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HP Government Printer United States Hardware Politics

HP Accused of Illegal Exportation To Iran 287

Posted by timothy
from the trade-tends-to-bring-people-together dept.
AdamWeeden writes "According to research done by the Boston Globe, HP has been secretly using a third-party company to sell printers to Iran. This is illegal under a ban instituted in 1995 by then US President Bill Clinton. The third-party company, Redington Gulf, operates out of Dubai and previously stated on their web site that the company began in 1997 with 'a team of five people and the HP supplies as our first product, we started operations as the distributor for Iran,' though now the site has been changed to remove the mention of Iran. Has HP unknowingly been supplying Iran with technology or have they been trying to secretly get by the US government's export restrictions?"
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HP Accused of Illegal Exportation To Iran

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  • by Murpster (1274988) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @04:57PM (#26272567)
    Selling product to people who want them is a slap in the face of our American free market system!! How dare they!
  • IBM (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mozumder (178398) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:00PM (#26272597)

    This is what IBM did during WWII to avoid the ban on sales to Nazi Germany.

    You are with the free market system, or you are against it.

  • Re:eh hum.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moderatorrater (1095745) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:00PM (#26272603)
    I can't imagine that the Iran market is big enough to justify the risk of getting caught. But that's just me.
  • by Just Some Guy (3352) <> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:01PM (#26272625) Homepage Journal

    Let's for a moment gloss over whether those restrictions are good ideas. Are they even possible? I mean, we're talking about computing hardware here, the kind of stuff you can buy anywhere in the world without identification. It's not like a ban on nuclear materials where there's a limited supply and you can watch the sources pretty closely. So if HP quits selling to Iran, what's to stop them from buying from Turkey or England or India or Japan or China, and how could we ever pretend to know or that we could prevent it?

  • by bhtooefr (649901) <.bhtooefr. .at.> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:10PM (#26272757) Homepage Journal

    Nah, they're modern HP printers. Light pinch, then the printer breaks.

    If they were LaserJet 4s, though...

  • by A12m0v (1315511) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:11PM (#26272771) Journal

    At a time where our economy is taking a beating we should be glad that someone is willing to buy our stuff, even if they are crappy and actually made in China.

  • Re:eh hum.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:12PM (#26272795)
    You're right about getting caught, but it isn't HP that is at risk.

    HP and other printing manufs. have worked with various govts. to enable certain embedded tracking technologies that allow security agents to trace printed materials back to the hardware used to create it.

    This is all well and good, but only if your suspects use it - this is where the need to 'avoid' certain govt. regulations comes into play. And if you do it legally, then your prey might get wind of the trap. Just like in the movies, where the undercover cop gets busted right along with the bad buys so that he can continue to pull the wool over their eyes...hopefully.
  • Re:eh hum.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:14PM (#26272823) Journal
    A small market is very much justifiable for sufficiently small values of "risk of getting caught" and "likely punishment". As it so happens, sufficiently small values seem to be the state of things. Frankly, I'm not sure why HP is the story here. Sure, they are almost definitely guilty of evading the spirit of the law, and quite possibly the letter; but HP's degenerate printers aren't really a big deal. The fact that a steady stream of oh, say, oil drilling and logistical equipment(including stuff with radioisotopes) has been getting transshipped for years seems much more interesting.

    It is things like this that I find interesting about the behavior of our present administration(and, I'll note, some past ones, though they tended not to play the apocalyptic side nearly as hard). When it comes to talking about how dire the threat posed by Iran, or terrorists, or whoever it is, no description is too grandiose, no measure to severe or too costly. When it comes to actually doing something that might upset the corporate sponsors, though, all that is off. The west is supposed to be locked in some sort of existential struggle of civilizations, and you are telling me that we can't keep HP from selling printers to Iran, or get Bechtel to build barracks that don't electrocute our own people?

