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posted by hubie on Sunday January 22, @11:49PM   Printer-friendly

Some people want to win arguments no matter the cost:

WTF?! Governments looking for classified documents on other nations' military vehicles might no longer require spies to get the job done; they can just check out the War Thunder forum. Once again, someone used the popular game's message board to post restricted military Intel—twice.

The first incident occurred earlier this week during a discussion about the F-16 Fighting Falcon, a single-engine multirole fighter aircraft originally developed by General Dynamics for the United States Air Force. It was introduced in 1978 but is still used in active duty today.

Aerotime reports that during the lengthy conversation about the aircraft, a user called spacenavy90 wrote that he found something "interesting" during his research about AMRAAM missiles for the F-16. He proved this by attaching a document that contained export-restricted data.

[...] This is a familiar phenomenon for the War Thunder forums. Schematics for the Challenger 2 tank extracted from its Army Equipment Support Publication (AESP) were posted in 2021. This was followed a few months later by another leaked document, this one on the French Leclerc Main Battle Tank and its variants, prompting Gaijin to warn users against the practice as the team didn't want to "end up chained at the bottom of a disguised CIA cargo ship in international waters." The warning was ignored—classified documents relating to Chinese tanks were posted to the forum last year.

These documents are usually posted to win arguments. But even those that have been declassified fall under the jurisdiction of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which limits the disclosure of US weapons data. One has to wonder if proving you're correct is worth a potential ten-year prison sentence.

Obligatory XKCD


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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by khallow on Monday January 23, @01:42AM (13 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 23, @01:42AM (#1288118) Journal

    attaching a document that contained export-restricted data.

    This example isn't classified data, it's instead subeject to ITAR [wikipedia.org] (International Traffic in Arms Regulations), one of the US's worse violations of the First Amendment. To be blunt, this document was posted lawfully, it just violated an illegal law.

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by MrGuy on Monday January 23, @02:44AM (8 children)

      by MrGuy (1007) on Monday January 23, @02:44AM (#1288125)

      Aaannnd...a SECOND obligatory XKCD.

      https://xkcd.com/504/ [xkcd.com]

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 24, @01:35AM (7 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 24, @01:35AM (#1288285)
        But is the right to bear arms in the USA the same as the right to export arms out of the USA?

        Doesn't seem the same to me.
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday January 24, @05:57AM (6 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 24, @05:57AM (#1288326) Journal
          Depends on whether the latter is part of the former. I'd say it was with encryption since you can't encrypt, if one side doesn't have access to the process at all. Arguing about fighter jets online seems more a straightforward application of the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, @03:04AM (5 children)

            by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, @03:04AM (#1288477)

            Depends on whether the latter is part of the former. I'd say it was with encryption since you can't encrypt, if one side doesn't have access to the process at all.

            Nope. Irrelevant. Sure your AR15 needs to be fully assembled in order to work. But that doesn't mean the 2nd Amendment gives you the right to export your AR15 or parts of it to Russia so that it can be used there.

            You still haven't proven the 2nd Amendment gives you the right to export arms to a different country.

            You can still use the crypto stuff in the USA perfectly fine to maintain the security of a free state etc etc.

            • (Score: 0, Troll) by khallow on Wednesday January 25, @04:35AM (4 children)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @04:35AM (#1288488) Journal

              Nope. Irrelevant. Sure your AR15 needs to be fully assembled in order to work. But that doesn't mean the 2nd Amendment gives you the right to export your AR15 or parts of it to Russia so that it can be used there.

              The obvious rebuttal is that encryption only works if all parties to the communication are using it. It's by necessity a collective munition. You can't properly bear encryption if nobody else can encrypt their messages for you or decrypt your encrypted messages.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, @08:13AM (3 children)

                by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, @08:13AM (#1288506)
                Disingenuous or stupid argument. You can still use that exact same encryption in the USA.

