MIL-OSI USA: Announcement of a Visa Restriction Policy to Promote Accountability for the Misuse of Commercial Spyware

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Source: United States Department of State

The State Department is implementing a new policy today that will allow the imposition of visa restrictions on individuals involved in the misuse of commercial spyware.

This new policy is the most recent action in the United States’ comprehensive approach to countering the misuse of commercial spyware.  Previous actions have included the issuance of an Executive Order prohibiting the U.S. government’s use of commercial spyware that poses risks to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests, Department of Commerce entity listings of commercial spyware companies that enabled the abuse of sophisticated surveillance tools, and diplomacy to boost international cooperation, including through the U.S.-led Joint Statement on Efforts to Counter the Proliferation and Misuse of Commercial Spyware.

The United States remains concerned with the growing misuse of commercial spyware around the world to facilitate repression, restrict the free flow of information, and enable human rights abuses.  The misuse of commercial spyware threatens privacy and freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association.  Such targeting has been linked to arbitrary detentions, forced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings in the most egregious of cases.  Additionally, the misuse of these tools presents a security and counterintelligence threat to U.S. personnel.  The United States stands on the side of human rights and fundamental freedoms and will continue to promote accountability for individuals involved in commercial spyware misuse.

This visa restriction policy is pursuant to Section 212 (a)(3)(C) of the Immigration and National Act, and allows the Department of State to implement visa restrictions for (1) individuals believed to have been involved in the misuse of commercial spyware, to target, arbitrarily or unlawfully surveil, harass, suppress, or intimidate individuals including journalists, activists, other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work, members of marginalized communities or vulnerable populations, or the family members of these targeted individuals; (2) individuals believed to facilitate or derive financial benefit from the misuse of commercial spyware described in prong (1) above, including but not limited to developing, directing, or operationally controlling companies that furnish technologies such as commercial spyware to governments, or those acting on behalf of governments, that engage in activities as described in prong (1) above; and (3) the immediate family members of individuals subject to the restrictions in prongs (1) and (2) above.  For purposes of this policy, “immediate family members” include spouses and children of any age.

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