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Cisco has been accused of helping the Chinese track Falun Gong dissidents.  (Source: Xinhua)

China has been widely criticized for its invasive internet policies, including spying on hotel guests' activities during the olympics.  What was not previously reported is that they may have received help from U.S. tech companies like Cisco to track dissidents such as the Falun Gong.  

Cisco, the maker of Internet routing gear, customized its technology to help China track members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, according to a federal lawsuit filed last week by members of the movement.

The lawsuit, which relies on internal sales materials, also said that Cisco had tried to market its equipment to the Chinese government by using inflammatory language that stemmed from the Maoist Cultural Revolution.

The suit was filed Thursday in Federal District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose by the Human Rights Law Foundation on behalf of members of Falun Gong. It contends that Cisco helped design the controversial “Golden Shield” firewall that is used to censor the Internet and track opponents of the Chinese government. The lawsuit names several Cisco executives, including the chairman and chief executive, John T. Chambers.

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Falun Gong's followers are a peaceful group who seek enlightenment through spiritual exercises.


Falun Gong includes a mixture of Buddhist and Taoist beliefs; followers have a religious devotion to Master Li.

The most public manifestation of Falun Gong is the practice of a range of exercises related to the ancient Chinese art of qigong - a kind of breathing meditation.

In China, hundreds of people gather together in squares and parks throughout the country.

To the accompaniment of special Falun Gong music, they perform routines with names such as "Buddha showing the thousand hands", "The way of strengthening supernatural powers" and "The Falun Gong way to heavenly circulation".

Prior to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, hundreds of Falun Gong were arrested.  
Li told the The Epoch Times that the arrests were under direct orders from the Districts Party Commission of Beijing, organized by base level branch offices, community centers, neighborhood committees, police stations, and detention centers; some are responsible for monitoring and some are responsible for arrests. They break into Falun Gong practitioners' homes at will to take pictures of the contents of closets, boxes, drawers, and make arrests whenever any Falun Gong materials are found.

During these large-scale arrests, the police have detained Falun Gong practitioners without giving any reasons, and sent them directly to labor camps for eight months. They will be released just as the Olympic is concluding.

The practitioners were tagged using China's “Golden Shield”, which Cisco helped build.  The trojan used to track the group was likely a form of the Stuxnet worm, similar to that which gave Westerners access to Iran's nuclear plant.  

Interestingly, Stuxnet itself is a derivative of a program started in the 1970's by the U.S. Department of Justice called PROMIS, or Prosecutor's Management Information System.  This case management software was designed by Inslaw to consolidate case files onto an electronic database.

Designed as a case-management system for prosecutors, PROMIS has the ability to track people. "Every use of PROMIS in the court system is tracking people," said Inslaw President Hamilton. "You can rotate the file by case, defendant, arresting officer, judge, defense lawyer, and it's tracking all the names of all the people in all the cases."

What this means is that PROMIS can provide a complete rundown of all federal cases in which a lawyer has been involved, or all the cases in which a lawyer has represented defendant A, or all the cases in which a lawyer has represented white-collar criminals, at which stage in each of the cases the lawyer agreed to a plea bargain, and so on. Based on this information, PROMIS can help a prosecutor determine when a plea will be taken in a particular type of case.

But the real power of PROMIS, according to Hamilton, is that with a staggering 570,000 lines of computer code, PROMIS can integrate innumerable databases without requiring any reprogramming. In essence, PROMIS can turn blind data into information. And anyone in government will tell you that information, when wielded with finesse, begets power. Converted to use by intelligence agencies, as has been alleged in interviews by ex-CIA and Israeli Mossad agents, PROMIS can be a powerful tracking device capable of monitoring intelligence operations, agents and targets, instead of legal cases.

Under the Reagan administration, the software was sold around the world:
[A]ccording to sworn affidavits, PROMIS was then given or sold at a profit to Israel and as many as 80 other countries by Dr. Earl W. Brian, a man with close personal and business ties to then-President Ronald Reagan and then-Presidential counsel Edwin Meese.
Business partners employed by Lucent technologies were arrested for attempting to become the “Cisco of China” by distributing industrial espionage equipment from 1999-2001.  

It is believed that Chinese intelligence agency SLA-2 used a derivative of PROMIS in an attempt to steal nuclear secrets from Los Alamos.  

A former aide to VP Dick Cheney has admitted that in 2003 the software was used to pass classified information in a plot to overthrow the president of the Phillipines.  

A reporter investigating ties between PROMIS and the B.C.C.I. died in an apparent suicide.  A book was released in 2004 detailing his work.

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