The horrific events of the past few days in Iraq are more than enough to keep U.S. military and diplomatic officials in a state of near depression. No rational person following the bloody trail left by the ISIS savages across the Iraqi landscape would say that the killings occurring in the name of religious purity are anything but man’s inhumanity at its worst. ISIS “soldiers” (if that is what they can be called) have supplied themselves with arms and money – more than $400 million in U.S. currency, that we know about – by taking the “spoils of war” in territory they seized from former Iraqi military and police installations. It may be the only action the ISIS thugs have done that is at least explainable under internationally recognized doctrines of the law of war.
But Iraq is not the only place where terrorists’ activities are happening this month. Earlier this month, a group of Tarheek-e Taliban militants launched a massive military-style attack on the Karachi, Pakistan airport, where 29 people were killed, including the 10 terrorists who launched the attack. Authorities noted that they had planned to be there for an expanded time, in part as multiple news outlets reported, the terrorists were found to have in their possession a gunshot wound technology called XStat – a product that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had only approved on April 3 of this year for use by the U.S. military.
According to a news report in the online magazine MedGadget, the FDA’s approval for XStat allowed its use by the U.S. military but only on areas of the body where a tourniquet would be inappropriate. The same article says that the XStat Rapid Hemostasis System is “a huge injector syringe with what look like tablets inside that are actually sponges that expand once in the wound. The sponges are coated with a hemostatic agent and have a radiopaque marker attached for easy removal later under X-ray imaging. The wound can be plugged in less than fifteen seconds, allowing hemostasis and blood clotting to begin around the sponges.”
There are many types of weapons, blood-clotting agents and other tools that terrorists can, and do, use to commit their atrocities, and we have to admit that some of them are probably made by U.S. companies and have either been stolen or seized from the military supply chain. Stories about the thriving black market in war materials abound, and there is very little that U.S. authorities can do about this type of activity.
Perhaps export controls don’t apply to blood-clotting products, but the notion that less than 60 days after FDA approval for military use a potential life-saving product makes its way into terrorists’ hands raises additional and more troubling issues – and it is one that I hope U.S. military and homeland security officials are not overlooking.
Had this been an instance where a defense contractor’s IT system had been hacked and proprietary information stolen – like the stories about the Chinese having hacked the Lockheed Martin supplier system to obtain information about the F-3 Joint Strike Fighter – it would be viewed as a major national security breach. While stealing national security secrets via computer theft is a great distance away from gaining access to life-saving technology, there is a certain commonality that should not be dismissed lightly – and that is the question of how our adversaries and potential adversaries gain access to U.S.-made-for-the-military technology. It is a question worth pondering.