More on Cisco in China
I have recently been in communication with Ethan Gutmann, author of Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal. A chapter in his book deals with Cisco's business in China and the extent to which they actively supply Chinese law enforcement with censorship and surveillance technology. Cisco has responded to Gutmann's allegations (excerpted in the continuation section of this post below) by saying that he "doesn't have a shred of evidence" to support his claims. In response, Gutmann is offering up
this Cisco brochure from the China Information Infrastucture Expo 2002, Dec. 3-6, 2002. The first two pages of the brochure show a Cisco exhibition booth full of products clearly aimed for use by police and other public security forces. It is pictured here (and blows up to full size when you click on it, WARNING: IT'S A VERY BIG FILE) - both in the original Chinese and in English translation.
Gutmann describes what you see here as: "the first two pages of a much larger brochure that I picked up at the Cisco display at the Shanghai Gold Shield trade show. The image depicts the actual Cisco booth where I had my extended conversation with the Cisco rep, Mr. Zhou Li. I’ve included the Chinese original and a translated version provided by Harry Wu. Harry and I will share everything with anyone who is working on a serious investigation. Cisco may continue to lie about China. But we might stop them from peddling this vile technology here." (An assortment of similar material has been published in the Chinese version of his book, coming out in Taiwan and some Chinese-language U.S. bookstores this summer.)
In his book Gutmann describes a conversation with a Cisco salesman whose sales pitch included how Cisco's products help police conduct internet surveillance: "the Cisco salesman confirmed that the Chinese police could even remotely check if the suspect had built or contributed to a website in the last three months, access the suspect’s surfing history, and read his email."
I have not seen the original brochures at this point, just the photos.
But they are significant because the original brochures and other evidence have been submitted in a shareholder resolution against Cisco filed on May 31, 2005 by Boston Common Asset Management, LLC . [CORRECTION ADDED ON JULY 7, 2005. STATEMENT FROM BOSTON COMMON: "Brochures and documents pertaining to Cisco Systems that are owned by Mr. Ethan Gutmann and referenced in his book were not included in the shareholder resolution filed by Boston Common Asset Management with Cisco on May 27, 2005. Mr. Gutmann's documents were not transmitted with the resolution filing in any form and Boston Common Asset Management has not presented these documents to Cisco to date." APOLOGIES TO BOSTON COMMON FOR THE ERROR.]
In a recent speech Gutmann explains why this matters.
The real problem is that the next Tiananmen - in whatever incarnation - is much more likely to fail if Chinese citizens have to fight not only the PLA, but Cisco and Motorola, Microsoft and Intel. And this time, Americans will bear a special responsibility for that failure.
And I predict that the excuses that we hear from Cisco and Microsoft today (“Microsoft abides by the laws and regulations of each country in which it operates…" - as if the Chinese constitution forbid the word “democracy”) will be remembered as a shameful moment in U.S. corporate history.
So it’s up to us, activists, journalists, watchdogs, Congress, anyone who’s involved with China, to put pressure on American corporations; shareholder proposals; divestment from university contracts. Make a copy of this brochure and send letters, faxes, emails demanding an explanation. Tell them if the Chinese Communist Party wants to use our technology, it must pay the democracy tax.
I should tell you that I increasingly view the “original sin” argument – that is, Cisco routers censoring the Internet starting back in 1998 – as just an interesting historical footnote. It happens to be true, but it’s also a red herring: Cisco’s lawyers love to attack the “special firewall box” argument because, as you pointed out, it’s practically very hard to prove it beyond the shadow of a doubt.
The bottom line is that it’s like arguing about whether Cisco was carrying a switchblade back in 1998, when they are currently carrying an AK-47.
As you know, the Chinese authorities don’t want to block the web. They want Chinese users to practice self-censorship. Surveillance, and the awareness of surveillance leads to self-censorship and that’s where Cisco comes in. Cisco has built the structure for the national PSB [Public Security Bureau] database, and as of June 2003, it is already resident in every province of China, except Sichuan. Police can access a suspect’s political history, imaging information, the lot, and read
their email at will. Cisco calls it “Policenet.”
I have enclosed the relevant excerpt from my book (although the punctuation may be slightly different). It is also germane that the physical evidence that I brought back from China – Cisco brochures and PowerPoint presentations (subsequently translated by [human rights activist] Harry Wu) not only back up the specific points that a Cisco representative made to me but constitute irrefutable proof that Cisco is cooperating with Chinese state security. Which is why, among other more serious investigations in Washington DC, a shareholder resolution against Cisco was recently filed.
As I said, these documents are irrefutable. So I could have avoided the “Gutmann has never produced a single shred of evidence” slander by publishing them in my book in 2004. I won’t make that tactical blunder again. Six months ago I authorized the publication of a selection of the materials in the Chinese edition of “Losing the New China,” (Broad Press) which has just become available in Taiwan and will be available in Chinese language shops throughout the United States before the end of July. But the materials are also currently being used by Boston Common Asset (and their associates) in a shareholder resolution against Cisco filed on May 31, 2005. That’s public record. I gave a second copy of the originals to Boston Common, so Cisco’s lawyers can examine them, translate them, study the fonts, have the paper analyzed, and figure out how they are going to handle the indisputable fact that these are Cisco sales materials.
