Response to UANI campaign

Press Statement
September 30, 2010

 

On Thursday September 30, 2010, the head of United Against Nuclear Iran sent a letter to Nokia and Nokia Siemens Networks calling on them to withdraw from doing business in Iran. It subsequently publicised this action in a press release and called on members of the public to express their support for the campaign. http://www.unitedagainstnucleariran.com/news/uani-calls-nokia-and-nokia-...

The following is Nokia Siemens Networks' response to this letter.

 

Ambassador Mark D. Wallace
President & CEO
United Against Nuclear Iran
PO Box 1028
New York, N.Y. 10185-1028

October 3, 2010

Dear Ambassador Wallace:

Your letter of September 30 to Rajeev Suri, Chief Executive Officer of Nokia Siemens Networks, has been forwarded to me for response. Nokia Corporation, to which your letter was also addressed, will respond separately.

Before I address the issues in your letter, I must first express my deep concern about the approach you have taken related to this topic. Your letter is full of statements that are simply inaccurate and fundamentally distort the situation related to our business in Iran. The fact that you never contacted us to hear our perspective on the issues before releasing your letter is simply irresponsible. Your organization and those now sending pre-written emails to us at your request deserve better.

Contrary to your assertion, Nokia Siemens Networks is fully compliant with all applicable export laws and trade sanctions, in the United States as well as in Europe, where it is headquartered. Moreover, we are fully confident that our U.S. subsidiary, which has no business dealings with Iran whatsoever, remains fully eligible as a federal contractor and that our longstanding relationship with the U.S. government will continue unimpaired.

I will address each of the specific points you make in your letter, including those relating to the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA). But first, I want to provide a brief context for that discussion by addressing the key elements of our activities in Iran.

Like our competitors such as Ericsson of Sweden, Nokia Siemens Networks has supplied standard mobile switching systems to Iranian telecommunications companies. Consistent with local law and international standards, these systems include passive lawful intercept capability. In addition, in 2008, Nokia Siemens Networks provided to Iran one monitoring center necessary for effective use of the legally mandated lawful intercept capability. Nokia Siemens Networks provided a standard, off-the-shelf system, without any specialized services, hardware, or software.

Nokia Siemens Networks’s monitoring center business was a small unit that, at the time of its transaction with Iran, was slated by Nokia Siemens Networks for sale because it was determined not to be an essential part of our core business. Nokia Siemens Networks divested its monitoring center business in 2009 and no longer provides monitoring centers to any country. We have been transparent about this issue for almost two years now.

In the aftermath of Iran’s June 2009 election, the availability of wireless communications in Iran was widely praised for enabling Iranian citizens to organize and express their views. It was also alleged that the Iranian government used aspects of that technology to suppress dissent, leading to concern among human rights activists and many democratic countries. As you may know, I addressed this matter in detail in my testimony to the European Parliament on June 2, 2010, which I encourage you to read in full (and which is available on our website).

We have been maintaining an ongoing and constructive dialog regarding these issues with legislators, government officials, and NGOs on both sides of the Atlantic. I believe that you could find plenty of people who would testify to the fact that we have sought to deal with these issues with greater transparency and substance than anyone else in our industry. Most recently, after a constructive meeting with the Iranian human rights lawyer and Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi, we provided to her and to the public a statement making the following points:

  1. Nokia Siemens Networks is aware of credible reports that the Iranian authorities use communications technology to suppress political activity in a way that is inconsistent with that government’s human rights obligations.
  2. As a result of these credible reports, Nokia Siemens Networks halted all work related to monitoring centers in Iran in 2009. Nokia Siemens Networks divested its monitoring center business in 2009 and will no longer provide monitoring centers to any country.
  3. The company has voluntarily restricted its business in Iran by not seeking or accepting new customers and by limiting its activities with its current customers.
  4. Prior to providing a monitoring center to an Iranian mobile operator in 2008, the company believes it should have better understood the possible implications for human rights in Iran.
  5. Where Nokia Siemens Networks does business it expects that the technology it provides, legally and in good faith, will be used in ways that are consistent with the relevant human rights obligations.
  6. Nokia Siemens Networks strives to ensure that any technology it provides is used in a way that is consistent with the company’s Code of Conduct and human rights policies.

