FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2009
SCHUMER, GRAHAM CALL FOR CRACKDOWN ON COMPANIES SELLING IRAN TECHNOLOGY THAT ALLOWS REGIME TO SPY ON DEMONSTRATORS AND BLOCK COMMUNICATIONS TO REST OF THE WORLD
Several European Companies Have Sold Iran Cutting-Edge Systems Enabling the Regime to Jam Cell Phone Signals, Block Email and Twitter, Monitor Internet and Mobile Video
New Bipartisan Legislation Would Bar Any International Company that Sells Such Technology to Iran from Securing US Gov't Contracts
Senators Also Release Letter Urging Obama Administration To Push The EU To Stop European Countries From Doing Business With Iran
As the Iranian government continues its brutal crackdown on protests of the disputed presidential election there, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) announced Friday they will introduce bipartisan legislation to sanction any company that sells sensitive technology aiding the Iranian regime in monitoring or blocking the internet connections or cell phone conversations of the protesters. The senators also released a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the Obama administration to press the European Union at the upcoming G-8 summit to do more to stop European-based companies from trading with Iran.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that the high-tech systems used by Iran to spy on its citizens and stifle communications coming out of the country was installed by two major Western technology companies, Nokia and Siemens. While U.S. companies are already banned from doing any business with the government of Iran, Schumer and Graham said there needs to be a global effort to crack down on any companies that aid the Iranian regime in its suppression of free speech. Their proposed bill would prevent any foreign company that sells such technology to Iran from being eligible for a U.S. government contract.
“It is utterly outrageous that Western companies sell equipment that allows the Iranian government to spy on their citizens, prevent communications between citizens and thwart any type of uprising against the regime,” Schumer said. “This legislation is going to crack down on these companies so that we can do our part in preventing this regime from controlling the Iranian people.”
“I am pleased to join Senator Schumer in efforts to counteract the suppression of freedom by the Iranian regime,” said Graham. “Our proposal and legislation would weaken the Iranian regime’s ability to control the Internet. The Internet has proven to be one of the strongest weapons in the hands of the Iranian people seeking freedom and trying to chart a new destiny for their country. Companies that provide technology to the Iranian regime to control the Internet must be forced to pay a heavy price. While strong statements made in support of the Iranian people are critically important, it is equally important to have strong action to aid their cause. Our legislation is a constructive proposal that empowers the people of Iran and weakens the regime. I hope those who believe in basic human rights throughout the world will get behind our effort.”
Under Schumer and Graham’s bill, which will be filed in the coming days, the Administration would be required to identify foreign companies that export sensitive technology to Iran. Those companies would not be allowed to apply for procurement contracts with the U.S. government, or renew expiring ones, unless they first terminated those exports to Iran. The President could waive this requirement if he determines that such a waiver would be in the national interest of the United States, but he would have to report to Congress on the reasons for the waiver.
According to a federal government spending website, Siemens has almost 2,000 contracts with the U.S. government, including 300 contracts with the Pentagon as well as other deals with the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, and the Department of Energy. The deals total over $250 million in 2009 alone. The joint venture, Nokia Siemens Networks, has at least 6 contracts with the federal government, totaling $5 million.
Separately, Schumer and Graham urged the Obama administration to press EU officials to step up efforts to restrict the sale of monitoring equipment to the Iranian government. Following the Chinese government’s crackdown on protestors at Tiananmen Square in 1989, the U.S. Congress passed a law limiting sales to China of tools or technology that could be used for the purposes of suppression. The EU, by comparison, performed too little scrutiny of Nokia and Siemens’ deal with Iran.
“We are calling on you to use your office to urge the European Union to restrict the sale of equipment and services to Iran that could be used to monitor, control and suppress the private communications and free expression of the Iranian people,” the senators wrote in their letter to Secretary Clinton.
A full copy of the senators’ letter to Secretary Clinton appears below.
June 25, 2009
The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Clinton,
Following recent elections, the Iranian government has used a new communications monitoring center to interfere with and suppress internet and cell phone communications as part of efforts to crackdown on Iranian citizens peacefully demonstrating. We were troubled to read media reports that indicate that Nokia Siemens Networks, a joint venture by the German conglomerate Siemens and Finnish cell phone company Nokia, recently helped the Iranian government’s telecommunications monopoly – which controls almost all electronic data traffic in and out of Iran – construct the technology that made these actions possible. We are calling on you to use your office to urge the European Union to restrict the sale of equipment and services to Iran that could be used to monitor, control and suppress the private communications and free expression of the Iranian people.
According to news reports, data traffic almost came to a complete halt the day after the presidential elections but has since gradually recovered. Network security analysts have speculated that anomaly was caused by Iranian authorities activating monitoring and interrogation systems. It is our understanding that technology supplied by Nokia Siemens Networks allows Iranian government authorities to monitor and examine the contents of individual communications on fixed and mobile lines, including voice calls, email, text messaging, instant messages, and web traffic, as well as posts to social networking sites such as Twitter, MySpace and Facebook. The technology also allows Iranian officials to trace the source of individual communications and see what information is being passed back and forth. The sale and installation of advanced monitoring and interrogation technology to the repressive Iranian regime is extremely disconcerting.
Given Iran’s history of monitoring phone and internet communications, discussed for example in the State Department’s 2008 Human Rights Report, the Iranian government’s despotic actions come as no surprise. What is surprising, however, is the European Union’s apparent failure to curb the export of technology that allowed the Iranian government to enhance its abilities to examine and control the private communications of its citizens.
The actions of the Iranian government to infringe upon its citizens’ rights to privacy and free speech are deeply troubling. Moreover, countries dedicated to individual freedom and human rights should not have policies that assist the repressive Iranian regime in this regard. Thus, we ask that you engage your counterparts in the European Union at the upcoming G8 Summit and urge them to change their policies. We look forward to working with you on this issue.
Charles E. Schumer Lindsey O. Graham
United States Senator United States Senator
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