Intel Sub Fined for Encryption Exports

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The Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) announced today that it had convinced Wind River, an Intel subsidiary, to pay a whopping $750,000 to settle charges that it exported products with encryption functionality without required licenses. There were also four unlicensed exports of the items to parties on the BIS Entity List.  This is the first announced fine (at least to my knowledge) involving encryption exports, and it has created a bit of a stir among those of us who handle encryption export matters.

Basically the encryption rules try to prevent the export of technology that every twelve-year-old in Estonia already has. Door to empty barn, meet escaping horses; escaping horses, meet door to empty barn. It is a not-so-well-kept secret that the encryption rules are not really there to protect sensitive U.S. technology but as a means to permit the NSA to see who is using what encryption where in order to better snoop on everyone using encryption.

As usual, details are scarce in the settlement documents as to what exactly went on, with the documents simply saying that Wind River exported items classified as 5D002 to government end users in China, Hong Kong, Russia, Israel, South Africa and South Korea. A little snooping of our own showed that the items involved, mostly real time operating systems, were classified by Wind River as 5D002 “ENC restricted.” All ENC restricted items require licenses to government end users in countries other than those countries listed in Supplement 3 to Part 740 of the EAR. The countries involved in the exports at issue are not Supp. 3 countries and, hence, required a license.

The BIS press release justified the size of the fine, despite Wind River’s voluntary disclosure of the violation, because it would “serve as a reminder to companies of their responsibility to know their customers and, when using license exceptions, to ensure their customers are eligible recipients.” This suggests that Wind River’s problems may have arisen because it was dealing with entities that it did not realize were government end users.

However the BIS definition of government end users is hardly a model of clarity:

A government end-user is any foreign central, regional or local government department, agency, or other entity performing governmental functions; including governmental research institutions, governmental corporations or their separate business units (as defined in part 772 of the EAR) which are engaged in the manufacture or distribution of items or services controlled on the Wassenaar Munitions List. …

Consider the portion of the definition that includes “governmental corporations or their separate business units (as defined in part 772 of the EAR) which are engaged in the manufacture or distribution of items or services controlled on the Wassenaar Munitions List.”   For starters, does the qualifier “engaged in manufacture … of items … on the Wassenaar Munitions List” qualify just “separate business units” or both “governmental corporations” and “separate business units”? And what are government corporations? Companies that have a government charter but private ownership? Companies that have a significant percentage owned by the government? Private companies given a government monopoly and that perform a traditional government function? Who knows? But if you get it wrong, expect to be fined by BIS and to be the object of a snide comment that it’s your own darn fault for not figuring out that the company was a government corporation under an essentially meaningless definition.