Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Privacy The Courts Government The Internet Your Rights Online Technology

Nokia Siemens Sued For Providing Monitoring Equipment To Iran 275

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-sales-aren't-worth-it dept.
Just over a year ago, we found out that Nokia Siemens provided internet monitoring equipment to Iran. Now, reader Tootech sends in news that the company is being sued by an Iranian journalist who was captured with the help of that equipment. From El Reg: "Isa Saharkhiz went into hiding following Iran's 2009 presidential elections, after publishing an article branding the Grand Ayatollah as a hypocrite who was primarily responsible for vote tallies widely regarded as being fraudulent. According to a complaint filed in federal court in Virginia, officials with the Ministry of Intelligence and Security in Iran tracked him down with the help of cellphone-monitoring devices and other eavesdropping gear provided by Nokia Siemens. 'Defendants knowingly and willingly delivered very capable and sophisticated equipment for unlawful intercepting, monitoring, and filtering of electronic communications ("Intelligence Solutions") to Iranian officials,' the complaint alleged. ... According to the document, Saharkhiz has been severely tortured since his arrest. He was held in solitary confinement for more than 80 days, and his ribs were broken in a struggle during his arrest. The complaint said it may be amended to add as many as 1,500 other political prisoners who are being held under similar circumstances. Additional defendants may also be added."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Nokia Siemens Sued For Providing Monitoring Equipment To Iran

Comments Filter:
  • Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jedi Alec (258881) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:12AM (#33352418)

    'Defendants knowingly and willingly delivered very capable and sophisticated equipment for unlawful intercepting, monitoring, and filtering of electronic communications ("Intelligence Solutions") to Iranian officials,' the complaint alleged.

    Not to diminish in any way what this journalist has been through...unlawful where exactly? Iran or the US?

    Sounds a bit like suing Heckler and Koch because they sold a gun to the government that provided it to the cop that used it to shoot you when the situation didn't warrant it.

    • Re:Law? (Score:5, Informative)

      by maroberts (15852) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:49AM (#33352616) Homepage Journal

      unlawful where exactly? Iran or the US?

      I agree that this a question of where it is unlawful and may be a case of forum shopping, however certain countries have sanctions on what can be exported to other countries, a classic example being the USA restricting what can be exported to Cuba. A breach of this can be an offence if the country from where the equipment was sourced has such sanctions in place, or the corporate headquarters is in such a country.

      • Re:Law? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Jedi Alec (258881) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @05:15AM (#33352732)

        True, but the quoted text states that it was the electronic monitoring that was unlawful, not the act of exporting the equipment needed to do so.

        Nevertheless, since Iran bashing seems to be the latest trend I'd like to suggest a deal. The US bitches at Iran at for electronic surveillance, and the EU does it for the torture, and we both conveniently ignore our own little forays into these fields.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765)

          Can I count on equal support if I stone your girlfriend/wife/daughter(s) to death ? (slowly of course)

          Hey at worst I'd be as bad as the current Iranians you're defending. I just wonder how far this defense of the indefensible goes. I wonder, if I were to kill you, and claim I'm doing it for my beliefs whether or not you'll push your own arbitrary moral values on me or not.

          This post is an attempt at using sarcasm to call you out on your support for, e.g. stoning gays, religious genocide, oppressive state rel

          • Re:Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @06:06AM (#33352956) Journal
            All theoretical ethical stuff aside, it will be interesting to see if a case like this will go forward in a US court.

            US telcomms, whose NSA collaboration almost certainly exposed at least a few people to extralegal detention and torture, were specifically granted immunity for any collaboration that might have occurred.

            While I don't doubt that we'd like another chance to stick it to Iran, and emphasize their repressive-theocratic-hellhole characteristics, I can't imagine the US being too enthusiastic about a precedent that makes corporate collaboration with a surveillance state legally problematic....
          • Re:Law? (Score:5, Insightful)

            by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @07:14AM (#33353362) Journal

            Considering we overthrew their democratically elected government in the 50s to put in the Shah as our puppet, one of the worst dictators we could dig up, just so our corporations could get better deals? Yeah I think we really don't have much moral high ground there at this point. Is Iran a brutal place? Yeah, no doubts there. But considering our idea of "democracy" is elect someone we approve of I really don't think we have much moral high ground left in that area at this point frankly.

            In case you don't know and would like to read up here [wikipedia.org] is a good starting point.

