January 27, 2022

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

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  • Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley’s Travel to Moscow and Paris
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Medicare Advantage Provider to Pay $6.3 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations
    In Crime News
    Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington, formerly known as Group Health Cooperative (GHC), agreed to pay $6,375,000 to resolve allegations that it submitted invalid diagnoses to Medicare for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries and received inflated payments from Medicare as a result, the Justice Department announced today.  Kaiser Foundation Health Plan is headquartered in Oakland, California.    
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  • Guinea-Bissau Independence Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken to U.S. Mission Mexico
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken With Margaret Brennan of CBS Face the Nation
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Israeli Alternate Prime Minister/Defense Minister Benjamin “Benny” Gantz Before Their Meeting
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Information Technology: DHS Directives Have Strengthened Federal Cybersecurity, but Improvements Are Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has established a five-step process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives, as authorized by the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA). The process includes DHS coordinating with stakeholders early in the directives' development process and validating agencies' actions on the directives. However, in implementing the process, DHS did not coordinate with stakeholders early in the process and did not consistently validate agencies' self-reported actions. In addition to being a required step in the directives process, FISMA requires DHS to coordinate with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure that the directives do not conflict with existing NIST guidance for federal agencies. However, NIST officials told GAO that DHS often did not reach out to NIST on directives until 1 to 2 weeks before the directives were to be issued, and then did not always incorporate the NIST technical comments. More recently, DHS and NIST have started regular coordination meetings to discuss directive-related issues earlier in the process. Regarding validation of agency actions, DHS has done so for selected directives, but not for others. DHS is not well-positioned to validate all directives because it lacks a risk-based approach as well as a strategy to check selected agency-reported actions to validate their completion. Directives' implementation often has been effective in strengthening federal cybersecurity. For example, a 2015 directive on critical vulnerability mitigation required agencies to address critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS cyber scans of agencies' internet-accessible systems within 30 days. This was a new requirement for federal agencies. While agencies did not always meet the 30-day requirement, their mitigations were validated by DHS and reached 87 percent compliance by 2017 (see fig. 1). DHS officials attributed the recent decline in percentage completion to a 35-day partial government shutdown in late 2018/early 2019. Nevertheless, for the 4-year period shown in the figure below, agencies mitigated within 30 days about 2,500 of the 3,600 vulnerabilities identified. Figure 1: Critical Vulnerabilities Mitigated within 30 days, May 21, 2015 through May 20, 2019 Agencies also made reported improvements in securing or replacing vulnerable network infrastructure devices. Specifically, a 2016 directive on the Threat to Network Infrastructure Devices addressed, among other things, several urgent vulnerabilities in the targeting of firewalls across federal networks and provided technical mitigation solutions. As shown in figure 2, in response to the directive, agencies reported progress in mitigating risks to more than 11,000 devices as of October 2018. Figure 2: Federal Civilian Agency Vulnerable Network Infrastructure Devices That Had Not Been Mitigated, September 2016 through January 2019 Another key DHS directive is Securing High Value Assets, an initiative to protect the government's most critical information and system assets. According to this directive, DHS is to lead in-depth assessments of federal agencies' most essential identified high value assets. However, an important performance metric for addressing vulnerabilities identified by these assessments does not account for agencies submitting remediation plans in cases where weaknesses cannot be fully addressed within 30 days. Further, DHS only completed about half of the required assessments for the most recent 2 years (61 of 142 for fiscal year 2018, and 73 of 142 required assessments for fiscal year 2019 (see fig. 3)). In addition, DHS does not plan to finalize guidance to agencies and third parties, such as contractors or agency independent assessors, for conducting reviews of additional high value assets that are considered significant, but are not included in DHS's current review, until the end of fiscal year 2020. Given these shortcomings, DHS is now reassessing key aspects of the program. However, it does not have a schedule or plan for completing this reassessment, or to address outstanding issues on completing required assessments, identifying needed resources, and finalizing guidance to agencies and third parties. Figure 3: Department of Homeland Security Assessments of Agency High Value Assets, Fiscal Years (FY) 2018 through 2019 Why GAO Did This Study DHS plays a key role in federal cybersecurity. FISMA authorized DHS, in consultation with the Office of Management and Budget, to develop and oversee the implementation of compulsory directives—referred to as binding operational directives—covering executive branch civilian agencies. These directives require agencies to safeguard federal information and information systems from a known or reasonably suspected information security threat, vulnerability, or risk. Since 2015, DHS has issued eight directives that instructed agencies to, among other things, (1) mitigate critical vulnerabilities discovered by DHS through its scanning of agencies' internet-accessible systems; (2) address urgent vulnerabilities in network infrastructure devices identified by DHS; and (3) better secure the government's highest value and most critical information and system assets. GAO was requested to evaluate DHS's binding operational directives. This report addresses (1) DHS's process for developing and overseeing the implementation of binding operational directives and (2) the effectiveness of the directives, including agencies' implementation of the directive requirements. GAO selected for review the five directives that were in effect as of December 2018, and randomly selected for further in-depth review a sample of 12 agencies from the executive branch civilian agencies to which the directives apply. In addition, GAO reviewed DHS policies and processes related to the directives and assessed them against FISMA and Office of Management and Budget requirements; administered a data collection instrument to selected federal agencies; compared the agencies' responses and supporting documentation to the requirements outlined in the five directives; and collected and analyzed DHS's government-wide scanning data on government-wide implementation of the directives. GAO also interviewed DHS and selected agency officials.
