U.S. Restricts U.A.E. Firm for Web Filter Sale to Syria

By PAUL SONNE and STEVE STECKLOW

The Department of Commerce is placing restrictions on a person and a company in the United Arab Emirates for supplying Syria with Internet-filtering devices made by California-based Blue Coat Systems Inc.

On Thursday, Commerce said it put Waseem Jawad and the Ras Al Khaimah-based company Info Tech, also known as Infotec, on a list of people and institutions determined to “have engaged in activities contrary to U.S. national security and/or foreign policy interests.”

The measure restricts Mr. Jawad and Info Tech from receiving or transferring items that fall under U.S. export controls. Export licenses would be required, which likely would be denied by the U.S. government, according to Commerce Department officials. Neither Mr. Jawad nor the company could be reached to comment.

A résumé for a Waseem Jawad recently removed from LinkedIn described him as a U.A.E. network engineer and manager who studied at a Syrian technology school. It said he was most recently a regional manager for a U.A.E. tech service provider. A Facebook page for a Wassem Jawad who studied at the same Syrian school was also removed recently.

The Commerce Department action is part of a probe looking into how a set of at least 13 Blue Coat devices ended up censoring the Internet in Syria, a country subject to strict U.S. trade embargoes. Syrian authorities have been brutally cracking down on uprisings in the country for months.

“It is vital that we keep technology that can be used to further the repression of the Syrian people out of the hands of the Syrian government,” said Eric L. Hirschhorn, undersecretary for industry and security.

“This investigation is ongoing and additional enforcement actions are likely.”
Another Commerce official said, “One of the focuses of our investigation will be to determine which companies had knowledge that these devices were going to Syria.”

Blue Coat first acknowledged the devices had ended up in Syria in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in October. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company shipped the appliances—which can block websites or record when people visit them—to a distributor in the U.A.E., believing they were destined for a department of the Iraqi government.

But the devices never went to Iraq. According to the Commerce Department, about three days after the distributor transferred ownership of the Blue Coat shipment to Mr. Jawad, the devices were sent to Syria. There, they have been used to block Syrian Web users from accessing a number of Web addresses, including political-opposition sites.

A spokesman for Blue Coat said the company is cooperating fully with the investigation.
Blue Coat, a provider of Web security products, announced on Dec. 9 it entered into a definitive agreement to go private in a transaction valued at $1.3 billion.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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