Feeds

Diplomats questioned Microsoft deal with Tunisian regime

Local Microsoftie feared to meet Bill Gates empty handed

Security for virtualized datacentres

Microsoft sold software and training to the armed forces of Tunisia's repressive former regime six years ago, a leaked WikiLeaks cable has revealed. The deal alarmed even the normally flag-waving trade patriots in the US government, according to the cable.

The leaked cable, sent from the US embassy in Tunis in 2006, reports that Microsoft sold 12,000 licences for its software, along with requisite training, to officials running Tunisia's Ministries of Justice and Interior who wished to learn how to use computers and the internet as part of a "fight on crime":

Through a program on cyber criminality, Microsoft will train government officials in the Ministries of Justice and Interior on how to use computers and the internet to fight crime.

Both ministries were instruments of repression under the regime of President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, the prime minister who stepped down in January this year after 24 years in power following a wave of protests and deaths. The Ministry of Justice ran the courts and prisons under the Ben-Ali regime while the Interior Ministry was in charge of its police.

It seems Microsoft Tunisia's director general Salwa Smaoui was due to attend the Government Leaders Forum Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, where she was expected to present Bill Gates with the 2006 Tunisia deal. She was apparently concerned about confronting Gates at the event without a government agreement in hand.

Microsoft's co-founder was due to speak at the company's event. At the Government Leaders Forum Africa, also attended by former US president Bill Clinton, Gates expanded at great length about the power of computing to change the lives of people in Africa.

The agreement between Tunisia and Microsoft was eventually signed at the South African forum in July 2006. The deal Smaoui brokered was sold as a "co-operation agreement on e-governance, cybersecurity, intellectual property rights, to help expand the Tunisian IT sector", with Microsoft pledging training for handicapped Tunisians to help them find work in the sector.

Smaoui called it a "win-win" for Microsoft and the government of Tunisia.

However, The US embassy in Tunisia was not as positive. It pointed out that president Ben Ali's wife Leila Ben Ali ran a charity for handicapped Tunisians. The unhappy diplomats said: "In theory, increasing GOT [Government of Tunisia] law enforcement capability through IT training is positive, but given heavy-handed GOT interference in the internet, [the] Post questions whether this will expand GOT capacity to monitor its own citizens. Ultimately, for Microsoft the benefits outweigh the costs."

Microsoft's negotiators also faced flak from the regime over the company's perceived "American-ness", Smaoui said. She claimed she "felt suspicion bordering on hostility during the negotiations" because she was "working for the Americans." ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Facebook pays INFINITELY MORE UK corp tax than in 2012
Thanks for the £3k, Zuck. Doh! you're IN CREDIT. Guess not
Big Content outs piracy hotbeds: São Paulo, Beijing ... TORONTO?
MPAA calls Canadians a bunch of bootlegging movie thieves
Google Glassholes are UNDATEABLE – HP exec
You need an emotional connection, says touchy-feely MD... We can do that
YARR! Pirates walk the plank: DMCA magnets sink in Google results
Spaffing copyrighted stuff over the web? No search ranking for you
Just don't blame Bono! Apple iTunes music sales PLUMMET
Cupertino revenue hit by cheapo downloads, says report
Hungary's internet tax cannot be allowed to set a precedent, says EC
More protests planned against giga-tariff for Tuesday evening
US court SHUTS DOWN 'scammers posing as Microsoft, Facebook support staff'
Netizens allegedly duped into paying for bogus tech advice
Feds seek potential 'second Snowden' gov doc leaker – report
Hang on, Ed wasn't here when we compiled THIS document
prev story

Whitepapers

Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.
Website security in corporate America
Find out how you rank among other IT managers testing your website's vulnerabilities.