Time was when, if you wanted to smuggle a state secret out of a country, you used microfilm and a U-Boat flashing Morse code onto the midnight shore. These days, however – at least when meth-lords get involved – the smuggling methods can be a tad more sophisticated.
Case In Point: Undercover FBI agents first met the two Taiwanese nationals in Manila, where they were offering samples of crystal meth for import into the US. While that deal was pending, the men told the agents they had clients in China who wanted to acquire an RG-11B drone (according to its manufacturer, “the most advanced [drone] deployed with the U.S. Armed Forces”) and a manual for the RQ-4 “Global Hawk” drone.
It was when the agents pointed out the illegality of exporting such drones and technology that the meth-lords strutted their stuff. No problem getting the RG-11B past Customs, they said. As they did when smuggling meth, they would simply have a scuba diver swim the thing out to a waiting boat.
And the Global Hawk technology? No problem there, either. They would photograph the pages of its manual with an electronic camera, delete the images from the camera’s memory stick, take the “empty” stick with them to China, and have their IT department recover the deleted images.
The FBI agents arrested them as soon as they took pictures of the manual, before they could delete the files.
Good work, Good Guys … and good luck finding another couple of clucks dumb enough to talk to you about plans like these!
All of which makes you wonder, though: When organized crime decides to use its best efforts to circumvent export controls, and doesn’t trip over its own feet, do the Good Guys really have a chance?