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One of the most disturbing and growing threats to freedom around the world is transnational repression – when authoritarians and other bad actors target their critics in third countries, including right here in the United States.

The list of countries using transnational repression reads like a who’s who of authoritarian regimes around the world, from China and North Korea to Russia and Iran. Their goal is simple: To silence dissidents and anyone willing to shine a light on atrocities committed by the authoritarian regime.

Their methods include digital and physical surveillance, harassment, assault, threats, and coercion. At their most extreme, they can include assassination, kidnapping, forced repatriation, and retaliation against family members.

This is increasingly becoming an issue within the borders of our allies and even here in the United States. The United States and democracies around the world are beginning to respond but must do more. That includes using American ingenuity and know-how to better counter technological threats from our adversaries.

Heinous examples of transnational repression in recent years include the Kremlin’s 2006 assassination by radiation poisoning of Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko and the 2018 attempt on defector Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia; the Skripals both survived. Last year, the Iranian regime hired three men to assassinate Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist and the 2023 Time Magazine Woman of the Year, at her home in Brooklyn, New York.

Another highly publicized case involved multiple requests by Russia for Interpol to arrest U.S-born British financier Bill Browder. Browder led a campaign to punish Russian officials for the death of his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky and sharply criticized Vladimir Putin. He advocated for passage of the Global Magnitsky Act, which authorizes the United States to sanction foreign governments that are human rights offenders, and similar legislation worldwide.

International students, visiting scholars, and faculty in the United States are frequent targets of transnational repression, particularly by China, according to Freedom House. And China prevented the George W. Bush Institute’s own Joseph Kim, a North Korean escapee who is now an American citizen, from sharing his personal experiences, using Beijing’s veto power to cut off the planned livestream of a United Nations event last year.

Standing up for democracy advocates and victims of transnational repression – particularly those within our own borders – is a key component of the Bush Institute’s work to advance free societies. And it demonstrates in a very tangible and personal way that what happens abroad affects us here at home.

If authoritarian powers believe they can attack democracies – including their institutions and citizens – and abuse human rights with impunity, their violations will become bolder and more egregious.

The U.S. State Department should actively work to urge as many of our democratic allies as possible to adopt and expand Global Magnitsky Act-style legislation. A global “Magnitsky network” could go after human rights abusers like the Taliban by consistently applying targeted sanctions to close the loopholes and eliminate the financial and safe harbors they utilize.

The triggers for these sanctions should be broad and expansive. Multinational organizations like NATO could help coordinate the implementation of targeted sanctions.

Congress should also use its oversight powers to highlight authoritarian intrusions into our democracy that target foreign dissidents within our borders. This includes protecting American citizens against national security threats posed by Chinese-controlled  social media platforms like TikTok. Congress must ensure that our government’s response to these challenges is both adequate and robustly funded.

The world’s democracies must also work together to deny authoritarian powers opportunities for international prestige, including at international and regional sports competitions, such as the Olympics or World Cup.

Only by raising everyone up can we rebuild our common humanity and move toward a brighter future.

David J. Kramer is Executive Director of the George W. Bush Institute, where Chris Walsh is Director of Global Policy and Igor Khrestin is the Bradford M. Freeman Managing Director of Global Policy.