Violations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (the “ITAR”) continue to be committed via eBay (and, doubtless, Craigslist). Case in point, a former Army sergeant was recently sentenced to nearly four years in prison for auctioning night vision equipment (an Acquired Tactical Illuminating Laser Aimer) via eBay to a buyer in Japan.
His excuse? He’d seen similar equipment for sale on eBay, so he assumed it was legal to sell it. His buyer’s excuse? He’d seen similar equipment purchased via eBay, so he assumed it was legal to buy it.
Neither version of this excuse appears to hold water. The ex-sergeant hyped his product as “Very rare!!! Impossible to find on the international market.” And the Japanese buyer insisted that shipping documents list the item as “car engine parts or car electronic parts” because it was an “ITAR itme” [sic]. But I can imagine a lot of internet buyers and sellers convincing themselves that, if this kind of commerce is common, it must be legal.
The US government has known about such traffic for a long time. As far back as 2008, the Government Accountability Office issued a report entitled “Internet Sales ~ Under Purchases on Ebay and Craigslist Reveal a Market for Sensitive and Stolen U.S. Military Items”. It found that “numerous defense-related items [were] for sale to the highest bidder” on the two e-commerce platforms. And it noted that, while both maintained lists of items that are prohibited from sale, only eBay contains warnings against overseas sales.
To this day, however, those warnings are pallid at best, even on eBay. For example, a Pvs-14 Gen[eration] 3 night vision scope is available there with only the following note: “Ships to: United States.” No mention of the ITAR; no indication that this item cannot be reshipped outside the US; and no clue as to whether this item is truly the military-issue PVS-14, or PINNACLE’s PVS-14.
If the former, it may not be legally saleable to civilians, even in the US; if the latter, it should at least have the sort of warning found for that product at B&H Photo-Video:
Export of this device described herein [sic] is strictly prohibited without a valid export license issued by the U.S. Department of State Office of Defense Trade Controls, as prescribed in the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), Title 22, Code of Federal Regulation, Parts 120-130, and/or the U.S. Department of Commerce. For further information contact the Office of Defense Trade Control and/or the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Better yet would be a warning of the kind found at Tactical Night Vision Company’s website, which states that:
Export of Night Vision Equipment or related accessories (such as manuals) is strictly regulated by the US Department of State in accordance with the guidelines of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). It is a major crime to ship or carry US manufactured night vision devices outside the borders of the United States, punishable by fines and prison sentences. Ignorance of these regulations will not hold up in court. By purchasing night vision equipment from TNVC, you attest that you will not attempt to export or carry this night vision equipment outside the borders of the United States. Also, it is illegal to allow a non-US Citizen to look through US Gen3 Night Vision Devices, even on US soil. Again, this is a crime punishable by fines and prison sentences.
As I write, however, a Craigslist seller is offering a “D-740 4x Gen 3 Pinnacle night vision rifle scope”, without comment even as to where the seller will ship the item. To which one can only say: Buyer beware – especially if you are planning a hunting trip to Canada.