Secrecy News

“Deemed Exports”: Commerce Department Retreats

In a victory for academic researchers, the Department of Commerce announced the withdrawal of a controversial rulemaking notice on so-called “deemed exports” that would have imposed new restrictions on access to information and technology by foreign-born scientists.

A “deemed export” has taken place when a foreign national who is working in the United States gains access to technology or information that is export controlled.

The 2005 Commerce rulemaking notice had triggered an outpouring of anxiety in academia and among scientists who said the Commerce proposal would complicate or render impossible many common interactions with foreign-born students as well as foreign collaborators. (See “Controls on ‘Deemed Exports’ May Threaten Research,” Secrecy News, 05/02/2005).

In response to hundreds of comments received, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) abandoned key features of its proposal, including a surprising provision that access restrictions should be based on an individual’s country of birth rather than on his current citizenship.

Along with withdrawal of the pending proposal, “BIS is establishing a Deemed Export Advisory Committee [that] will serve as forum to address complex questions related to an evolving deemed export control policy.”

The policy shift was described in a Federal Register notice published today.

“While the deemed export rule plays a crucial role in preventing foreign nationals from countries of concern from obtaining controlled U.S. technology, BIS also recognizes that export controls must take into account the integral and critical contribution of foreign nationals to U.S. fundamental research,” the Federal Register notice stated.

“U.S. research institutions play a vital role in advancing science and technology for future generations. Part of the vitality of the research enterprise is the contribution made by foreign national students, faculty, and visiting scientists.”