January 25, 2022

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Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta Delivers Remarks at the Civil Rights Division’s Virtual Program: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

8 min read
<div>I am honored to join all of you for this celebration of the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.</div>
I am honored to join all of you for this celebration of the life and legacy of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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  • Former Veterans Affairs Doctor Pleads Guilty to Three Civil Rights Offenses
    In Crime News
    A doctor of osteopathic medicine who formerly worked at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Beckley, West Virginia, pleaded guilty today to three counts of depriving veterans of their civil rights under color of law by sexually abusing them.
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  • 2020 Census: Key Areas for Attention Raised by Compressed Timeframes
    In U.S GAO News
    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and an August decision to end data collection about 30 days earlier than planned, the Census Bureau (Bureau) has made late design changes to the 2020 Census. The Bureau also announced it would accelerate its response processing operations, which improve the completeness and accuracy of census results. According to the Bureau, late design changes introduce risk to census quality and costs. The compressed time frames for field operations and data processing raise a number of issues that will require the Bureau's attention. It will be important for the Bureau to hire and retain a sufficient workforce, manage operational changes to the Nonresponse Follow-up operation, ensure census coverage at the local level, evaluate risks in streamlining response processing, and ensure timely and quality processing of census responses. As the 2020 Census continues, GAO will monitor the remainder of field operations and the Bureau's response processing operations.  Like the rest of the country, the Bureau has been required to respond to COVID-19. Resulting delays, compressed time frames, implementation of untested procedures, and continuing challenges could undermine the overall quality of the count and escalate census costs. GAO was asked to testify on its ongoing work on implementation of the 2020 Census. This testimony examines the cost and progress of key 2020 Census operations critical to a cost-effective enumeration. Over the past decade, GAO has made 112 recommendations specific to the 2020 Census. To date, the Bureau has implemented 92. As of September 2020, 19 of the recommendations had not been fully implemented. For more information, contact J. Christopher Mihm at (202)512-6806 or mihmj@gao.gov.
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  • Georgia Man Pleads Guilty in New York Federal Court on Charges Related to Ponzi and COVID-19 Fraud Schemes
    In Crime News
    Christopher A. Parris, 41, formerly of Rochester, New York, and currently of Lawrenceville, Georgia, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit mail fraud related to a Ponzi scheme, as well as to wire fraud involving the fraudulent sale of purported N95 masks during the pandemic.
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  • Civil Monetary Penalties: Federal Agencies’ Compliance with the 2020 Annual Inflation Adjustment Requirements
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In this fifth annual review, GAO found that the majority of federal agencies that could be subject to the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 1990, as amended (IAA), have complied with the provisions of the act to publish 2020 civil monetary penalty inflation adjustments in the Federal Register and report related information in their 2020 agency financial reports (AFR), or equivalent. However, two agencies did not publish inflation adjustments in the Federal Register as of December 31, 2020, and did not report the required information in their 2020 AFRs for one or more of their civil monetary penalties. Why GAO Did This Study The IAA includes a provision, added in 2015, requiring GAO to annually submit to Congress a report assessing agencies' compliance with the annual inflation adjustments required by the act. This is the fifth annual report responding to this requirement. For more information, contact Paula M. Rascona at (202) 512-9816 or rasconap@gao.gov.
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  • Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Gives Remarks at the Civil Rights Division’s Virtual Conference: Confronting Hate: Strategies for Prevention, Accountability and Justice
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  • West Tennessee Psychiatrist Sentenced for Unlawfully Distributing Opioids
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    The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit alleging that a property manager in Chicopee, Massachusetts violated the Fair Housing Act by subjecting female tenants to sexual harassment.
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  • Judiciary Makes the Case for New Judgeships
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    The creation of new judgeships has not kept pace with the growth in case filings over three decades, producing “profound” negative effects for many courts across the country, U.S. District Judge Brian S. Miller told Congress today.
