More Russian spies

Although this is really rather strange:

The case is being compared to that of Anna Chapman, a suspected Russian spy who was arrested in New York and then returned to Russia under a \”spy swap exchange\” earlier this month. There is no evidence that the two women knew one another.

It has been reported that Miss Fermanova was arrested on July 15th for \”knowingly and intentionally\” attempting to export \”defense articles on the United States Munitions list.\” The night-vision goggles and scopes cannot be exported without approval from the US State Department, as they are considered to be sophisticated military weapons.

Among the items she was caught with were a Raptor 4X Night Vision Weapons Sight, which she had bought online. A customs agent claimed that the sight\’s ID numbers \”had been covered with black marker pens\”.

The strangeness is that a), Russia is a major producer of exactly these Generation 3 rifle scopes (yes, I\’ve been to the factory) and that b) it\’s not entirely certain that such a scope would be on the State Department list.

Now I agree, it\’s been some years since I looked at the State Department list (or even the other list kept by Commerce) and I\’m entirely happy to believe that such night vision jobbies will be on the list.

However, there\’s a little let out in the system. Even if something is on the list and yet it is also \”generally available at retail\” then it\’s not a controlled item. Walmart seems not to sell the specific model but they do seem to sell something very similar from another manufacturer. And there seem to be enough online retailers for it to be possible to say that it\’s \”generally available\”.

No, of course I\’m not a lawyer but I\’d think it likely that she\’s got a get out of jail free card here.

As to why she did it no, not spying. Or at least, not spying for a government. This is pure commercial espionage: the Russian manufacturer wanting to see what competitors are making.

And why not? I have a buddy who regularly buys the new Russian version of whatever tank is coming out. It gets shipped to the US manufacturers of tanks so they can take it apart to see what makes it tick…..

5 thoughts on “More Russian spies”

  1. You’d be surprised what is on the State Dept list. Wooden rifle stocks small parts, or basically anything over $100. For most uncontrolled things, it can still be done (with lots of paperwork and a big wait). It isn’t so much that you can’t export things, it is that you can’t export them without the paperwork.

  2. As I understand it Gen 1 & 2 scopes are so primitive they can be sold and exported pretty much by, for and to anyone. Gen 3 scopes can be bought by US citizens but not exported. Gen 4’s (the latest) can’t be bought by anyone except Uncle Sam and his buddies.

    But as Paul says, the list is a bit arbitrary and probably dependent upon the particular apparatchik making the particular decision on a particular day.

  3. Maybe I’m getting way to fond of my tinfoil hat (it is rather natty, after all) but whenever I see stories like this or the BP-Libya thing nowadays my first reaction is to look at who is shouting the loudest and then try and work out how he/she benefits from the story.

    From where I’m sitting the “Russian Spies” look more like mail order brides than the KGB’s finest. So who benefits? Well, Obama does by suddenly looking “strong” on international issues.

    As for BP/Libya, why is the story only coming out now? Al-Mageri or whatever his name is has been out for a year now. Who benefits? Well, it’s either US senators looking to boost their standing by bashing their new bestest hate figure (BP) before the November elections. Alternatively it’s the British government trying to deflect blame for a monumentally bad decision.

  4. I seem to remember–not all that long ago–that both the MacIntosh G3 models and various over-the-counter game joysticks were briefly on the prohibited list because of their superiority over anything then extant.

    My entire business consists in selling surplus military components–mostly electronic and optic–to a broad spectrum of users, including gov’t. I have no confidence whatever in the gov’t.’s sense of reasonableness in such matters.

    Once, years ago, I bid on and won a large quantity of Gen 2 IR tank periscopes. Although the scope itself was on the prohibited list, I found that the entire weapons system had been removed from that list, so requested a waiver from DoD for the scope; it was shortly forthcoming and I duly presented it to the disposal facility in order to pick up the stuff without mutilation. No dice–I had to destroy those millions of $$ worth of optics (and complete, new systems). A few years later, I was able to buy similar stuff they’d sold as scrap w/o mutilation by simply paying the scrap dealer a few cents over what the scrap would bring.

    (Incidentally, I’ve seen certain such parts for US night vision (tank-related) parts being produced in China (for US companies); they look better even than similar (new) surplus in my inventory.

    I guess everything makes sense–just not the ordinary kind of sense regular people would expect.

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