WASHINGTON—The Justice Department has appointed Steven W. Pelak, an 18-year veteran federal prosecutor, to serve as the Justice Department’s first-ever National Export Control Coordinator to improve the investigation and prosecution of illegal exports of U.S. arms and sensitive technology, Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, announced today.
In his new position, Mr. Pelak is detailed to the Counter-Espionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, where he is responsible for enhancing the capacity and expertise of Justice Department prosecutors to handle these complex investigations and prosecutions. As part of that effort, Mr. Pelak helped to host a national export control conference last month where federal prosecutors from around the country gathered to discuss such cases and receive detailed instruction and guidance on export control.
Going forward, Mr. Pelak will also be responsible for ensuring full coordination between the Justice Department and the many other U.S. law enforcement, licensing and intelligence agencies that play a role in export enforcement. He will also solicit and receive regular progress reports from U.S. Attorneys’ offices on the development of export control cases.
As the Attorney General stated in his speech on nuclear terrorism earlier this month, the threat posed by illegal exports of controlled U.S. technology is substantial. According to an August 2006 report by the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, entities from a record 108 nations were involved in collection efforts against sensitive U.S. technologies in fiscal year 2005. While foreign nations and terrorist organizations rarely seek complete weapons systems from the United States, they routinely focus on acquiring components that they can use as building blocks to develop their own systems. Many have targeted our government, private industries, and universities as sources of this material.
“It is no secret that many foreign countries and terrorist organizations are actively seeking to acquire sensitive U.S. technology and equipment to advance their weapons systems and, in some cases, their weapons of mass destruction programs,” said Assistant Attorney General Wainstein. “With the appointment of Mr. Pelak, we have selected a highly qualified law enforcement veteran to spearhead our export control training and coordination efforts, all of which are designed to keep America’s critical technology from falling into the wrong hands.”
Mr. Pelak is on detail to the National Security Division from his position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and Senior Litigation Counsel in the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. In that position, Mr. Pelak has investigated and prosecuted a wide variety of export control cases, terrorism matters within the United States, and overseas murders and hostage takings of U.S. citizens. Since September 2001, he has served as the Anti-Terrorism Coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Mr. Pelak became a federal prosecutor in 1989 after several years in private practice with the law firms of Arnold & Porter and Hughes Hubbard & Reed in Washington, D.C. Before that, he served as a judicial law clerk for the Honorable Douglas W. Hillman, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan. Mr. Pelak graduated cum laude from Kalamazoo College and the University of Michigan Law School in 1982 and 1985, respectively.
In recent years, the Justice Department has prosecuted independent arms brokers and foreign agents for attempting to illegally acquire component parts for nuclear weapons systems, guidance systems for rockets and missiles, as well as base ingredients for chemical and biological weapons. In the past several months alone, the Department has charged defendants with illegally supplying missile technology, military night vision data, fighter jet components, and military helicopter data to foreign nations. Some recent cases are detailed below:
*U.S. Naval Warship Data to China - On June 6, 2007, a fifth and final defendant in Southern California was convicted of participating in a scheme to obtain and illegally export U.S. military technology to China. The investigation determined that Chi Mak, a former engineer with a U.S. Navy contractor, was at the center of the plot. He had been provided with lists from co-conspirators in China that requested specific data, including U.S. Naval research related to nuclear submarines. Mak had gathered technical data about the Navy’s current and future warship technology and conspired to export this data to China. He was found guilty at trial in May. His four co-defendants all pleaded guilty.
*Missiles, Arms to LTTE Terrorists, Indonesian Military -- On May 10, 2007, Thirunavukarasu Varatharasa pleaded guilty in Baltimore to conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and attempted export of arms and munitions. Varatharasa conspired with Haji Subandi, Haniffa Osman and Erik Wotulo to provide surface-to-air missiles, machine guns, night vision devices, and other weapons to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka. All four have pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme. Two additional defendants have also pleaded guilty to export violations as part of a plot to provide arms to the Indonesian military.
*Technology to Facilities in India Involved in Missile Development -- On April 3, 2007, Parasarathy Sudarshan was arraigned in federal court in Washington, D.C. on charges of illegally exporting restricted U.S. technology to Indian state entities involved in ballistic missile development, acting as an illegal agent of India, and exporting military technology to India for the development of a new fighter jet. Sudarshan was one of four defendants indicted. He and another defendant were arrested on March 23, 2007.