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Censorship Government United States Hardware Politics

Syria Buys Dell PCs Despite Sanctions 72

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-feel-violated dept.
puddingebola writes with a New York Times article about how mundane PC equipment — not just more esoteric and eyebrow-raising network monitoring equipment from Blue Coat — makes its way to Syria: "Large amounts of computer equipment from Dell have been sold to the Syrian government through a Dubai-based distributor despite strict trade sanctions intended to ban the selling of technology to the regime, according to documents obtained by The New York Times. The disclosure of the computer sales is the latest example of how the Syrian government has managed to acquire technology, some of which is used to censor Internet activity and track opponents of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad."
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Syria Buys Dell PCs Despite Sanctions

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Your call is important to us... please stay on the line, and a customer representative will be with you shortly."

  • but after Egypt, I'm not entirely sure another MB dominated country in the ME is a good outcome for the West.

    what say you?
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think the u.s. administration likes the muslim brotherhood taking over the middle east because they need a bad guy to chase to justify continued wars. There's a lot of muttering here in the u.s. that we should end all of these wars and pull out. But, you can't very well pull out if there's a new big bad villain to fill the old vacuum. It's a common C.I.A. tactic to prop up a known bad guy in place of an old regime, control him for awhile, soak up the hegemony this provides us until they turn on against th

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @04:25PM (#43631433) Journal

      but after Egypt, I'm not entirely sure another MB dominated country in the ME is a good outcome for the West.

      what say you?

      I suspect that the ship has largely sailed on that sort of thing. When you prop up regimes that (while secular and at least semi-docile) provide governance of absolutely dreadful quality, while generally cracking down on civil-society types, that increasingly leaves you with a 'puppet tyrant or religious nutjobs' situation that can be expensive, even impossible, to maintain for the puppet tyrant(y hello there, Iran, we were just talking about you, and I think I see Pakistan heading up the driveway to join us!). It's somewhat similar to all those CIA-backed-Latin-American-Fascists who, once they eventually collapsed, were largely replaced by semi-hostile populist socialists. No shit the locals were looking to change brands after the delightsome performance of their previous government provider.

      I'd say that the locals are making a mistake, descending into theocratic insanity tends to put you among the ranks of some really shitty places; but it's not as though secular liberal democracy has been putting on a very impressive show...

      • Your comment on Iran lacks some nuancing context (maybe
        the best thing to do is be a little less preoccupied with it, Iran
        doesn't only exist as a result of Americans entertaining any
        thoughts on it), but other than that -- agreed.

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        I'd say that the locals are making a mistake, descending into theocratic insanity tends to put you among the ranks of some really shitty places; but it's not as though secular liberal democracy has been putting on a very impressive show...

        Well one only needs to look at the state of the middle east, africa and a few other regions to note one very interesting thing. There's a lot of countries on the move to hardline religious theocracies in regions that were cool to neutral in most cases. And those countries want one thing, a muslim dominated world and death to the west. Not in that particular order.

        And while liberal democracy hasn't been putting on a very impressive show, it's sure better then the brands of kookiness that are springing up

  • fences fence. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gl4ss (559668) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @03:28PM (#43631131) Homepage Journal

    where's the news in that?
    and what the fuck does this even have to do with Dell? it's more to do with the Dubai based outfit. Dell might have good reasons to drop them as an official reseller now though, but the whole trade sanction can't work if you can sell to countries which don't adhere to the trade sanction, because they'll buy and fence the goods to their customers - that's what retailers do after all.

    and an arab businessman shitting his business associates in another country? TELL IT AIN'T SO!!!! /s.

    • what the fuck does this even have to do with Dell?

      Nothing, directly. Granted, I didn't RTFM because it's behind a paywall, but I haven't seen anything that implies that Dell was even aware of the sale at the time. AFAICT, the only reason they're mentioned is that it was Dell computers that were sold. What I'd like to know is what, if anything, Dell is going to do about it. Are they going to drop the reseller for violating the sanctions, or just try to pretend this never happened?
      • ... What I'd like to know is what, if anything, Dell is going to do about it. Are they going to drop the reseller for violating the sanctions, or just try to pretend this never happened?

        Are you kidding? In business, a sale's a sale.

        • by slick7 (1703596)

          ... What I'd like to know is what, if anything, Dell is going to do about it. Are they going to drop the reseller for violating the sanctions, or just try to pretend this never happened?

          Are you kidding? In business, a sale's a sale.

          Personally, I consider Dell's pieces of crap and Syria does not benefit by the purchase.

    • Because Dell is the one who figured it out and disclosed the information. So kudos to Dell for figuring this out and reporting it.