With that as background, I will now turn to the various assertions you make with respect to CISADA, which contain numerous factual and legal inaccuracies:

  1. You state that Section 106 of CISADA, which relates to certain technologies that would restrict speech or the flow of information in Iran, applies to the “passive” Lawful Interception capability that is required by virtually every country and is governed by international standards. This is simply incorrect. Section 106 defines “sensitive technology” as technology the President determines is to be used specifically to restrict the flow of information or to disrupt or monitor speech in Iran. No technology that Nokia Siemens Networks exports to Iran constitutes “sensitive technology,” and we do not expect any finding otherwise.
  2. You also misstate the nature of our contracting relationship with the U.S. government, and contrary to the implication of your letter, there is nothing for you to “notify” the government about, as no material information regarding Nokia Siemens Networks’s activities in Iran has been withheld from it. In fact, Nokia Siemens Networks is acutely sensitive to the requirements of U.S. law and is dedicated to compliance. Moreover, the company is fully compliant with United Nations sanctions, and with the trade laws and export controls of the European Union. Nothing in our activities should lead to debarment under CISADA or give any cause for concern to the U.S. Department of Defense or any other agency, and we look forward to continuing our longstanding collaborative relationships.
  3. We did not acknowledge that our equipment “was used in brutal crackdowns against peaceful protestors.” We are aware, as stated above, of credible reports that the Iranian authorities use communications technology to suppress political activity in a way that is inconsistent with that government’s human rights obligations. We deplore any such misuse of communication technologies to infringe human rights and believe that those who do so must be accountable for their actions. To be very clear, (1) there is no evidence that our equipment was involved in any such activities; (2) we believe that the capabilities of that equipment have been largely overstated in the press; and, (3) it is likely that the single system Nokia Siemens Networks provided is only one of multiple monitoring capabilities present in Iran (if press reports are accurate, there are many such systems in place). As noted above, Nokia Siemens Networks sold its monitoring center business, but there remain local Iranian suppliers and, possibly, our competitors from China who continue in that business.

One area where we can agree is in the need for transparency, and Nokia Siemens Networks has demonstrated industry leadership in addressing the challenging issues that are posed when governments take beneficial technologies and abuse them in a way that violates human rights. We have provided straightforward information on our Website, engaged governments and NGO’s in this discussion, and are strengthening our own internal processes to reduce the potential that communications technologies provided in good faith are not misused.

We do believe that, ultimately, the governments that misuse communications technology must be held accountable for that misuse. We also believe, just as strongly, that communications technology provides an important societal benefit and is a contributor to free speech and the exercise of human rights.

In January of this year, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reinforced that view, saying:
“In the demonstrations that followed Iran’s presidential elections, grainy cell phone footage of a young woman’s bloody murder provided a digital indictment of the government’s brutality. …. And despite an intense campaign of government intimidation, brave citizen journalists in Iran continue using technology to show the world and their fellow citizens what is happening inside their country. … And their courage is redefining how technology is used to spread truth and expose injustice.” read more

 

The ultimate demand made in your letter, to cease providing communications technology in Iran, would take from the Iranian people the tools they used to spread their message to each other and to the world. It would either deprive them of communications entirely or leave the field to unscrupulous players who are unconcerned with human rights, and do nothing to achieve the objectives your letter articulates. Such a result is required neither by CISADA nor any other applicable law, and would be antithetical to efforts to extend human rights to the people who need them most.

As I stated at the beginning of this letter, we would have preferred having this dialogue prior to your sharing your views with various members of Congress and with federal agencies. Nevertheless, we believe there would still be value in meeting to discuss this matter further. I will be in the US in the coming weeks and would appreciate the opportunity to meet at a mutually convenient time.

Best regards,

Barry French
Member, Executive Board and
Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs
Nokia Siemens Networks