[CORRECTION ADDED ON JULY 7, 2005. STATEMENT FROM BOSTON COMMON: "Brochures and documents pertaining to Cisco Systems that are owned by Mr. Ethan Gutmann and referenced in his book were not included in the shareholder resolution filed by Boston Common Asset Management with Cisco on May 27, 2005. Mr. Gutmann's documents were not transmitted with the resolution filing in any form and Boston Common Asset Management has not presented these documents to Cisco to date."]
As you might imagine, I’m conflicted about posting the materials on the Internet at this time because I don’t want to interfere with the unfolding of evidence. But OK, here are the first two pages of a much larger brochure that I picked up at the Cisco display at the Shanghai Gold Shield trade show. The image depicts the actual Cisco booth where I had my extended conversation with the Cisco rep, Mr. Zhou Li. (I’ve included the Chinese original and Harry Wu’s translated version). Harry and I will continue to share everything with anyone who is working on a serious investigation. Cisco may continue to lie about China, but we might stop them from peddling this vile technology here.
EXCERPT FROM “LOSING THE NEW CHINA”
“…I flew down to Shanghai to attend the latest trade show, innocuously titled the “China Information Infrastructure Expo.” It was officially blessed by Li Runsen, who heads up the Science and Technology Commission for the PSB -suggesting China’s security apparatus would comprise the majority of the customers.
Entering the convention center, the first thing I saw was the word “Cisco.” Their booth dwarfed the others, and the handout indicated that Cisco had also scored the top billing for their Chinese language presentation, “The CISCO Network Solution for the ‘Gold Shield Project.’” It was an interesting series of slides: First it identified the Chinese public security agencies’ problems: insufficient police forces, a large undocumented migrant labor population, social instability as a result of WTO, and “high tech criminals” (an umbrella term which includes Internet dissident activity). Then it touted Cisco’s “low-cost” solutions: “Combining voice video and data into one accessible resource,” and the ability to integrate judicial networks, border security, and “Vertical police networks” (“individual departments dealing with secret/confidential business, phonetics, and video frequency”).
The Cisco booth entrance itself was ringed by video screens showing burly cops from Seal Beach, California, pulling over and frisking American citizens, the police whipping out Cisco mobile handsets that linked directly to databases containing surveillance footage from stores, waiting rooms, and other public places - interspersed with soundbites from Cisco’s broadly smiling CEO, John Chambers. Chambers enjoys a kind of celebrity status in China, as does Microsoft’s Bill Gates, but the juxtaposition of a slick Chinese presentation of America as an efficient police state (with no pesky legal impediments or search warrants required to access confidential databases or private surveillance) and Chamber’s optimistic new economy spiel struck me as a revolutionary PR approach.
The other screens were devoted to crisp high quality surveillance of the booth, which was divided into specific areas of Chinese security interest: “the IP telephone solution for Police Routine Community Surveillance,” “the Executive Mobile Solution for Traffic, Patrol, and Criminal Case Police,” and “the Video Surveillance Solution For Preventative Control and the Increase of Social Stability.” In case you somehow missed the point of all this, Cisco’s Chinese brochure featured a prominent schematic depicting an American State trooper (pot belly, shades and all) connecting remotely to nationwide databases and the Internet.
As Cisco’s cameras recorded our conversation, Zhou Li, a systems engineer from Cisco’s Shanghai Branch, gave me an enthusiastic sales pitch for Cisco’s “policenet” technology, which had just been launched in China. He explained that Cisco’s diagram of the policeman linked back to information nodes is technically accurate, but it didn’t capture the full scope of what Cisco had accomplished. We are not just talking about accessing a suspect’s driving record here, he pointed out; Cisco provides a secure connection to provincial security databases, allowing for thorough cross-checking and movement tracing.
A Chinese policeman or PSB agent using Cisco equipment can remotely access the suspect’s danwei or work unit, thereby accessing reports on the individual’s political behavior and family history. Even fingerprints, photographs and other imaging information would be available with a tap on the screen. (This wasn’t just a sales pitch: according to Chinese sources, Cisco has built a structure for a national PSB database, with real-time updating and mobile-ready capabilities, and as of June 2003, it was already resident in every province of China, excepting Sichuan). As I questioned Zhou further, the Cisco salesman confirmed that the Chinese police could even remotely check if the suspect had built or contributed to a website in the last three months, access the suspect’s surfing history, and read his email. It was just a question of bandwidth.
Another Cisco brochure caught my eye. This one touted Cisco’s new mobile router, with a schematic layout of vehicles demonstrating the router’s potential uses: in a car (traffic control), a train (to make them run on time), an ambulance (emergency and police response) and a main battle tank (presumably to help China win its wars). The Chinese caption next to the tank stated that this was the same technology used by the Department of Defense, NATO, and the United Kingdom. Prices for the 3200 range from about $5,000 to $10,000. The Cisco salesman pointed out that the 3200 Series Mobile Access Router was specifically designed to be sturdy enough to be installed in a tank.
Leaving the show, brochures in hand, I realized that Cisco’s defense against Ann Lau’s shareholder’s proposal was correct. Creating a special firewall box which could be used to censor the Chinese web may have been the “original sin,” a significant cornerstone in constructing the big brother Internet, but it was not illegal per se. Yet the products that Cisco (and Sun Microsystems) were now selling to China appeared to be directly flaunting the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (Fiscal Years 1990 and 1991), which suspended “The issuance of any license… for the export to the People’s Republic of China of any crime control or detection instruments or equipment” until the President chooses to try to reverse the suspension.”
END SELECTED EXCERPT