                The 2nd amendment gives you the right to bear arms in the USA. Just because you want to shoot people in Russia or export guns to them doesn't mean your wishful thinking magically makes the 2nd Amendment give you the right to do so.
                • (Score: 0, Troll) by khallow on Wednesday January 25, @01:54PM (2 children)

                  by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday January 25, @01:54PM (#1288522) Journal

                  Disingenuous or stupid argument. You can still use that exact same encryption in the USA.

                  Not when communicating with people outside the US. There's a lot of those people.

                  The 2nd amendment gives you the right to bear arms in the USA. Just because you want to shoot people in Russia or export guns to them doesn't mean your wishful thinking magically makes the 2nd Amendment give you the right to do so.

                  And my obvious rebuttal is that in order to bear arms you need those arms to work. A rifle doesn't require anyone else to use that same rifle in order for your rifle to work. Crypto is different.

                  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, @01:40AM (1 child)

                    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 26, @01:40AM (#1288625)

                    And my obvious rebuttal is that in order to bear arms you need those arms to work.

                    Most crypto works whether the other parties are in the USA or not.

                    You insisting on the other parties being outside the USA is your own problem. Other people are free to use that same crypto to communicate with parties within the USA.

                    The 2nd amendment gives you the right to bear arms, not the right to shoot/export arms outside the USA, nor for other parties to have the same right to bear arms outside the USA.

                    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday January 26, @03:25AM

                      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday January 26, @03:25AM (#1288646) Journal

                      Most crypto works whether the other parties are in the USA or not.

                      How does that other party get their hands on the crypto application? It's illegal for me to share, remember?

                      You insisting on the other parties being outside the USA is your own problem. Other people are free to use that same crypto to communicate with parties within the USA.

                      It's my problem that 96% of the world is outside the US? Anything else I need to take the blame for?

    • (Score: 2) by turgid on Tuesday January 24, @07:40AM (3 children)

      by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 24, @07:40AM (#1288334) Journal

      I'm interested to hear what ideological objections you have to ITAR.

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday January 24, @07:14PM (2 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 24, @07:14PM (#1288405) Journal

        I'm interested to hear what ideological objections you have to ITAR.

        For example, a US citizen merely talking about the nuts and bolts of rocketry, nuclear power, or early on even crypto (among many other things) on SN could violate ITAR because SN doesn't prevent foreign nationals (who ITAR prohibits from communicating) from reading those posts. There have been numerous occasions where academics or industry engineers have given talks at conferences or colleges that have run afoul of this law.

        To give a specific example, I used to do volunteer work for JP Aerospace [wikipedia.org]. About 10-15 years back, the founder traveled to China to give a talk on what JP Aerospace was doing (high altitude, unmanned experimental balloons at the time). As I recall the story, he was warned on the trip out by the Department of State (which is responsible for enforcing ITAR) against violating the conditions of ITAR. They may have even briefly interviewed afterwards, though I don't remember the story well enough to say for sure.

        Now, imagine an aerospace company trying to do business outside of the US. Your engineers can no longer speak to the other side's engineers because it might violate ITAR at some point (and that can get expensive [militaryaerospace.com]!). This gives some idea of the scale [csis.org] of the problem:

        During those 15 years, several government agencies and industry associations analyzed and reported on the negative impact of ITAR regulations. One of the most notable of these reports was published in 2007 and led by the Air Force Research Laboratory with support from the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security. The focus of the assessment was on global marketplace competitiveness, the health of the United States space industry, and the United States export control process. Data from the report was based on a survey of 274 space companies and 202 respondents. The study concluded that ITAR was having a significant impact on United States competitiveness as companies reported that $2.35 billion of foreign sales, which equaled around 1 percent of total U.S. space revenue and 17 percent of U.S. foreign sales at the time, had been lost between 2003 to 2006 due to ITAR license processing problems such as license rejections or restrictions.10 The conclusion of the report stated, “ITAR has either directly or indirectly precipitated the global competition and is a significant impediment to the United States space industry’s ability to market to foreign buyers.”