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  • Cameroonian Citizen Extradited from Romania Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud Online Purchasers of Pets
    In Crime News
    A citizen of Cameroon pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in a scheme to trick American consumers into paying fees for pets that were never delivered and for using the COVID-19 crisis as an excuse to extract higher fees from victims.
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  • Counselor of the U.S. Department of State Chollet and Special Envoy Norland’s Visit to Libya
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Rewards for Justice – Reward Offer for Information on Foreign Malicious Cyber Activity Against U.S. Critical Infrastructure
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Al-Thani
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Former Venezuelan Official Charged in Connection with International Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme
    In Crime News
    Charges were unsealed today against a former official at Citgo Petroleum Corporation, a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA).
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  • Quantum Computing and Communications: Status and Prospects
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Quantum information technologies aim to use the properties of nature at atomic scales to accomplish tasks that are not achievable with existing technologies. These technologies rely on qubits, the quantum equivalent of classical computer bits. Scientists are creating qubits from particles, such as atoms or particles of light, or objects that mimic them, such as superconducting circuits. Unlike classical bits, qubits can be intrinsically linked to each other and can be any combination of 0 and 1 simultaneously. These capabilities enable two potentially transformational applications—quantum computing and communications. However, quantum information cannot be copied, is fragile, and can be irreversibly lost, resulting in errors that are challenging to correct. Examples of quantum computing hardware Some quantum computing and communications technologies are available for limited uses, but will likely require extensive development before providing significant commercial value. For example, some small error-prone quantum computers are available for limited applications, and a quantum communications technology known as quantum key distribution can be purchased. According to agency officials and stakeholders, additional quantum technology development may take at least a decade and cost billions, but such estimates are highly uncertain. Quantum computing and communications technologies will likely develop together because of some shared physics principles, laboratory techniques, and common hardware.  Quantum computers may have applications in many sectors, but it is not clear where they will have the greatest impact. Quantum communications technologies may have uses for secure communications, quantum networking, and a future quantum internet. Some applications—such as distributed quantum computing, which connects multiple quantum computers together to solve a problem—require both quantum computing and communications technologies. Potential drawbacks of quantum technology include cost, complexity, energy consumption, and the possibility of malicious use. GAO identified four factors that affect quantum technology development and use: (1) collaboration, (2) workforce size and skill, (3) investment, and (4) the supply chain. The table below describes options that policymakers—legislative bodies, government agencies, standards-setting organizations, industry, and other groups—could consider to help address these factors, enhance benefits, or mitigate drawbacks of quantum technology development and use. Policy Options to Help Address Factors that Affect Quantum Technology Development and Use, or to Enhance Benefits or Mitigate Drawbacks Policy options and potential implementation approaches Opportunities Considerations Collaboration (report p. 37) Policymakers could encourage further collaboration in developing quantum technologies, such as collaboration among: Scientific disciplines Sectors Countries Collaboration among disciplines could enable technology breakthroughs. Collaboration could help accelerate research and development, as well as facilitate technology transfer from laboratories to the private sector, federal agencies, and others. International collaboration could bring mutual benefits to the U.S. and other countries by accelerating scientific discovery and promoting economic growth. Intellectual property concerns could make quantum technology leaders reluctant to collaborate. Institutional differences could make collaboration difficult. Export controls may complicate international collaboration, but are also needed to manage national security risks. Workforce (report p. 39) Policymakers could consider ways to expand the quantum technology workforce by, for example: Leveraging existing programs and creating new ones Promoting job training Facilitating appropriate hiring of an international workforce who are deemed not to pose a national security risk Educational programs could provide students and personnel with the qualifications and skills needed to work in quantum technologies across the private sector, public sector, and academia. Training personnel from different disciplines in quantum technologies could enhance the supply of quantum talent. International hiring could allow U.S. quantum employers to attract and retain top talent from other countries. Efforts to increase the quantum technology labor force may affect the supply of expertise in other technology fields with high demand. It may be difficult to adequately develop workforce plans to accommodate quantum technology needs. International hiring could be challenging because of visa requirements and export controls, both in place for national security reasons. Investment (report p. 41) Policymakers could consider ways to incentivize or support investment in quantum technology development, such as: Investments targeted toward specific results Continued investment in quantum technology research centers Grand challenges to spur solutions from the public More targeted investments could help advance quantum technologies. These may include investments in improving