U.S. Arms Deals Elude Required Scrutiny

Lax oversight in the rush of exports since 9/11 has raised the
specter of weapons landing in the hands of America’s enemies.

Washington – The United States is failing to safeguard much of the
highly sought weaponry it sends abroad – from assault rifles to
sophisticated combat technology, a review by The Denver Post

Lax oversight of weapons exports opens the door for adversaries to
get their hands on lethal missiles, assault guns and components for
larger weapons systems, sources say.

Homeland Security agents recently have uncovered plots to divert
night-vision lenses to Iran, fighter-jet parts to China, grenade
launchers to Colombian guerrillas, nuclear triggers to Pakistan,
and more.

And despite internal warnings, government-sanctioned sales worth
more than $10 billion a year continue spreading more weapons

Congressional leaders responding to The Post’s review are promising
legislation. Among the problems that caught their attention:

Tens of thousands of arms deals aren’t fully reviewed, nor are
weapons inspected abroad as required under the U.S. Arms Control
Export Act to prevent diversion or misuse.

When government officials do review arms deals, they find
increasing problems – including diversions to at least one criminal
and several hostile nations. Nearly one in five arms deals checked
last year – 76 out of 413 – had such problems.

Homeland Security agents investigating illegal dealing say
sophisticated weaponry probably already has reached adversaries.
Total arrests for illegal arms dealing doubled from 62 in 2002 to
125 last year. Customs agents last year made 665 seizures of arms
worth $106 million.

The problems grow from a core dilemma. On one hand, the United
States long has relied on arms exports to support private defense
contractors and to get allies to support U.S. foreign policy goals.
On the other, uncontrolled weapons mean a more dangerous world at a
time when terrorist activity is increasing.

“At a time when many consider the greatest threat to our national
security to be terrorists getting their hands on weapons of mass
destruction, I am extremely concerned that the U.S. government is
not doing enough to make sure that we ourselves are not the source
of any weapons that may be used against us either domestically or
against our citizens, soldiers or allies abroad,” said Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member of the subcommittee on
terrorism and homeland security and member of the Select Committee
on Intelligence.

Feinstein will work on legislation that will “close some of the
loopholes that allow American technology and products to get into
the wrong hands,” she said.

“Simply put, the way business is done now, we have no way of
knowing if much of this technology – including advanced computers,
telecommunications and information systems, lasers, toxins, and
even certain nuclear material and technology, and the like – has
been diverted or is being misused,” Feinstein said.

Defense, Commerce and State department officials responsible for
regulating what goes where acknowledged deficiencies.

Bush administration foreign policy has created pressure to move
weapons quickly to allies, overwhelming controls, Air Force Lt.
Gen. Tome Walters, head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency,
said in an interview before his retirement in July. The agency is
charged with facilitating sales to foreign governments as well as
making sure weapons aren’t diverted or misused.

“A big problem” is the lack of inspectors to keep track of
weapons, Walters said. “And that’s the challenge … the manpower. …
Our system is not designed to do this.”

Diversions exposed by limited reviews raise the possibility of more
diversions not detected.

“I am not comfortable at all,” said Greg Suchan, deputy assistant
secretary of state for defense trade controls.

Even some defense industry leaders – traditional advocates for
relaxing controls – now favor a safer approach.

“A lot of the health and strength of the U.S economy is based on
exports, and it is going to be for some time. But we’ve got to find
a way to manage those exports in a fairly uncertain world,” said
Bob Bauerlein, a former Air Force undersecretary who now serves as
Boeing’s vice president for international operations.

U.S. arms in high demand

Senior Bush administration officials defended the status quo. U.S.
small arms “have not been the weapons that end up in the hands of
child soldiers,” said Lincoln Bloomfield, assistant secretary of
state for political-military affairs. And accelerated sales since
Sept. 11, 2001, will help in the war on terrorism, he said. “Most
of the major arms exports the U.S. does are to armed forces who are
going to do things we want them to do.”

Today, more and more countries – from booming East Asia to the
volatile Middle East – are seeking advanced items for their

And the United States is by far the world’s leading arms supplier,
with annual industry sales topping $300 million and government
sales topping $13 billion last year – a figure expected to reach
$13.8 billion this year, government data show.

In Colorado, some 300 companies are registered to export military
technology – mostly dual-use items that have commercial as well as
military uses. The State Department lists 4,000 companies
nationwide. Names are kept secret.

