Rep. Zoe Lofgren Presses Australian Ambassador for Answers on WIPO Director's Shameful Conduct
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) released a letter today to Mr.Kim Beazley, the Australian Ambassador to the United States, outlining her continued concerns over the troubling conduct of Francis Gurry, director-general of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Late last month, Rep. Lofgren and a group of senior bipartisan Congressional leaders signaled their alarm to the Obama Administration over the widening reports of scandal and misconduct during Gurry’s tenure as WIPO leader, including a secret technology transfer to North Korea and Iran. At that time the lawmakers warned “the interests of the United States and its large community of innovators cannot be served well with Mr. Gurry continuing as Director General of WIPO” and they urged the Obama administration “to identify and support an alternate candidate to lead WIPO.”
Rep. Lofgren’s response comes after Ambassador Beazley penned a defense of the embattled Gurry, whom Australia has nominated again to head WIPO. The following is the text of Rep. Lofgren’s letter to Ambassador Beazley:
December 2, 2013
Ambassador Kim Beazley
Dear Ambassador Beazley,
As I received your letter while the House of Representatives was in recess for the Thanksgiving holiday, I have not had the opportunity to consult the colleagues who joined me in expressing concern about the current leadership of WIPO, and I am taking the liberty of responding to you in my individual capacity.
First, thank you for your letter of November 26, 2013. I hope that you are aware that my colleagues and I feel strongly that America has no better ally than Australia. I hope that it is clear that the concerns that we have expressed about WIPO relate only to the current Director General’s job performance and are not a reflection of any ill will directed toward Australia. In fact, I am concerned that Mr. Gurry’s conduct runs counter to the principles that Australia has continually upheld and does nothing to enhance the prestige of his home country.
In your response, you challenge several of the statements from our letter of November 21, suggesting that they are false or “old” and that no “new evidence” supports the claims. I respectfully disagree that these issues are “old” and somehow irrelevant. Mr. Gurry's thwarting of the House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC) inquiry happened just last year. I have enclosed a copy of a letter sent last year signed by then-Chairperson Ileana Ros–Lehtinen and then-Ranking Member Howard Berman that outlines the manner in which Mr. Gurry handled HFAC’s investigation into the transfer of technology to North Korea and Iran.
I was surprised that you contested the claim that WIPO’s shipment of high-end computers to North Korea and Iran was secret and that you described the goods as “standard office equipment” that were “designed to aid the implementation of WIPO programs.” The documentary evidence is contrary. My understanding is that before the discovery of the North Korea shipment in March 2012 and resulting press coverage, there had not been disclosure to the Member States of that project. Moreover, rather than arrange the shipment openly and through the U.N. office that had been designated for such purposes (where it probably would have been stopped due to U.S. laws and manufacturers’ prohibitions), WIPO apparently contracted with a Chinese middleman to send it in from that country.
I have attached a document signed by Mr. Gurry and dated June 23, 2011, describing an extensive upgrade to North Korean facilities, including at least 90 PCs and a tenfold increase in local area network performance. The specific shipment from WIPO which was caught and halted in 2012 is reflected in the attached equipment list. The HFAC inquiry may have been able to determine if there was some benign rationale for this shipment, however because Mr. Gurry derailed that inquiry, it is impossible for the Congress to conclude that the technology sent - which can also be used for military applications – can accurately be characterized as “standard office equipment.”
Under U.S. law, which I understand is similar to Australian law in this respect, the shipment of such technical equipment to a rogue regime like North Korea is a serious criminal offense. Mr. Gurry’s reaction to this, in a memorandum dated March 29, 2012 (see attachment), was to hold that WIPO “is not bound by the U.S. national law in this matter.” However, his dismissive attitude about U.S. law was unjustified as underscored by an independent review commissioned by WIPO, which concluded that "we simply cannot fathom how WIPO could have convinced itself that most Member States would support the delivery of equipment to countries whose behavior was so egregious it forced the international community to impose embargoes, and where the deliveries, if initiated by the recipient countries, would violate a Member State's national laws."
As to the controversy regarding Swiss law and the use of DNA, it appears that this matter is unresolved. I have attached a series of questions which, if answered, might resolve these questions. I hope that the Australian government, if it is defending Mr. Gurry’s tenure at WIPO, will forward these questions to Mr. Gurry and provide me with his answers.
Regarding the recent General Assemblies of WIPO that ended without agreement due to the external offices proposal, you mentioned that Mr. Gurry “foreshadowed” his proposal at a meeting of ambassadors on January 21. To my knowledge, Mr. Gurry did not actually tell the Member States that he had already entered into agreements with China and Russia and these agreements came to light only with media announcements by the two countries in early April. It seems to me that the Member States of WIPO are entitled to more than “foreshadowing” hints when it comes to such consequential transactions.
I understand that when the matter first came before the Member States at the Program and Budget Committee meeting in early July, it became known that entering these agreements without prior approval did not conform to the requirements of the WIPO charter and apparently was also not in accordance with previous assurances by Mr. Gurry that external offices would not be decided without a proper business case analysis and consultation with Member States.
My concern about the leadership of WIPO is based on conduct undertaken by the incumbent which has caused me to have doubts about his capacity to lead effectively and ethically. That the incumbent is a citizen of Australia is not the source of my concern, rather his behavior. Should Australia have a competent alternative candidate for this position, I would entertain this candidacy with great interest. Frankly, the current situation does nothing to enhance the reputation of the great nation of Australia.
Thank you in advance for your continued attention to this matter, and I look forward to receiving your response.
Member of Congress
cc: The Honorable Anna G. Eshoo
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