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Censorship United States Politics

Out of Egypt Censorship, US Tech Export Under Fire 217

Posted by Soulskill
from the made-your-bed dept.
AndyAndyAndyAndy writes "After it was exposed that American firm Narus had sold Egypt the Deep Packet Inspection equipment used to spy on and censor its citizens, the US House Committee on Foreign Relations held a hearing where Reps. Chris Smith and Bill Keating 'grilled Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg on the sale of this Internet spying technology to an Egyptian Internet provider controlled by the Mubarak regime.' It seems there is now a push for stronger controls and monitoring for technology exports 'that would provide a national strategy to prevent the use of American technology from being used by human rights abusers.'" Several readers have noted that Hosni Mubarak has now stepped down as president of Egypt. Control of the country's affairs has been passed to the high council of its armed forces, which has some journalists and bloggers worried.
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Out of Egypt Censorship, US Tech Export Under Fire

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  • TFS: "that would provide a national strategy to prevent the use of American technology from being used by human rights abusers"

    No time to worry, as this is the first time that the controls already in place failed.

    CC.
    • Re:No Time to Worry! (Score:5, Informative)

      by msauve (701917) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:49PM (#35179146)
      The US is the only one allowed to use this tech to abuse human rights [eff.org], and it really doesn't want to risk losing its lead in technology used for spying on citizens.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Yeah, we've got it so god damn bad here. Why just the other day a bunch of goons in facemasks busted down my door because I said Obama sucks in a phone conversation.

        Fucking perspective - get some you drama queen.

    • So is DPI getting added to the ITAR list?
    • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Friday February 11, 2011 @04:11PM (#35179480)

      Wait a minute: "prevent the use... from being used"? So they can use it, but they can't use using it?

    • Re:No Time to Worry! (Score:4, Interesting)

      by sortadan (786274) on Friday February 11, 2011 @04:33PM (#35179790)
      Deep packet inspection has been around for several (technology) generations. I don't fault the software company for selling it to anyone, if they didn't some other software vendor would have (or the Egyptian authorities would have rolled their own). The demand was there, and it was going to be filled one way or the other. The real problem I see is that the base communication protocols haven't been encrypted, even after many years of evidence that it's needed. 100% of traffic should go over SSL, or something stringer with a distributed authentication scheme, rather than having a centralized authority like Verisign holding all the root keys.
      • by bertok (226922) on Friday February 11, 2011 @10:30PM (#35183006)

        There's a historical reason why SSL is not more common: because the hierarchy of certificate trust was not propagated through the hierarchy of DNS. That's the logical thing to do: If you control the domain name servers for your own domain, you can publish your own public keys. It would have been free and open, reducing the barrier of entry to practically zero. Instead, administrators have been forced to establish the relationship between certificates and DNS names using a commercial third party. Instead of extending the DNS protocol, we pay people to perform a workaround.

        This was a huge mistake that basically led to companies like Verisign extorting billions of dollars in exchange for permitting web administrators to encrypt traffic to their sites. What's brilliant is that Verisign owns a significant chunk of the root DNS name servers! It's a conflict of interest for them to enable a free and open hierarchy of trust based on DNS, because it would eliminate most of their business overnight.

        That, right there, is corporate corruption on a billion dollar scale that is directly detrimental to human rights, privacy, and information safety.

        I wonder how many people have been executed or imprisoned due to Verisign's stifling of internet cryptography enabling corrupt governments to spy on their citizens?

  • by severoon (536737) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:39PM (#35178992) Journal
    1. We would like you to stop selling this technology to other countries so they can use it to oppress their citizens.
    2. We would like to see a price list, please.
    • by Tackhead (54550)

      1. We would like you to stop selling this technology to other countries so they can use it to oppress their citizens.
      2. We would like to see a price list, please.

      1. Now that the beta testing is complete, we would like you to stop selling this technology to other countries so they can use it to oppress their citizens.
      2. Put whatever you like on the price list, because it's not our money, it's our taxpayers' money.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DCFusor (1763438)
      Surely you were already aware that the US gov already knows the price list in detail, and is a major customer. That was outed all over the Internet awhile back (including here), complete with pictures taken by an AT&T employee of one of the setups in a "restricted access" room -- if which I snagged a copy, along with the writings of the (ex) employee before they disappeared.
      .

