United States Technology Used in Syrian Crackdown
The Crackdown and Sanctions
Since March of 2011, the United Nations estimates that over 4,000 Syrian civilians have been killed in the uprising against the government of Bashar Al-Assad. One reason for the regime’s longevity is a vast security apparatus, namely the Syrian Political and General Security Directorates. During the crackdown, Syrian security forces have been implicated in the arbitrary execution, arrest, torture and sexual assault of Syrian civilians suspected of dissension.
Recent reports by Bloomberg News and the Senators Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) and Robert Casey (D-Pennsylvania), indicate that the American technology companies Hewlett-Packard, NetApp, and Blue Coat systems may have bolstered the Syrian security apparatus by selling computers and Internet surveillance technology to organizations connected with the Syrian regime. While company sales to the Syrian regime do not technically violate US sanctions, they do violate the intention of the sanctions and represent a disappointing lack of caution and corporate responsibility on behalf of the American companies.
Illegal Sale of Technology
Hewlett-Packard, NetApp and Blue Coat systems are American technology companies based in California. NetApp and Blue Coat Systems specialize in data management and information security respectively, while HP is a major multinational which produces both hardware and software. Since 2001, NetApp has also received over $100 million in US government contracts working with the Department of State.
News reports indicate nearly $500,000 of computers and server systems have been indirectly sold to Syrian security agencies. The software of NetApp and Blue Coat Systems are used to monitor and censor Syrian internet access and personal communications over email and instant messaging. The companies responded that they wish to comply with all US restrictions and their products were illegally sold through other actors without their consent. The European companies Area, Qosmos, and Utimaco have also been implicated in technology sales to the Syrian government.
Urgent Action Needed
- Calls, letters (POPVOX), and emails to representatives urging them to co-sponsor the Syria Sanctions Act of 2011
- Education of chapters and other advocates about the Syrian crackdown and the role US technology is playing
- Distribution of this one pager as well as other Syria conflict information
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