            • Re:Law? (Score:4, Insightful)

              by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @07:56AM (#33353714) Homepage Journal

              Considering we overthrew their democratically elected government in the 50s to put in the Shah as our puppet, one of the worst dictators we could dig up, just so our corporations could get better deals? Yeah I think we really don't have much moral high ground there at this point.

              This is an interesting ethical issue. Does everything you've ever done preclude you from every having a moral position in the future? If I robbed a bank in my youth, does that mean I can never say that robbing a bank is a bad thing?

              I'm not inclined to attribute morality to corporate entities or nations, but I'm not sure I accept the argument "You did X, so you can never again hold position Y". Better to accept that nations, like corporations, are designed to do whatever they think is in their best interest at the time. It's what they do. Short of much greater global governance, it's going to stay that way.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Zedrick (764028)
                If I robbed a bank in my youth, does that mean I can never say that robbing a bank is a bad thing?

                No, but you can't say it with any kind of moral authority if you keep robbing banks over and over again. Iran isn't the only example.
                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by ScentCone (795499)
                  No, but you can't say it with any kind of moral authority if you keep robbing banks over and over again. Iran isn't the only example.

                  Those are excellent examples you list there, of course. The continual placement of US-injected dictators all around the world is sure an issue, especially where US troops are stationed to protect their puppets. I assume you mean governments throughout the Balkans, eastern Europe, South Korea, Japan, etc, since those are the places where the US military continues to prevent
              • ...for starters, from POTUS and the Congress for what the US did to Iranians in 1953. Anything less is just posturing. In a perfect world, they could also press charges against the US officers and corporations that against the US laws of the time knowingly supported the crimes of the Sha regime. I pretty much doubt that the US Constitution and laws have or have had provisions for the authorization of the torture and murder of innocent people at will.

                The current half assed job at "justice" that the US does s

          • by morgauxo (974071)
            If you kill him I'm pretty sure he won't be pushing any beliefs on you. Unless maybe if reincarnation is real...
        • Re:Law? (Score:4, Insightful)

          by maroberts (15852) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @07:54AM (#33353688) Homepage Journal

          The quoted text says it was the supply of the monitoring equipment. The actual monitoring took place in Iran and is presumably legal according to the laws of Iran.

          Only the supply of the equipment used to perform the monitoring can be unlawful outside Iran.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bhartman34 (886109)

          True, but the quoted text states that it was the electronic monitoring that was unlawful, not the act of exporting the equipment needed to do so.

          Actually, the quoted text states that it was the delivery of the equipment that was unlawful:

          Defendants knowingly and willingly delivered very capable and sophisticated equipment for unlawful intercepting, monitoring, and filtering of electronic communications ("Intelligence Solutions") to Iranian officials,' the complaint alleged.

          It's the Iranians that are accused of the "unlawful intercepting, monitoring, and filtering of electronic communications".

    • by bdsesq (515351)

      '...unlawful where exactly? Iran or the US?

      They were violating UN sanctions against Iran. So it should be unlawful in any civilized country.
      That leaves Iran out......

      • by c0lo (1497653)

        They were violating UN sanctions against Iran. So it should be unlawful in any civilized country.

        Except all (read the introduction) [cia.gov] the UN sanctions against Iran are related with its nuclear program [dfat.gov.au]. That's a bit of a distance from interception/monitoring technology
        (besides I really wouldn't expect Nokia or Siemens to conduct unlawful businesses, at least not unlawful under the Germany, Finland or Iran legislation)

    • Slashdotters post 10,000 photos of trashed Nokias. Does that influence "The Law"?. "The Law" can be seen as the final rulings, and a composition of many factors. PR, Written law, precedents, lawyer and client skills, judge, jury, place and time, social acceptance or tolerance at that social-political moment, media influence, public and lobby actions, and many other factors influence decisions. Piracy, for example, clearly illegal and punishable by written law, but it's socially accepted within many contex
    • Re:Law? (Score:5, Informative)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @07:48AM (#33353632) Homepage Journal

      .unlawful where exactly?

      In the country where Siemens is doing business.

      I know that confuses things, but that's how it works. You want to do business here? Well, you've got to obey our laws. And our laws mean for Iran not have this technology. If you're going to be in the business of arming both sides in a global conflict, you've got to be prepared for some blowback.