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  • Defined Contribution Plans: Federal Guidance Could Help Mitigate Cybersecurity Risks in 401(k) and Other Retirement Plans
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In their role administering private sector employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, plan sponsors and their service providers—record keepers, third party administrators, custodians, and payroll providers—share a variety of personally identifiable information (PII) and plan asset data among them to assist with carrying out their respective functions (see figure). The PII exchanged for DC plans typically include participant name, Social Security number, date of birth, address, username/password; plan asset data typically includes numbers for both retirement and bank accounts. The sharing and storing of this information can lead to significant cybersecurity risks for plan sponsors and their service providers, as well as plan participants. Data Sharing Among Plan Sponsors and Service Providers in Defined Contribution Plans Federal requirements and industry guidance exist that could mitigate cybersecurity risks in DC plans, such as requirements that pertain to entities that directly engage in financial activities involving DC plans. However, not all entities involved in DC plans are considered to have such direct engagement, and other cybersecurity mitigation guidance is voluntary. Federal law nevertheless requires plan fiduciaries to act prudently when administering plans. However, the Department of Labor (DOL) has not clarified fiduciary responsibility for mitigating cybersecurity risks, even though 21 of 22 stakeholders GAO interviewed expressed the view that cybersecurity is a fiduciary duty. Further, DOL has not established minimum expectations for protecting PII and plan assets. DOL officials told GAO that the agency intends to issue guidance addressing cybersecurity-related issues, but they were unsure when it would be issued. Until DOL clarifies responsibilities for fiduciaries and provides minimum cybersecurity expectations, participants' data and assets will remain at risk. Why GAO Did This Study Cyber attacks against information systems (IT) are perpetuated by individuals or groups with malicious intentions, from stealing identities to appropriating money from accounts. DC plans, which allow individuals to accumulate tax-advantaged retirement savings, increasingly rely on the internet and IT systems for their administration. Accordingly, the need to secure these systems has become paramount. Ineffective data security controls can result in significant risks to plan data and assets. In 2018, DC plans enrolled 106 million participants and held nearly $6.3 trillion in assets, according to DOL. This report examines (1) the data that sponsors and providers exchange during the administration of DC plans and their associated cybersecurity risks, and (2) efforts to assist sponsors and providers to mitigate cybersecurity risks during the administration of DC plans. GAO interviewed key entities involved with DC plans, such as sponsors and record keepers, DOL officials and industry stakeholders; and reviewed relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance.
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  • Freedom of Information Act: Actions Needed to Improve Agency Compliance with Proactive Disclosure Requirements
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 expanded the requirement for agencies to proactively disclose certain records—making the records publicly available without waiting for specific requests. Of the three agencies GAO reviewed—Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Veterans Health Administration (VHA)—only VHA aligned its policies and procedures with applicable Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) proactive disclosure requirements. Although FAA officials stated that the agency has processes to identify and post proactive disclosures, it has not documented these processes. HUD has FOIA regulations, updated in 2017, that address proactive disclosure, but its standard operating procedures have outdated sections that do not reflect statutory requirements. GAO also found that HUD, VHA, and FAA did not fully comply with the statutory reporting requirements and Department of Justice's (DOJ) guidance to accurately report proactive disclosures. The FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 requires agencies to report the number of records the FOIA and program offices proactively disclosed each fiscal year. From fiscal years 2017 through 2019, HUD incorrectly reported zero proactive disclosures, while VHA and FAA did not track and report all required categories of proactive disclosures in fiscal year 2019 (see table). Selected Agencies' Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Offices' Reported Proactive Disclosures Fiscal year Federal Aviation Administration Housing and Urban Development Veterans Health Administration 2019 8 0 16 2018 89,687 0 0 2017 90,486 0 58 2016 68,046 12 0 Source: FOIA.gov. | GAO-21-254 DOJ's Office of Information Policy (OIP) is responsible for encouraging agencies' compliance with FOIA, including overseeing the Annual FOIA