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[liberationtech] Italian Firm Exits Syrian Monitoring Project

Brett Solomon brett at
Mon Nov 28 12:08:46 PST 2011

 Reported in Bloomberg. Be great to see who else they sell to. Also, let's
ensure the other 3 companies pull out permanently!
Italian Firm Exits Syrian Monitoring Project, Repubblica Says
 By Vernon Silver - Nov 28, 2011 11:26 AM ET

Area SpA, the Italian company that had been building an Internet
surveillance system in Syria <>, is
exiting the project, according to the newspaper la Repubblica, which cited
a lawyer for the firm.

If completed, the system would have given Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad’s regime the power to intercept, scan and catalog virtually every
e-mail that flows through the country, Bloomberg News reported Nov. 4,
citing a person familiar with the project and blueprints for the system.

“The project, suspended for three months, given the lack of improvement in
the conditions of the country, will not be completed,” Area’s lawyer, Fabio
Ambrosetti, told la Repubblica. The company, based outside Milan, made the
decision two days ago, the newspaper said.

Area Chief Executive Officer Andrea Formenti didn’t immediately respond to
a request for comment. Ambrosetti was in court and couldn’t immediately
comment, a person who answered the phone at his office said.

The Italian company had come under pressure following the Bloomberg report,
with non-profit groups such as Human Rights Watch
<>calling for the project to be shut down.

The cancellation will deprive Assad’s regime of a tool for hunting
dissidents, who could have been abused or killed, said Nadim Houry,
senior Human
Rights Watch <> researcher
for the Middle East <> and North

“This would have been used for assisting people being tortured,” he said.
More than 100 Syrians have died in detention during the crackdown, he said,
“many of whom died during interrogation.”
Deadly Crackdown

All work on the surveillance system had already been suspended, Formenti
said Nov. 8. He declined to explain why, saying technical problems “could
be one of the reasons.”

The Arab League <> imposed
sanctions on Syria yesterday, including a freeze on financial assets in
Arab countries.

As Syria’s crackdown on protests claimed more than 3,500 lives since March,
Area employees had been installing the system under the direction of Syrian
intelligence agents, according to a person familiar with the project, who
had worked on it for Area and requested anonymity because Area employees
sign non- disclosure agreements with the company.

Privately held Area <>, which got
its start in 1996 furnishing phone taps to Italian law
issued a statement Nov. 8 saying the company does not have, and has never
had, any relations with Syrian intelligence agencies or military

The statement said the system hadn’t been completed, has never been
operational and, as a result, can’t have contributed to any repressive
actions. Area won the deal in 2009, long before the current violence, the
statement said.

The contract complied with export norms and was filed with the appropriate
Italian authorities, the company said.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Melissa Pozsgay at
mpozsgay at

Brett Solomon
Executive Director | Access |

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