      Next, I want to know if they are going to drop the reseller. From the article, the resellers knew who they were selling to.

      • by icebike (68054)

        Because Dell is the one who figured it out and disclosed the information. So kudos to Dell for figuring this out and reporting it.

        Next, I want to know if they are going to drop the reseller. From the article, the resellers knew who they were selling to.

        But was it illegal for said resellers to sell to Syria?
        It may well not be something their country forbids.

        If the computers were on consignment from Dell, its one thing, but if they bought them then resold them, there may not be anything anyone can (or should) do. First sale doctrine and all that.

        I suspect Syria is under too much pressure fighting off the rebels to be setting up any tracking system these days anyway. /me: reaches for tinfoil hat...
        If you don't see the US making any more noise about this iss

    • Re:fences fence. (Score:5, Informative)

      by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @04:51PM (#43631537)

      where's the news in that? and what the fuck does this even have to do with Dell?

      If you work for a big US company, you get to take an education course once a year on US export regulations. Along with the courses on sexual harassment and business ethics. Basically, the US government grants a waiver and lets companies do their own export control. This means that a US company does not need to do paperwork and receive an approval from the US government every time it wants to ship a pencil somewhere in the world. And, yes, the company is also responsible for ensuring that any of their goods do not pass through third parties to countries on the restricted list.

      Now if the government decides that the company is not abiding by the restrictions, including business by a third party, the government cancels the waiver. This means that the company needs paperwork and approval for anything shipped anywhere by the company. So your company's business grinds to halt. That is why it matters to Dell.

      This also applies to US bribery laws. In the US, it is illegal to bribe government officials. In other parts of the world, bribery is business as usual. So US companies used to hire "consultants" when applying for contracts in foreign countries. The "consultant" received a lump sum of money, and could spend it however needed to close a deal. Including bribery. Now, US law applies to this as well. A US company hiring a "consultant" in this way could be charged with bribery for this now.

      • by tftp (111690)

        A US company hiring a "consultant" in this way could be charged with bribery for this now.

        This has to mean at least one of the following:

        1. The USA is expecting the whole world to suddenly change its ways and to conform to US ways of life (to some of them, but not all - going for all, like getting nuclear tech, is forbidden.)
        2. The USA does not care to win contracts when competition from other countries uses bribes.

        On top of that, in a modern politically correct world one could say that it is racist to ha

        • by Luckyo (1726890)

          You forget that bribery can take many forms depending on the culture. It's common in the Asia for example to have low level bureaucracy with bribes significantly speeding it up.

          It's common in North America and Europe to have high level bribery, with services and gifts exchanged at highest echelon of the society to facilitate functionality of legislation.

          Essentially this is a question of "where is the power in the bureaucracy". In the countries with our system, the power lies with those who make laws - the r

      • by QQBoss (2527196)

        Dell was punished for just this (sale to a company who resold to an embargoed country) in the past. I got to watch the videos Dell employees were subjected to (kind of in the 'if you see something, say something' vein) and I wasn't on the business side, I was under the CTO umbrella. I seem to recall the punishment lasted 5 years and was blamed for a significant reduction in growth for those years. While I worked there, some of my interactions with the sales side of the house gave me the chance to watch t

    • by lxs (131946)

      and what the fuck does this even have to do with Dell?

      Now this has become news, they can no longer pretend not to know about the final destination which means that they risk being held responsible for any new shipments sent through this intermediary. Which means that they have to find another route so they can act all shocked and surprised again when that one is discovered.

  • Even Syrians need to pay taxes and watch youtube videos featuring cats.
    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      Even Syrians need to pay taxes and watch youtube videos featuring cats.

      More the second than the former, I'm thinking. Hell, flood the world with cheap computers and internet access. If everybody is checking out Lolcats, they'll be too damned busy to shoot anybody. Just make sure the female cats are dressed in a hijab and we should be golden.

      • I think you are forgetting the more important element here: porn. If you have access to more and more diverse porn than you could possibly ever watch, it'll be harder to convince you that you should blow yourself up for a religious cause. That, and a little bit of the exposure to outside ideas, but mostly the porn.
        • I think you are forgetting the more important element here: porn. If you have access to more and more diverse porn than you could possibly ever watch, it'll be harder to convince you that you should blow yourself up for a religious cause. That, and a little bit of the exposure to outside ideas, but mostly the porn.

          Sadly, I believe that both bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers were well-loaded with porn. Didn't help.

          I'm a big believer that the more information available to you, the better, but I also know that what a lot of people do when confronted with multiple sources is that they cherry-pick the ones they like and shut out the rest. The most tyrannical censorship of all begins at the eyes and ears.

