January 27, 2022

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Further Sanctions on Entities Trading in or Transporting Iranian Petrochemicals

13 min read

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of State sanctioned nine entities and three individuals who have engaged in activity that could enable the Iranian regime’s violent behavior. The actions of these individuals and entities provide revenue to the regime that it may use to fund terror and other destabilizing activities, such as the recent rocket attacks on Iraqi and Coalition forces located at Camp Taji in Iraq. Our sanctions will deprive the regime of critical income from its petrochemical industry and further Iran’s economic and diplomatic isolation. The United States will continue to fully enforce our sanctions.

 

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  • California Man Sentenced to More Than Six Years in Prison for Federal Hate Crime Conviction
    In Crime News
    A California man was sentenced to 82 months in prison for committing a federal hate crime in connection with attacking a Black man with a knife in Santa Cruz, California. The sentence was handed down by the Hon. Edward J. Davila, U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of California.
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  • Missing or Murdered Indigenous Women: New Efforts Are Underway but Opportunities Exist to Improve the Federal Response
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The total number of missing or murdered Indigenous women—referred to as American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) women in this report— is unknown because, for several reasons, federal databases do not contain comprehensive national data on all AI/AN women reported missing. For example, federal law requires federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies—but not tribal law enforcement agencies—to report missing children under the age of 21, but not those over 21. In addition, instances of missing AI/AN women may be underreported due to mistrust of law enforcement and other reasons. Implementation of data-related requirements in two laws, enacted in October 2020, present opportunities to increase and improve data on the number of missing or murdered Indians, including AI/AN women. For example, Savanna's Act requires tribal consultations on how to improve tribal data relevance and access to databases. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has taken some steps to analyze data in federal databases related to cases of missing or murdered AI/AN women, including publishing more detailed single-year statistics in 2020 on missing persons by race, gender, and age. However, data analyses efforts are in the early stages, and DOJ does not have a plan to continue these efforts past November 2021. Developing such a plan could provide DOJ and other stakeholders with information to better understand the nature of the missing or murdered AI/AN crisis and identify emerging trends. Artist Installation of Red Dresses to Depict the Disappearances and Deaths of Indigenous Women, the National Museum of the American Indian, 2019 Relevant DOJ and Department of the Interior (DOI) law enforcement agencies that investigate cases of missing or murdered Indian women in Indian country have engaged in other efforts to address the crisis, but they have not implemented certain requirements to increase intergovernmental coordination and data collection in the two 2020 laws, which remain unfulfilled past their statutory deadlines. For example, the Not Invisible Act of 2019 requires the Secretary of the Interior, in coordination with the Attorney General, to appoint members to a Joint Commission on Reducing Violence Against Indians by February 7, 2021, but as of October 15, 2021, no members have been appointed, and a draft plan to meet this requirement does not include milestones for all interim steps. Developing plans to meet this and other unfulfilled statutory requirements would provide more assurance that DOJ and DOI will meet their legal responsibilities, and support tribal partners in reducing violent crime. Why GAO Did This Study According to researchers, AI/AN women in the U.S. experience higher rates of violence than most other women, and tribal and federal officials have stated that this incidence of violence constitutes a crisis. Various federal officials and tribal stakeholders have raised concerns about challenges with cross-jurisdictional cooperation and a lack of comprehensive national data on cases. GAO was asked to review the federal response to the missing or murdered AI/AN women crisis. This report examines the extent to which (1) the number of missing or murdered AI/AN women in the U.S. is known and (2) DOJ and DOI have taken steps to address the crisis. GAO reviewed available data on missing persons and violent deaths, relevant reports, and agency documentation, including agency policies and procedures. Using agency data—which were determined to be reliable for location selection—and qualitative factors, GAO selected seven locations to interview federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement officials; tribal officials; and nongovernmental victim service providers on the federal response to the crisis.
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    Two providers of foreign-language services, Comprehensive Language Center Inc. (CLCI), based in the Washington, D.C., area, and Berlitz Languages Inc. (Berlitz), based in New Jersey, were charged with participating in a conspiracy to defraud the United States by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating competitive bidding for a multi-million dollar foreign-language training contract issued by the National Security Agency (NSA) in 2017, the Department of Justice announced today. 
