Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Is a US agency helping companies sell surveillance technology to repressive regimes? -Mother Jones


Mother Jones Illustration; Getty

Fight Disinformation: Sign up for free Mother Jones Deli Newsletter and follow the news that matters.

is federal Government helping companies sell surveillance technology to repressive governments? Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) wants to know, but a federal sub-agency is concerned about the information.

In a letter sent on Friday, Wyden asked the International Trade Administration (ITA), a sub-agency of the Commerce Department, for details on its role in helping US firms sell their surveillance technology to other countries. In Letter, Wyden—a privacy-minded legislator who presides senate committee Finance— noted that it had been seeking answers on this matter since last summer.

In August of 2022, the ITA confirmed to Wieden that it “provides assistance” to companies that sell surveillance technology. But when asked, the subagency, Wieden writes, “did not provide details on these activities” or offer specific help to the ITA because of “unspecified legal barriers to further disclosure.” [information], In theory, this work falls within the purview of ITA’s promotion of US exports: ITA’s website claims it will help companies compete in foreign markets.steel” To “aerospace and defense, But that doesn’t account for the potential buyer: repressive regimes trying to crack down on civil liberties.

Wyden has good reason to be skeptical. When ITA publishes posts on its website showcasing arenas that are ripe for the sale of surveillance and security technology, the countries mentioned include not only obvious allies like the united kingdomBut also others with a history of misusing surveillance techniques, including Honduras, the Philippines and India.

Amnesty International warns of possible damage India’s growing appetite for surveillance technology, especially in light of its Atrocities on Muslims increased in country. In its market intelligence post on India, ITA did not mention that Daman. Instead, in February, ITA told American firms that “the market for surveillance systems in India is growing” and “offers opportunities for American exporters.” Another post on “India’s surveillance and security market” found “enormous opportunities for US companies” and “surveillance systems in demand across sectors.”

monitoring equipment has been used in honduras To maintain state power and the drug trade. An ITA post on the country in 2021 noted that the country’s desire to reduce homicide and crime is an opportunity for security technology firms. Rodrigo Duterte, President of the Philippines for years surveillance technology usedpotentially abused human right, Even then, in 2020 ITA promoted the Filipino market as “an opportunity in projects that require high-end, advanced and sophisticated technology, such as airport security screening solutions.” ITA’s post encouraged US security and surveillance companies to contact agency officials to “learn about security and technology opportunities” in the case of Honduras and “more information” about the region in the case of the Philippines. To-do notes are included. and India, provide email for specific employees.

Wyden noted in the letter that at the March meeting the ITA mentioned an upcoming policy that would govern how sub-agency staff “will interact with surveillance technology providers going forward” but did not provide specific details. Is.

ITA did not respond to a request for comment.

The Biden administration has indicated it is interested in preventing technology-instigated human rights abuses, endorsing the 2021 US-EU Trade and Technology Council Joint Statement. Call to “deploy new technologies that … respect universal human rights,” and to “uphold the rights to freedom of expression and privacy,” among other safeguards.

“Seeing it [Biden] The Administration’s interest in limiting the human rights abuses made possible by these technologies requires ITA to be transparent about its past and present promotion of these technologies abroad,” Wyden wrote.