MAJOR CONTRACTOR to U.S. Government helped Iran spy on dissidents

Two European companies — a major contractor to the U.S. government and a top cell-phone equipment maker — last year installed an electronic surveillance system for Iran that human rights advocates and intelligence experts say can help Iran target dissidents.

Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), a joint venture between the Finnish cell-phone giant Nokia and German powerhouse Siemens, delivered what is known as a monitoring center to Irantelecom, Iran’s state-owned telephone company.

A spokesman for NSN said the servers were sold for “lawful intercept functionality,” a technical term used by the cell-phone industry to refer to law enforcement’s ability to tap phones, read e-mails and surveil electronic data on communications networks.

In Iran, a country that frequently jails dissidents and where regime opponents rely heavily on Web-based communication with the outside world, a monitoring center that can archive these intercepts could provide a valuable tool to intensify repression. Lily Mazaheri, a human rights and immigration lawyer who represents high-profile Iranian dissidents, said she had suspected that the government had increased its capability to monitor its perceived enemies. WASHINGTON TIMES

Interviews with technology experts in Iran and outside the country say Iranian efforts at monitoring Internet information go well beyond blocking access to Web sites or severing Internet connections.

Instead, in confronting the political turmoil that has consumed the country this past week, the Iranian government appears to be engaging in a practice often called deep packet inspection, which enables authorities to not only block communication but to monitor it to gather information about individuals, as well as alter it for disinformation purposes, according to these experts. Wall STREET JOURNAL

Iranian Internet has slowed down massively over the last ten days, and is down to 5Kb/s. More and more websites and social networking sites (Facebook, etc) are filtered. One of our Observers, Sara M. (pseudo), a student in Tehran, managed to send us a short video in which she shows how state censorship works on the Web and on text-messaging services.

SEE VIDEO HERE: IRANIAN INTERNET

And didn’t Obama recently appoint an internet czar and division that will enable the government to shut down the internet or monitor it as they see fit? In case of a national crisis of course.

But as Iran buys state-of-the-art spy equipment, the Obama Administration decides to abandon our own spy-satellite program.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration plans to kill a controversial Bush administration spy satellite program at the Department of Homeland Security, according to officials familiar with the decision.

A satellite scheduled for launch from Virginias Eastern Shore is designed to detect hidden enemy weapons and deliver their locations to U.S. combat troops
A satellite scheduled for launch from Virginia's Eastern Shore is designed to detect hidden enemy weapons and deliver their locations to U.S. combat troops   (NO MORE!)

The program would have provided federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery — but no eavesdropping capabilities— to assist with emergency response and other domestic-security needs, such as identifying where ports or border areas are vulnerable to terrorism. (Well, we wouldn’t want to do that, it might tick off our friends in Iran)

It would have expanded an Interior Department satellite program, which will continue to be used to assist in natural disasters and for other limited security purposes such as photographing sporting events. (That’s right, sporting events are so much more important than national security)

“It’s being shut down,” said a homeland security official.

Once she assumed her post, Ms. Napolitano ordered a review of the program and concluded the program wasn’t worth pursuing, the homeland official said. Department spokeswoman Amy Kudwa declined to speak about the results of the review but said they would be announced shortly.

Rep. Jane Harman (D., Calif.), who oversees the House Homeland Security subcommittee on intelligence, said she was alarmed when she recently saw that the Obama administration requested money for the program in a classified 2010 budget proposal. She introduced two bills that would terminate the program.

“It’s a good decision,” Ms. Harman said in an interview. “This will remove a distraction and let the intelligence function at [the department] truly serve the community that needs it, which is local law enforcement.” (Because there’s no longer a threat from foreign terrorists?)

Supporters of the program lamented what they said was the loss of an important new terrorism-fighting tool for natural disasters and terrorist attacks, as well as border security.

“After numerous congressional briefings on the importance of the NAO and its solid legal footing, politics beat out good government,” said Andrew Levy, who was deputy general counsel at the department in the Bush administration.  WALL STREET JOURNAL