In a speech set for later today, President Obama will target foreign nationals’ use of new technologies in human rights abuses. He will do this by executive order, setting up an Atrocities Prevention Board to study the problem and establishing some “challenge grants” to develop technologies which might help prevent atrocities.
Generally this is a step in the right direction, even if politics get in the way of it becoming a meaningful step. Like President Lincoln, who initially only freed others’ slaves so as to not upset his own base in the north, Obama is careful to limit the Board’s attention to acts by foreign agents having to do with select regions. What about the far larger and repressive role of US technologies in places like China? What consequences to domestic operations – yes, like the University of Maryland – for helping develop and supply repressive technologies to these foreign regimes? On this President Obama is silent.