Why is the UK selling intercept and surveillance tools to Iran? Updated November 16th 2011 – Government Departments Contradict One Another


http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-07/u-k-urged-to-ban-sale-to-iran-of-software-used-to-crush-dissent.htmlQuestions for Written Answer

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/william-hague/8873387/British-firm-with-links-to-William-Hague-sells-protester-tracking-product-to-Iran.html

https://davidalton.net/2011/11/11/the-sale-of-surveillance-equipment-to-iran-syria-and-other-regimes-in-north-africa-and-the-middle-east/

Wall Street Journal November 19th 2011

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970203611404577044192607407780.html

http://projects.wsj.com/surveillance-catalog/

Monday 28 November at 2.30pm
Oral Question:
†*Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they are giving to provisions concerning the export and re-export of arms and to the export of software or technologies that can be used against civilian populations.
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Oral Question in the Lords Tuesday November 15th 2011 – Government Minister says he will examine export of suveillance technology – but is contradicted by the Department For Business in written parliamentary replies:Iran Question 3 pm November 15th 2011

Asked By

Lord Luce To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their response to the report of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Iran’s development of nuclear devices.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, this report from the International Atomic Energy Agency clearly indicates that Iran has worked on developing nuclear weapons and that some of this work is continuing. We support the production of this report by the agency and call on Iran to take the necessary steps to assure the international community that it is not pursuing a military nuclear programme. We will be pressing for strong action when the agency’s board of governors meets later this week.

Lord Luce: My Lords, since, as the Minister indicated, there is growingly credible evidence that Iran is developing a capability to introduce and develop nuclear devices, and against the background of a dangerously volatile region in the Middle East, would the Minister agree that we should work extremely hard to persuade China, Russia, Israel, the Arab nations—all of us, in all our interest—to work in a concerted fashion to introduce tougher international sanctions that hurt Iran, but keeping literally as a last resort the possibility of military measures?

Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, I would certainly agree. We are all—and “all” means the entire planet—threatened by nuclear proliferation and the flouting of the proliferation regime which Iran has constantly demonstrated. The noble Lord is absolutely right that although we have an unprecedented degree of sanctions, and are thinking of more sanctions and more targeted sanctions, as long as China tends to be undermining these—and, to some extent, Russia as well—those sanctions are obviously weakened in their effect. So, he is right that we all have to work together to halt a threat that is really to the entire pattern of humanity.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, in considering the kind of sanctions that might be imposed on Iran, will the Minister say whether that will include surveillance technology—the sort which has been sold to Iran by the British company Creativity Software, and which has been used in the past against democracy activists and human rights campaigners, leading to their systematic torture? What pride does it bring to this nation that we have been selling such technology to Iran?

Lord Howell of Guildford: We are discouraging every kind of trade and business with Iran, not only those covered by sanctions but also investment by oil companies, for instance, and a whole range of others as well. The specific product that the noble Lord mentioned is one that I will certainly examine, but my overall understanding is that we are discouraging in every possible way all areas of trade with Iran, over and beyond both the EU and the US sanctions.
The sale of surveillance technology to Iran

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government why there is no export embargo on United Kingdom manufactured software and equipment which has been used to track down protestors and democracy activists in Iran.
• Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 15 November 2011, c133W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative)
There is no such embargo in place because the software and equipment is not generally subject to export controls in view of the legitimate commercial applications for which it can be used.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have received any estimate of the number of people arrested in Iran for offences related to election protests.
• Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 15 November 2011, c132W)

Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative)
Estimates of the numbers arrested for protesting following the June 2009 disputed presidential elections range from 4,000 to 5,000. 4,000 is the Iranian authorities’ own figure. This is alarmingly high. The protests were conducted in a largely peaceful manner in line with the right of freedom of assembly. We continue to call on Iran to respect human rights.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the alleged use of intercepts by mobile telephone monitoring devices manufactured in the United Kingdom in the interrogation and torture of Iranian democracy activists.
• Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 15 November 2011, c133W)

Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative)
Following the June 2009 protests, international non-governmental organisations alleged that a number of protesters’ movements were tracked by the Iranian authorities using mobile communications technology. Such technology is widely available from many sources. The Government actively discourage all trade with Iran. We take any reports of exports being misused overseas seriously. The equipment in question is not currently covered by the UK’s export control regime, and its export would not therefore constitute a criminal offence. However the UK’s export controls are kept under review to ensure that they are adequate and in line with international standards and sanctions regimes.