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  • VA and Defense Health Care: More Information Needed to Determine If VA Can Meet an Increase in Demand for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Services
    In U.S GAO News
    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is caused by an extremely stressful event and can develop after the threat of death or serious injury as in military combat. Experts predict that about 15 percent of servicemembers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will develop PTSD. Efforts by VA to inform new veterans, including Reserve and National Guard members, about the expanded availability of VA health care services could result in an increased demand for VA PTSD services. GAO identified the approaches DOD uses to identify servicemembers at risk for PTSD and examined if VA has the information it needs to determine whether it can meet an increase in demand for PTSD services. GAO visited military bases and VA facilities, reviewed relevant documents, and interviewed DOD and VA officials to determine how DOD identifies servicemembers at risk for PTSD, and what information VA has to estimate demand for VA PTSD services.DOD uses two approaches to identify servicemembers at risk for PTSD: the combat stress control program and the post-deployment health assessment questionnaire. The combat stress control program trains servicemembers to recognize the early onset of combat stress, which can lead to PTSD. Symptoms of combat stress and PTSD include insomnia, nightmares, and difficulties coping with relationships. To assist servicemembers in the combat theater, teams of DOD mental health professionals travel to units to reinforce the servicemembers' knowledge of combat stress symptoms and to help identify those who may be at risk for combat stress and PTSD. DOD also uses the post-deployment health assessment questionnaire to identify physical ailments and mental health issues commonly associated with deployments, including PTSD. The questionnaire includes the following four screening questions that VA and DOD mental health experts developed to identify servicemembers at risk for PTSD: Have you ever had any experience that was so frightening, horrible, or upsetting that, in the past month, you (1) have had any nightmares about it or thought about it when you did not want to; (2) tried hard not to think about it or went out of your way to avoid situations that remind you of it; (3) were constantly on guard, watchful, or easily startled; and/or (4) felt numb or detached from others, activities, or your surroundings? VA lacks the information it needs to determine whether it can meet an increase in demand for VA PTSD services. VA does not have a count of the total number of veterans currently receiving PTSD services at its medical facilities and Vet Centers--community-based VA facilities that offer trauma and readjustment counseling. Without this information, VA cannot estimate the number of new veterans its medical facilities and Vet Centers could treat for PTSD. VA has two reports on the number of veterans it currently treats, with each report counting different subsets of veterans receiving PTSD services. Veterans who are receiving VA PTSD services may be counted in both reports, one of the reports, or not included in either report. VA does receive demographic information from DOD, which includes home addresses of servicemembers that could help VA predict which medical facilities or Vet Centers servicemembers may access for health care. By assuming that 15 percent or more of servicemembers who have left active duty status will develop PTSD, VA could use the home zip codes of servicemembers to broadly estimate the number of servicemembers who may need VA PTSD services and identify the VA facilities located closest to their homes. However, predicting which veterans will seek VA care and at which facilities is inherently uncertain, particularly given that the symptoms of PTSD may not appear for years.
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  • VA Medical Center Security: Progress Made, but Improvements to Oversight of Risk Management and Incident Analysis Still Needed
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has recently identified improvements for its physical security risk management policy and oversight process for its medical centers but has yet to implement them. In January 2018, GAO reported that VA's risk management policy did not fully reflect federal standards for facility security, such as a requirement to consider all of the undesirable events described in the standards (e.g. active shooter incidents). GAO also reported that while VA conducted some limited oversight of medical centers' risk management activities, it lacked a system-wide oversight strategy. GAO recommended that VA revise its policy to reflect federal standards and develop a system-wide oversight strategy to help to ensure that its approach to risk management will yield the appropriate security posture relative to the different risks at each of its medical centers. In response, as of June 2021, VA has begun to take actions to revise its policy to reflect the standards and fully deploy a risk assessment tool to help oversee risk management processes across medical centers. VA officials said they plan to implement the revised policy and assessment tool in fiscal year 2022. VA has improved its data collection to support the management and oversight of police officers' use of force but could better track and analyze investigations. VA policy contains a use of force continuum scale to define and clarify the categories of force that officers can use to gain control of a situation. In September 2020, GAO reported that VA's records of use of force incidents were not complete or accurate. For example, GAO found that 176 out of 1,214 use of force incident reports did not include the specific type of force used. Further, VA did not track incidents by individual medical centers. GAO also reported that VA did not systematically collect or analyze use of force investigation findings from local medical centers or have a database designed for such purposes, limiting VA's ability to provide effective oversight. GAO recommended that VA improve the completeness and accuracy of its data on use of force, analyze that data by facility and geographic region, and implement plans to obtain a database to collect and analyze use of force investigations. As of June 2021, VA took steps to improve the accuracy and completeness of its use of force incident data, and officials stated VA is working to obtain a suitable database to track use of force investigation trends. GAO will continue to review VA's steps to address recommendations from both reports. Why GAO Did This Study The Veterans Health Administration provides critical health services to approximately 9-million enrolled veterans at its nearly 170 medical centers. Ensuring safety and security at these medical centers can be complicated because VA has to balance the treatment and care of veterans—a vulnerable population with high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse—while also maintaining order and enforcing the law. Officers may need to use physical force to help bring a violent or hostile situation under control. This statement focuses on how VA manages and oversees (1) the physical security of medical centers and (2) use of force incidents by police officers. The statement is primarily based on GAO-18-201, issued in January 2018, and GAO-20-599, issued in September 2020. To update this information, GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed VA officials on actions taken to address these reports' recommendations.
