U.S. eyes sanctions on tech used vs. rebels

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday will announce a plan to impose sanctions against foreign entities and individuals who help authoritarian regimes use technology to crack down on dissidents, an administration official said.

Obama signed an executive order authorizing the new category of sanctions on Sunday. The tougher penalties are aimed in particular at those who facilitate human-rights abuses in Syria and Iran, said the official, who requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the order publically.

Obama was to announce the new sanctions during a speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

While rebellions in countries like Libya and Egypt have been fueled by cellphones and social media, other regimes have used technology to track dissidents or block Internet access.

For example, Iran has provided the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad with technology to jam cellphones and block or monitor the social networking sites rebels would use to organize demonstrations.

Obama has also asked the U.S. intelligence community to include assessments of the likelihood of mass killings in its National Intelligence Estimates.

During his remarks at the museum, Obama will announce a set of “challenge” grants for companies that help create new technologies to help warn citizens in countries where mass killings may occur.

The new White House policy was first reported by The Washington Post.

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