      We said we didn't want them to have a kill switch too...what hypocrisy.
      .

      All the actions of our government over the last few y

  • Stronger controls (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:40PM (#35178996)

    It seems there is now a push for stronger controls and monitoring for technology exports 'that would provide a national strategy to prevent the use of American technology from being used by human rights abusers.'"

    I can't see that getting through unless the small print includes a special exception for Israel.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Considering that this is Israeli technology*, this should be modded funny. We don't have the balls to tell Israel what to do.

      Or is it? If the NSA/CIA wants something built and made available to their allies without the interference by Congress, just slip development money and specifications (or blueprints) to Israel.

  • Do you smell that? That's the smell of the middle eastern dictators and kings collectively shitting their pants.
    • by pitchpipe (708843) on Friday February 11, 2011 @04:09PM (#35179458)
      Agreed! Why does this news (that Mubarak just stepped down) only get a footnote to a small news story? Surely nerds will think this is big news as well.
      • by cfulton (543949)
        I agree. Where is the front page story. Mubarak leaves post. Egypt free!
        • by L0rdJedi (65690)

          LOL!

          Because the story isn't over yet. Mubarak may have stepped down, but that doesn't mean Egypt is free. If they aren't careful, they will end up like Iran. Lots of signs are pointing to exactly that happening.

          Gaza had free and open elections. Hamas was elected. That doesn't mean they're free.

          The entire Middle East is on fire right now. They all want Sharia law. You're about to see what it looks like to have a Caliphate in a large part of the world.

  • by RazzleFrog (537054) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:43PM (#35179052)

    Based on how well the Egyptian army has handled itself these past few weeks and how they tried to stay as independent as possible I think it may actually be a GOOD thing that they are taking over for now. Better the army than the Muslim Brotherhood.

    • The only question is, "Is there really any difference between Mubarak being in control and the military being in control?". Doesn't the military leadership consist of people put there by Mubarak?
      • Well the only problem in a country where there has been the same leader for decades is who exactly wasn't put in their position by him?

    • by Yeknomaguh (1681980) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:51PM (#35179190)
      Tired of this rhetoric. The Muslim Brotherhood is not as influential player in the region as fox news would have you believe. Nor are they a terrorist group or extremist group bent on anything other then the common goals of the revolutionaries. This just in, Islam is not the new Communism.
      • by RazzleFrog (537054) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:56PM (#35179260)

        I'll be honest with you - if they were called the Christian Brotherhood, Jewish Brotherhood or even Buddhist Brotherhood I'd be equally against them taking power. Egypt needs a secular government with a firm separation of church and state. God should have no place in government.

        But I do agree that their threat is overrated by the news companies.

        • by mapkinase (958129)

          "I'll be honest with you -..., Jewish Brotherhood ... I'd be equally against them taking power."

          Does it have to be called "Jewish Brotherhood"? Could it be called "American Israel Public Affairs Committee" instead?

          • I never said that the US is very good at separating church and state. Actually if you knew me in person you'd see I comment very often on where we are lacking in that area. I actually saw a picture of someone swearing in on a bible this morning and thought to myself - if I ever have to be sworn in it will be with my hand on "On the Origin of Species" or something like that.

            • Origin is good, but I'd pick the Principia.

              • Funny. I almost picked Newton. I went with Darwin, though, because of all the constant controversy between evolution and creationism. Sorry I mean Intelligent Design/Creation Science.

      • by jgtg32a (1173373)
        Weren't they actively suppressed by the Egyptian government?
        • To some extent. The biggest thing was that they weren't allowed to have their own political party and honestly I wish the US wouldn't let religious organizations form political parties either.

      • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki.gmail@com> on Friday February 11, 2011 @05:44PM (#35180582) Homepage

        Ignorance is not an excuse [investors.com] to the realities of the world.

        49% of Egyptians say Islam plays only a "small role" in public affairs under President Hosni Mubarak, while 95% prefer the religion play a "large role in politics."

          84% favor the death penalty for people who leave the Muslim faith.

          82% support stoning adulterers.

          77% think thieves should have their hands cut off.

          54% support a law segregating women from men in the workplace.

          54% believe suicide bombings that kill civilians can be justified.

