Thursday, December 6, 2012
Reuters Special Report: How foreign firms tried to sell spy gear to Iran
In the summer of 2008, Iranian security agents arrived at the family home of Saleh Hamid, who was visiting his parents during a break from his university studies.
The plain-clothes agents, he says, shackled him and drove him blindfolded to a local intelligence detention center. There, he says, they beat him with an iron bar, breaking bones and damaging his left ear and right eye.
Hamid says the authorities accused him of spreading propaganda against the regime and contacting opposition groups outside Iran. The evidence? His own phone calls.
"They said, ‘On this and this day you spoke to such and such person,'" says Hamid, now 30 and a human rights activist in Sweden. "They had both recorded it and later they also showed me the transcript."
Hamid was not the only one. The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center and other human rights groups say they have documented a number of cases in which the Iranian regime has used the country's communications networks to crack down on dissidents by monitoring their telephone calls or internet activities.
Now a Reuters investigation has uncovered new evidence of how willing some foreign companies were to assist Iran's state security network, and the regime's keenness to access as much information as possible.
Documents seen by Reuters show that a partner of China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd offered to sell a Huawei-developed "Lawful Interception Solution" to MobinNet, Iran's first nationwide wireless broadband provider, just as MobinNet was preparing to launch in 2010.
The system's capabilities included "supporting the special requirements from security agencies to monitor in real time the communication traffic between subscribers," according to a proposal by Huawei's Chinese partner seen by Reuters.