Target Iran's Censors
New York Times / Roger Cohen

On Dec. 15, Richard R. Verma, an assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the State Department, wrote to Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, informing him that the State Department had asked the Treasury to waive certain sanctions on Iran relating to the export of technology. Yes, waive — not tighten. (How much have you read about that?)

Verma wrote: “The Department of State is recommending that the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (O.F.A.C.) issue a general license that would authorize downloads of free mass-market software by companies such as Microsoft and Google to Iran necessary for the exchange of personal communications and/or sharing of information over the Internet such as instant messaging, chat and e-mail, and social networking.”

Now that’s smart! There’s a way to bolster the remarkable, still unbowed opposition movement in Iran as well as weaken the Revolutionary Guards’ stranglehold on society and the economy. And what has O.F.A.C. done about this request in the past two months?


No license has been issued. It’s still illegal for Microsoft to offer MSN Messenger in Iran. Instead, earlier this month, Treasury sanctioned four Guards companies — a meaningless gesture. Treasury has things upside down.

“With respect to Iran, human rights and free speech efforts have been made illegal under federal law!” said Austin Heap, a brilliant “techi... >>>

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