United States Takes Action to Facilitate Communications by the Iranian People and Targets Iranian Government Censorship
Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
The United States is taking a number of coordinated actions today that target persons contributing to human rights abuses in Iran and enhance the ability of the Iranian people to access communication technology. As the Iranian government attempts to silence its people by cutting off their communication with each other and the rest of the world, the United States will continue to take action to help the Iranian people exercise their universal human rights, including the right to freedom of expression.
The people of Iran should be able to communicate and access information without being subject to reprisals by their government. To help facilitate the free flow of information in Iran and with Iranians, the Department of the Treasury, in consultation with the Department of State, is issuing a General License today authorizing the exportation to Iran of certain services, software, and hardware incident to personal communications. This license allows U.S. persons to provide the Iranian people with safer, more sophisticated personal communications equipment to communicate with each other and with the outside world. This General License aims to empower the Iranian people as their government intensifies its efforts to stifle their access to information. The General License would not authorize the export of any equipment to the Iranian government or to any individual or entity on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. The license can be found on OFAC’s Web site here.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today also designated an individual and entities in Iran for contributing to serious human rights abuses committed by the Iranian regime, including through the use of communications technology to silence and intimidate the Iranian people. Those designated include the Committee to Determine Instances of Criminal Content, the government entity charged with filtering the flow of information to the Iranian people as well Asghar Mir-Hejazi, the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Supreme Leader, who has used his influence behind the scenes to empower elements from Iran’s intelligence services in carrying out violent crackdowns against the Iranian people. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with those designated today, and any assets of those persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen.
Also today, the State Department imposed visa restrictions on nearly 60 other officials of the Government of Iran and other individuals who participated in the commission of human rights abuses related to political repression in Iran. The individuals subject to these new U.S. visa restrictions include government ministers; military, intelligence, and law enforcement officers; judiciary and prison officials; and authorities from Iran’s information technology sector. These restrictions cover those who have played a role in the ongoing repression of students, human rights defenders, lawyers, artists, journalists, religious and ethnic minorities, and other members of Iranian civil society. The State Department previously imposed the same restrictions on more than 50 Iranian officials and other individuals involved in similar activities.
The Committee to Determine Instances of Criminal Content
The Department of the Treasury designated the Committee to Determine Instances of Criminal Content (CDICC) pursuant to E.O. 13628 because it has engaged in censorship or other activities with respect to Iran on or after June 12, 2009, that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran or that limit access to print or broadcast media.
The CDICC, which falls under the Ministry of Justice of Iran, replaced a previous oversight committee after the adoption of the Cyber Crimes Law of 2009. With the creation of the CDICC, the filtering process in Iran has become more systematic and uniform. The Iranian authorities apply filtering on information they deem against the regime’s national beliefs and safety, and the filtering usually occurs without warning.
Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, the head of the CDICC, said in May 2012 that the only legal authority in the country with decision-making powers on the matter of filtering was the CDICC, even though he had denied the very existence of the CDICC a month earlier.
In a February 2013 meeting, the CDICC has assembled a list of “examples of cyber crimes” related to the upcoming presidential election. Some of the crimes listed include vague notions such as:
- Disturbing the public and creating conflict in society;
- Promotion of boycotting the election;
- Publishing insulting content about the election and candidates;
- Publishing any contents against the regime, government, judicial, legislature, and governmental organizations; and
- Publishing untrue information regarding election results.
The CDICC is empowered to identify sites that carry forbidden content and report the information to the Telecommunication Company of Iran and other major Internet service providers (ISP) for blocking. The CDICC is headed by the prosecutor general and other members are representatives from 12 government bodies. Laws identifying violations that might result in a website being marked for filtering are very broadly defined and range from insulting religious figures and government officials to distributing pornographic content and illegal circumvention tools.
The CDICC’s expert council ordered the filtering of content surrounding the Majlis elections and Valentine’s Day in early February 2012. The CDICC’s council approved the proposal to filter content and ISPs and website administrators were warned via e-mail about their obligation to block this illegal content on their networks.
