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Senate Probe of Russia’s Export Control Evasion Seeks BIS Documents

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who chairs the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, has asked the Commerce Department for several types of information to help his panel better understand how Russia overcame export controls and sanctions to obtain U.S. technology for its military.

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In a Feb. 27 letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that Blumenthal’s office publicly released March 4, the senator requested a list of enforcement actions the Bureau of Industry and Security has taken for Russian export control violations since January 2022, the month before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Blumenthal also wants to know whether BIS has received complaints about Russia’s use of third countries to circumvent export controls, whether the agency has records about the presence of American computing chips in Russian military systems, and whether BIS has given guidance to chipmakers about Russia’s evasion activities. He cited media reports showing that U.S. chip exports to five countries near Russia -- Armenia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Turkey -- surged in 2022.

Blumenthal also requested a briefing about export control-related information-sharing agreements between BIS and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, including efforts to issue joint alerts and notices of new suspicious activity report key terms (see 2311060055). He said he would like to receive the briefing and documents by March 22.

Asked to comment on Blumenthal's request, a Commerce spokesperson said "the department has received the letter and will reply via appropriate channels."

The release of the eight-page letter came less than a week after Blumenthal led a Feb. 27 hearing to highlight how chips and other high-tech equipment made by U.S. companies continue to flow to Russia’s war machine despite the issuance of new export controls and sanctions (see 2402270065). He described U.S. export controls as "lethally ineffective" and the U.S. sanctions system as a "sieve."