November 01, 2023

Wyden Successfully Presses the International Trade Administration to Prevent the Promotion of Surveillance Technology to Foreign Governments

In a letter to Wyden, the Commerce Department details new policies that would help ensure export promotion efforts do not violate human rights 

Washington, D.C.— Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today released the following statement in response to a Commerce Department letter detailing new policies the International Trade Administration (ITA) has implemented to prevent the promotion of surveillance technology to foreign governments:

“I appreciate the Commerce Department's thoughtful response to my inquiry.  For the first time the Department is making clear that the United States will not help companies find foreign markets for products or services that undermine democracy or enable repressive surveillance and discrimination. While I remain concerned about the U.S. government’s prior promotion of these technologies, I look forward to monitoring the implementation of these new policies and ensuring they are followed in practice.”

In May, Wyden sent a letter calling on the ITA to answer questions about its promotion of dangerous surveillance technology in foreign markets, and explain what steps it is taking to prevent such technology sales from harming human rights. 

Wyden chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over international trade policy. He first requested information from ITA about its activity promoting the sale of surveillance technology abroad in May 2022. The agency informed Wyden’s office last year it had promoted the sale of surveillance technology, but declined to share which products it promoted, or which foreign markets it targeted. In March 2023 ITA informed Wyden’s office that it had issued a new policy to restrict promotion of surveillance products, but refused to share that policy without a formal letter. 

The ITA is a component of the Department of Commerce responsible for promoting the sale of American products and services in foreign countries. 

Read the Commerce Department’s letter to Wyden here.