Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cisco's General Counsel In Senate Firing Line


Mark Chandler, the general counsel of Cisco Systems Inc., hasn't had much luck with senators from Illinois this year.
First, the presidential candidate he raised money for, Hillary Clinton, was bested by Barack Obama.
Then today, the senior senator from Illinois, Richard Durbin, hauled Chandler before his Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law.
Along with Nicole Wong, deputy general counsel of Google, Inc., and Michael Samway, deputy general counsel of Yahoo, Inc., Chandler had some explaining to do about his firm's dealings with the Chinese government.
It was Chandler, though, who faced the bulk of questions following the recent publication of an internal Cisco document from 2002 that contained information about the Chinese government's IT needs, including its desire to censor the Internet.
The document included a reference to the government's desire to limit access to information about Falun Gong, a religious group that the Chinese government has repressed.
At this morning's hearing, Chandler maintained that Cisco sells the same products globally and does not alter their properties depending on the needs of customers.
He also noted that the document was prepared by a low-level Chinese employee and did not reflect the views of the company.
"We disavow the implication that this reflects in any way Cisco's views or objectives," Chandler said.
Cisco's involvement was limited to providing routing and switching equipment worth a total of $10 million, he added.
"There was nothing there that had anything to do with censorship," he said.
Human rights groups aren't convinced.
Dr. Shiyu Zhou, deputy director of the Global Internet Freedom Consortium, testified that there is a "strong indication that companies in free societies, such as Cisco, may have been involved in assisting the Chinese security services to monitor and censor the Internet."
*See tomorrow's print edition of the Daily Journal for more on this story.

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