The two cases aim to isolate China and Iran from US technology
US government announces charges Wednesday in two separate cases Its purpose is to enforce laws preventing the transfer of critical technologies, part of a broader campaign to hinder military efforts and arms production in rival countries.
One of these complaints was against a US citizen born in China who has been arrested for stealing trade secrets from a private company. The technology, according to court documents, “would be dangerous to U.S. national security if obtained by international actors.”
A complaint by the Justice Department The petition, filed in the US District Court in California, says the stolen material will help in the development of technology that allows space-based systems to track ballistic and hypersonic missiles. U.S. officials said technology related to hypersonic missiles and missile tracking is one of the Chinese military's top priorities.
In second complaintThe US government accused two Iranian men of trying to illegally obtain US goods and technology for Iran's aerospace industry. According to court documents, this technology included firefighting equipment and flame detectors.
The charges are the latest in a series of legal actions aimed at isolating Iran, Russia and China from American technology. A year ago, the Justice and Commerce Departments formed the Disruptive Technology Strike Force to enforce export control laws and disrupt arms production in Iran for Russia and Iranian proxy groups. It was also intended to stop China's efforts to develop advanced military technology.
Strike Force officials are meeting with Ukrainian representatives in Phoenix this week to discuss efforts to stem the flow of American technology and American-designed components to Russia, Iran and China.
“Our mission is to keep our country's most sensitive technology out of the world's most dangerous hands,” said Matthew S. Axelrod, the Commerce Department's assistant secretary for export enforcement. “Nation-state actors are attempting to acquire advanced American technology so that they can modernize their militaries to such an extent that they surpass ours and change the balance of power in the world. Those are the stakes.”
US export controls targeted at Beijing have sought to prevent its government and Chinese companies from obtaining advanced chips that could be used to develop new military capabilities. However, Iran is trying to acquire less sophisticated technology and chips, whose export to many other countries is not blocked.
Iran uses those chips to make drones that it supplies to Russia for the war in Ukraine, and to Hamas and the Houthi rebels, who have used them to attack ships in the Red Sea.
Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's National Security Division Matthew G. “Iran's malign activity is destabilizing the region and supporting other malign actors such as Russia,” Olsen said.
When Mr. Olsen traveled to Kiev in November, Ukrainian officials presented him with evidence of the use of American technology in Iranian-made drones that attacked Ukraine. He said the visit expanded intelligence sharing between the countries to promote US legal investigations.
US officials said the direct impact of export controls is difficult to assess. For example, Russian production of missiles was initially slowed by export restrictions. But as Moscow refocused its economy on wartime manufacturing, its missile-production levels returned to pre-war capacity, and then even exceeded it.
Iran's drone production has fluctuated, possibly due to US pressure on its supply chain. And U.S. officials say they are at least making it more expensive and difficult for Iran to supply both its proxy forces and Russia.
“When we are enforcing sanctions and export control laws, we want to impose costs on bad actors, including Russian and Iranian actors,” Mr. Olsen said. “We want to charge them, out them publicly and arrest them if possible.”
Enforcement actions also have broader impacts, Mr. Olsen said. Large companies are seeing how Iran, Russia or China are trying to avoid regulations and are adopting strong compliance efforts to ensure that they are not used in any attempts to smuggle chips.
“Companies take notice when criminal enforcement occurs and put strong compliance regimes in place,” he said.
In the China case revealed on Wednesday, Chenguang Gong, a 57-year-old man, was charged with theft of trade secrets. Prosecutors had accused Mr. Gong last year of stealing files from a technology company that was not identified. The government complaint does not say whether the technology — used to identify missile launches and track objects difficult to identify from space — was sent to China.
But Mr. Gong did not have the software to view the files taken from the company, prosecutors wrote in their complaint. Some documents were labeled proprietary, and others labeled export controlled.
Mr. Gong, who worked for defense contractors and specialized in developing computer circuits, had previously sought funding from the Chinese government by contacting officials through its various “talent programs.” Beijing uses these programs to identify people who can help develop its economy and military capabilities.
The Iran case was not directly related to the country's drone production but to its aerospace industry.
Abolfazi Bazzazi, 79, and his son, Mohammad Resa Bazzazi, 43, were accused of orchestrating a complex scheme to evade export laws by sending aerospace equipment to Iran, sending the technology to Europe to hide its final destination.