The Electronic Frontier Foundation has more information on Blue Coat, a US company whose "deep packet inspection" products are being used by the Syrian secret police with reportedly horrific consequences for Syrians who dare to express dissent online. Blue Coat denied knowledge of the products' use in Syria, then changed their tune after incontrovertible evidence surfaced. Now they've told the WSJ that they don't want their products used in Syria because it's illegal to sell technology to Syria.
But what they haven't said is, "We don't want our products used in Syria because they're being used to figure out who to kidnap, torture, and murder."
And they haven't said, "We'll stop selling our products to countries like Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia" — repressive states (that are legal to sell technology to) where Blue Coat's products are used in the same fashion as in Syria.
In other words, Blue Coat is only concerned about breaking the law, not about helping in human rights violations. Depending on the program, criminal penalties for violating OFAC regulations can range from $50,000 to $10 million with imprisonment ranging from 10 to 30 years for "willful violations."
Given Blue Coat's early denials, we're skeptical that their violation wasn't willful. As Andrew McLaughlin put it in a tweet, "Shame on Blue Coat. Their denials re knowingly assisting Syria censorship don't ring true."
Blue Coat's blatant lack of concern for human rights is alarming. There are far more repressive regimes in the world than there are embargoed countries. Several United States allies, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar, are also using Blue Coat systems for censorship and surveillance. But Blue Coat is surely unconcerned; after all, exporting to those countries isn't against the law; it just helps violate the human rights of the people living under those regimes.
Meanwhile, the list of Syrians detained for blogging or other online activities continues to grow.