Many principal investigators, graduate students or research fellows, and even undergraduates travel internationally to attend or present at conferences and meetings, to collaborate with colleagues at other research institutions, and to perform their actual field research. But the academic traveler’s failure to comply with U.S. export control laws can have grave consequences. A former professor at the University of Tennessee, for example, was recently convicted for conspiracy to violate the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the parent statute to the International Traffic In Arms Regulations (ITAR), because of “deemed exports” made through disclosures to foreign graduate students from Iran and China and through carrying sensitive defense research-related reports on his laptop while traveling to China . His laptop was seized and searched by federal agents on his return from that trip. The 72 year-old academic was sentenced to four years in prison for violating the AECA by exporting technical information related to a U.S. Air Force research and development contract . This case clearly illustrates that both institutions and academic travelers must take the time to understand the applicable export control regulations and then to apply them properly, or else they may face equally stern treatment by the federal authorities with regard to their exports or deemed exports made in the course of their international travel.
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