Questions for Written Answer
Tabled on 21 November and due for answer by 5 December.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have taken steps to establish whether the British company, Utimaco, the Italian company, Area, and the French company, Qosmos, have equipped the government of Syria with the power to intercept, scan and catalogue Syria’s communications data and internet activity. HL13572
Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Wilcox on 21 November (HL 13294) that officials of the United Kingdom Government National Technical Authority for Information Assurance met the company, Creativity Software, in March 2009, before surveillance technology was sold to Iran, (1) what was discussed at the meeting; (2) what assessment was made by the Authority of the use to which the technology could be put in controlling a civilian population; (3) which Ministers were told about the exports; (4) why the export of this equipment was not reviewed with Creativity Software as details of human rights issues in Iran became publicly documented; and (5) which other companies selling similar technology in the region were also interviewed by the Authority. HL13573

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to permit Creativity Software to continue providing British-made intercept software and equipment to Irancell; what has been sold under licence to Irancell to date; what has been the value of such sales to date; who authorised the sales; and what further sales are pending.
• Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 15 November 2011, c133W)

Baroness Wilcox (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Business, Innovation and Skills; Conservative)
Creativity Software is under no obligation to apply for export licences for this software and equipment unless it contains encryption that is subject to control.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether British-made telephone intercept equipment is being used for unlawful purposes in Iran, and what action they are taking to ensure that British-made equipment is not so used.
• Hansard source (Citation: HL Deb, 15 November 2011, c133W)

Lord Howell of Guildford (Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Conservative)
Following the June 2009 protests, international non-governmental organisations alleged that a number of protesters’ movements were tracked by the Iranian authorities using mobile communications technology. Such technology is widely available from many sources. The Government actively discourage all trade with Iran. We take any reports of exports being misused overseas seriously. The equipment in question is not currently covered by the UK’s export control regime, and its export would not therefore constitute a criminal offence. However the UK’s export controls are kept under review to ensure that they are adequate and in line with international standards and sanctions regimes

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Questions for Written Answer
Tabled on 15 November and due for answer by 29 November.
Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they intend to take to regulate exports by British-based companies which are associated with human rights violations. HL13462
Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what mechanisms exist to ensure that export policy is aligned with the United Kingdom’s foreign policy. HL13463

Questions for Written Answer
Tabled on 14 November and due for answer by 28 November.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether Creativity Software have sold surveillance technology to the government of Yemen; what was sold and when; and whether they will list all export licences, detailing (a) the names of companies, (b) the dates of transactions, and (c) the sums of money involved for the sale of surveillance technology to Yemen, Iran and Syria over the past five years. HL13416

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they introduced the British company, Detica, to the previous government of Tunisia; and whether surveillance technology was subsequently sold to the government of Tunisia. HL13417

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Questions Tabled 10/11/11 – appeared 11/11/11

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will publish the exchange of correspondence between the Prime Minister and Simon Davies of Privacy International concerning the sale of surveillance technology in the Middle East and North Africa, and place copies in the Library of the House. HL13348

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government how their criticism of regimes which seek to manipulate or intercept social networking sites, text messaging or electronic communications relates to the role of British companies selling such surveillance equipment to the same regimes, with the knowledge of Her Majesty’s Government. HL13351

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Written Questions Tabled on Wednesday November 9th on the Order Paper November 10th:

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with Creativity Software about their activities in Iran; who was present and on what dates; and whether they have established whether Creativity Software have servicing contracts for surveillance technology which they have sold to Iran. HL13294

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about the frequency of visits by British engineers and technicians to Iran; and what is the value of service contracts between British companies and Iran. HL13295

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government which United Kingdom companies have sold surveillance equipment to Iran, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya; and what discussions they have held with the companies, and on what dates, about the purposes for which such equipment could be used. HL13296

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with European Union Member States on establishing an effective framework to deter the misuse of European technologies involved in human rights violations and to prevent the resale of American technologies, on which an export embargo has been placed, via secondary companies based in Europe.
HL13297

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Tabled Wednesday November 9th 2011 in the House of Lords:

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the statement by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on 8 November that “The Government actively discourages all trade with Iran. We take any reports of exports being misused overseas seriously. It does not appear that the exporter has broken the law”, (a) what steps they took to discourage Creativity Software from trading with Iran, and when; (b) what consideration they have given to reports detailing the use of British exports in Iran; (c) which Ministers were involved in that consideration; (d) whether the Government’s Law Officers were consulted in determining whether the law had been broken; and (e) whether they intend to ban Creativity Software from further exports of telephone intercept equipment to Iran. HL13224Tabled on 7 November and due for answer by 21 November.

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government why there is no export embargo on United Kingdom manufactured software and equipment which has been used to track down protestors and democracy activists in Iran. HL13198

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the alleged use of intercepts by mobile telephone monitoring devices manufactured in the United Kingdom in the interrogation and torture of Iranian democracy activists. HL13199

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to permit Creativity Software to continue providing British-made intercept software and equipment to Irancell; what has been sold under licence to Irancell to date; what has been the value of such sales to date; who authorised the sales; and what further sales are pending. HL13200

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of whether British-made telephone intercept equipment is being used for unlawful purposes in Iran, and what action they are taking to ensure that British-made equipment is not so used. HL13201

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have regarding the use of British-made surveillance tools in political repression in the Middle East and North Africa; and to which countries in those regions such equipment has been sold. HL13202

Lord Alton of Liverpool to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have received any estimate of the number of people arrested in Iran for offences related to election protests. HL13203