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Obama cracks down on Iran and Syria's surveillance of dissidents

Sarah Silbert

President Obama may be quite cozy with tech -- what with his predilection for the iPad and those town hall meetings on Facebook -- but he's well aware of its dark side, too. Today he announced that the US will freeze assets and cancel the American visas of Iranian and Syrian agencies tracking dissidents and pro-democracy groups via satellite, computer and phone networks. Among the entities getting the blacklist treatment are the Syrian cellphone company Syriatel, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iranian internet provider Datak Telecom. Amid election-year pressure to confront Iran, Obama addressed the ongoing threat of the country acquiring nukes, but also paid lip service to social media's role in democracy. "These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them," he told an audience of 250 people, according to Reuters. Still, given the limited impact of previous sanctions against Iran, it remains to be seen just how much of an effect Washington's actions have on the human rights situation in either country.

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