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[liberationtech] Iranian flagpoles for jamming?

Collin Anderson collin at
Mon Dec 3 05:13:07 PST 2012

I second Amin's suggestion on the Small Media report; this Fox News article
is deeply misinformed. More than anything I am surprised that any media
source is still citing Austin Heap as a credible source, however, the
author's track record of stories seems to explain a lot. Unfortunately,
with comments like "satellite-to-satellite jamming," Mr. Heap seems to know
less about international broadcasting than he did Internet censorship.

On Sat, Dec 1, 2012 at 2:38 PM, Amin Sabeti <aminsabeti at> wrote:

> I think this report will be useful:
> Sent from my iPhone
> On 30 Nov 2012, at 20:05, Joel Harding <joel.k.hard at> wrote:
> I have some serious doubts if this is even possible.  My thoughts are
> that an antenna strong enough to hold up a flag would not be an
> efficient radiating element.  Wouldn't the wires be visible at the
> base?  Wouldn't there have to be some sort of a transmitter in fairly
> close proximity?  Is this just being fueled by conspiracy theorists or
> is this actually being done?  I don't recall seeing this before.
> New flagpoles in Iran spark rumors of clandestine satellite jamming
> technology
> By Lisa Daftari
> Published November 30, 2012
> Flying the national flag usually signifies a display of pride or
> patriotism. But in Iran today, it may represent something much more
> sinister.
> Sources and blog postings from inside Iran say that what seem to be
> simple flagpoles popping up all over Tehran and other large Iranian
> cities are actually clandestine electronic antennas, which use
> high-frequency waves to jam communications and block ordinary citizens
> from Internet, TV and radio signals. Some Iranians think the
> electronic emissions also may be hazardous to humans’ health.
> Tehran residents and communication experts report an increase in
> jamming has coincided with the strategic placement of the towering
> metal flagpoles, as the government continues its ongoing campaign to
> block some 500 TV channels and 200 radio stations from outside Iran
> deemed too Western-oriented.
> “Ever since 2009, the telecommunications masts have increased 10- to
> 15-fold. It’s not clear where these masts are, but many in Tehran,
> including myself, believe that these tall flagpoles recently placed
> around the perimeter of the city are jammers,” said Shahin, a
> 32-year-old Tehran-based blogger. The flagpoles are present in other
> large Iranian cities but are most prevalent in the capital, Shahin
> said.
> “The regime fears the Internet and satellites coming into the country
> more than they do the opposition forces living here,” he added.
> “That’s how we know they would do anything in their power, including
> risking our health, to protect their existence.”
> During the 2009 post-election uprisings, Iranian protesters who took
> to the streets turned to blogs and social networking sites like
> Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to voice and organize their opposition
> to the regime. Since then, the Iranian government has worked
> diligently to block access to such sites.
> The jammer flagpole scheme “is very much in line with and fits the
> pattern they have been demonstrating since 2009,” said Austin Heap,
> executive director of the Censorship Research Center.
> “The shape of the flagpole lends itself to house such a structure. If
> you notice the width of the pole decreasing as it gets taller, this is
> consistent with the design principles for good omni-directional
> broadcasting. … It’s a kill switch,” Heap explained.
> “It’s just the next step in controlling what comes in and out of the
> country,” Heap said. “Iran is looking to become better at controlling
> the dialogue.”
> The Iranian government has relied on two jamming techniques, according
> to Heap. One is the more widely used “satellite-to-satellite” method,
> in which waves are sent directly from one satellite to the other in an
> attempt to overwhelm the broadcast signal.
> But foreign broadcast companies learned to work around that by
> switching signals, turning the censorship campaign into a
> cat-and-mouse game that requires more time and effort by the Iranian
> government to block each channel.
> The flagpole jammers represent a second method, referred to as
> on-the-ground or local jamming. That process involves sending
> high-frequency microwaves over a larger area, saturating signals that
> jam incoming signals.
> “This new type of jamming is a catch-all,” Heap said.  “It is a
> one-size-fits-all solution.”
> The increase in jamming has been noted by the United States and
> European Union, both of whom announced new communications sanctions
> and warnings against the Iranian regime in November.
> Since the 2009 uprisings, roughly $76 million of the total $11.5
> billion allocated to the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps has been spent
> on cyber warfare, the Iranian government once reported. Iran’s cyber
> police monitor the Internet, various websites, blogs and individuals
> suspected of using circumvention tools designed to evade the censors.
> In early 2011, Iran unveiled plans for a “halal network,” or an
> “Islamically permissible” intranet that would disconnect the nation
> from the rest of the world. Such a service would automatically block
> popular global sites and search engines like Google, Facebook and
> Wikipedia.
> Other experts are more concerned about the health side effects of
> these suspected flagpole jammers, and they cite a rise in cancer rates
> in Iran as a possible result of the increased jamming activity.
> “A cancer tsunami is imminent,” Dr. Ali Mohagheghi, from Iran’s
> Ministry of Health, admitted earlier this year. Mohagheghi urged
> doctors to prepare for the coming “inundation” of cancer cases.
> “I’m not a doctor, but I’ll tell you it’s a one-to-one correlation,”
> said Heap, who explained that the second type of jamming - the ground
> jamming - emits a much higher degree of cancer-causing radiation.
> Those who have written about the flagpole jammers or hinted of their
> connection with cancer rates have been seriously criticized, even
> threatened with imprisonment.
> Masoomeh Ebtekar, head of Iran’s Environmental Organization, echoed
> the idea of a “cancer tsunami” a few months later, to the
> semi-official Mehr News agency. But she went further and connected the
> increase in cancer cases to the jamming waves.
> The government quickly responded by accusing Ebtekar of circulating
> rumors, and threatened to imprison her if she continued to speak about
> the subject, according to the Boltan News site.
> Despite government pressure, the story has not disappeared, as doctors
> and others continue to research the possible jammer-cancer connection.
> “New cases of pediatric cancer are growing at such an unbelievable
> rate that one can only connect this crisis to the increase in
> high-frequency waves,” said a pediatrician living and practicing in
> Tehran. “One only has to pay a visit to MAHAK (a pediatric cancer
> hospital) in northern Tehran to see how real this tragedy is,” she
> said.
> “Of course the government doesn’t want these cases and these
> statistics to be announced. It might cost them the regime.”
> Read more:
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*Collin David Anderson* | @cda | Washington, D.C.
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