      Siemens has been doing this kind of stuff for a long while. They don't care who gets the tech as long as the money's green. That doesn't make them different from any other military contractor, except if you're going to make money providing strategic technologies to any and all comers, you've got to be ready to piss off their enemies.

      I'm kind of happy when these transnationals learn that there might still be a few limits left. Not many mind you, but some.

      • by Mr.Intel (165870)

        .unlawful where exactly?

        In the country where Siemens is doing business.

        I know that confuses things, but that's how it works. You want to do business here? Well, you've got to obey our laws. And our laws mean for Iran not have this technology.

        That's logical enough, but it only works if the law actually states that it's illegal to withhold that specific technology from Iran. Is it?

    • Most people do not know it, but the United States has traditionally exerted strong controls over what may leave the country. Starting with prohibiting exports of long pine logs useable for masts and spars for the superweapons of 1790.

      The laws are very complex, you can get a start here. [doc.gov]

      US law is exactly as many complain: very intrusive, overreaching and extraterritorial. It can be a violation to allow people (even US citizens) born in different places to even _see_ certain technologies [deemed export].

    • Not to diminish in any way what this journalist has been through...unlawful where exactly? Iran or the US?

      Sounds a bit like suing Heckler and Koch because they sold a gun to the government that provided it to the cop that used it to shoot you when the situation didn't warrant it.

      My understanding, at least with US law (and this is grossly simplified) is that you merely have to prove that another person/entity damaged you without your consent.

  • good for the goose (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:12AM (#33352422)

    Until our governments and police forces stop using this invasive technology we can't expect others to do so.

  • Forum shopping? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jrumney (197329) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:16AM (#33352446) Homepage
    Not that I'm defending Siemens and Nokia for providing spy equipment to a regime known to torture and kill its citizens for exercising political speech, but how exactly does a court in Virginia have jurisdiction over German and Swedish companies for civil damages allegedly sustained in Iran against an Iranian citizen?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by shentino (1139071)

      It doesn't.

      Among other things, Iran has sovereign immunity.

      Nokia may, however, be liable under other laws here in the US for aiding and abetting a terrorist regime. I'm pretty sure that Iran is on some sort of federal blacklist.

    • Re:Forum shopping? (Score:4, Informative)

      by jrumney (197329) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:26AM (#33352492) Homepage
      s/Swedish/Finnish/ - I was thinking of a different network equipment provider there.
    • Re:Forum shopping? (Score:5, Informative)

      by cappp (1822388) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:47AM (#33352606)
      It's called the Alien Tort Statute [wikipedia.org] and states that [cornell.edu]

      The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.

      . A few countries establish their own rights to hear international claims, known as universal jurisdiction [wikipedia.org] - thats claimed by the UK, France, Canada, and Australia for instance. I'm sure there's some nuance in the difference between Universal Jurisdiction and that created under the Alien Tort Statute that I don't know, but at it's essentially the same thing. The cases heard tend to relate to human rights issues. The Supreme Court in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain [wikipedia.org] reiterated their commitment to a test that considers international norms that are "specific, universal, and obligatory" but that's lead to it's own bundle of questions. [fjc.gov]

      Short answer, yup they can.

      • I am pretty positive most such claims are confined to extending jurisdiction to their own nationals in foreign territory, rather than to foreign nationals in foreign territory. Australian claims of universal jurisdiction for instance relate to war criminals resident in Australia and Australian nationals having sexual relations with persons under 16 in foreign jurisdictions. A notable exception is the UK's puerile arrest warrant for the Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, which was generally recognised as
    • Damn right!

      Team America was a warning, not a manual!
    • Siemens has offices in Virginia, at least in Newport News, maybe other places. Not sure what they do there, I just figured they were contracting at places like the Northrop-Grumman shipyard, Jefferson Lab, and NASA-Langley that we have around. Regardless of the merits of claims of "lawfulness," I suspect that as Siemens has a presence here that they might be liable for violating sanctions the US has in place against Iran. Expect them to lose some contracts here, if nothing else.

      • Great. Cue the simple minded Congressman to hold up all sorts of legislation until Siemens is specifically legally shielded.

        • by bsDaemon (87307)

          Rob Whittman, the Rep from 1st District has a couple of advanced degrees related to environmental science (but he's a Republican... what's up with that?), not like the bitch he replaced (also an R) who was a college drop out with a real estate license who could barely string two sentences together. I've met him numerous times. I'd hardly say he's simple-minded. We actually got rid of the worst, most stupid Reps in the last election here (no more Thelma Drake from 2nd District!!)