    I suppose this shouldn't really surprise me, half of American "captains of industry" seem to have spent WWII goose-stepping; but the dissonance still throws me. People talk like this is a matter of total war; but regulate like it doesn't matter at all.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:21PM (#26272903)

    I think what you meant to say was that printers help information flow and that could encourage people to modernize their views.
    There is no free speech in Iran- it's a concept that originated in the west.

    I'm quite sure he meant their human rights. Iran might not honor those, but that doesn't mean Iranians don't have them. Specifically, in this case, freedom of the press.

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@g m a> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:23PM (#26272919) Homepage

    You know Canada had price controls on their goods in 1980, so...the US killed 2 million of us? Oh no wait you're just an uninformed troll.

  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettw&yahoo,com> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:31PM (#26273027) Journal

    Not only that, but the company that's actually selling inside Iran is in Dubai. So how is this HP's fault in the first place? Last time I checked, we don't have any sanctions on Dubai, so it's perfectly legal for HP to sell its products to that middleman. Unless the sanction means that US companies can't even do business with people who do business with other people in Iran, but then how the hell do you police that?

    All sanctions manage to accomplish is to give a dictatorial regime a convenient boogeyman for all their nation's problems. I'd like someone to list one time when sanctions actually accomplished anything useful beyond simply starving the innocent population of a nation of goods and services they might otherwise have bought.

    Besides, if we removed the sanctions on Iran, they'd be covered in McDonald's, Starbucks, and Wal-Mart Supercenters with the latest American Idol blaring out of every speaker in the country so damn fast it would make your head spin. Now THAT's how you conquer another people without wasting money on bombs and bullets.

  • ink (Score:5, Insightful)

    by conspirator57 (1123519) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @05:35PM (#26273061)

    i think Iran should be allowed to buy printers. Ink is more expensive than oil and with HP's / Lexmark's, etc. business model, I'd say making them buy ink to print is nearly an act of economic war more effective than the trade embargo itself.


  • Re:eh hum.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ElGanzoLoco (642888) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @06:16PM (#26273477) Homepage

    I can't imagine that the Iran market is big enough to justify the risk of getting caught. But that's just me.

    Yeah, that's just you. An oil-rich country with 70 million inhabitants, many of them middle-class, urbanized, literate, and under 30, is a gold mine.

    Don't think Iran is anything like Afghanistan or Iraq. It is among the most developed countries in the Middle-East and Central Asia, and definitely the one with the best-educated population.

    As a side note, finding common computing equipment and parts there is not a problem, and virtually everything imported to Iran either transits via Dubai or (more often than not) directly bought there to wholesale companies. The goods are then loaded on small wooden boats and shipped to Iran. Most of this trade escapes any sort of control (at least on the Dubai side of things).

    In other words, the "US embargo on Iran" is a frigging joke, and a total waste of time.

  • Re:globalization (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @06:16PM (#26273479)

    exactly, I'd doubt these printers ever touched US or allied soil. They probably went straight from China to Dubai. China will let HP get the money or simply run the factory overtime (counterfeits) and ship the printers from a different warehouse when the HP managers leave. HP USA has absolutely no control over HP China in matters like this. "be happy the Chinese pay HP to use the HP logo on the equipment, pray they don't alter the deal anymore".

  • Re:Unknowingly? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mabhatter654 (561290) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @06:21PM (#26273529)

    but a Chinese business partner don't give a damn about those rules. They run extra stuff all the time from the sweatshops, fake bags, shirts, cell phones, iPods, etc. If you make it in China, they counterfeit it. HP can take their cut for their "IP", it's not like HP actually MADE any of that stuff, or the Chinese will ship the product with empty logo spots anyway and HP gets nothing.

    Enforcing an embargo against any country is like trying to enforce the US labor unions in all those other countries! US companies are just middlemen now, they don't MAKE anything.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @06:56PM (#26273835)

    by God man hit that anonymous button jesus fucking christ.