          Nearly half support the terrorist group Hamas.

          30% have a favorable opinion of Hezbollah.

          20% maintain positive views of al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden.

          82% of Egyptians dislike the U.S. â" the highest unfavorable rating among the 18 Muslim nations Pew surveyed.

        And every place where 'islam is on the rise' including moderate indonesia, you'll see: repression, repression, repression. It's not the new communism, it's a push towards the dark ages.

    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... m ['o.c' in gap]> on Friday February 11, 2011 @04:07PM (#35179416) Journal

      The Muslim Brotherhood are not fanatics. They are the real equivalent of our Southern Baptists, stuffy old conservative men who want a society centered on religion. They have always condemned violence, and continually speak out against all terrorism. I wouldn't want to see them elected any more than I want our country ruled by Southern Baptists, but they are not radical terrorist Muslims. Oh, you will find some people claiming they are, but those are the same people who would believe a Muslim stamp collecting club was a terrorist organization. You won't find Al Qaeda praising the Muslim Brotherhood, indeed, all radical Muslims condemn it as too moderate.

      As I said, i wouldn't want to see them elected, not because they would attack Israel, or turn against us, but they might require women to wear Burkhas and a lot of them seem quite keen on stoning adulterers. Not good, but not suicide bombers, either.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Brotherhood [wikipedia.org]

      • If you look at some of my other posts I basically say the same thing. I never said they were terrorists. I just don't want to see Egypt become a religion run country - no matter what religion. It needs to stay secular.

        • by spun (1352)

          I agree it should stay secular. However, that is not for us to decide. It won't be the end of the world if the Egyptians democratically elect a government run by the Muslim Brotherhood. The one thing Egyptians won't stand for at this point is anything that takes their hard-won democracy from them. They might accept or even desire a religious country, but not one that forbids democratic elections. Therefore, while we may comment on what we would like to see in the region, we have no excuse to step in and tak

          • I agree 100% (and said something similar in another post). We can wish and hope they do the "right" thing in our opinion but it's their country and this revolution is about them making the choices.

            • by spun (1352)

              I really believe that most Americans think as you and I do, it is only our leaders who believe in the primacy of realpolitik. They think we are idealistic and stupid for believing that people in other countries should get to pick their own government even if that government is not pro-US-business-interests. Well, I think they are pompous, egotistical ass-clowns who shouldn't be allowed to drive a car, let alone run a country.

      • The Muslim equivalent of the Mafia?

        "Hey Vito Umar, you'se 'sposed ta git uz a suicide bomber today, wha' happon?"

        "Yo, Vinnie Usaed, I called up Fat Faheyed, but da moron had is own phone hooked to da bomb man! It blowed 'im all da way to Allah!"

        "Oh Vito, I tol' you Fat Faheyed was a idjit! Why you use 'im mon?"

        "I'm so sorry Vinnie, but 'e let me feel up 'is goilfren UNDER her Burka! I had to use him!"

        "Dats ok Vito, we'll jus' stone da chick an' yo honor will be restored"
      • by jd (1658)

        If they're the same as the Southern Baptists, it's no wonder the US is scared witless. <sarcasm>

        Seriously, it doesn't matter who ends up with control, what matters is that there will now be a highly unstable period in which the prior owners of the hardware could potentially walk off with it and/or sell it to someone it shouldn't. It's absolutely certain, in any dictatorship, that there'll be people in the old regime who will absolutely not want the new regime having any such device.

        • by spun (1352)

          Really? Because the army sure appears to be on the side of stability, and I imagine they are the ones with control over any dangerous hardware. When was the last time someone toppled a strongman, and other bad guys got his weaponry?

  • Narus stock then dipped as expectations of domestic sales tanked.

  • If we don't provide technology to be used by human rights abusers, then someone else will! I thought preserving profits was an implicit part of the golden rule. (He who has the gold makes the rules).

