An article in the New York Times describes a report by Citizen Lab, a Canadian Internet research firm, that reveals that equipment useful for Internet surveillance and censorship manufactured by California-based Blue Coat is being used by repressive regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Venezuela and Russia.
The Canadian group concedes that the equipment detailed by its report was not subject to U.S. export controls:
The researchers also noted that the equipment does not directly fall under the dual-use distinction employed by the United States government to control the sale of equipment that has both military and civilian applications, but it can be used for both political and intelligence applications by authoritarian governments.
The ECCN that most likely would be applicable to the equipment in question is ECCN 5A980, which covers equipment “primarily useful for the surreptitious interception of wire, oral, and electronic communications.” My guess is that the equipment at issue fails the “primarily useful” test.
Even if this equipment did meet this test, licenses could easily be obtained to export the equipment to the countries singled out by the Citizen Lab report. Under current policy licenses to export such equipment to government agencies in countries other than Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria are generally approved.
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