All the News That's Fit to be Tied

I have an axe to grind, but unlike the New York Times, I freely admit it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I Spy, You Die

Somehow the Iranian government acquired “lawful intercept technology” and it’s nobody’s fault. This country whose treatment of dissidents is notorious and includes jail and torture got this technology from firms we know well, namely Siemens and Nokia. This sophisticated electronic equipment permits the Iranian government to tap phones, read e-mails and surveil electronic data on communications networks. Just recently an Iranian lawyer, a Ms. Mazaheri, had one of her clients arrested because of instant messaging between her and the client, according to an article in the Washington Times. The individual in question was interrogated and given printed copies of instant message chats between his lawyer and himself and summarily sent to prison. There are two issues here. Despite Germany’s public position of endorsing stricter sanctions on Iran its companies continue to export sensitive technology to the country. Siemen’s also does almost a billion in business with the U.S. and employs 70,000 people here and still provides this technology to Iran with no response by our own government. The other firm, Nokia of Finland, is one of the largest providers of handsets in the U.S. market and also traffics in this surveillance technology to Iran. The company, which is called Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) is a joint venture between the two firms and delivered the monitoring center to Iran. Just recently NSN sold is portion of the business to a private holding company called Perusa Partners Fund LLP. A Siemens spokeswoman said the company only retains a non-controlling interest in NSN, while Nokia runs the day-to-day operation of the firm. So there you go. Companies we know well and support have provided the Iranian government with technology that will be used to curtail civil liberties we take for granted in the U.S. Neither our parochial Congress nor the flaccid State Department will do anything about it. Despite their incessant calls for restrictions on such activity under President George Bush, they do nothing when the technology is sold to governments far worse than ours when it comes to the treatment of dissidents. Siemens and Nokia should both be investigated.