access to quantum computers and focusing on real-world applications. Quantum technologies testbed facility investments could support technology adoption, since testbeds allow researchers to explore new technologies and test the functionality of devices. Grand challenges have shown success in providing new capabilities and could be leveraged for quantum technologies. It may be difficult to fund projects with longer-term project timeframes. A lack of standards or, conversely, developing standards too early, could affect quantum technology investments. Without standards, businesses and consumers may not be confident that products will work as expected. Developing standards too early may deter the growth of alternative technology pathways. Supply Chain (report p. 43) Policymakers could encourage the development of a robust, secure supply chain for quantum technologies by, for example: Enhancing efforts to identify gaps in the global supply chain Expanding fabrication capabilities for items with an at-risk supply chain A robust supply chain could help accelerate progress and mitigate quantum technology development risks by expanding access to necessary components and materials or providing improved economies of scale. Quantum material fabrication capabilities improvements could ensure a reliable supply of materials to support quantum technology development. Facilities dedicated to producing quantum materials could help support scalable manufacturing of component parts needed for quantum technology development. The current quantum supply chain is global, which poses risks. For example, it is difficult to obtain a complete understanding of a component’s potential vulnerabilities. Some critical components, such as rare earths, are mined primarily outside of the U.S., which may pose risks to the supply chain that are difficult to mitigate. Quantum manufacturing facilities take a long time to develop and can be costly. Source: GAO. | GAO-21-104422 Why GAO Did This Study Quantum information technologies could dramatically increase capabilities beyond what is possible with classical technologies. Future quantum computers could have high-value applications in security, cryptography, drug development, and energy. Future quantum communications could allow for secure communications by making information challenging to intercept without the eavesdropper being detected. GAO conducted a technology assessment on (1) the availability of quantum computing and communications technologies and how they work, (2) potential future applications of such technologies and benefits and drawbacks from their development and use, and (3) factors that could affect technology development and policy options available to help address those factors, enhance benefits, or mitigate drawbacks. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed key reports and scientific literature; interviewed government, industry, academic representatives, and potential end users; and convened a meeting of experts in collaboration with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. GAO is identifying policy options in this report. For more information, contact Karen L. Howard at (202) 512-6888 or howardk@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • National Health Care Fraud and Opioid Takedown Results in Charges Against 345 Defendants Responsible for More than $6 Billion in Alleged Fraud Losses
    In Crime News
    Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Assistant Director Calvin Shivers of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, Deputy Inspector General Gary Cantrell of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) and Assistant Administrator Tim McDermott of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today announced a historic nationwide enforcement action involving 345 charged defendants across 51 federal districts, including more than 100 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals. 
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  • Businessman Sentenced for Foreign Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme Involving PetroEcuador Officials
    In Crime News
    An Ecuadorian businessman living in Miami was sentenced today to 35 months in prison for his role in a $4.4 million bribery and money laundering scheme that funneled bribes to then-public officials of Empresa Pública de Hidrocarburos del Ecuador (PetroEcuador), the state-owned and state-controlled oil company of Ecuador.
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  • India Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to India [Read More…]
  • Commercial Flooring Executive Indicted on Money Laundering Charge as Part of a Long-Running Bid Rigging Investigation
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in the Northern District of Illinois returned a one-count indictment charging Michael Zmijewski for his role in a money laundering conspiracy involving kickbacks. Zmijewski is a former President of Mr. David’s Flooring International LLC (Mr. David’s), a Chicago-based commercial flooring contractor. Zmijewski is the sixth individual, along with three companies, that have been charged as result of the ongoing federal antitrust investigation.
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  • Statement from Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Regarding Texas SB8
    In Crime News
    Attorney General Merrick B. Garland tonight issued the following statement regarding the U.S. District Court’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of Texas Senate Bill 8. On Sept. 9, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit to prevent the State of Texas from enforcing the law, which effectively bans most abortions in the state.
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  • Probation Official Charged with Child Pornography Offenses
    In Crime News
    A Pennsylvania man made his initial appearance today after being charged in an indictment with multiple child pornography offenses.
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  • Indictment Charges Alaska Man for Threatening a California Synagogue
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Alaska, returned an indictment charging William Alexander, 49, for threatening to kill the congregants of a California synagogue, the Justice Department announced today.
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