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Nokia Siemens Networks Sued By Iranian Activists for Human Rights Abuses, Aiding Regime to Hunt Down Opponents

Business  (tags: Iran, human rights, Mehdi, Isa Saharkhiz, lawsuit, Nokia, Siemens, monitoring centers, opposition, cell phones, unlawful support, police, Islamic Republic, repression, imprisoned activists, release!, Amnesty International )

- 3191 days ago -
Filed in USFedCourt against Nokia Siemens Networks & parent companies by Isa Saharkhiz & his son, Mehdi. Isa picked up by Iranian authorities as a result of monitoring of his cell phone during the civil unrest in aftermath of disputed Iranian elections


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Mehdi H (27)
Saturday August 21, 2010, 8:17 pm
Nokia Siemens has provided the Iranian government with many devices to tap the cell-phones and sensor sms. Shame on them. This time will pass for the Iranian people but they will not forget who was with them and who was against them

Jose Ramon Fisher Rodriguez (13)
Sunday August 22, 2010, 12:47 pm
Siemens was also involved in a major wiretapping scandal in Greece a few years ago. Google originally went along with the Chinese government's censorship policy and only rebelled against it when it found the government was attempting to build up its own search engine. Corporate hypocrisy is alive and flourishing.

LucyKaleido S (82)
Sunday August 22, 2010, 1:29 pm
Two Strange Deaths in European Wiretapping Scandal

By Paolo Pontoniere and Jeffrey Klein, New America Media
Posted on August 19, 2006

Just after noon on Friday, July 21, Adamo Bove -- head of security at Telecom Italia, the country's largest telecommunications firm -- told his wife he had some errands to run as he left their Naples apartment. Hours later, police found his car parked atop a freeway overpass. Bove's body lay on the pavement some 100 feet below.

Bove was a master at detecting hidden phone networks. Recently, at the direction of Milan prosecutors, he'd used mobile phone records to trace how a "Special Removal Unit" composed of CIA and SISMI (the Italian CIA) agents abducted Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric, and flew him to Cairo where he was tortured. The Omar kidnapping and the alleged involvement of 26 CIA agents, whom prosecutors seek to arrest and extradite, electrified Italian media. U.S. media noted the story, then dropped it.

The first Italian press reports after Bove's death said the 42-year-old had committed suicide. Bove, according to unnamed sources, was depressed about his imminent indictment by Milan prosecutors. But prosecutors immediately, and uncharacteristically, set the record straight: Bove was not a target; in fact, he was prosecutors' chief source. Bove, prosecutors said, was helping them investigate his own bosses, who were orchestrating an illegal wiretapping bureau and the destruction of incriminating digital evidence. One Telecom executive had already been forced out when he was caught conducting these illicit operations, as well as selling intercepted information to a business intelligence firm.

About 16 months earlier, in March of 2005, Costas Tsalikidis, a 38-year-old software engineer for Vodaphone in Greece had just discovered a highly sophisticated bug embedded in the company's mobile network. The spyware eavesdropped on the prime minister's and other top officials' cell phone calls; it even monitored the car phone of Greece's secret service chief. Others bugged included civil rights activists, the head of Greece's "Stop the War" coalition, journalists and Arab businessmen based in Athens. All the wiretapping began about two months before the Olympics were hosted by Greece in August 2004, according to a subsequent investigation by the Greek authorities.

Tsalikidis, according to friends and family, was excited about his work and was looking forward to marrying his longtime girlfriend. But on March 9, 2005, his elderly mother found him hanging from a white rope tied to pipes outside of his apartment bathroom. His limp feet dangled a mere three inches above the floor. His death was ruled a suicide; he, like Adamo Bove, left no suicide note.

The next day, Vodaphone's top executive in Greece reported to the prime minister that unknown outsiders had illicitly eavesdropped on top government officials. Before making his report, however, the CEO had the spyware destroyed, even though this destroyed the evidence as well.

Investigations into the alleged suicides of both Adamo Bove and Costas Tsalikidis raise questions about more than the suspicious circumstances of their deaths. They point to politicized, illegal intelligence structures that rely upon cooperative business executives. European prosecutors and journalists probing these spying networks have revealed that:

The Vodaphone eavesdropping was transmitted in real time via four antennae located near the U.S. embassy in Athens, according to an 11-month Greek government investigation. Some of these transmissions were sent to a phone in Laurel, Md., near America's National Security Agency.

According to Ta Nea, a Greek newspaper, Vodaphone's CEO privately told the Greek government that the bugging culprits were "U.S. agents." Because Greece's prime minister feared domestic protests and a diplomatic war with the United States, he ordered the Vodafone CEO to withhold this conclusion from his own authorities investigating the case.

In both the Italian and Greek cases, the spyware was much more deeply embedded and clever than anything either phone company had seen before. Its creation required highly experienced engineers and expensive laboratories where the software could be subjected to the stresses of a national telephone system. Greek investigators concluded that the Vodaphone spyware was created outside of Greece.

