[amsat-bb] Re: Understanding ITAR

Bob McGwier rwmcgwier at gmail.com
Mon Oct 5 04:14:42 PDT 2009

I want everyone seeing this to read a book.   Little Brother by Cory 
Doctorow is a book aimed at late teens to young adults.  This is 
irrelevant. It is a must read for anyone who doesn't understand the 
nature of the problems.  It is a DEVASTATING treatment of several 
current event topics, including anti-terrorism approaches,  internet 
privacy, and more. 

I find one of the best sections of the book to be its treatment of 
"false positives".   The exact same mathematics applies to this ITAR 
export prevention problem.   The cost of dealing with ITAR is so high in 
comparison to catching the real events that it should be the poster 
child for stupidity of the entire approach to security.  It has, in my 
opinion, NOT been worth the cost and I believe in safeguarding those 
things which are in the interests of U.S. security.  I am not a believer 
in stupidity.  I do not subscribe to civil disobedience on this topic 
because of the cost to my family and friends and it has cost me the 
ability to talk to my friends for YEARS.   U.S. "enemies"  have 
developed on their own or done effective espionage to get all of the 
technology they need.  This has been a truly tragic episode for U.S. 
space corporations and a great boon to those nations who aspire to be 
space faring nations rather than be trapped by we and our "friends" to 
the earth's surface.

A spacecraft,  or anything associated with the launch of spacecraft, 
including ground systems (including amateur radio equipment) is DEFINED 
to be an ITAR covered item. No one says it is a munition as in a gun.  
It is DEFINED to be an ITAR covered item.  Discussion of it with foreign 
nationals by U.S. citizens is a "deemed export" and requires an export 
license AND THEN, the most insidious of all, a technology assistance 
agreement.  The technology assistance agreement in most cases must 
contain language that the foreign entity (person, group, etc.) must 
agree to be bound by U.S. law even if they are NEVER enter U.S.  I 
believe now that AMSAT-NA is going to be allowed to talk to our 
friends.  I believe in the end it will not be an onerous set of 
restrictions.  But I am SO glad I am not attempting to sell a satellite 
or ground equipment as a U.S. person (individual, corporation, green 
card holder) to a foreign national.  The pucker factor is so high 
because the cost of a mistake is punitive, that you simply cannot afford 
casual conversations much less technical discussions without an army of 
lawyers and minders present.

I wish I could find the words to impart the depth of my despair on what 
this has meant to everyone involved in space in the U.S. from lowly 
amateur radio operators trying to build satellites to major U.S. 
corporations. It has done NOTHING effective in my opinion but make lots 
of lawyers wealthier and insure the long term survival of bureaucrats.


(Co)Author: DttSP, Quiktrak, PowerSDR, GnuRadio 
Member: ARRL, AMSAT, AMSAT-DL, TAPR, Packrats,
"You don't need to see the whole staircase, just
 take the first step.", MLK.
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