  • by Warhawke (1312723) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @03:44PM (#43631225)
    This is an outrage! We have set up strict trade sanctions to prevent this exact kind of thing from happening! The circumvention of these sanctions is reckless and might endanger the freedoms of Syrian citizens everywhere. To think that we would simply allow Syria to acquire Dell PCs is unfathomable. We need stronger provisions and enforcement mechanisms to make sure that Dell PCs and the dangers that they present do not wind up in the hands of other innocent countries. We must strengthen the already tough sanctions against Dell!
  • ... of export trade restrictions. Then Dell has to terminate their partnership. That will put the lying Mr. Singh in the spot light.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I for one am happy to see that Bashar al-Assad is not such a religious extremist. At least he is willing to buy computers from a Jew.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Shocked, shocked, I tell you, that any business in Dubai would involve itself in such shady tactics:

    https://www.google.ca/#hl=en&sugexp=eappswebvhl&gs_rn=12&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=lAR8_0lfNMQukGSbTTFxZw&cp=12&gs_id=6x&xhr=t&q=Dubai+slave+labour&es_nrs=true&pf=p&biw=994&bih=599&sclient=psy-ab&oq=Dubai+slave+&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_cp.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45960087,d.cGE&fp=5a91ee71d795407c

  • by nbauman (624611) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @04:18PM (#43631403) Homepage Journal

    The same people http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Perl [wikipedia.org] who sold us on the idea that we had to attack Iraq, because otherwise Saddam Hussein would attack us with chemical weapons, always wanted us to attack Syria next.

    The Iraq story turned out to be a lie, and we are now worse off in Iraq, with Islamist and secular militias carving up the country and giving a big slice to al Qaeda and its successors. (Not to mention the 3,000 Americans killed, and forget about the 300,000 or so Iraqis who were killed.)

    Assad is running a stable, secular dictatorship that violates human rights. The anti-government forces are sectarian Islamists who will violate human rights even worse, massacre people in the other sects, destroy Syria as a functioning country and turn it into feuding fiefdoms like Iraq.

    We ignored the same human rights violations when Assad was our puppet and we wanted to send prisoners to Syria for him to torture. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/feb/19/syria-us-ally-human-rights [guardian.co.uk]

    • Well, it was a stable dictatorship. That stopped being the case a couple years ago. Now the only way to re-stabalize it will be to kill millions of people.
      • by 0123456 (636235)

        Well, it was a stable dictatorship. That stopped being the case a couple years ago.

        That was about the time we started giving weapons to the opposition, wasn't it?

        • by dbIII (701233)
          The US government doesn't like the opposition much due to their faith being a similar branch of Islam to Iran and due to all the baggage it has with the previous government. Syria was one of the destinations of "extraordinary rendition" and the government worked with the CIA among others on that. So whichever side the US government backs they lose something, and if they stay out they also lose. Stay tuned for a similar "devil you know" dilemma in Algeria in a few years time.
  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @05:35PM (#43631691)

    Flood Syria's government with Dell's. After a month, when the first 99% break, the entire government will be online with two Indian technical support technicians who will both try and get *them* to take apart their own machines even though they purchased the "premium" support package.

    The regime will fall within weeks. My compliments to the CIA operative who suggested this.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    All multinational corporations involved in trade have shell corps in Dubai. For example, during the 2nd gulf war Haliburton did business with Iraq through a Dubai shell corp. Haliburton has always done business with Iran via the same technique.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The computers shipped with Windows 8.

    This virtually guarantees the rebels will win as the members of the regime beat their heads against the walls trying to get the computers to work with their old, Windows 9x/XP-based software, and getting the combination to work on the new computers. They should surrender by mid-May.

  • by russotto (537200) on Saturday May 04, 2013 @07:58PM (#43632249) Journal

    If Syria wants computers that are available on the open market anywhere in the world, they'll get them. Even if every company in Dell's supply chain was 100% committed to upholding the export rules (which, obviously, they aren't), all the Syrians would have to do is set up a company in a non-restricted country to buy them by lying to a distributor about being Syrian owned, then ship them over the border themselves.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I worked selling Dells when I was at community college. Dell has extensive training for employees to avoid selling computer equipment to places like Syria and Iran. I suspect that someone got gamed by a well prepared trickster.

    Don't get me wrong. After working for them, I hate Dell but I don't think they're stupid enough to go along with this kind of thing willingly.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    these were iPhones. *ducks*

  • Dell; technology
  • If you think you can affect change by selective trading of low tech stuff you are dissolusioned. The Chinese are waiting in the wings for that trade.

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