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Lawmakers call for probe as arms purchasers target US-based dissidents

Democratic lawmakers are seeking a congressional watchdog study on how the State Department is tracking extraterritorial harassment by countries that benefit from US security assistance or arms, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Congressional Democrats are questioning whether the State Department is adequately monitoring the conduct of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other recipients of US military aid who are known to harass critics living inside the United States. 

“We write you amid a growing trend of the extraterritorial persecution, intimidation, and censorship of US citizens, legal permanent residents and others residing in the US face at the hands of US partners around the world,” read a letter spearheaded by Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), which was shared exclusively with Al-Monitor.

In the letter sent Monday to C​​omptroller General Gene Dodaro, the group of 12 House Democrats point to Title 22 USC Section 2756, which bars the State Department from providing arms export licenses, letters of offer or other forms of security assistance to countries that engage in a “consistent pattern of acts of intimidation or harassment directed against individuals in the United States.” 

The lawmakers called on the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study of the State Department’s enforcement of the law, including its process for identifying patterns of transnational repression. They also want to know if, for purposes of enforcing the law, the FBI is sharing with the State Department evidence of countries threatening individuals in the United States and whether such behavior has ever changed the eligibility status of a foreign military sales recipient. 

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