Feeds

Diplomats questioned Microsoft deal with Tunisian regime

Local Microsoftie feared to meet Bill Gates empty handed

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.