All deals are supposed to be screened – with congressional
oversight to make sure Defense, Commerce and State department
officials do their jobs. But government documents and interviews
with senior officials, arms control experts, industry lobbyists,
and consultants reveal a systemic failure to control weapons
exports as required by law.

Eye on portable missiles

Consider the case of Stinger shoulder-launched missiles – which the
United States supplies to at least 17 countries, including Egypt,
Israel, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Experts agree that if any U.S.
weapon must be controlled, this is it.

One man can carry a 40- pound, heat-seeking Stinger and, with a bit
of training, shoot down a jumbo jet up to 3 miles away as high as
15,000 feet. In the past 20 years, shoulder-

launched missiles have hit at least 40 civilian planes around the
world, causing crashes and deaths, security analysts estimate. In
November 2002, terrorists firing two Russian-

made shoulder-launched missiles almost hit a Boeing 757 airliner
chartered to evacuate Israeli tourists from Kenya.

Thousands are beyond U.S. government control, according to a study
released in May by the Government Accountability Office, the
investigative arm of Congress.

The Defense Department office responsible “does not know how many
Stingers have been sold overseas,” it said. “Records on the
number and destination of Stingers sold overseas are incomplete,
unreliable and largely in hard-copy form.”

The study followed an August 2000 GAO study that identified similar
problems – which defense officials had promised to fix.

Stinger missiles still move out. A Defense Department spokesman,
who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Army has sent out 237
this year and is in the process of sending 249 more. He declined to
say where.

Overall, State and Defense department regulators last year approved
more than 49,500 deals involving all types of weapons without full
review – let alone monitoring and inspection abroad, documents
show. Arms deals are screened by staffers who process electronic
applications but generally lack time and expertise to conduct
detailed investigations of buyers and sellers. Even in cases where
an application is flagged for closer scrutiny, the most detailed
reviews seldom involve inspections.

Still more deals, involving dual-use technology, were approved
without full review at the Commerce Department. A GAO study
released in March found Commerce officials conducted inspection
visits for only 1 percent of 22,490 sales of missile-related
technology they approved between 1998 and 2002.

The GAO also addressed dual-use technology sent to
government-designated “countries of concern” such as China, India
and Russia that are supposed to receive extra scrutiny. Of 26,340
approved dual-use sales during that period, 7,680 involved
countries of concern. Commerce officials reviewed 428, or 5.6
percent, of those, according to another GAO study. It concluded
that the government “cannot ensure that dual-use items exported to
countries of concern are not misused or diverted.”

Congressional leaders are considering action to deal with “lagging
oversight,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a member of the Senate
Armed Services Committee.

“It seems incongruous to say one of the primary purposes of the
war on terrorism is to make sure weapons of mass destruction don’t
get into the hands of evildoers, and then not to enforce our own
safeguards on weapons sales,” Nelson said.

Probes uncover trouble

When the government does scrutinize arms deals, it finds trouble.

Last year, State Department officials charged with overseeing
private-company deals selected 413 for more careful review, though
still not inspections to verify where weapons are and how they are
used.These targeted reviews found irregularities with 76, or 18.4
percent, of those deals. That’s the highest percentage ever, up
from 11 percent, or 50, of the deals reviewed in 2002, State
Department documents said.

The 413 reviews interrupted a plan to move firearms to a criminal
in Central America, sales of helicopter parts to a hostile country,
and misuse of electronics and communications equipment sent to
Asia, records show. Details were omitted.

The findings indicate more weapons may have slipped through in
deals not reviewed. At a recent industry conference in Colorado
Springs, Suchan, the State Department’s chief regulator, appealed
to defense companies for help. He urged senior managers to make
sure their companies police themselves and voluntarily disclose

State Department supervisors said 32 inspectors – including
contract employees – must process applications for some 50,000
commercial arms deals each year.

At the Defense Department, officials couldn’t say how many
inspections they may have conducted or what they found. Instead,
Walters, the chief overseer, described how after Sept. 11 he faced
pressure to speed up sales.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “was frequently getting phone
calls from the king of Jordan, from folks who were in countries
that were friends of ours that were close by Afghanistan, close by
Iraq. We needed their help, and they needed things,” Walters said.
“The spotlight was really turned on us to work faster and to
provide things, to help Jordan if Jordan needed equipment, to help

Weapons on the loose

Now evidence is mounting that weapons likely are reaching
adversaries including terrorists – via legal and illegal channels.

