Blogland,  Human Rights

Bush meets dissident bloggers; hears about filtering software

Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl– who has written frequently of the Bush administration’s failures to live up to its worldwide “freedom agenda”– attended a meeting at the White House Wednesday of dissident bloggers (some of them living in exile) from China, Burma, Iran, Cuba, Belarus, Egypt and Venezuela to the White House’s Roosevelt Room. The last two attended via videoconference, including Miguel Octavio, author of The Devil’s Excrement, to whom I sometimes link in my posts about Hugo Chavez’s regime.

Miguel writes about the meeting here. (Of course the fact that he participated from the US embassy in Caracas will be used by the usual suspects to turn him into an agent of Yanqui imperialism.)

I was especially interested in this from Diehl:

Arash Sigarchi, an Iranian who was imprisoned and then exiled for his work and now operates from Northern Virginia (, said he had asked three dozen bloggers inside Iran what message should be delivered to the U.S. president. The nearly unanimous answer: Please prevent U.S. and Chinese companies from selling Internet-filtering software to our government. (“What are the companies’ names?” Bush demanded. “We’ll find out their names.”)

If Bush had been reading Harry’s Place, he wouldn’t be so surprised that US companies sell access-restricting software to repressive regimes. And he would have known some of the companies’ names. In the case of China, they include Microsoft, Google,Yahoo! and Skype. Yahoo! even ratted out the dissident Shi Tao to the Beijing regime; he’s now serving a ten-year prison sentence.

As for the Islamic Republic, New Scientist reported:

Iran mainly employs a package called SmartFilter, developed by US company Secure Computing. However, Secure Computing told New Scientist that Iran’s state-controlled ISPs are using the company’s software without permission. “Secure Computing has sold no licenses to any entity in Iran,” says spokesman David Burt. “We have been made aware of ISPs in Iran making illegal and unauthorised attempts to use of our software.”

But I’m glad the President asked about it. Seriously. What he can or will do about it, especially this late in his term, is another matter. I hope Barack Obama takes some interest– it would be a nice tribute to the late Tom Lantos.