Good morning everyone.
Joining me on stage are: Julie Myers, Assistant Secretary for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); Timothy D. Bereznay, Assistant Director, FBI Counterintelligence Division; Darryl Jackson, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement; Charles Beardall, Director of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS); and Ambassador Stephen Mull, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs.
I am pleased to join my colleagues here today to announce a comprehensive new export enforcement initiative being launched by these agencies, by the Justice Department's National Security Division, and by the U.S. Attorneys offices around the country.
This initiative focuses on the national security threat posed by the illegal export of sensitive American technology -- technology that includes a wide range of controlled U.S. military items, dual-use technology, and other products -- some of which can be used in the development of weapons of mass destruction.
It goes without saying that keeping this technology from falling into the wrong hands has never been more important than it is now in the post 9/11 world. We know that Al Qaeda has been trying to acquire or make weapons of mass destruction for more than a decade. We know that Usama bin Laden issued a fatwa declaring it an obligation of his followers to develop and use such dangerous weapons.
And, we know that foreign states are actively seeking out our technology to advance their own military systems and technical capacity. We know that several countries have established full-fledged procurement networks -- networks that work through front companies, joint ventures, trade delegations and other mechanisms to methodically target our government, our private industries and our universities as sources of this material.
Such countries have no interest in trying to match our technological progress through honest competition. They have no interest in undertaking the effort this country undertook 50 years ago last week when we saw the Soviet Sputnik orbiting the globe for the first time in history. When we saw that, we mobilized all our industrial and human resources and we outpaced the Soviet space program with our brains and determination. The technology-acquiring countries we're dealing with today have no interest in such a competition; they would rather let us develop the technology and then simply steal it from us.
And, that's exactly what they're doing. An Intelligence Community report issued last year noted that as many as 108 different nations have entities that are engaged in efforts to obtain controlled U.S. technology, and a Defense Department report described a 43 percent increase last year in the number of suspicious foreign contacts with U.S. defense firms. In short, the United States has become the world's primary target for technology theft.
The threat of technology theft and proliferation is a subtle, but extremely insidious, threat to our national security. It is a threat that is carried out in the shadows, and it does not raise the same level of alarm as the violence of a terrorist attack or the sword-rattling of a belligerent rogue state. But, it is a very serious threat, nonetheless. It is just as dangerous, and just as potentially deadly.
The severity of this threat has prompted a response on a number of fronts. Congress, for instance, has been considering legislation to strengthen our authorities in this area, and I understand that some legislation was proposed as recently as yesterday.
But, most importantly for this event, the law enforcement community represented here today has responded to this threat effectively, and in a variety of ways.
ICE has doubled the number of agents assigned to export control cases; the FBI has enhanced its counterintelligence efforts against export violators; the Commerce Department has increased its successful investigations and prosecutions involving illegal exports by about 80% this past year; the DCIS and other Defense Department agencies have stepped up their investigative efforts to protect our military technology.
And, we at the Department of Justice have made export control our top counterintelligence priority. In fact, we have seen a 60 percent increase in the number of export control cases filed over the past year. In fact, you'll hear about developments in two cases that happened in just the past week the sentencing of a Pittsburgh company for lying to regulators about the illegal export to Pakistan of items used in nuclear reactors and missiles and the charges brought against two individuals in Utah for trying to export components for F-4 and F-14 fighter jets, technology that Iran desperately needs to maintain its air force.
While this increased enforcement activity is a step forward, we all believe that we need to undertake a stronger and more comprehensive response to this threat. Just as we mobilized after 9/11 to mount our effort against the threat of international terrorism, we need to mobilize and harness all of our counter-proliferation assets and focus them on the threat of technology proliferation.
We're doing that with this initiative, and we're doing it in a couple of ways.
First, we are building the expertise we need among the prosecutors to handle the increasing workload we're getting from the investigating agencies. Because these cases typically involve sensitive international issues, classified information and complex regulatory schemes, they can be extremely difficult to prosecute. Some prosecutors have a great deal of experience in these cases, while others do not. Under this initiative, we are expanding our training of field prosecutors around the country, and we recently appointed a new National Export Control Coordinator, Steve Pelak, to help manage the prosecutor training and to make sure that our prosecutors have the tools they need to handle these cases effectively.
Second, we are creating Counter-Proliferation Task Forces in districts around the country that will bring together the prosecutors, the investigative agencies, the export licensing agencies and the intelligence community to coordinate their efforts against export theft on both a strategic and an operational level. Just as we have done with the Joint Terrorism Task Forces and other coordinating mechanisms in the counterterrorism context, these task forces will help to institutionalize and ensure the coordination that is so absolutely vital to our ability to defend against technology proliferators.
I'd like to thank my colleagues here today, as well as the U.S. Attorneys and all of our other partners who are working so hard to build this coordination. Their efforts -- and the presence of my colleagues here today -- demonstrate both our recognition of the threat we face and our commitment to do everything in our power to prevent our sensitive technologies and military systems from falling into the wrong hands.
With that, I'd like to turn it over to the other representatives here who can discuss their role in this initiative and shed more light on some of the recent cases that have been brought. Afterwards, we'd be happy to take your questions.