Photo by Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images.
President Obama issued an executive order on Monday that allows U.S. officials for the first time to crack down on foreign nationals who have used new technology to carry out grave human rights abuses.
The effort's most notable (and most obvious) targets: Syria and Iran, which both have capitalized on new technologies like Internet monitoring and cellphone tracking in their attempts to squash opposition movements.
As the Washington Post notes, the Assad regime has used such technologies to track down rebel leaders, and possibly to locate foreign journalists who were covering Homs back in February. Meanwhile, Iran has provided Syria with technology to jam cellphones and block or monitor social media sites popular with rebels, according to the Associated Press.
The sanctions include a U.S. visa ban and financial restrictions against a range of Syrian and Iranian agencies and individuals found to be helping the security apparatuses of these regimes.
Meanwhile, the White House also announced a set of "challenge" grants for companies that develop technologies for civilians residing in mass-killing-prone countries that could better detect and quickly communicate impending dangers to others.
Human rights groups estimate that around 11,000 civilians have been killed in Syria since the uprising began over a year ago. The U.N. put that figure at more than 9,000 as of last month.
You can read the Post's full recap of the executive order here.