News / Middle East

    BlackBerry Ban a Hot Issue in Middle East

    Christian Caryl
    Christian Caryl

    Multimedia

    Audio

    To ban or not to ban the BlackBerry, that is.   It's been a hot debate in the Middle East for nearly two weeks, ever since the United Arab Emirates announced a ban on messaging and other BlackBerry services, to go into effect in October.  This triggered a round of negotiations with Research in Motion, the Canadian company that makes the BlackBerry. Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Bahrain have weighed in on whether they, too, should ban BlackBerry messaging.

    The problem is that Blackberry encrypts its messages, and governments want access to encrypted information. Christian Caryl is a Senior Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology's Center for International Studies and a Contributing Editor to Foreign Policy magazine.

    Caryl: Well, I think it's that governments around the Gulf do actually keep a very close watch on their populations and on people coming in and out of their countries.  There are problems in the Gulf with terrorism, organized crime.   There are all sorts of security problems.

    And then there are problems that we in the West would perhaps regard as a little less legitimate, like the simple desire of authoritarian governments to keep tabs on what their people are thinking and doing.  There have been these concerns about BlackBerries for some time.

    It's really been in the wake of the al-Mabhouh thing that the talk has really translated into concrete action and some of these governments have really started to get very tough on RIM, the company behind BlackBerry.   

    Hilleary: You're talking about the Hamas Commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was killed in a Dubai hotel last January.

    Caryl: There's been some talk that the people who killed Mahbouh were using Blackberries.   We've never been able to get that substantiated, but it does crop up in some of the commentaries.

    Hilleary: There seems to have been somewhat of a tight lid on negotiations between RIM and the governments of Saudi Arabia and the UAE. One reads that the governments would like access to codes that would help them read encrypted messages.  And there have been reports that RIM has actually given these codes to the United States and other governments.   What do you know about this?

    Caryl: That's certainly what a lot of people say. It's very, very hard to get to the truth of that matter. RIM denies, of course, that they've given any privileged information to any governments. They deny completely having given any kind of cipher keys or whatever encryption keys you would need to "crack" their encryption.

    But, you know, this version that RIM has done deals with some governments just persists.  There's talk that they've knuckled under to the Chinese and a couple of other governments. 

    And I was very struck in my research for this piece to see that the loudest complaints are actually coming from the Indians, because the Indians say that the terrorists who attacked in Mumbai in 2008 used BlackBerries for their communications, and the Indian authorities could not listen in to what they were saying.  I don't know if that's true, but that's what we hear. 

    And the Indians are very, very worked up about this and say, "Well,  you know, the Chinese have had this capability to listen in on BlackBerry communications for years-there's a double standard."  That's what they say, but again, RIM has been keeping its cards very close to its chest on this matter and has not been particularly eager to address any of these issues publically.   

    I don't know-I'd be surprised if they didn't find some sort of modus vivendi with the Saudis.  It's very interesting to watch this from without because RIM is saying,  "Oh, we don't make deals with people on encryption, and yet they've been negotiating with the Saudis about something. 

    And suddenly within the past few days, the Saudis said, "Oh, well, maybe we won't ban BlackBerry use after all."  And within just the past few days we've been hearing some slightly more conciliatory things from the UAE.  You kind of wonder.

    See related video report by Mil Arcega:

    You May Like

    US-Russia Tensions Complicate Syria War

    With a shared enemy and opposing allies, Russia and the US are working to avoid confrontation

    Video Re-opening Old Wounds in Beirut's Bullet-riddled Yellow House

    Built in neo-Ottoman style in 1920s, it is set to be re-opened in Sept. as ‘memory museum’ - bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity

    Cambodian-Americans Lobby for Human Rights Resolution

    Resolution condemns all forms of political violence in Cambodia, urges Cambodian government to end human rights violations, calls for respect of press freedom

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territoryi
    X
    June 24, 2016 9:38 PM
    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Brexit Vote Plunges Global Markets Into Uncharted Territory

    British voters plunged global markets into unknown territory after they voted Thursday to leave the European Union. The results of the Brexit vote, the term coined to describe the referendum, caught many off guard. Analysts say the resulting volatility could last for weeks, perhaps longer. Mil Arcega reports.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Experts: Very Few Killed in US Gun Violence Are Victims of Mass Shootings

    The deadly shooting at a Florida nightclub has reignited the debate in the U.S. over gun control. Although Congress doesn't provide government health agencies funds to study gun violence, public health experts say private research has helped them learn some things about the issue. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
    Video

    Video Trump Unleashes Broadside Against Clinton to Try to Ease GOP Doubts

    Recent public opinion polls show Republican Donald Trump slipping behind Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election matchup for November. Trump trails her both in fundraising and campaign organization, but he's intensifying his attacks on the former secretary of state. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapide’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.
    Video

    Video Florida Gets $1 Million in Emergency Government Funding for Orlando

    The U.S. government has granted $1 million in emergency funding to the state of Florida to cover the costs linked to the June 12 massacre in Orlando. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced the grant Tuesday in Orlando, where she met with survivors of the shooting attack that killed 49 people. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video How to Print Impossible Shapes with Metal

    3-D printing with metals is rapidly becoming more advanced. As printers become more affordable, the industry is partnering with universities to refine processes for manufacturing previously impossible things. A new 3-D printing lab aims to bring the new technology closer to everyday use. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Big Somali Community in Minnesota Observes Muslim Religious Feast

    Ramadan is widely observed in the north central US state of Minnesota, which a large Muslim community calls home. VOA Somali service reporter Mohmud Masadde files this report from Minneapolis, the state's biggest city.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora