HP: We didn't know our tech was being sold to Syria

Last year's reports that HP's technology was being sold to the oppressive Syrian government weren't wholly true, but weren't exactly false either.

Last year, computing giant HP was linked, albeit tenuously, with the Syrian government. 


In one of many reports, take Bloomberg for instance, HP was linked to Italian company Area SpA which bought HP technology from resellers in the area, according to documents seen by the news agency and through sources familiar with the matter. The so-called "surveillance project" would use HP technology to "track citizens’ communications, and route data," out of a Damascus monitoring center.

In the midst of the calming down of the Arab Spring and the subsequent uprising in the rest of the oppressive states in the Middle East, the connection to the regime was damaging to the company.

It turns out the reports weren't completely true, but they weren't entirely wrong.

In a letter sent to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), HP associate general counsel David Ritenour said that Area SpA, which was accused of selling the technology in the country, was "required under the terms of its contract with HP to comply with all applicable export laws," and, "specifically prohibited from selling HP’s products into embargoed or sanctioned countries."

The company also denied that Area SpA procured the Syria-bound technology from HP directly, "but instead procured those products from an HP partner that was not informed of the ultimate destination for those products."

According to ReutersHP ended its contract with Area SpA in April, a month after the civil war began in the country.

The letter, marked "FOIA CONFIDENTIAL TREATMENT REQUEST" noted that the letter should be kept separate from the firm's 2011 10-K filing and should be "maintained in confidence" because it contained sensitive corporate information. 

In a nutshell, HP sells the technology to resellers around the world -- in this case, in Italy -- which sold it on to Area SpA, which then sold it on to the Syrian government for its nefarious purposes. But, HP told Reuters: "it is always possible that products may be diverted to Iran or Syria after being sold to channel partners, such as distributors and resellers."

An HP spokesperson said at the time that it was "HP's policy is to comply with all U.S. export control laws and regulations," and that the Palo Alto, Calif.-based technology giant "[does] not have any employees or facilities in Syria, and our sales to parties in that country have been limited to items that are consistent with U.S. law and licensing policy on telecommunications products."

(via The Wall Street Journal)

Show Comments