In Iraq, customs agents picking through stockpiles recently found
much U.S.-origin weaponry and dual-use technology – evidence for
“at least 40 cases involving U.S. companies or people that we
suspect of exporting illegally to Iraq,” Homeland Security
spokesman Dean Boyd said.

And across the world “there is all sorts of material out there … a
lot of things we don’t have any control over,” Boyd said.

Agents last year opened nearly 3,000 new criminal investigations of
suspected illegal arms deals.

In June, a Jordanian man accused of trying to sell fighter-

jet parts illegally to China pleaded guilty in Los Angeles. In May,
a federal grand jury in Philadelphia indicted a former television
journalist from Houston accused of illegally selling night-vision
lenses to Iran.

In April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a
Florida businessman on charges of attempting to purchase more than
6,000 machine guns, grenades, grenade launchers and pistols,
weapons worth nearly $4 million, and send them to the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia – a group the government labels as

In January in Denver, immigration agents arrested a South African
man on charges he illegally exported nuclear trigger devices from a
company in Massachusetts, via South Africa and the United Arab
Emirates, to Pakistan.

Spreading insecurity

The failure to control weaponry presents a major threat to U.S. and
global security, according to critics who question the use of
weapons exports as a tool of foreign policy.

“What we’ve done is spread insecurity around the world,” said
former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth, who also served in the State Department
and now runs the United Nations Foundation.

Arms control advocates contend the rise of terrorism requires
stricter control at home – as well as internationally through
better treaties.

Americans “have to be certain who they are shipping arms to,”
said Wade Boese, research director for the Arms Control
Association, a Washington think tank. “If there is any blind spot,
any place arms slip through cracks, they can reach terrorists.”

But many defense industry leaders oppose increased regulation. They
argue weapons exports are essential even if there are risks. And
some regard arms control as a political tactic at best.

“You can’t control technology,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen.
Larry Farrell, president of the National Defense Industrial
Association. “There are going to be weapons. There are going to be
people who wish other people trouble.”

Terrorists have shown they can harness even ordinary technology to
kill Americans, Farrell pointed out.

And inevitably today’s cutting-edge weaponry “will be discovered
somewhere else,” he said. “It’s just the way people are. … You’ve
got to protect yourself.”

Staff writer Bruce Finley can be reached at 303.954.1700 or

Pakastanis Offer Views on U.S.

Family says America’s government biased against Muslims

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – There’s a mountain bike in the hallway.
The oldest of Badar uz Zaman’s four children is contemplating
college. The parents try to fend off unsavory cultural influences.

This family 11 time zones ahead stayed with friends in Denver
last year, enjoying the same malls, aquarium and movies that
Coloradans enjoy.

The living room of the uz Zamans might feel familiar for
Americans who also are unsettled, anxious about the recent
terrorist attacks and the possibility that violence will beget
more violence.

They fear, as many fear, more trouble.

Their lives underscore the forces that connect families

But a visit with the uz Zaman family – in the quiet of a
living room rather than the tumult of a street demonstration –
also might help Americans understand how very differently some
people here view the world that now seems so conflicted.

The children, ages 11 to 16, just returned from
government-organized public rallies supporting Pakistan’s
pro-United States position in the war against terrorism. It’s a
stand that has divided the country in part because it aligns
Pakistan with a non-Muslim country that may attack Muslims in

Sitting on a red Afghan rug in their living room, where a
framed quote from the Koran – “The greatness of God has been
explained in a beautiful manner” – hangs over a Sony television,
the children blurt out what they really think: that U.S. leaders
have insufficient evidence against Osama bin Laden to justify
attacks on Afghanistan.

That America’s government is biased against Muslim people.

That pro-Israel lobbies guide the campaign against terrorism.

The television on this recent night replays images of
hijacked airliners crashing into World Trade Center towers. Badar,
47, confides he recently dreamed of F-16s flying above a horrible

“World War III?” he says. “Maybe.”

“These attacks may provide the American government another
cause, another excuse, for putting more military weapons in this
region,” 15-year-old Osama says. “These things scare us. We all
know the nuclear issue. I want a peaceful world.”

“Enmity in its heart’

Badar, giving voice to the divide political scientists see
between the West and the Islamic world, says he’s convinced that
“the West has enmity in its heart against Muslims.”

And like many on the other side of that divide, this family
wants the United States, beyond smoking out villains, to
re-evaluate policies.

You enter their two-story house through a white metal gate.
Hamida, 43, her head covered with a magenta veil, labors out of
sight in the kitchen.

