The Cisco Case

by Jay Nordlinger

In Impromptus two days ago, I had a note on an important new lawsuit, launched by Falun Gong practitioners against Cisco Systems (one of the jewels of Silicon Valley). Their charge: Cisco developed technology for the Chinese dictatorship, for the purpose of tracking and catching practitioners such as themselves. Once the dictatorship catches these people, very, very nasty things ensue. I have written about this a lot. One thing that astonishes me: the Communists’ enthusiasm for torturing to death old men and women.

This is an old story, of course: the relationship between Free World technology companies and the PRC. Remember what the late congressman Tom Lantos said to Silicon Valley reps? “I do not understand how your corporate leadership sleeps at night.” (Lantos, recall, was a Holocaust survivor.)

I think I first learned about these matters from Ethan Gutmann’s 2004 book, Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal. I reviewed it here. On Wednesday, the New York Times ran the following correction to a story:

An article on Monday about a lawsuit that claims Cisco helped develop technology for China’s Internet firewall misstated when and how the company’s activities were first thought to have been disclosed publicly. It was in 2004, in the book “Losing the New China: A Story of American Commerce, Desire and Betrayal,” by Ethan Gutmann, not in 2008 through a leaked PowerPoint presentation.

Gutmann himself has now published a kind of guide for the perplexed, or guide for those who wish to know how the Cisco-China story has developed: “Cisco Systems and China’s Big Brother Internet: Ten essential publications.” Go here. I am told by an expert that the evidence assembled by those filing suit against Cisco is staggering — even to those who are wise to what has been going on.

We’ll see how the case pans out. I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping that Cisco is innocent, and fearing that it is not.

P.S. In the current National Review, I have a piece on Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian lawyer who won the 2003 Nobel peace prize. She jokes about Iran’s new “halal” Internet — that’s what the dictatorship calls it, a “halal Internet,” i.e., one that is censored, shaped, and controlled by the dictatorship. (Ebadi is in exile, which is why she is free, somewhat, to joke.) “As a Muslim, I always thought it was only meat that had to be halal. Now it seems that the Internet must be halal, too.”

P.P.S. It’s bad enough that free people cannot rouse themselves to help persecuted Chinese. What is really galling is that free people find it necessary, or desirable, to help the persecutors. You know? If only they stayed neutral . . .

P.P.P.S. “The trouble with socialism is socialism; the trouble with capitalism is capitalists.”

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