        So to summarize the "ideological" objections: we have that it is a straight-forward violation of the First Amendment (and I'm a firm backer of free speech); a US citizen who happens to be a knowledgeable layman or outlier engineer can violate ITAR through innocuous communication on the wrong subjects; no significant risk to the US has been addressed by ITAR; and it has caused substantial harm to US industry and commerce over the past twenty years.

        The story above illustrates these problems succinctly. A document that wasn't restricted in the US is posted to an international forum, triggering said violation of ITAR. No harm will result because anyone who would benefit from acquisition of this document likely has already obtained it from other sources who oddly enough didn't respect ITAR either. And it demonstrates the harm of ITAR since it would otherwise allow ignorance of other War Thunder forum readers to continue - which I consider a much more serious problem than imaginary US national security risks.

        • (Score: 2) by turgid on Tuesday January 24, @07:40PM (1 child)

          by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 24, @07:40PM (#1288409) Journal

          a US citizen who happens to be a knowledgeable layman or outlier engineer can violate ITAR through innocuous communication on the wrong subjects

          I think part of the problem here, and this goes with a lot of "intellectual property" law in general (like patents) is that they don't really account for freedom of thought. They don't really properly anticipate that some people use their brains to think of things all by themselves. Furthermore, if these people don't know that someone else already thought of it, and it was classified as ITAR, there will be a problem.

          It sounds to me like the US is overly zealous about categorising certain not particularly novel, clever or important things as ITAR though.

          Isn't the purpose of laws like ITAR to stop the bad guys getting their hands of the useful stuff?

          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday January 24, @11:25PM

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 24, @11:25PM (#1288450) Journal

            Isn't the purpose of laws like ITAR to stop the bad guys getting their hands of the useful stuff?

            I think it was more to look like they cared about foreign powers spying on America. That value ran out long ago and it's cruising on inertia now.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, @02:10AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 23, @02:10AM (#1288119)

    Excellent choice of XKCD! I had that one made into refrigerator magnets years ago, I still chuckle when I pass the fridge and see one.

  • (Score: 5, Touché) by ilPapa on Monday January 23, @03:37AM (1 child)

    by ilPapa (2366) on Monday January 23, @03:37AM (#1288133) Journal

    the team didn't want to "end up chained at the bottom of a disguised CIA cargo ship in international waters."

    If you're spending a significant portion of your life on the "War Thunder" forum, being chained at the bottom of a disguised CIA cargo ship in international waters will probably be an upgrade for you.

    --
    You are still welcome on my lawn.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by khallow on Monday January 23, @05:17AM

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday January 23, @05:17AM (#1288138) Journal

      If you're spending a significant portion of your life on the "War Thunder" forum,

      Where else can you brag about your shiny tank or blinged cruiser? I was hooked on War Thunder for a few weeks a couple years ago when I had good internet. There's something cathartic about one-shotting someone's tank and the bark of anti-air as your noob destroyer enters combat. Planes too, though I didn't like that as much.

      Good physics mechanics (allowing for specialized tactics like slamming on your tank's brakes so that you can shoot at lower angle than your main gun normally reaches), excellent game flow, and decent graphics.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by SomeRandomGeek on Monday January 23, @04:29PM (2 children)

    by SomeRandomGeek (856) on Monday January 23, @04:29PM (#1288198)

    There are 4.2 million people with security clearances in the US. https://news.clearancejobs.com/2021/02/09/how-many-people-have-a-security-clearance/ [clearancejobs.com]
    The F-16 has been around for 45 years.
    If you think the enemies of the US have not had complete sets of F-16 manuals for decades, you should inquire about this bridge I have for sale.

    • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 24, @01:41AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 24, @01:41AM (#1288286)
      Yeah, I heard one way the USSR got secrets is by the US people bragging about their stuff.

      But in the old days I doubt they plonked classified documents on the table as part of their bragging, arguing, etc.
      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday January 24, @05:58AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday January 24, @05:58AM (#1288327) Journal

        But in the old days I doubt they plonked classified documents on the table

        The documents weren't actually classified.

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