Monday, June 8, 2015

The ITAR Thing

At Major Commercial Avionics Corporation, I take a mandatory annual training class in ITAR (International Trade in Arms Regulations) and EAR (Export Administration Regulations).  These monstrosity laws are part and parcel of what we have to do; although, being a Commercial Avionics Corporation, we work far more with EAR than ITAR. 

Because of that, I find it hard to believe this proposed ruling actually says what's being reported

The idea that posting something on the internet is going to become classified as an "Export" is not new to me.  We not only can't post things on the Internet about defense-related products, we can't put them on our company intranet that is completely isolated from the outside world.  Because we have facilities all around the world, including places that most of us would think could be troublesome (like the PRC), and we also have people in the US who are foreign nationals. We have to be careful not to allow access to this Technical Data to just anyone in those categories.

Of course, I'm not a lawyer and I don't even play one here much less than TV, but the way I read this is that it's aimed at Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed.  You know the Tyrants HAAAAATE  This is how they attack them.  With the kind of lawbreaking they went through in the case against The Silk Road, (minor example 1, minor example 2, egregious example) you know they're going to try something. 

There are two important points here.  They say
"In their current form, the ITAR do not (as a rule) regulate technical data that are in what the regulations call the 'public domain.' Essentially, this means data 'which is published and which is generally accessible or available to the public' through a variety of specified means. These include 'at libraries open to the public or from which the public can obtain documents.'
Some State Department officials now insist that anything published online in a generally-accessible location has essentially been 'exported,' as it would be accessible to foreign nationals both in the U.S. and overseas.
That's saying anything that already exists online or is generally accessible to the public has already been exported. 

But the story we're getting is that if you tell someone how to clean their AR, that's a violation of ITAR.  The way I read this, they're saying something that appears in books in libraries is already in the public domain and has already been exported.   They are not seeking to regulate this.  Does ITAR cover information about the AR-15?  If there's anything left that you can't find in half a dozen books, sure.  Does ITAR cover something like cleaning an AR that's already out there in all kinds of public information?  I can't imagine how that could be.  How about your favorite load for 5.56 NATO?  If you tell someone, "I had good success with 27 grains of Varget and a 55 grain FMJBT bullet" - maybe.   If you tell them,  "I had good success with the 27 grains of Varget and a 55 grain FMJBT bullet load from page 223 of the Speer Reloading Manual"; that manual has already been exported.  Likewise if it's from a website full of custom loads.  Because the full plans for an AR have been in the public (exported) for decades, I can't even see them going after you for posting how you built one.  If you post that you like your SmithenSpiel 129 better than the Taurus Eagle 50, (or that "1911s rule, Glocks drool") there's no technical data there whatsoever.

What would you need to get permission for?  Certainly a new gun design would.  Or a design improvement for a military weapon.  It's clear they're trying to stop more printable guns, receivers or other designs from getting into widespread circulation.  You know that the revolution in small production is driving anti-gun regulators crazy.  Just like the free speech of the internet drives them crazy.  It takes away their control, and they're nothing if not control freaks.  

In my comments to the proposal, I'm going to make an effort to come up with things that don't rely on the current line of arguments we're seeing.  You can understand they won't like the argument that they can't stop the spread of 3D printed weaponry; it's against their DNA.  I think the argument is that nothing gun bloggers talk about could conceivably be something to worry about. 


  1. I used to have a weblink to a guy's site that had all kinds of info on making your ouwn guns out of "stuff" like pipe fittings and things.

    Full plans for single-shot through full-auto, whatever you wanted.

    The link went dead a couple of years ago because I heard Big Gov shut him down, and threw him in prison.

    I don't remember if he was in the USA or not....

  2. I've done very little metal work as I am a woodworker, but I'm very interested in this. What would you recommend I look into for milling if I had a spare $1500-$2000? One of these automated solutions or a more general mill that is more flexible?

    The price point on these Ghost mills seems low enough if you were going to go ahead and do 10 or so lowers.

    Sounds like a new project to annoy the DW with...

    Thanks, brent

  3. The "full-auto" part can get you jailed. It's my understanding that even trying to describe how to modify a firearm, explain what parts you need and such, can be construed as a "conspiracy" to violate the "law" (actually BATFE regulations, which are treated as having the force of law, IIRC).

