AUSTIN – The Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) filed a comment with the U.S. State Department on a proposed revision to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), which threatens to outlaw a broad swath of the Internet. The revision would require anyone wishing to discuss technology necessary for the manufacture, operation, or development of a weapon to apply for a license before publishing it online.  Failure to do so could result in up to 20 years’ incarceration and a fine of $1 million per violation. The rule would affect discussion on a civilian level, including discussion of engines, boat propellers, microchips, metallurgy, and basic engineering principles.

“The State Department is not constitutionally permitted to muzzle the American people under the guise of keeping 19th century technology out of the hands of terrorists and foreign militaries,” said Rob Henneke, director of the Center for the American Future at TPPF. “The ITAR Proposed Rule leaves anyone who discusses technology not specifically approved by a federal agency vulnerable to 20 years in prison because a foreign person may overhear him or access the information on the Internet. That result is not consistent with the Constitution, basic principles of liberty, or even reasonable policymaking.

“The proposed changes to ITAR puts citizens who discuss even civilian technology on the Internet at risk of criminal prosecution. This violation of the First Amendment will chill speech and slow technological development by inhibiting collaboration.”

“The breadth and vagueness of the ITAR proposed rule change empowers the federal government to target any unpopular message or speaker at its whim,” said Joel Stonedale, attorney for the Center for the American Future at TPPF. “That is why the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee prohibits this type of restraint on speech.”

To read the full comment, please visit:​

To schedule an interview with Mr. Henneke or Mr. Stonedale, please contact Caroline Espinosa at[email protected] or 512-472-2700.

Robert Henneke is director of the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Joel Stonedale is an attorney with the Center for the American Future at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit, free-market research institute based in Austin, Texas.

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