There should be a three-track program to assist these activists. Firstly, the U.S. must declare that any company which sells such technology to repressive governments is subject to sanctioning by the U.S. government and its allies. Every effort should be made to publicize the transgressions of companies that have made such sales, perhaps through a congressional report, to pressure them to immediately cease such sales and make anti-censorship programs available to those they helped oppress.
Already, a very good bi-partisan bill has been put forth by Senator Mark Kirk and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to support the Iranian opposition. It can serve as a model for a more general bill. The bill approves the sanctioning of any company that sells items used for suppression of dissent to the Iranian regime. This includes not just tools for tracking communication and Internet activity, but equipment used by the security agencies like sniper rifles, water cannons, and batons. It also requires a “comprehensive strategy to promote Internet freedom in Iran.”
The second track of the program should provide dissidents with equipment that can defeat filtering and monitoring programs. Democratic forces must be given the ability to anonymously organize and break the information blockade imposed upon them. The funding can come out of the contributions of the U.S. and its allies to the $40 billion aid package to the Arab Spring. Officials can also help non-profit organizations dedicated to the cause raise money specifically for this effort. Sometimes, too much emphasis is put on using government revenues. American citizens are willing to donate to causes like these if asked.
The third track would be an authorization for the CIA and friendly intelligence services to actively undermine the Internet monitoring activities of regimes like those in Iran and Syria. The services can help facilitate the passage of anti-monitoring equipment into these territories and, more simply, target systems used to crush dissent. The systems can be confused, manipulated, or altogether disabled. If the West was able to sabotage the Iranian nuclear program with the Stuxnet virus, then this should be a piece of cake.
Selling equipment specifically designed to deny human rights to oppressive governments is the height of selfishness and immorality. These companies cannot be allowed to get away with it.