What is the news on Syria Surveillance? United States of America are not only exporting democracy, but also controlling tools sold directly to ‘rogue governments’ and schemes. Of course this practice is not new, but lately it has become a little awkward in the Obama administration.
The Situation in Syria and Syria Surveillance
The U.S. Commerce Department is seeking whether the technology produced by a Californian company, has been able to help the Syrian Police to map and monitor dissidents by bugs. Revolts have been followed by a violent and bloody repression that led to the death of thousands of unarmed civilians.
Trade officials are trying to know if Blue Coat Systems of Sunnyvale, Calif., was aware that its equipment and its software could be used by the Syrian government.
The company has already clearly expressed that it did not sell tools or spy software to the Syrian government, but it is aware that its products are used, however in Syria and maybe the regime got them through a third party. The U.S. sanctions imposed on Syria prohibit the tradings of most of the categories and the investigators are trying to determine who gave the Blue Coat technology to Syria.
Here is a declaration from the company, dating back to this month: “Blue Coat is aware of the violence in Syria, and is really sad because of the suffering and loss of human lives that could be the result of actions made by a repressive regime. We do not want our products to be used by the government of Syria or any other country embargoed by the United States.”
According to statements of the company, Blue Coat technology is not designed for surveillance purposes, but it has features that could help the authorities to monitor electronic communications, even allowing to block selected people access to certain websites and certain forms of social media.
Few days ago, in U.S. Parliament, three senators asked the Obama administration to see if Blue Coat and another California company, HP, have been provided with “instruments of repression” Damascus.
“If the sale of US-made technology devices may have contributed to the ongoing violence, it is unacceptable and a solution should be investigated as soon as possible.”
If the Commerce Department found out that Blue Coat has clearly violated the license, U.S. could make the company pay a fine up to $ 1 million.
U.S. companies wishing to export devices that are “primarily used for hidden interception of oral or electronic communications cable” must contact the Department of Commerce for a license, according to current regulations regarding export. However, sales by U.S. companies in Syria are illegal, starting from the sanctions and Syria Surveillance imposed by President George W. Bush, in 2004.
There’s more to this Syria Surveillance. During a Congress audition that took place on November 9, the Assistant Secretary of State, Jeffrey Feltman, said that the Blue Coat technology used in Syria, no export license had been granted.
In addition to Blue Coat, there is also Hewlett-Packard (HP), which has installed more than $ 500,000 of equipment in computer rooms located in Syria. These electronic brains are the basis of a surveillance system being built, able to monitor the use of e-mail and Internet in the country. The operational base of HP is therefore a control center for Syrian officials in Damascus, with whom they could keep track of citizens’ communications and track datas, models and personal contacts. An Italian company, Area SpA, is in charge of running the project.
“HP’s policy is to comply with all applicable export control laws and regulations of the United States,” the company said in a declaration. “We have no employees or facilities in Syria, and our sales in this country have been limited to groups that are recognized by U.S. law. Compliance with the United States and the laws of international trade are the highest priority for HP. “