FOIA requests may illustrate foreign despots’ access to U.S. surveillance devices

From Courthouse News Service:  A federal judge may shine a light on foreign dictatorships that have imported illegal surveillance and jamming technology from the United States.

Events from the so-called Arab Spring show that Middle Eastern dictators have used Western technology to quash uprisings, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit digital watchdog group, has said.

To understand how and why despots get access to U.S. surveillance and filtering devices, the EFF has been filing Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Commerce for years regarding the licensing of these technologies outside the United States.

The group says that the agency admitted in a separate FOIA response that it had granted licenses for the export of "surreptitious listening" devices – unavailable to the public in the U.S. – to Syria, Jordan, Gabon, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iraq and Mexico.