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[liberationtech] AFP on Senate circumvention funding report to release Tuesday

Rebecca MacKinnon rebecca.mackinnon at
Sun Feb 13 05:57:13 PST 2011

US Internet censorship fight falling short: report

Agence France-Presse
Posted at 02/13/2011 6:37 PM | Updated as of 02/13/2011 6:37 PM

WASHINGTON, USA - State Department efforts to combat Internet
censorship in China and other countries have fallen short and funding
for the drive should be shifted to another US agency, a Senate
committee report says.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee report sharply criticizes the
State Department for being slow in spending money allocated by
Congress for Internet Censorship Circumvention Technology (ICCT).

The report, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, recommends that the
funding be given instead to the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG),
which oversees the Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and other US
radio and TV networks.

The report is to be released on Tuesday, the same day Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton is scheduled to deliver remarks on Internet
freedom at George Washington University here.

Clinton also delivered a major Internet freedom speech in January
2010, but the Senate committee report said there had been "scant
follow-up" in the next 12 months.

Congress has given the State Department $50 million for Internet
freedom programs since fiscal 2008, the report said, but $30 million
remains unspent and little has gone to Internet Censorship
Circumvention Technology.

"Such technology should be given a much higher priority by the US
government," it said. "US government support for ICCT development is
vital, given the weak private sector market interest in funding such

The report suggested the delays in allocating funding were partly
because some of the most sophisticated ICCT software -- DIT and
UltraReach -- was developed by two US companies founded by members of
the Falungong, which is banned in China, to allow followers to break
through the "Great Firewall."

The report said DIT and UltraReach have been used to circumvent
Internet censorship in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Myanmar and
Vietnam -- "countries which have looked to China for lessons in
Internet control or to whom China has directly provided technologies
to counter such products."

It said the delays in allocating funding have "strengthened the hands
of those governments, including China's, who seek to restrict their
citizens' access to information."

"The State Department is poorly placed to handle this issue due to its
reliance on daily bilateral interaction with these very same
governments, particularly China," the report said.

It said BBG stations, which also include Radio Marti, which targets
Cuba, and the Middle East Broadcasting Network "must all work on a
daily basis to ensure their radio, Internet and television programs
are being received by audiences in certain countries that try to
block, jam or outlaw these efforts."

"As such, the BBG, and not the State Department, would appear to be
the logical lead agency in the federal government to focus current and
future ICCT funding," the report said.

The report also criticized what it called the "inept handling of an
untested technology" -- ICCT software called Haystack created by the
San Francisco-based Censorship Research Center to assist Iranian
democracy activists.

"The Haystack team had not sufficiently tested its software nor
allowed it to be submitted for independent cryptological analysis
before it released a beta version to unsuspecting Iranians," the
report said.

"In September 2010, just after the beta version was released, an
independent team was able to crack the code in six hours and also
determined that the Iranian government would be able to manipulate the
software to identify any users," it said. "Once these weaknesses were
made public, the Haystack project quickly collapsed."

The report, which also called for the US government to increase its
public diplomacy efforts to counter China's "vigorous" moves on the
outreach front, was prepared at the request of Senator Richard Lugar
of Indiana, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations

Rebecca MacKinnon
Schwartz Senior Fellow, New America Foundation
Cell: +1-617-939-3493
E-mail: rebecca.mackinnon at
Twitter: @rmack

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