  • by Yeknomaguh (1681980) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:48PM (#35179126)
    According to my Egyptian friends and from common knowledge of the region, the people in general are not against a military run country in the interim between dictatorship and democracy. It assures stability while also assuring that things are changing. The culture of Egypt is very intertwined with the military, almost every family has at least one person actively serving, so when they chant "The military and the people are one" they aren't being selective as to exactly who in the military they're talking about. The military up to this point was already seen and acted as an unbiased arbitrator not influenced by politics. As has been stated, they are there to protect Egypt and the people of Egypt and will not spill Egyptian blood. They're probably the very best group to hold the country together in the potentially long process of redrafting a constitution and instituting a democratic system.
    • Mod parent up. Sorry I used all my points. This is a very good point and though I haven't been following this situation closely the general perception I had was that Egypt doens't have a military problem, it has a dictator that is not doing a good job of making the people happy.
    • While this may be true, the leaders of the Egyptian military are very much a part of the kleptocracy which seems to be one of the major issues in the current revolution - the fact that the average Egyptian is getting economically mauled. It will be hard for those generals to relinquish their economic grip and further it will be extraordinarily hard to prevent the kleptocracy from merely playing musical chairs.

      This is hardly unique to Egypt and is more likely to be a near universal issue. How to establis
  • Any guesses as to whether these congress liars support the USA's foreign aid given backing the same dictator over the past 30 years?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Something neither the anti-obama ranters nor the liberals "get" is that in the long run, America is only there for the Suez Canal, and would support whoever it takes to keep oil flowing through it. When the public gets around to electing someone else, we'll support them too, unless they stop keeping the Canal open again, in which case we take back all their toys.

    • by mosb1000 (710161)

      It is kind of strange that they would get mad a US corporation for helping out someone they've been helping out for decades. I'm sure they would have approved of the sale at the time. I guess they just look at it as a nice excuse to drive more companies out of the states.

  • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:53PM (#35179210) Homepage
    This coming from the government that invented the PATRIOT act, national security letters and directly taps internet backbones. Do members of congress not understand what hypocrisy is or do they just not care?
    • Seriously, that's what I was thinking:

      It seems there is now a push for stronger controls and monitoring for technology exports 'that would provide a national strategy to prevent the use of American technology from being used by human rights abusers.'"

      Fuck monitoring and controlling exports! I want want a push for stronger controls on and monitoring of human rights abusers here in America. Ever heard of the NSA you hypocritical fuckwit Congress-critters? Or is it okay because they import their equipment from China? So as long as American technology isn't being used to spy on American citizens, it's all fine and dandy? Fucking assholes.

  • For now I think the US will do all it can to support the NEW Egypt. American companies have a rare opportunity to show their goodwill and do more business with Egypt. Most of the top American companies already have headquarters in Egypt, like Google, Microsoft and others.... Restoring good business ties will strengthen democracy. Sounds better than shady deals for military technology meant for terrorizing citizens.
  • Like the US?

    The deeper you dig, the stronger the stench!

  • by JThaddeus (531998) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:55PM (#35179242)
    From http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2011/02/07/133503696/the-friday-podcast-egypts-military-inc [npr.org] "So far, the Egyptian military has largely sided with the protesters in the streets of Cairo. This is not only because the military supports the people; it's also because the military sells the people lots of stuff."
    • So, now they are governed by real free market entusiasts?

      Now, seriously, the military took the government the day they stood between the people and the government goons, and stopped the violence. Now we'll see if they are really on the people's side.

    • This is not only because the military supports the people

      Egypt has universal conscription for its military. So, the military are the people. Some kid doing his stint is very reluctant to shoot at his parents, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc.

      Actually the reports that I saw on CNN said that the military was distributing, not selling, water and food. And that they built places for the protesters to wash. People who really lost out are the ones in the tourist industry. Planes were flying from where I live empty, and returning with tourists anxious to get ou

      • But remember the military is very much part of the problem. The generals (and likely other upper level officers) have been bribed by giving them lucrative economic opportunities spanning the past 30 years. The generals are deeply entrenched in running the economy. An economy that really does not seem to benefit the 'average' Egyptian much. It is clearly in the military's best interest to stabilize the country - otherwise their investments (other than the money already taken out of the country) won't be
  • by A beautiful mind (821714) on Friday February 11, 2011 @03:57PM (#35179274)
    ...given the billions of dollars in military aid and training the USA has offered to Mubarak's regime - the teargas branded "made in USA" was just the obvious part.
    • ...given the billions of dollars in military aid and training the USA has offered to Mubarak's regime - the teargas branded "made in USA" was just the obvious part.