Report that agencies submit to OIP. OIP told GAO that it asked agencies that report zero proactive disclosures to confirm that this was accurate, but it did not follow up with these agencies. For example, OIP asked HUD officials to confirm that HUD intentionally reported zero proactive disclosures, but did not ask why HUD had zero proactive disclosures. In addition, GAO's review of annual FOIA data found that 25 of 118 agencies reported zero proactive disclosures in fiscal years 2018 and 2019. OIP said that agencies with a low volume of requests may have fewer records to proactively disclose. However, by not following up with agencies that report zero proactive disclosures, OIP is not using an available tool that may strengthen its efforts to encourage agencies to make required disclosures. OIP and National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)'s Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) officials stated that making proactive disclosures accessible is a challenge for agencies. To assist agencies in addressing such challenges, OGIS periodically reviews agencies' compliance with FOIA and recently issued a report that included strategies for making proactive disclosures accessible. Why GAO Did This Study FOIA, enacted into law more than 50 years ago, requires federal agencies to provide the public with access to government records and information, including through proactive disclosures. FOIA proactive disclosures enhance transparency by ensuring that certain information about the operations and activities of the government is publicly available. GAO was asked to review federal agencies' efforts to implement FOIA requirements regarding proactive disclosures. This report assesses the extent to which selected agencies (1) aligned their policies and procedures with FOIA requirements, and (2) tracked and reported these disclosures. GAO also assessed the effectiveness of the tools, resources, and oversight provided by DOJ and NARA to address known challenges to agencies' FOIA compliance. GAO selected three agencies—FAA, HUD, and VHA—that reflect, among other things, a range in the agency-reported number of FOIA requests received and records proactively disclosed. GAO reviewed DOJ, NARA, FAA, HUD, and VHA documents and interviewed agency officials.
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  • Cybersecurity: Federal Actions Urgently Needed to Better Protect the Nation’s Critical Infrastructure
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found GAO has previously reported on major cybersecurity challenges facing the nation and the critical federal actions needed to address them (see figure). Four Major Cybersecurity Challenges and 10 Associated Critical Actions To address critical infrastructure cybersecurity, key actions the federal government needs to take include (1) developing and executing a comprehensive national cyber strategy and (2) strengthening the federal role in protecting the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure. Develop and execute a comprehensive national cyber strategy. In September 2020, GAO reported that the White House's 2018 National Cyber Strategy and related implementation plan addressed some, but not all, of the desirable characteristics of national strategies, such as goals and resources. GAO also reported that it was unclear which official within the executive branch ultimately maintained responsibility for coordinating the execution of the National Cyber Strategy. Accordingly, GAO recommended that the National Security Council update the cybersecurity strategy and for Congress to consider legislation to designate a position in the White House to lead such an effort. In January 2021, a federal statute established the Office of the National Cyber Director within the Executive Office of the President. In June 2021, the Senate confirmed a Director to lead this new office. In October 2021, the National Cyber Director issued a strategic intent statement, outlining a vision for the Director's planned high-level lines of efforts. The establishment of a National Cyber Director is an important step toward positioning the federal government to better direct activities to address the nation's cyber threats. Nevertheless, GAO's recommendation to develop and execute a comprehensive national cyber strategy is not yet fully implemented. As a result, a pressing need remains to provide a clear roadmap for addressing the cyber challenges facing the nation, including its critical infrastructure. Strengthen the federal role in protecting the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure. Pursuant to legislation enacted in 2018, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was charged with responsibility for, among other things, enhancing the security of the nation's critical infrastructure in the face of both physical and cyber threats. In March 2021, GAO reported that DHS needed to complete key activities related to the transformation of CISA, including finalizing the agency's mission-essential functions and completing workforce planning activities. GAO also reported that DHS needed to address challenges identified by selected critical infrastructure stakeholders, including having consistent stakeholder involvement in the development of related guidance (see figure). Accordingly, GAO made 11 recommendations to DHS. As of November 2021, DHS had not yet implemented them, though it stated its intent to do so. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Coordination Challenges Reported by Stakeholders Representing the 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors Regarding specific critical infrastructure sectors, since 2010 GAO has made about 80 recommendations to enhance the cybersecurity of these sectors and subsectors, including within the aviation and pipeline industries. In October 2020, GAO reported that, although the Federal Aviation Administration had established a process for certification and oversight of U.S. commercial airplanes, it had not prioritized risk-based cybersecurity oversight or included periodic testing as part of its monitoring process, among other things. In July 2021, GAO testified that the Transportation Security Administration had not fully addressed pipeline cybersecurity-related weaknesses that GAO had previously identified, such as aged protocols for responding to pipeline security incidents. Until GAO's recommendations to address issues such as these are fully implemented, federal agencies will not be effectively positioned to ensure critical infrastructure sectors are adequately protected from potentially harmful cybersecurity threats. Why GAO Did This Study Federal agencies and the nation's critical infrastructure—such as transportation systems, energy, communications, and financial services—are dependent on information technology systems to carry out operations. The security of these systems and the data they use is vital to public confidence and national security, prosperity, and well-being. GAO first designated information security as a government-wide high-risk area in 1997. This was expanded to include protecting (1) cyber critical infrastructure in 2003 and (2) the privacy of personally identifiable information in 2015. In 2018, GAO reported that the federal government needed to address four major cybersecurity challenges: (1) establishing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy and performing effective oversight, (2) securing federal systems and information, (3) protecting cyber critical infrastructure, and (4) protecting privacy and sensitive data. Within these four challenges are 10 actions critical to successfully dealing with the serious cybersecurity threats facing the nation (see the figure identifying the four challenges and 10 actions). GAO was asked to testify on the federal government's efforts to address critical infrastructure cybersecurity. For this testimony, GAO relied on selected products it previously issued.
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  • Military Operations: DOD’s Fiscal Year 2003 Funding and Reported Obligations in Support of the Global War on Terrorism
    In U.S GAO News
    The Global War on Terrorism--principally involving operations in Afghanistan and Iraq--was funded in fiscal year 2003 by Congress's appropriation of almost $69 billion. To assist Congress in its oversight of spending, GAO is undertaking a series of reviews relating to contingency operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism. In September 2003, GAO issued a report that discussed fiscal year 2003 obligations and funding for the war through June 2003. This report continues the review of fiscal year 2003 by analyzing obligations reported in support of the Global War on Terrorism and reviews whether the amount of funding received by the military services was adequate to cover DOD's obligations for the war from October 1, 2002, through September 30, 2003. GAO will also review the war's reported obligations and funding for fiscal year 2004.In fiscal year 2003, DOD reported obligations of over $61 billion in support of the Global War on Terrorism. GAO's analysis of the obligation data showed that 64 percent of fiscal year 2003 obligations reported for the war on terrorism went for Operation Iraqi Freedom; among the DOD components, the Army had the most obligations (46 percent); and among appropriation accounts the operation and maintenance account had the highest level of reported obligations (71 percent). The adequacy of funding available for the Global War on Terrorism for fiscal year 2003 military personnel and operation and maintenance accounts varied by service. For military personnel, the Army, Navy, and Air Force ended the fiscal year with more reported obligations for the war than funding and had to cover the shortfalls with money appropriated for their budgeted peacetime personnel costs. For operation and maintenance accounts, the Army, Navy, and Air Force appeared to have more funding than reported obligations for the war. However, the Navy and Air Force have stated that the seeming excess funding ($299 million and $176.6 million respectively) were in support of the war on terrorism, but had not been recorded as such. Therefore, Navy and Air Force obligations exactly match funding. The Marine Corps used funds appropriated for its budgeted peacetime operation and maintenance activities to cover shortfalls in funding for the war.
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