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    A federal grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, returned a 16-count superseding indictment Wednesday, charging seven MS-13 gang members with conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana and serious firearm-related offenses, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Don Cochran for the Middle District of Tennessee.
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  • Rhode Island Man Sentenced to Over 33 Years in Federal Prison for Leadership Role in International Drug Trafficking Organization
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    A Rhode Island man was sentenced today to 400 months in prison for his role in an international fentanyl distribution conspiracy.
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    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice, together with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), today announced that KuuHuub Inc., a Canadian corporation, and two Finnish corporations, Kuu Huub Oy and Recolor Oy, have agreed to a settlement to resolve alleged violations of the FTC Act and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) associated with the companies’ “Recolor” mobile app and digital coloring book.
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  • Rare Cuneiform Tablet Bearing Portion of Epic of Gilgamesh Forfeited to United States
    In Crime News
    The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York ordered the forfeiture of a rare cuneiform tablet bearing a portion of the epic of Gilgamesh, a Sumerian poem considered one of the world’s oldest works of literature. 
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  • Arleigh Burke Class Destroyers: Observations on the Navy’s Hybrid Electric Drive Program
    In U.S GAO News
    In 2009, the Secretary of the Navy set goals to reduce fuel consumption and, 2 years later, initiated a program to install Hybrid Electric Drive (HED) systems on its fleet of Arleigh Burke class (DDG 51 Flight IIA) destroyers. The HED system draws surplus power from the ship's electric system and uses it to propel the ship. This allows the crew to turn off the propulsion engines and save fuel. Since 2011, Navy officials told us that they have spent over $100 million on the development, purchase, and upgrade of six HED systems. In October 2018, the Navy completed installation of one of the systems on the USS Truxtun (DDG 103). However, the Navy has yet to install the remaining five HED systems and now plans to use them to support another research effort. The Navy issued a January 2020 report to Congress on the HED system installed on the USS Truxtun, but did not include some requested information. For example, while the report included performance information from operations on board the USS Truxtun, it did not include sufficient information to determine the overall performance of the HED system. A comprehensive test and evaluation could have assessed the system's performance, reliability, and cyber survivability to inform program decision-making. Further, the report did not include a summary of planned investment that includes: an assessment of the costs and benefits of the HED system, or a projection of the funding needed to execute the program. The Navy stated that it did not include a summary of the planned investments in the report because the HED program was not included in the President's fiscal year 2020 budget and also due to the need for additional HED data. However, Congress appropriated $35 million in funding for the HED program in 2020, which was available to support ship installation of the five previously purchased HEDs. The Navy stated that it can only use a small portion of this funding before it expires in September 2022 since the systems cannot be upgraded and incorporated into a ship's maintenance schedule in the next 3 years. In summer 2020, Navy requirements officials informed GAO and Congress that they plan to suspend the HED program and send the five surplus HED systems to support research into a new electric motor, known as Propulsion Derived Ship Service (PDSS). Navy requirements officials identified several reasons for suspending the HED program, but these reasons differ from information GAO obtained during the course of this review. For example: Navy officials stated that it is expensive to maintain the HED system. However, the commanding officer and crew of the USS Truxtun and senior Navy engineers stated that the system requires little maintenance. Navy officials also stated that the HED is not used very often in operations. According to the Navy's January 2020 report, the system was designed for low-speed operations (speed up to 11 knots), which comprise more than one-third of a typical DDGs operating profile. GAO did not assess the Navy's decision to use the HED systems for PDSS research because the Navy did not have documentation regarding the requirements, testing, schedule, or costs of the PDSS effort. GAO could not determine the merits of suspending the HED program and using the other five HED systems for the PDSS effort because the Navy has yet to complete analysis that determines the costs, benefits, and performance necessary to support such a decision. If the Navy completes a further assessment—which has been requested by Congress—it could provide the information necessary to inform future decisions about the HED program. This report assesses the Navy's HED program. Senate Report 115-262 accompanying the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 asked the Navy to submit a report on the HED system installed on the USS Truxtun. GAO was asked to review the Navy's report and the Navy's recent decision to suspend the HED program to pursue the PDSS research project. This report (1) examines the extent to which the Navy's report on the USS Truxtun included information regarding the assessment areas as requested by Congress; and (2) describes the Navy's decision to suspend the HED program and use the HED systems for the PDSS research effort. To conduct this work, GAO reviewed the Navy's 2020 report on the HED system, analyzed data and documentation the Navy used to guide investments, and assessed HED performance information. GAO also interviewed relevant Navy officials, such as the commanding officer and other senior crew of the USS Truxtun, and Navy engineers. GAO is not making any recommendations. For more information, contact Shelby S. Oakley at (202) 512-4841 or oakleys@gao.gov.