Also, the CDICC’s expert council ordered the filtering of a popular Persian-language financial website, meshgal.org, in January 2012.
This action was taken pursuant to E.O. 13628, which implements the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010, as amended by the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 (TRA), by giving Treasury the authority to designate those who engage in censorship or other activities that limit the freedom of expression of the Iranian people.
Ofogh Saberin Engineering Development Company
Ofogh Saberin was designated pursuant to E.O. 13628 because it has provided material support to censorship or other activities with respect to Iran on or after June 12, 2009, that prohibit, limit, or penalize the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly by citizens of Iran or that limit access to print or broadcast media, including the facilitation or support of international frequency manipulation by the Government of Iran or an entity owned or controlled by the Government of Iran that would jam or restrict an international signal.
The Iranian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) placed the electronic warfare entity Ofogh Saberin in charge of a project to override and spoof commercial satellite communication frequencies emanating from what the Iranian government deemed were subversive Western media sources.
Asghar Mir-Hejazi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for supporting the commission of serious human rights abuses in Iran on or after June 12, 2009, as well as providing material support to the IRGC and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). Mir-Hejazi is the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Supreme Leader, and is closely involved in all discussions and deliberations related to military and foreign affairs. After the disputed 2009 election, Mir-Hejazi played a leading role in suppressing the unrest in Iran.
Following the disputed June 12, 2009 presidential election and the massive protests it provoked, the government unleashed the most widespread crackdown in a decade. Both ordinary protestors and prominent opposition figures faced detention without trial, harsh treatment including sexual violence and denial of due process. Security forces were responsible for at least 30 deaths, according to official sources. Security forces also arrested dozens of leading government critics, including human rights lawyers, whom the government held without charge, many of them in solitary confinement. Security forces used beatings, threats against family members, sleep deprivation, and fake executions to intimidate detainees and to force them to confess that they instigated post-election riots and were plotting a coup. The IRGC, Basij, and the MOIS were responsible for many serious human rights violations.
Mir-Hejazi, since the beginning of Khamenei's leadership, has been chief of the Supreme Leader's Office's Intelligence and Security Division, and is considered the working brain behind the scenes of important events. He is considered one of the primary officials in the oppression following the June 2009 post-election unrest. On March 23, 2012, the European Union added Mir-Hejazi to its restrictive measures (sanctions) list directed against certain persons and entities in view of the situation following the June 2009 elections in Iran. .
Entity: OFOGH SABERIN ENGINEERING DEVELOPMENT COMPANY
AKA: OFOGH TOSE-EH SABERIN ENGINEERING)
ADDRESS: Shahid Malek Lu Street, No. 86, Tehran, Iran [IRAN-TRA]
Entity: COMMITTEE TO DETERMINE INSTANCES OF CRIMINAL CONTENT
AKA: COMMISSION TO DETERMINE INSTANCES OF CRIMINAL CONTENT
AKA: COMMITTEE FOR DETERMINING EXAMPLES OF CRIMINAL WEB CONTENT
AKA: COMMITTEE IN CHARGE OF DETERMINING UNAUTHORIZED WEBSITES
AKA: WORKING GROUP FOR DETERMINING OFFENSIVE CONTENT
AKA: WORKING GROUP TO DETERMINE INSTANCES OF CRIMINAL CONTENT
AKA: WORKING GROUP TO DETERMINE INSTANCES ON ONLINE CRIMINAL CONTENT)
Address: Sure-Esrafil St, Tehran, Iran
Website: http://internet.ir [IRAN-TRA]
Individual: Asghar Mir-Hejazi
AKA: Asghar Sadegh Hejazi
AKA: Ali MirHejazi
AKA: Ashghar Hejazi
AKA: Ali Asqar Mir-Hejazi Ruhani
AKA: Ali Asqar Mir-Hejazi
Title: Security Deputy of Supreme Leader
Title: Member of the Leader’s Planning Chamber
Title: Head of Security of Supreme Leader’s Office
Title: Deputy Chief of Staff of the Supreme Leader’s Office
Title: Advisor to the Supreme Leader
DOB: September 8, 1946
POB: Esfahan, Iran