The Clinton administration is investigating the unauthorized sale of advanced computers to Russia, concerned that they may have been used in Russia’s nuclear weapons program.
“We view that as a very serious matter,” State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said Monday. The government had rejected permission for the sale, but according to a report in The New York Times, 16 IBM computers were secretly provided to a Russian nuclear weapons factory by a Moscow company.
The investigation is being conducted by the Commerce Department and the Customs Service under Justice Department supervision, Rubin said.
An IBM spokesman, Fred McNeese, said IBM had cooperated with the investigation from the outset and was trying to locate and recover any computers shipped to Russia.
Under U.S. policy, the high-performance computers require validated licenses for export to military and nuclear installations. Without identifying any company, Rubin said licenses were sought in 1996 by American companies to export the computers to two nuclear weapons laboratories.