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  • Climate Change: USAID Is Taking Steps to Increase Projects’ Resilience, but Could Improve Reporting of Adaptation Funding
    In U.S GAO News
    The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) provided at least $810 million to directly and indirectly support climate adaptation from fiscal years 2014 through 2018—the latest available data at the time of GAO's analysis. However, USAID ended new funding for programming activities that directly address climate adaptation (i.e., direct funding) in fiscal year 2017 in part due to a shift in administration priorities, according to agency officials. However, following a congressional directive in the fiscal year 2020 appropriations act, USAID restored direct funding for adaptation programming. GAO found that USAID did not consistently report all funding data for activities that indirectly addressed climate adaptation, which does not align with expectations in foreign assistance guidance and internal controls standards. USAID's direct adaptation assistance had the primary program goal of enhancing resilience and reducing vulnerability. For example, in the Philippines, a USAID activity assisted communities in preparing for extreme weather events by developing maps of potential hazards to aid in evacuation planning. USAID attributed funding that indirectly addresses climate adaptation assistance (i.e., indirect funding) from programs with other goals such as agriculture, where priorities include supporting food production and distribution. For example, in Guatemala, a USAID agricultural activity worked with farmers to transition to crops with greater economic benefits that are also drought tolerant. However, not all missions with indirect adaptation assistance reported these funding data and reporting has varied, in part, because the agency has not clearly communicated the expectation to do so. Without addressing this issue, USAID risks providing incomplete and inconsistent data to Congress and others. A Community Leader Shows the Hazard Map Prepared as Part of a U.S. Agency for International Development Project to Help Adapt to Climate Change in the Philippines Since October 2016, USAID has generally required projects and activities to conduct climate risk management, which is the process of assessing and managing the effects of climate change. USAID requires documentation of this process and GAO's review found 95 percent compliance for USAID's priority countries for adaption funding. USAID has experienced some challenges with its initial implementation of climate risk management and is assessing these challenges and identifying improvements. For example, mission officials said that some technical staff lack expertise to do climate risk management and that their environment offices had a small number of staff to provide assistance. To help staff conduct climate risk management, USAID is building staff capacity through trainings and is in the process of evaluating implementation of the policy and whether it requires any changes, among other efforts. USAID is the primary U.S. government agency helping countries adapt to the effects of climate change. USAID has provided this assistance through activities that directly address climate adaptation as well as indirectly through activities that received funding for other purposes, such as agriculture, but which also support climate adaptation goals. GAO was asked to review issues related to U.S. foreign assistance for climate adaptation. For USAID, this report examines (1) funding the agency provided for climate adaptation assistance in fiscal years 2014 through 2018, and (2) how climate risk management is implemented. GAO analyzed funding data and documentation of agency activities and climate risk management; interviewed agency and project officials; and conducted fieldwork in three countries receiving adaptation assistance—Guatemala, the Philippines, and Uganda. GAO selected these countries based on the amount of funding they received for climate adaptation activities, geographic diversity, and variety of observed and projected climate effects, among other factors. GAO recommends that USAID communicate to its missions and bureaus that they are expected to report all data on funding that indirectly addresses climate adaptation. USAID agreed with the recommendation and outlined a number of steps the agency plans to take to improve the reporting of these data. For more information, contact David Gootnick at (202) 512-3149 or gootnickd@gao.gov.
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    In Crime News
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