    • Nevermind the legal outcome, just think of the PR campaign. Keeping it in the press means Nokia and oppression lose every day, and the public and journalists win. Not to mention the pressure on Iran and any country using these tactics.
    • Finland hasn't been a part of Sweden since 1809.
  • Because they can (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:20AM (#33352470) Homepage
    Well, the Iranian government is not going to respect an American court decision. So, they're just trying to get headlines by suing a merchant. Was that equipment under embargo? But wait, an American embargo on Iran is bad because it hurts the common people more than the government. But if there was no embargo then how was it illegal to sell the equipment? I suppose Siemens should have recognized the Iranian government as "evil" and refused to do any business with them on a purely voluntary basis. But then that's racism against Muslims! Can anyone help? I'm so confused.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EmagGeek (574360)

      I don't think the United States can "embargo" a Swedish company from selling things to another country. I am also not sure it's against the law in Iran for the government to intercept any kind of communication. Don't they pretty much have totalitarian rule over there? I thought the government could pretty much do whatever it wanted?

      I don't really understand this case. US Law does not apply in Iran, nor does it apply in Sweden (unless you're an American citizen, in which case you can be charged with breaking

      • by couchslug (175151)

        The case boils down to suing any available target, and the Iranian government isn't available.

        The Iranian resistance movement is going to suffer either way, but unlike the more courageous Jihadists, they are playing at change instead of killing their opponents.

        The bar has been set by the devout Muslims who run the show. The less devout sort who want a piece of the pie will need to kill for it.

      • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @05:14AM (#33352726)

        Well, the US has managed to do it to a Finnish company [www2.hs.fi], so there.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by kauttapiste (633236)
        Especially as NSN is a Finnish company (HQ in Espoo, Finland)! Petty details aside, I believe the capability to monitor GSM networks is mandated by US and EU..maybe this guy should just sue Obama!
      • I'm kina sure they can. If the company wants to do business in the United States, they end up being bound by US law. If the US government says you can't sell something to a specific country, or group, you end up having to play by their rules. Look at China & Google for a good example. Just in that case China had so many political, and backroom reasons to make life hell for Google.
    • by c0lo (1497653) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:45AM (#33352598)

      I'm so confused.

      Relax, cool down. Nokia-Siemens sold them because every government asks them to [bbc.co.uk]; and providing what your customers want is good for business:

      "Western governments, including the UK, don't allow you to build networks without having this functionality."

    • Re:Because they can (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dbcad7 (771464) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:58AM (#33352666)
      You are confused.. I can tell by your statements.. We'll start at the beginning.. Whether or not the Iranian government recognizes an American court decision doesn't matter, because they are not being sued for anything in this... An American embargo doesn't matter either, because nothing was sold by an American company.. If you want to get to brass tacks, there isn't a major economic power in the world, that isn't guilty as hell for selling equipment causing suppression, misery, and death.. And they sell it to whoever has money.. and sell ?., heck they even give it away and charge the taxpayers for it to keep the corporations churning out more.. As the fine article states.. This is someone suing the wrong people in the wrong court.. However, as they used to say on The Peoples Court "Anybody can sue anybody for anything."
      • An American embargo doesn't matter either, because nothing was sold by an American company

        I work for a European company and we would definitely get into a lot of trouble with the US DOD if we violated US export restrictions. We have to stay in business, which means dealing with the US.

  • by siddesu (698447) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @04:39AM (#33352564)

    "sophisticated equipment for unlawful intercepting, monitoring, and filtering of electronic communications "

    Unlawful export, I would understand. That would probably violate some or other US law, if there were components, exported from the US used in those products.

    But unlawful monitoring? What would the logic behind this be?

    • by commlinx (1068272)

      Unlawful export, I would understand. That would probably violate some or other US law, if there were components, exported from the US used in those products. But unlawful monitoring? What would the logic behind this be?

      Well it makes no sense, but then again laws against devices to circumvent DCMA / copy protection devices make no sense either. It would be nice to think it works both ways, but I suspect that will not be the case...

