the Pentagon, which sold them again, customs
evidence tags still attached, to another buyer, a suspected broker for
Iran.

“That would be evidence of a significant breakdown,[best read in a Barney Fife voice] in my view, in
controls and processes,” said Greg Kutz, the Government Accountability
Office’s head of special investigations. “It shouldn’t happen the first
time, let alone the second time.”

A Defense Department official, Fred Baillie, said his agency followed procedures.

“The fact that those individuals chose to violate the law and the
fact that the customs people caught them really indicates that the
process is working,” said Baillie, the Defense Logistics Agency’s
executive director of distribution. “Customs is supposed to check all
exports to make sure that all the appropriate certifications and
licenses had been granted.”

The Pentagon recently retired its Tomcats and is shipping tens of
thousands of spare parts to its surplus office, the Defense
Reutilization and Marketing Service, where they could be sold in public
auctions. Iran is the only other country flying F-14s.

“It stands to reason Iran will be even more aggressive in seeking
F-14 parts,” said Stephen Bogni, head of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement’s arms export investigations. Iran can produce only about
15 percent of the parts itself, he said.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, found it alarmingly easy
to acquire sensitive surplus. Last year, its agents bought $1.1 million
(€850,000) worth — including rocket launchers, body armor and
surveillance antennas — by driving onto a base and posing as defense
contractors.

“They helped us load our van,” Kutz said. Investigators used a fake
identity to access a surplus Web site operated by a Pentagon contractor
and bought still more, including a dozen microcircuits used on F-14
fighters.

The undercover buyers received phone calls from the Defense
Department asking why they had no Social Security number or credit
history, but they deflected the questions by presenting a phony utility
bill and claiming to be an identity theft victim.

The Pentagon’s public surplus sales took in $57 million (€44
million) in the budget year that ended Sept. 30, 2005. The agency also
moves extra supplies around within the government and gives surplus
military gear such as weapons, armored personnel carriers and aircraft
to state and local law enforcement.

Investigators have found the Pentagon’s inventory and sales controls
rife with errors. They say sales are watched closely by friends and
foes of the United States.

Among cases in which U.S. military technology made its way from surplus auctions to brokers for Iran, China and others:

_Items were seized in December 2000 at a California warehouse that
belonged to Multicore, described by U.S. prosecutors as a front company
for Iran. Among the weaponry it acquired were fighter jet and missile
components, including F-14 parts from Pentagon surplus sales, customs
agents said. The surplus purchases were returned after two Multicore
officers were sentenced to prison for weapons export violations.
London-based Multicore is now out of business, but customs continues to
investigate whether U.S. companies sold it military equipment illegally.

In 2005, customs agents came upon the same surplus F-14 parts with
the evidence labels still attached while investigating a different
company suspected of serving as an Iranian front. They seized the items
again. They declined to provide details because the investigation is
still under way.

_Arif Ali Durrani, a Pakistani, was convicted last year in
California in the illegal export of weapons components to the United
Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Belgium in 2004 and 2005 and sentenced to
just over 12 years in prison. Customs investigators say the items
included Chinook helicopter engine parts for Iran that he bought from a
U.S. company that acquired them from a Pentagon surplus sale, and that
those parts made it to Iran via Malaysia. Durrani is appealing his
conviction.

An accomplice, former Naval intelligence officer George Budenz,
pleaded guilty and was sentenced in July to a year in prison. Durrani’s
prison term is his second; he was convicted in 1987 of illegally
exporting U.S. missile parts to Iran.

_State Metal Industries, a Camden, N.J., company convicted in June
of violating export laws over a shipment of AIM-7 Sparrow missile
guidance parts it bought from Pentagon surplus in 2003 and sold to an
entity partly owned by the Chinese government. The company pleaded
guilty, was fined $250,000 (€193,000) and placed on probation for three
years. Customs and Border Protection inspectors seized the parts —
nearly 200 pieces of the guidance system for the Sparrow missile —
while inspecting cargo at a New Jersey port.

“Our mistake was selling it for export,” said William Robertson,
State Metal’s attorney. He said the company knew the material was going
to China but did not know the Chinese government partially owned the
buyer. [China’s a communist country, dipshit, the government owns the means of production /smack ]

_In October, Ronald Wiseman, a longtime Pentagon surplus employee in
the Middle East
, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in
prison for stealing surplus military Humvees and selling them to a
customer in Saudi Arabia from 1999 to 2002. An accomplice, fellow
surplus employee Gayden Woodson, will be sentenced this month.

The Humvees were equipped for combat zones and some were not recovered, Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Ingersoll said.

_A California company, All Ports, shipped hundreds of containers of
U.S. military technology to China between 1994 and 1999, much of it
acquired in Pentagon surplus sales, court documents show. Customs
agents discovered the sales in May 1999 when All Ports tried to ship to
China components for guided missiles, bombs, the B-1 bomber and
underwater mines. The company and its owners were convicted in 2000; an
appeals court upheld the conviction in 2002.

Republican Rep. Christopher Shays called the cases “a huge breakdown; an absolute, huge breakdown.”

“The military should not sell or give away any sensitive military
equipment. If we no longer need it, it needs to be destroyed — totally
destroyed,” said Shays, until this month chairman of a House panel on
national security. “The Department of Defense should not be supplying
sensitive military equipment to our adversaries, our enemies,
terrorists.”

It is no secret to defense experts that valuable technology can be found amid surplus scrap.

On a visit to a Defense Department surplus site about five years
ago, defense consultant Randall Sweeney literally stumbled upon some
that should not have been up for sale.

“I was walking through a pile of supposedly de-milled electrical
items and found a heat-seeking missile warhead intact,” Sweeney said,
declining to identify the surplus location for security reasons. “I
carried it over and showed them. I said, ‘This shouldn’t be in here.'”

Sweeney, president of Florida-based Defense and Aerospace
International, sees human error as a big problem. Surplus items are
numbered, and an error of a single digit can make sensitive technology
available, he said. Knowledgeable buyers could easily spot a valuable
item, he added: “I’m not the only sophisticated eye in the world.”

Baillie said the Pentagon is working to tighten security. Steps
include setting up property centers to identify surplus parts better
and employing people skilled at spotting sensitive items. If there is
uncertainty about an item, he said, it is destroyed.

Of the 76,000 parts for the F-14, 60 percent are “general hardware”
such as nuts and bolts and can be sold to the public without
restriction, Baillie said. About 10,000 are unique to Tomcats and will
be destroyed.

An additional 23,000 parts are valuable for military and commercial
use and are being studied to see whether they can be sold, Baillie said.

Asked why the Pentagon would sell any F-14 parts, given their value
to Iran, Baillie said: “Our first priority truly is national security,
and we take that very seriously. However, we have to balance that with
our other requirement to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”

Kutz, the government investigator, said surplus F-14 parts should
not be sold. He believes Iran already has Tomcat parts from Pentagon
surplus sales: “The key now is, going forward, to shut that down and
not let it happen again.”

Oh, man, I need a cigarette!

AP Exclusive: Military gear bound for Iran, China traced to Pentagon surplus sales

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