State Lifts Ban on Exports of Night-Vision Goggles; Two Senators Write Letter of Warning to Security Adviser

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Byline: Nicholas Kralev and Bill Gertz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The State Department has lifted a ban on exports of night-vision equipment that was imposed in 2007 on a U.S. company caught selling sensitive defense articles to China and other countries without a license.

Meanwhile, two key U.S. senators on Tuesday wrote to Gen. James L. Jones, the White House national security adviser, warning that the Obama administration's plan to loosen controls on exports of sensitive goods and technology could undermine national security.

We are concerned that potential adversaries have proven adept at acquiring sensitive technologies under the existing system, and that if not carefully tailored, proposed modifications to the system could exacerbate the problem, Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Russ Feingold, Wisconsin Democrat, stated in the letter.

The State Department's decision on ITT Corp., a defense contractor that makes military-grade goggles, monoculars and gun sights capable of seeing through darkness, followed the company's plan to prevent future export violations, as well as its cooperation with the government's investigation, administration officials said.

Three years ago, the State Department said ITT had sold sensitive information to China, Singapore and Britain for night-vision systems without proper export licenses, violating the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations rules, with some of the violations dating back to 1990.

Regarding the bipartisan letter from Mr. Kyl and Mr. Feingold, who generally hold opposite political views on other issues, a Senate aide said the letter is a sign of congressional concerns over plans by the White House to loosen export controls.

President Obama, in his State of the Union speech Jan. 27, said he planned to reform export controls as part of efforts to produce jobs.

We are sure you agree with us that the first priority of evaluating the export control regime must be our national security, the senators stated. We respectfully await your detailed responses to our questions and request for information.

The letter included a list of 15 detailed questions that included a veiled request to halt the Commerce Department's Validate End User program which identified several Chinese companies as eligible for receiving sensitive exports, despite several of the firms being identified with past illicit arms activities. …