    • by bsDaemon (87307)

      The same logic that allowed the allies to try and execute Nazi officers after WWII under ex post facto "war crimes" rules which hadn't existed in the first place, when they were following orders from superiors in keeping with official government policy (thus, the holocaust was "lawful" in Germany and occupied territories)? Not to Godwin the thread or anything, but the situation is one of guaranteeing a morally correct outcome even if technically what your doing is violating the spirit and letter of your le

      • by siddesu (698447)

        There is no parallel here. The Nuremberg trials had a legal foothold in the international and military laws of the time (beginning with the Hague conventions). Besides, they were conducted by an international tribunal, against the military leaders of Germany.

        Even the so called "Subsequent" Nuremberg trials (during which the US prosecuted various companies and individuals who allegedly assisted the Nazi regime) were conducted under the powers of the US occupational authority, and, if memory serves, were limi

  • They all do it! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bre_dnd (686663) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @05:04AM (#33352688)
    Don't be naive. Every single telecommunications vendor has tapping capability built into their equipment. Every western government *mandates* that this functionality is built in. It is not the equipment manufacturer who is morally wrong here. If you think it's wrong in Iran, it's wrong in the US or Europe too.
    • by Terje Mathisen (128806) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @05:33AM (#33352808)

      You are totally right: The LI (Lawful Intercept) interface is a required part of all relevant telecomms standards, i.e. you cannot manufacture/sell a GSM/3G/LTE setup which doesn't have that LI interface.

      Terje
      (Currently working on the architecture of a large national cell phone network.)

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AK Marc (707885)
        There exists no mainstream equipment without that capability. Sell it to someone in the US or UK and you are fine, but sell it to Iran and it's suddenly an international incident. If it was such a dangerous feature, why is it required in the USA (and probably many other places as well)?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Please don't call it "Lawful Intercept". That's a cheap, whitewashing euphemism dreamed up by toadies. Furthermore, it's deliberately inaccurate, since nothing about the technology itself does anything to guarantee that the use is "lawful". Call it "wiretapping". Or "spying". Or "narcing". But not "Lawful Intercept".
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Totalitarian regimes are, by and large, quite benign. They only start getting heavy handed if you attack or subvert the power structures. In some countries it may well be the least worst option. While there was a compelling case for attacking Iran, making the same mistake over Iraq by sabre rattling, spreading hysterical libertarian arguments in the so-called "free press" in the West, and fermenting trouble on the ground can be counter productive.

    A large part of Iraq's problems are recovering from historica

  • "severely tortured"? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by migloo (671559)
    Just wondering what "not severely tortured" would feel like.
    • better.
    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      Just wondering what "not severely tortured" would feel like.

      Like having to watch the same 4 Hanna Montana episodes for 48 hours straight.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hedwards (940851)
      That's a toughy, sort of like what exactly is pornography. Unfortunately, you can't say that severe torture is anything particular, but you can say that somebody that's fallen completely apart as a result was severely tortured. Which is why the Bush administration's view that they weren't torturing people was so asinine. The person committing the atrocity doesn't get to make that call, it has to be done on an impartial basis and I've yet to hear anybody that's been treated in that fashion not describe it as
  • I feel for what he must have gone through, and hope he brings down an Evil Corporation, setting a precedent for all Evil Corporations to come- but I think he's barking up the wrong tree.

    Just because wire-tapping functionality is built-in, doesn't mean you should use it to enforce a totalitarian regime. I think Nokia could easily argue that this was not the original intent and purpose of the equipment.

    Just because a length of rope can be used for strangling someone, that doesn't mean that the rope manuf
    • by Nadaka (224565)

      ON the other hand, if someone (someone all over the news and wanted for attempted hanging) walks into your rope store and says they need help selecting rope and tying nooses because he is having trouble hanging people to death, and you knowingly provide that rope and knotting skill, then you have also committed a crime of conspiracy to murder. aiding and abetting and possibly a few other crimes as well.

  • Legal wranglings (Score:4, Insightful)

    by captain_dope_pants (842414) on Tuesday August 24, 2010 @05:30AM (#33352782)
    At a rough guess some lawyers are going to make a load of money out of this. So regardless of the final outcome there will be some winners: That's the way it usually works.
  • Was it illegal in Iran for their government to purchase the gear? Surely Nokia - Seimens has international divisions. Are they bound by US law when all of the elements of a transaction are conducted outside the US?
                    I'm not suggesting that it was not an evil deed to sell this gear to the government of Iran but whether it was actually illegal is entirely another question. And just why did they file suit in the US?

"No job too big; no fee too big!" -- Dr. Peter Venkman, "Ghost-busters"

Working...