  • Re:ink (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snowgirl (978879) * on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @09:10PM (#26275101) Journal

    i think Iran should be allowed to buy printers. Ink is more expensive than oil and with HP's / Lexmark's, etc. business model, I'd say making them buy ink to print is nearly an act of economic war more effective than the trade embargo itself.


    I don't see why it should be such a horrible thing to sell printers to Iran in the first place... ZOMG! IRAN IS GETTING PRINTERS!!!! AH!!! RUN!!! NEXT THEY'LL HAVE THE BOMB!

    Some (most? all?) of these trade embargos are just straight up stupid. The idea is like this. We don't like this country doing XY... so we won't sell them anything until they do it the way we like it. So, basically, let's PISS THEM OFF MORE, to get our desired effect? It's like the ultimate in passive-aggressive international policy.

    It's like, I could sell printers to people in countries where they are actively committing genocide, but I can't sell printers to people in this other country, because my government doesn't like them? Retarded... seriously...

  • by LenE (29922) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @01:54AM (#26277275) Homepage

    Just because you didn't see it on 24/7 cable news, doesn't mean that it didn't get found. A friend of mine was in the first wave of troops, and found a large WMD cache. The shells were in much better shape than those that were found later in the first month. That site was secured and there was no news of his find. While it does not make sense to the casual observer, not all discoveries are announced for political gain. I only found out about this because he was injured in a non-combat accident, and sent home.

    The particular equipment I mentioned in my GP post looks quite innocuous and would probably be ignored by the first wave of troops, and likely looted for scrap by the Iraqis after Saddam's fall.

    If you remember back to the Colin Powell UN Sec. Council presentation, we (the U.S,) were looking for mobil mass-production units. The equipment we sold was not for producing large amounts, but for the very large scale research effort required to identify successful strains of bacteria and viruses. Think millions of test tubes in a lab vs. large vats in a production process.

    Without the research and strain isolation, the "weaponization" couldn't exist. There are thousands of labs all over the world that used our equipment to grow cultures. Iraq bought the equivalent of 70% of our annual production of our largest equipment, and plenty of accessories to keep all of them filled and productive. For some reason, I don't think that Iraq was trying to have a bacterial or viral space race to cure the common cold or to fight MRSA while dealing with crippling economic sanctions. The more likely use of this equipment was their acknowledged germ warfare program, especially given the massive amount of bacterial culture media used by this program [].

    -- Len

  • Re:ink (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @04:06AM (#26277815) Journal

    The printers in question contain processors that are capable of doing more then controling A print head with precision and shooting a laser onto a series of drums with accuracy as good as or better then most printing presses.

    But that's not even the root of the thing, you don't attempt to get your kid to do his homework by giving them a pizza party and renting the newest action movies for him to watch. The trade embargo is specifically designed to keep tech out of Iran's hands and make it more expensive and difficult to obtain nuclear weapons. I mean you if you know your dad is a druck that beats you, you don't run out and buy him brewers yeast while attempting to keep him off the hooch because he will figure out how to make the alcohol himself and beat you some more.

    The goes way past because the government doesn't like someone. If you would pull your head out of your ass and just look at the entire situation, you probably wouldn't have even posted you remarks. Let alone done so in a way that makes you appear like a clueless idiot. "Retarded... seriously..."

  • Re:ink (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @09:56AM (#26279739)

    So you think a US trade embargo will keep technology from getting to Iran?? Even Pakistan has nuclear weapons and their GDP per capita is about US$1000 a year.

  • Re:ink (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sumdumass (711423) on Wednesday December 31, 2008 @02:48PM (#26283967) Journal

    No I don't think a US trade embargo will stop technology from getting to Iran. However, you don't give the guy who claims he is going to attack you a loaded gun. Make him find it on his own. I mean shit, should we mail the keys to a couple of jet airliners to Al Qeada and tell them where they will be parked and fuel them up for them?

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