    [John Ross did a scene where a new, young BATFE agent was directed by his supervisor to try to get people at a gun show to discuss it, in an attempt to entrap them. When he tries to pull it on Henry Bowman, Bowman makes a citizen's arrest and calls for BATFE to respond to his location, knowing full well it was a sting. The supervisor is embarrassed, and marks Bowman as someone he will devote agency resources to destroy.]

    Describing how to do something legal - like complete an 80% receiver, or printing your own receiver - angers the .gov control freaks, as Graybeard says. They will tweak, bend, and distort or even ignore the BoR as necessary to achieve their agenda. New regulations - after the proper period of ignoring comments and reasonable objections to published potential new regulations - will allow them to shut down some of the avenues toward "rolling your own".

    Interestingly, here in Montana, where our gun laws are among the best in the country, we still have some legislation passed by liberal legislators and signed by liberal governors, that is worse than even Federal law: we cannot shorten the barrel on a muzzleloading rifle or shotgun below the 16"/18" lengths required for cartridge long-arms, even though the Feds don't restrict it (Federal law - at this time - does not consider muzzleloaders to be firearms). Shortening any muzzleloaders that have a serial number that can prove it was originally sold with 16"/18" barrels could land you in jail, if some cop/prosecutor decide to target you.

  4. Regulations like these are about how they can be interpreted and used.
    That's why they are invariably vague and unclear. They are intended to
    be used as desired by those in power. Not on their nice list? You get
    to try and defend your actions after being charged under a rule that is
    so vague that ANY interpretation could be applied.....and will usually
    be unfavorable to the defendant....meaning a citizen. As usual it's all
    about control. This is just one more tool for control.

  5. Selective enforcement ... enough said ?

  6. The danger here is not the 1:1 correlation between technical data publication and ITAR violations, it is the chilling effect from threat of too convenient prosecutions for ITAR violations.

    The dot gov has buckets of money for investigators and prosecutors with which Joe and Jane Citizen can be bludgeoned into submission. I suspect they realize they're unable to destroy Cody Wilson directly so the new plan is to incrementally destroy everything else; it's Frog Boiling 101.

  7. I think the term is flypaper laws. Laws meant to trap anyone in the area.

    I'm under no delusions that the is anything less than invasive tyrants. I trust them 0%, so I can truly say nobody trusts them less than I do. I'm fully aware that laws always expand and they'll always push for more power thn specifically granted.

    I suppose my main points are (1) defining publishing something to the Internet to be an export isn't something new they made up just for us. It's everywhere: you can export something to a foreign country if you give something to a foreigner in this country, or even if they see something you have that's ITAR regulated and you don't give it to them. and (2) when we comment, we need to not sound like loonies. We need to make cogent, legal arguments. I don't know what they are yet, but I'm working on it.

  8. I think it would be useful to look at the hell they but Philip Zimmerman through.
    Do not expect sanity or fairness. Zimmerman had to try his case in the media. This is just another way to weaponize a federal bureaucracy against whomever they don't like at the moment.

    I think the biggest argument to convince them against it that they just might wind up getting the entire "technical data" portion of ITAR tossed by the supreme court if they go down this road. They could care less about our freedom or their oaths so show them how it threatens their power.

    Mass disobedience could also again threaten their power. Establishing an adversarial relationship with millions of Americans is not going to make export control easy.

  9. How can anyone realistically expect to prevent the "export" of publicly available information? Might as well wish for winged puppies who shit skittles.

    How far does that go, anyway? Do I need permission to travel to other countries, because my head contains sufficient knowledge of firearms to design working weapons from scratch? I'm no JMB, but it's not like an open bolt submachinegun is complex. Nor is a bolt action rifle. With some trial and error I'm sure I could get gas and recoil operated weapons running too, if someone wanted to bankroll me.

    Firearms are machines--not sacred magical instruments that require arcane knowledge to build--and simple ones at that. Thus, information that applies to non-firearm machines applies to firearms as well. Heat treatment, metal finishing, material selection, lubrication, spring rates, clearances... talking about that stuff is fine if I'm talking about designing a motorcycle engine, but not if I'm talking about a firearm?

    "Today, I'll show you how to parkerize this connecting rod... *wink*."


  10. Late comment, I know but didn't we go through something like this in the early 90's with Phil Zimmerman and PGP?