Wired for Repression

Surveillance Tech & Repressive Regimes

Bloomberg's series "Wired for Repression" reveals how Western companies provide surveillance systems to authoritarian countries that claim some of the world's worst human rights records including Iran, Syria, Bahrain and Tunisia. The newest artillery for repressive regimes, the gear allows authorities to intercept their citizens' e-mails and text messages, monitor Internet activity and locate political targets through cell phone technology. Brandishing transcripts of personal communications and records of whereabouts, officials now routinely use such information to confront, arrest and torture dissidents.

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  • The Surveillance Market and Its Victims

    In authoritarian countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, Western surveillance tools have empowered repression, allowing leaders to intercept e-mails and text messages, and monitor the whereabouts of citizens through their cell phones.

Special Report -- Bloomberg Exclusives

  • Syria Bars Protesters' Text Messages With Dublin-Made Equipment

    As unrest in Syria erupted into public demonstrations and a bloody crackdown that has claimed over 6,000 lives in the last year, the regime of Bashar al-Assad sought to neutralize one of the most potent tools in the protesters’ arsenal: text messages sent via mobile phones.

  • Israel Didn’t Know High-Tech Gear Was Sent to Iran Via Denmark

    The clandestine arrangement worked smoothly for years. The Israeli company shipped its Internet-monitoring equipment to a distributor in Denmark. Once there, workers stripped away the packaging and removed the labels.

  • Spies Fail to Escape Spyware in $5 Billion Bazaar for Cyber Arms

    Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- The intelligence operative sits in a leather club chair, laptop open, one floor below the Hilton Kuala Lumpur’s convention rooms, scanning the airwaves for spies. In the salons above him, merchants of electronic interception demonstrate their gear to government agents who have descended on the Malaysian capital in early December for the Wiretapper’s Ball, as this surveillance industry trade show is called.

  • Post-Revolt Tunisia Can Alter E-Mail With `Big Brother' Software

    In Tunisia, Big Brother goes by an alias: Ammar 404. A play on the “Error 404” message for blocked websites, Tunisian bloggers dreamed him up as a fictional front man for the sprawling surveillance state of former ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

  • Hewlett-Packard Computers Underpin Syria Surveillance Project

    Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) equipment worth more than $500,000 has been installed in computer rooms in Syria, underpinning a surveillance system being built to monitor e-mails and Internet use, according to documents from the deal and a person familiar with the installation.

  • Syria Crackdown Gets Italy Firm's Aid With U.S.-Europe Spy Gear

    Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- As Syria’s crackdown on protests has claimed more than 3,000 lives since March, Italian technicians in telecom offices from Damascus to Aleppo have been busy equipping President Bashar al-Assad’s regime with the power to intercept, scan and catalog virtually every e-mail that flows through the country.

  • Iranian Police Seizing Dissidents Get Aid Of Western Companies

    Oct. 30 (Bloomberg) -- The Iranian officers who knocked out Saeid Pourheydar’s four front teeth also enlightened the opposition journalist. Held in Evin Prison for weeks following his arrest early last year for protesting, he says, he learned that he was not only fighting the regime, but also companies that armed Tehran with technology to monitor dissidents like him.

  • Torture in Bahrain Becomes Routine With Help From Nokia Siemens

    Aug. 23 (Bloomberg) -- The interrogation of Abdul Ghani Al Khanjar followed a pattern. First, Bahraini jailers armed with stiff rubber hoses beat the 39-year-old school administrator and human rights activist in a windowless room two stories below ground in the Persian Gulf kingdom’s National Security Apparatus building.

Other Resources

"Wired for Repression" in the News

  • NPR’s Fresh Air Interviews Ben Elgin

    Reporter Ben Elgin discusses Bloomberg's investigation into the sale of surveillance technology by Western companies to repressive regimes including Iran, Syria, Bahrain and Tunisia.

Bloomberg View

Series Impact

Other Stories

  • U.S. Bans UAE Company for Supplying Internet Filter to Syria

    The U.S. Commerce Department banned a United Arab Emirates company from receiving items under the jurisdiction of U.S. export controls after it was found to have shipped Internet filtering devices to Syria.

  • EU Curbs Export of Surveillance Systems

    The European Union will curb the export of telephone- and data-interception technology to nations that use the tools to violate human rights, following reports that Western surveillance gear was used to track dissidents in Middle East crackdowns.

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