June 6, 2011 / by emptywheel


Is Apparent US Conspiracy with Cisco about Wiretapping?

Canada has just discovered how much corporations own our legal system, how our legal system criminalizes whistleblowers, and our utter and total disdain for the rule of law.

At issue is the apparent conspiracy between Cisco and the US government to respond to an anti-trust lawsuit launched by Peter Alfred Adekeye, a former Cisco employee. He sued because of the way Cisco forced customers to buy a maintenance contract for things like bug fixes.

This lawsuit is about Cisco’s deliberate and continuing attempt to monopolize for itself (and its “partners” (Cisco-authorized resellers of Cisco equipment and services nationwide) with which it does not significantly compete) the service and maintenance of Cisco enterprise (Cisco networking equipment for all segments (e.g., internet service providers, government, academia, small, medium and large business, etc.) with the exception of home networking equipment) hardware, principally routers, switches and firewalls. Cisco possesses a market share of approximately 70% in the networking equipment industry.


To protect its over $6 billion yearly stream of service and maintenance revenue, Cisco has cleverly and uniquely conditioned the provision of its software “updates” on the customer’s purchase of a hardware maintenance service agreement called “SMARTnet,”


The effect of this leveraging of monopoly power and unlawful tie-in and/or bundling is to effectively preclude any non-Cisco affiliated Independent Service Organization (“ISO”) from competing for the business of servicing Cisco networking hardware, thus preserving for itself all but a pittance of that line of commerce which is separate and distinct from the “updates” of its software.

In response, Cisco counter-sued, accusing Adekeye of illegally accessing Cisco services. And Cisco either lied persuasively or got DOJ to conspire in the intimidation campaign, because DOJ then charged Adekeye with 97 violations that–the Canadian judge who just blew this up suggested–should have only amounted to one single violation.

The US also refused to allow Adekeye to enter the US after 2008, meaning he couldn’t testify in the litigation. Finally, in 2010, he flew to Canada to testify. At that point, the US had him arrested by the Mounties, based on false claims (among other things) that he was a shady Nigerian. He was held for four weeks, and then made to stay in Canada on restrictive bail conditions ever since as the US tried to have him extradited.

Justice [Ronald] McKinnon thought this case met the test and was flabbergasted by Adekeye’s “shocking” arrest during a judicial proceeding: “It is simply not done in a civilized jurisdiction that is bound by the rule of law.”

This was an egregious abuse of process and brought the administration of justice into disrepute, he concluded.

In his piece on this Sirota suggests that, if the US did conspire with Cisco, it probably did so in response to lobbying.

But I wonder if there’s not something more going on? Here’s how James Bamford described the government’s efforts to partner with Cisco on wiretapping in his book, The Shadow Factory.

One of the ways to covertly penetrate both the Internet and fiber-optic communications is to target their weakest point, the point where the systems interconnect–the routers.


By discovering the weak spots and vulnerabilities of in this “postal service,” the NSA has the ability to target and intercept much of the electronic mail.

Thus, as [Deputy Director for Services Terry] Thompson further explained at the 1999 meeting, one of the NSA’s goals should be to hire away, on a short-term basis, people from key companies such as Cisco. Having hired them, the agency could use their knowledge and expertise to “reverse engineer” the systems and find ways to install back doors.

Just a gut level feel. If Adekeye’s initial suit hinted at something that played a key role in maintaining NSA’s access to all communications crossing Cisco’s routers, or if a successful suit would have made it harder to suck the worlds telecommunications off the network, that might explain the government’s seeming conspiracy with Cisco.

Alternately, maybe our government is just that fucking crazy.

Update: Here’s Cisco’s counterclaim against Adekeye. It claims, in part:

Adekeye, a former Cisco employee, founded Multiven in 2005. Under Adekeye’s direction, Multiven has, on multiple occasions, unlawfully accessed, downloaded, used, and distributed Cisco’s valuable proprietary information. Among other unlawful acts, Multiven improperly obtained a Cisco employee’s login credentials for password-protected areas of Cisco’s website. Adekeye and Multiven thereafter accessed these areas of Cisco’s website and, among other things, illegally downloaded Cisco’s copyrighted operating system software for use in its business and, on information and belief, for redistribution to others.


During his five years as a Cisco employee, Adekeye acquired confidential inside knowledge regarding Cisco’s proprietary information, internal operations, security, and personnel. Adekeye’s employment with Cisco ended on May 6, 2005.


Adekeye and Multiven used at least two improper means to learn about Cisco’s service techniques and proprietary information, including information regarding Cisco configurations and bug fixes. First, they illegally accessed Cisco’s password-protected website to view Cisco’s TAC services resources, some of which are contained in a database rich with technical guidance regarding network configurations and software-related information.


Multiven and Adekeye concealed their illegal and otherwise improper conduct. As a result, Cisco, despite reasonable efforts and precautions, did not begin to discover Multiven’s and Aedkeye’s conduct until 2008.

Update: We don’t yet know when the criminal charges against Adekeye were filed. But as Mary noted to me via email, the current US Attorney in NDCA, Melinda Haag,a came from a firm–Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe–that does a lot of work for Cisco. Also, she was hired to be an AUSA by Robert Mueller.

Haag’s firm bio says she was recruited by then-U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller, now FBI Director, to join the Northern District office, based in San Francisco. (Mueller was U.S. Attorney there from 1998 to 2001.) Haag was chief of the office’s White Collar Crime Section, and in private practice, she has represented several corporate general counsels accused of improperly backdating stock options.

Update: Interesting. A portion of Adekeye’s May 20, 2010 deposition was entered into the civil suit docket on March 7, 2011, including the part where the Mounties come in and arrest him.

One of the things they appear to have been suggesting is that someone was paying Multiven to sue Cisco. In the unredacted parts, he is asked about individuals and/or corporations who funded the suit. But there’s a chunk redacted after that.

Update: Here’s a brief from Cisco objecting after Adekeye and Multiven suggested they had lured him to Canada to be arrested.

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Originally Posted @ https://www.emptywheel.net/2011/06/06/it-is-simply-not-done-in-a-civilized-jurisdiction-that-is-bound-by-the-rule-of-law/