      You mean the military aid and training that went to the Egyptian military who have remained pretty neutral throughout the ordeal? Perhaps Egypt should have purchased weapons from the Russians instead?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by copponex (13876)

        Don't take this personally.

        But for everyone who is trying to give credit to the United States for giving tens of billions in military equipment to a regime that's been murdering it's own citizens for thirty years, fuck you. It's like giving kudos to the NRA for putting guns in the hands of idiots, and then congratulating them the one time someone uses it for good and simultaneously ignoring the tens of thousands of times it ended in tragedy.

        And yes, in fact, there have been a few bloodless revolutions [wikipedia.org] bac

        • Whoa there. I'm not giving credit to anyone. If it were up to me the US would exert as much pressure on foreign oppressive regimes just shy of military action. But you said it yourself. Nobody should be imposing their will on a sovereign nation. So does that mean we should just completely ignore relations altogether? The fact of the matter is that Egypt's peace with Israel brings stability to the region. Diplomacy is a delicate thing. And if we had stopped giving aid to Egypt, that wouldn't have stopped Mub
        • by tnk1 (899206)

          Actually, I think his point was a response to the initial assertion that because we sold weapons to the Egyptian military, we were supporting or even helping to cause oppression.

          The fact is that the oppression started before the US or even the Soviets started selling arms to Egypt. Nasser started off having some western equipment, then he became a Soviet client. Sadat continued that and then after the Peace Accords he brought Egypt closer to the US. Mubarak brought Egypt all the way to the US sphere.

          In a

  • The final question in the grilling by Reps. Chris Smith and Bill Keating to Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg...

    "So, how much does this cost and why don't we have it in place here already?"

  • Yes, it is a little scary to think that the military might use this opportunity to take control, but I think there are a few reasons we don't need to worry about that.

    1. The military is nearly all conscripts. When Mubarak asked the military to push back the protesters, the soldiers instead participated. I'm willing to trust that they are on the side of the people in this case.
    2. The US will never stand for the military taking power, and at $1.3 billion per year, I think the military will listen.

    For right now, I think we are just going to have to trust that the military is going to help foster Egypt's transition to democracy because there isn't anyone else that has the capability.

  • It's rather silly to discuss legislative limits to technology transfer at this late date. It is already mostly done. The big Western tech companies have already sold what they had to sell to the highest bidders. We were explicitly warned about this. The clearest and most apropos warning of how Western technology companies were selling censorship technology to repressive regimes came from Hacktivismo, years ago. Please see their article Waging Peace on the Internet [hacktivismo.com] (probably not work safe, depending on
  • Oh please.

    This has been done on a massive scale by CISCO to China ever since the DOT com crash in 2001. It is probably the only reason why the company hasn't declared bankruptcy or wasn't bought out since then.

    At least I do not know any of my friends who buy CISCO closed proprietary crap for their networks, so I am not sure how this company continues to stay in business.

    Although, I seen a CISCO camera at Office Max (it was crap), so maybe they have other ways of ripping off people while they are not sellin

  • by neotokyo (465238) on Friday February 11, 2011 @06:30PM (#35181204)

    "now a push for stronger controls and monitoring for technology exports 'that would provide a national strategy to prevent the use of American technology from being used by human rights abusers.'"

    Where is the grilling of our own country's use of this technology to spy on our citizens? Yeah, I thought so, not a single word. That'd be looking in the past and we never do that. Nope never...

    Honestly, this is consistent with what the US has been saying for the past 10 years on any human rights abuse. We've continued to rack up our own abuses and as long as the targets are "terrorists" or "Muslims" or whatever the current boogeyman, it's OK if the US does these things. Meanwhile, out of the other side of our mouth, while we continue these abusive and repressive tactics, we have the gall to point the finger at other countries, ones who we even have supported and ASKED to do our repression because it gives the US some value, we point our finger and tsk tsk tsk, spying, invasion of privacy, these are the things of tyrants and dictators... let the sound of freedom ring...

    Nope, not even a hint of irony there...

  • by xnpu (963139) on Saturday February 12, 2011 @04:30AM (#35184424)

    In other news: Google has, as of yesterday, started to actively report Chinese users or proxies/VPN's to the Chinese government. Can we be upset about this please? As someone living in China the last thing I need is Google as a government agent..

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