Σάββατο, 2 Ιουλίου 2011

U.S. Can’t Find Iran’s Spy-Tech Suppliers



Want to know which companies are playing a double game of doing business with America and selling spy gear to Iran? Well, so would the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm. They just released a report saying they can’t find any examples. But don’t take comfort in the absence of suspects. The reason might just be because Iran is getting pretty good at building its own snoop tech and buying it covertly.
In 2010, Congress tried to give Iranian dissidents a leg up against the mullahs behind the firewalls through the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act and the Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011.
Sections of the laws banned any U.S. government executive agency from doing business with companies that sell “sensitive” technology to Iran that could allow them to spy on domestic telecommunications traffic.
Congress also asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to follow up on the laws’ implementation. Thursday, GAO released a report detailing the results. It couldn’t find any companies in violation. But as the accounting office warns, just because they didn’t turn up any examples, doesn’t mean Iran is having a hard time spying on its own discontents.

First, it’s hard to find snooping-tech transfers to Iran because, as the report states, companies aren’t exactly keen to advertise they’re doing this kind of business with Iran. The potential for public scorn, legal trouble or getting cut off from U.S. government business because of sanctions would make any company think twice before hitting Send on that press release about the latest sale to Iran.
Second, GAO notes that dual use technologies can mask the nefarious uses of legitimate technologies. Equipment to filter universally abhorrent material like child pornography can also be repurposed to block dissidents. A router that one country uses just to manage its network could be used by Iran to block access to politically objectionable websites.
More worrisome, though, is another possibility floated by the GAO. Finding spy technology transfers may be hard because Iran might be doing a good job of homebrewing its own net crackdown gear. The report quotes findings from Freedom House, the OpenNet Initiative and the State Department saying that Iran is assigning more manpower and money to work on building new spy gear at home.
Congressional interest in helping Iran’s dissident netizens was piqued both by the Twitter-gasm that followed Iran’s Green Revolution and by revelations of Western telecoms’ complicity in Iranian surveillance. Protesters took to the streets and to social media after Mahmoud Ahmedinejad was declared the victor in Iran’s 2009 presidential elections.
The move prompted a crackdown from Iranian authorities, with the government hunting down dissident tweeters and stepping up web censorship. Ever since then, the U.S. government has been keen on finding ways to promote internet freedom.
Iran wasn’t alone in its attempt to throttle the online voices of its many discontents. In particular, a joint venture of Finland’s Nokia and Germany’s Siemens sold technology to Iran that allowed the government to track and monitor telephone calls and internet traffic on its networks.
The joint venture stopped its spy work in Iran in March 2009. In the years since, the GAO reports that the outcry over the companies’ entanglement with Iranian repression may have served as a disincentive for other firms considering getting in bed with Iran’s traffic monitors. Or maybe these creeps are just very good at covering their tracks.
Photo: SierraGoddess/Flickr

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/07/iran-spy-tech/

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