Obama Targets Human Rights Abuses
Policy + Politics

Obama Targets Human Rights Abuses

President Barack Obama will issue an order on Monday to allow imposition of sanctions on foreign nationals who use new technologies such as cell-phone tracking and Internet monitoring to help carry out human rights abuses, The Washington Post reported on Monday.

The newspaper quoted a senior administration official as saying that the executive order was designed to target companies and individuals assisting Iran and Syria, but future orders could expand the list.

The paper said the order noted that while social media and cell phones had helped democracy advocates organize in the Middle East, they had also enabled security services of autocratic nations such as Syria and Iran to conduct surveillance of dissidents and block access to the Internet.

The order will acknowledge these dangers and the need to adapt U.S. national-security policy to a world being remade rapidly by technology, the Post quoted the official as saying. It said Obama would announce the move in a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The newspaper noted it comes at a time when his policy toward Syria -- where a year-long government crackdown has killed thousands of civilians -- has been criticized by Republicans seeking the party's nomination for the November 6 U.S. presidential election.

The Post said Obama would say that he had asked for a first-ever National Intelligence Estimate — a consensus view of all U.S. intelligence agencies — to include an appraisal of the potential for mass killings in other countries and their implication for U.S. interests.

As part of the initiative, the president will also create a high-level panel to serve as a clearinghouse for real-time intelligence, policymaking and other issues related to mass killing. He will also encourage the participation of the private sector through a program of grants to encourage firms to develop technologies to help people vulnerable to mass killings better detect and quickly alert others to impending dangers.

The Post said the White House would announce new sanctions against both Syria and Iran on Monday. It said these would include a visa ban and financial restrictions on two Syrian "entities," one Syrian individual and four Iranian "entities."
Administration officials did not identify the targets of the sanctions and say the term "entities" describes both government agencies and private companies in Iran and Syria.

The Washington Post said Samantha Power, the National Security Council's senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights, would chair the Atrocities Prevention Board, a panel whose creation was announced in August.