Project Shield America is an integral part of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (U.S. ICE) strategy of preventing illegal exporters, targeted foreign countries, terrorist groups, and international criminal organizations from trafficking Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and their components out of the U.S. including; obtaining and illegally exporting licensable commodities, technologies, conventional munitions, and firearms; exporting stolen property; and engaging in financial and other transactions which support these activities or which violate U.S. sanctions and embargoes.
U.S. ICE is the first line of defense at US borders to protect the American public from international terrorism. ICE's mission in combating international terrorism is two-fold:
- Protect the American public from the introduction of WMD and other instruments of terror into the U.S.
- Prevent international terrorists and criminal organizations from obtaining WMD materials and technologies, arms, funds, and other support from U.S. and foreign sources.
Adversaries of the U.S. have acquired U.S. and Western technology since the Second World War by various means, both legal and illegal. Such acquisitions have provided these countries with the fruits of Western research and strategic technology largely without cost, and have permitted these countries to channel their resources to other areas. U.S. munitions and technology have assisted US adversaries in jeopardizing US soldiers, citizens, and interests. The fact that nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and their components are more widely available to terrorists and rogue Nations now than at any other time in US history, has necessitated the development, implementation, and success of Project Shield America.
As with any illegal trade, the exact volume is difficult to measure or even to estimate. U.S. ICE criminal investigations and seizures indicate, however, that such trade can be valued in the tens of millions of dollars annually. The monetary value of the illegal exports discovered by U.S. ICE is often secondary to the strategic and potential military value of these products. For example, in one investigation a sophisticated military aviation guidance system was seized by Customs prior to its exportation from the U.S. While the value of this system was only a few thousand dollars, its acquisition by our adversaries could have jeopardized the security of the U.S. and its allies.
U.S. ICE has designed and implemented Project Shield America to work in concert with the three-pronged effort of its Export Enforcement Program:
- Inspection/Interdiction. The inspection and interdiction effort utilizes specially trained U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Inspectors stationed at high threat ports to selectively inspect suspect export shipments.
- Investigations. The investigations effort involves U.S. ICE Special Agents deployed throughout the country, who initiate and pursue high quality cases which result in the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of offenders of the Export Administration Act, Arms Export Control Act, Trading with the Enemy Act, International Emergency Economics Powers Act, and other related statutes. U.S. ICE efforts are concentrated in the proactive mode utilizing various techniques to detect and disrupt illegal exports before they can cause damage to the national security interests of the United States.
- International Cooperation. The international cooperation effort focuses on the use of ICE Attaché offices enlisting the support of their host governments. This is done in an effort to initiate new investigative leads, which are based on information provided by their foreign contacts, and to develop information in support of on-going domestic investigations. Information developed by U.S. ICE as the result of Project Shield America industry contacts, is used to support and enhance these three interdependent efforts. These efforts are all supported by the Exodus Command Center located in Washington, D.C. This Center maintains contacts with the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, Defense, and other agencies concerned with the export of critical U.S. technologies, munitions, and services.
Some of the strategic technology most urgently needed by certain proscribed countries includes:
- Modern manufacturing technology for the production of microelectronics, computers, digital electronic components, and signal processing systems.
- Technology necessary for the development of aircraft, missile, and other tactical weapon delivery systems.
- All types of advanced signal and weapons detection, tracking and monitoring systems.
- Technology and equipment used in the construction of nuclear weapons and materials
- Biological, chemical warfare agents and precursors, and associated manufacturing equipment.
Since its inception in 1981, the U.S. ICE (formerly U.S. Customs) Export Enforcement Program has been responsible for seizures of controlled technology including laser guidance devices, military equipment, sophisticated computer systems, and numerous other items critical to allied defense and U.S. industry. These seizures have also included high-technology items designed primarily for civilian use, but the export of which is controlled to certain destinations because of potential military use.
Recognizing the success of this Program, other countries have initiated their own export control programs, often through training provided by U.S. ICE personnel.
Indications of Potential Illegal Exports
U.S. ICE solicits the assistance of private industry to provide information relating to suspicious acquisitions of high technology and munitions items, or services relating to these items. The following are possible indicators of illegal exports or diversions:
- The customer is willing to pay cash for a high value order rather than use a standard method of payment, which usually involves a letter of credit.
- The customer is willing to pay well in excess of market value for the commodities.
- The purchaser is reluctant to provide information on the end-use or end-user, of the product.
- The end-use information provided is incompatible with the customary purpose for which the product is designed.
- The final consignee is a trading company, freight forwarder, export company, or other entity with no apparent connection to the purchaser.
- The customer appears unfamiliar with the product, its application, support equipment, or performance.
- The packaging requirements are inconsistent with the shipping mode or destination.
- The customer orders products or options that do not correspond with their line of business.
- The customer has little or no business background.
- Firms or individuals from foreign countries other than the country of the stated end-user place the order.
- The order is being shipped via circuitous or economically illogical routing.
- The customer declines the normal service, training, or installation contracts.
- The product is inappropriately or unprofessionally packaged (e.g. odd sized/re-taped boxes, hand lettering in lieu of printing, altered labels, or labels that cover old ones).vThe size or weight of the package does not fit the product described.
- "Fragile" or other special markings on the package are inconsistent with the commodity described.
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