Each day begins with hustle. Badar or Hamida drives the
children to school around 8. Hamida runs the household while Badar
buys and sells real estate, then breaks around 2 to take the
children home for a meal before returning to his office.

Thanks to Badar’s success, the family is preparing to move to
a bigger house in neighboring Rawalpindi. Everyone prays daily –
though not always five times. On weekends, they sometimes pile
into a black, four-door Toyota to visit the mountains up north.

As a boy, Badar memorized the Koran word for word. Now
Muslims around America – where Islam is the fastest-growing
religion – invite him to recite by memory during the Ramadan holy
month of fasting, a few hours each night.

Frequent trips to Denver

The family has been to Denver twice and Badar has come 13
times since 1985. He speaks fondly of Denver’s gold-domed mosque.

“There are opportunities,” Badar says of life in America.
Good universities. “Freedom.”

He considered moving his family to Denver but decided to stay
in Islamabad, the capital of this country of 141.6 million.

“In America, you are very busy,” Badar says. “Life is more
comfortable here.”

Americans sometimes felt out of balance, struggling to make
mortgage and car payments without cultivating family life. A
“cruel” interest-based banking system – the dominant global
banking system – may be part of the problem, he says.

“Islam says man’s life is more than just working and sleeping
– there must be space for the soul.”

Another issue was his discomfort with aspects of American

“Just watching television in the United States, you could see
it’s not good for the little ones – especially girls. Boyfriends
and girlfriends, those things. After 18, you have no control over
our children.”

Badar is the son of a soldier who became a farmer. He grew up
in a stone house – no electricity or running water – in Waulah, a
town about 100 miles south of here.

A strict local imam spotted him at 13 and, with support from
Badar’s mother, drove him to memorize the Koran’s words. He hated
the challenge at the time, reading over and over by the flickering
light of a lantern. But he persevered.

“We want peace’

Now his children are studying too, not by lantern light but
at an elite public school where seniors aim for Oxford and Yale.
Coursework includes British history in eighth grade and the U.S.
Constitution and legal system in high school.

They adopt their critical posture toward the United States,
Badar says, because they read the two newspapers that arrive daily
at the house.

They also take in television, conversations with teachers and
parents, and words in the Koran that call for defense of Islam.

“It’s not that we hate the American people,” Osama
emphasizes. “It’s not like that. It’s a matter of government. We
can’t support the stance of the U.S. government. We like the
American people. We want peace. We want peace all over the world.”

Sore spots he and his sisters cite: U.S. policies toward
Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia.

Students perceive a willingness to let Muslims suffer.

Breaking down barriers

As the smells of lamb, spicy fish and rice waft from the
kitchen, Sana, 16, says the United States revealed its bias when,
in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, many people quickly
suspected Muslims.

She and her sisters – Ifra, 13, and Sundus, 11 – take an
active role in family conversations. They don’t wear the
traditional veil. Badar “is pretty relaxed” about that, says Sana,
who wears traditional loose trousers and a flowing top.

The younger girls play cricket, baseball and badminton at
school. They’ve grown up at a time when a woman, Benazir Bhutto,
broke down barriers as Pakistan’s prime minister.

Osama, wearing khaki trousers and a blue T-shirt, talks of
studying at elite universities in Britain or the United States.
He’s inclined toward aeronautical engineering, and also is
passionate about politics, devouring this week’s issue of The

Skeptical on terrorism

A question on this 15-year-old’s mind: “How is terrorism

Without a clear, accepted definition, he says, a U.S.-led
crackdown might focus too much on Muslim groups. “Why not think
about Jews, or other people? They could be terrorists, too.”

The United States is trying to assure current and potential
allies in its anti-terrorism campaign that this is not a war on
Islam. Many here are skeptical and say they want the Bush
administration to show the proof it says it has that bin Laden is
behind the attacks of Sept. 11.

During the public “solidarity” rallies, for which class was
canceled and students were enlisted as marchers, some students
spoke in Urdu as foreign broadcast cameras beamed.

“Osama is a star. We condemn the United States,” they say
half-jokingly, Sana and Osama say.

The United States, those children say, should apply its own
principles. Osama opened a notebook and spoke about the Magna
Carta and U.S. Constitution and due process in the legal system.
Attacking a terrorist suspect in Afghanistan would be “violating
your own Constitution,” he says.

Sana says: “If America presents evidence, we are with you.”

« Previous entries