Once placed, the spyware could have vast reach since most host companies are merging their Internet, mobile telephone and fixed-line operations onto a single platform.

Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, BND, recently snooped on investigative journalists. According to parliamentary investigations, the spying may have been carried out using the United States's secretive Bad Aibling base in the Bavarian Alps, which houses the American global eavesdropping program dubbed Echelon.

Were the two alleged suicides more than an eerie coincidence? A few media in Italy -- La Stampa, Dagospia and Feltrinelli, among others -- have noted the unsettling parallels. But so far no journalists have been able to overcome the investigative hurdles posed by two entirely different criminal inquiry systems united only by two prime ministers not eager to provoke the White House's wrath. In the United States, where massive eavesdropping programs have operated since 9/11, investigators, reporters and members of Congress have not explored whether those responsible for these spying operations may be using them for partisan purposes or economic gain.

As more troubling revelations come out of Europe, it may become more difficult to ignore how easily spying programs can be hijacked for illegitimate purposes. The brave soul who pursues this line of inquiry, however, should fear for his or her life.

Jeffrey Klein is a founding editor of Mother Jones. Paolo Pontoniere is a New America Media European commentator.


LucyKaleido S (82)
Sunday August 22, 2010, 2:14 pm
It was Josť Ramon's comment which spoke of Greece that reminded me of that old article -2006- about the telephone wire tapping deaths, which have never to my knowledge been officially & adequately explained or acknowledged.

LucyKaleido S (82)
Tuesday August 24, 2010, 5:38 am
The Guardian has covered the imprisoned Iranian activist's Nokia Siemens lawsuit story today: I didn't know that Isa Saharkhiz was a prominent journalist and political figure. Power to him !! :

An imprisoned Iranian activist is suing Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) over allegations that the telecommunications company provided the Islamic regime with a monitoring system it used to spy on the opposition Green movement.

Isa Saharkhiz, a prominent journalist and political figure, was arrested after last summer's disputed presidential election.

Saharkhiz, who is still in detention, discovered during his interrogation in Tehran's Evin prison that his whereabouts were revealed when security officials listened in to his mobile phone conversations using technology NSN allegedly sold to Iran, his son Mehdi told the Guardian.

Moawad & Herischi, a Maryland law firm, has submitted an official complaint to a federal court in the US state of Virginia, alleging that Saharkhiz was tortured and mistreated because of the government's monitoring of his conversations.

NSN has confirmed to the Guardian that it sold the Iranian regime a monitoring system called Lawful Interception Management System (LIMS) in 2008. The company insists the technology is standard equipment in use in dozens of countries, but Saharkhiz's lawyers argue that NSN could have sold its mobile phone service without the monitoring technology, which should not have been made available to a country with a record of human rights abuses.

NSN said it halted all work related to monitoring in 2009.

"The monitoring system that NSN sold to Iran was subsidiary to the main network," Ali Herischi said. "They provided Iran with the network for many years before deciding to sell the spy system. My question is why they decided to provide Iran with the monitoring function when they knew that [the government] was abusing human rights and suppressing the opposition?"

NSN has acknowledged that LIMS has been used to suppress dissidents. "We believe that we should have understood the issues in Iran better in advance and addressed them more proactively," the company told a European parliament sub-committee on human rights in June. But it added: "When that technology is misused, accountability must sit with those who misuse it."

Herischi said: "My client is just one example of hundreds of prisoners who have been arrested and tortured because the government found them through the NSN system."

In a statement, the company said Saharkhiz's lawsuit had been "brought in the wrong place, against the wrong party, and on the wrong premise".

The company continued: "It is true that all modern mobile communications networks include a lawful interception capability; this capability became a standard feature at the insistence of the United States and European nations. These countries needed the capability for law enforcement reasons that are common throughout the world. It is unrealistic to demand, as the Saharkhiz lawsuit does, that wireless communications systems based on global technology standards be sold without that capability."

Herischi said the suit was brought in Virginia because NSN has an office there.

In July last year, the Guardian reported that NSN had been the subject of a boycott inside Iran after consumers sympathetic to the post-election protest movement targeted it and several other companies they accused of collaborating with the regime.

Vendors in Tehran said that the demand for Nokia handsets dropped by as much as half in the wake of the boycott call.

Although NSN has apparently stopped providing Iran with technical support for LIMS,the company continues to provide other mobile telephone services in Iran.

Meanwhile, two Chinese firms have stepped in to offer technical support for the monitoring system, according to an Iranian engineer who works for the Telecommunications Company of Iran (TCI).

"Since NSN stopped supporting Iran with the spy system, two Chinese companies, ZTE Corporation and Huawei, are helping Iran with the spy system in secret."

NSN's parent companies, Nokia, the Finnish telecoms firm and Siemens AG, the German engineering giant, have also been named in the lawsuit. Neither company has commented on Saharkhiz's complaint.
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