Federal authorities are trying to determine the whereabouts of dozens of state-of-the-art goggles capable of illuminating battlefields at night and potentially undercutting the tactical advantage of U.S. soldiers if they were to fall into the wrong hands.
At least 55 pairs of the Generation 3 Night Vision Goggles manufactured by ITT Industries were illegally exported to Vietnam by three men purportedly running a security business out of a Huntington Beach, Calif., home, authorities alleged Tuesday.
Authorities are concerned about what ultimately became of the goggles, which can fetch up to $6,000 each on the black market.
“There are individuals out there trying to acquire this technology and trying to get it to the highest bidder,” said Robert Schoch, a top official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles. “The fear is that these will get into the hands of our enemies or, in a worst-case scenario, some terrorist organization.”
Three men, described by authorities as Vietnamese-born naturalized U.S. citizens, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Santa Ana, Calif., this month for allegedly exporting the goggles in violation of the Arms Export Control Act. The law tightly regulates the exportation of arms, munitions and other military components, some of which are freely available for purchase in the U.S. – the night vision goggles among them – but are considered potential threats to national security if exported.