Declan McCullagh on Thu, 29 Aug 96 07:20 METDST

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nettime: NSF yanks Iran's Internet connection, from HotWired

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 28 Aug 1996 20:08:06 -0700 (PDT)
From: Declan McCullagh <>
Subject: NSF yanks Iran's Internet connection, from HotWired

Attached is my column on the NSF and Iran. After I filed it, I received an
unconfirmed note from the NSF saying that they removed the restriction in
response to my calls earlier today. I'll verify tomorrow. 

I have some original documents on the Iran sanctions law and executive 
order at:


// // I do not represent the EFF // //

The Netizen

Banning Iran
by Declan McCullagh (
Washington, DC, 28 August

   The US government has quietly pulled the plug on Iran's Internet
   connection. The catch? No one gave it permission.
   Earlier this month, a National Science Foundation official blocked
   crucial international links to Iran, apparently in response to an Iran
   and Libya Sanctions Act that became law on 5 August. The move prevents
   people in the United States from connecting to Iranian computers by
   cutting off access to the country's only permanent Net connection - a
   single, achingly slow 9600 bps modem.
   The link joins the Internet at Austria's Vienna University, which
   received a letter from an NSF employee - who the foundation claims
   acted without authority - asking their network gurus to cease
   forwarding Iranian data to American networks. The NSF employee, Steve
   Goldstein, told the university that the United States embargoed such
   exchanges with Iran.
   From Austria, packets travel across the Atlantic through links funded
   in part by US taxpayers, which Goldstein claims gives the NSF control
   over them. Goldstein works in the agency's Networking and
   Communications Research and Infrastructure division.
   The NSF's action, however, tramples on the First Amendment. The
   Supreme Court has upheld the right of Americans to receive a wide
   range of information from abroad. An existing executive order
   explicitly allows the import and export of Iranian informational
   materials regardless of medium of transmission, according to Solveig
   Bernstein, a lawyer with the Cato Institute. "Congress intended any
   sanctions the president took to be directed at money and weapons
   production, not communications," she said.
   The NSF isn't accepting responsibility. The agency claims Goldstein
   acted on his own volition. Although Goldstein declined comment, the
   agency's lawyers say he was not authorized to block the line. "We were
   not asked by Dr. Goldstein for any opinions, so I'm not sure on what
   basis we're doing it," said John Chester, NSF legal counsel. Other NSF
   officials did not return repeated phone calls.
   Many Iranians in the United States are outraged at losing access to
   friends, family, and educational links in Iran. Farhad Shakeri, a
   software engineer at Stanford University who operates the Iranian
   Cultural and Information Center, says: "Lots of people in Iran are
   confused. They can't talk to any university in the world.... We just
   want the problem fixed." Anoosh Hosseini, a webmaster at the Global
   Publishing Group, says: "It affects me as a person. I want to visit my
   cousin's homepage, and my brother's homepage. The University of Texas
   has a Middle Eastern research center, but now they can't research Iran
   [on the Net]."


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