Hey, axis of evil, wanna buy a nice used weapon part?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 at 05:11 PM

This will come as no surprise to anyone who really understands bureaucracy and capitalism, but it's still infuriating--when "security" meets "marketing," guess which one wins?

From a recent AP story [http://www.forbes.com/feeds/ap/2007/01/16/ap3330491.html] on the US's sale of surplus military parts:

The U.S. military has sold forbidden equipment at least a half-dozen times to middlemen for countries - including Iran and China - who exploited security flaws in the Defense Department's surplus auctions. The sales include fighter jet parts and missile components.

In one case, federal investigators said, the contraband made it to Iran, a country President Bush branded part of an "axis of evil."

In that instance, a Pakistani arms broker convicted of exporting U.S. missile parts to Iran resumed business after his release from prison. He purchased Chinook helicopter engine parts for Iran from a U.S. company that had bought them in a Pentagon surplus sale. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, speaking on condition of anonymity, say those parts made it to Iran.

The surplus sales can operate like a supermarket for arms dealers.

"Right Item, Right Time, Right Place, Right Price, Every Time. Best Value Solutions for America's Warfighters," the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service says on its Web site, calling itself "the place to obtain original U.S. Government surplus property."

Federal investigators are increasingly anxious that Iran is within easy reach of a top priority on its shopping list: parts for the precious fleet of F-14 "Tomcat" fighter jets the United States let Iran buy in the 1970s when it was an ally.

In one case, convicted middlemen for Iran bought Tomcat parts from the Defense Department's surplus division. Customs agents confiscated them and returned them to the Pentagon, which sold them again - customs evidence tags still attached - to another buyer, a suspected broker for Iran.

That incident appalled even an expert on weaknesses in Pentagon surplus security controls.

Something to keep in mind in the future as you watch Bush, Cheney, Rice, Snow, et al offering up somber warnings on how crucial it is that we trade our freedoms for "security."