January 29, 2022

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Secretary Pompeo’s Meeting with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Al Thani

10 min read

Office of the Spokesperson

Secretary  of  State  Michael  R.  Pompeo  met  today  with  Qatari  Deputy  Prime  Minister  and  Minister  of  Foreign  Affairs  Mohammed  bin  Abdulrahman  Al  Thani  in  Doha,  Qatar.  Secretary  Pompeo  thanked  Foreign  Minister  Al  Thani  for  Qatar’s  steadfast  support  for  a  negotiated  political  settlement  in  Afghanistan,  underlined  by  Qatar’s  hosting  of  Afghanistan  peace  negotiations.  The  Secretary  and  Foreign  Minister  discussed  bilateral  issues  of  interest,  in  addition  to  regional  issues  that  included  Iraq,  Lebanon  and  Syria,  the  importance  of  a  united  Gulf  to  stand  against  the  Iranian  regime’s  destabilizing  activity,  and  the  risk  to  the  region  presented  by  China.

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  • Community Living Centers: VA Needs to Strengthen Its Approach for Addressing Resident Complaints
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides care to nearly 9,000 veterans per day in 134 VA-operated nursing homes, called community living centers (CLC), which are associated with VA medical centers (VAMC). CLC residents and their representatives can voice their concerns about the quality of care in the CLC by filing a complaint to CLC staff or to patient advocates at VAMCs. GAO found that VA has insufficient policies, limited monitoring, and unclear guidance for addressing complaints about care in its CLCs, among other issues. Specifically: VA only requires staff to document complaints elevated to VAMC officials, which means that most complaints about CLC care are likely not documented. According to VA officials, most complaints are resolved at the CLC level and not elevated. As a result, VA cannot have assurance that complaints are resolved for the vulnerable CLC population. GAO's review of complaints documentation from four CLCs found that some staff did not properly implement VA's complaints policies. For example, GAO found that staff did not always address complaints in a timely manner, such as waiting 1 month to begin addressing a complaint about unsanitary conditions. This reflects VA's limited monitoring of adherence to its policies. With more robust monitoring, VA may be able to identify and address errors in addressing complaints about care at CLCs. VA has not clearly specified which serious complaints should be elevated to VA leadership through alerts called issue briefs, resulting in underreporting. Specifically, GAO found that most abuse-related complaints it reviewed did not result in an issue brief. These issues in policies, monitoring, and guidance are inconsistent with VA's strategic objectives to provide high quality care and have accountability for its actions. Until these issues are addressed, VA cannot ensure that all complaints about CLC care are tracked and resolved as part of its oversight of quality improvement efforts for the vulnerable CLC population. Further, GAO found that CLC residents and their representatives do not receive accurate and complete information about how to file complaints. For example, VA's Rights and Responsibilities documents for residents and their representatives direct them to complain to entities that do not receive complaints about CLC care. This misinformation is inconsistent with VA strategic objectives for veterans to be informed and for VA to be transparent and openly accountable for its actions. Without providing accurate and complete information about options for filing complaints about care at CLCs, VA cannot ensure that the concerns of residents and their representatives about CLC care are heard and resolved. Why GAO Did This Study VA is responsible for overseeing the quality of care provided in its CLCs. However, several reports have raised concerns about substandard care at certain CLCs. Complaints are a valuable source of information about the quality of care in nursing homes because investigations of these complaints can identify and resolve issues promptly for this vulnerable population. GAO was asked to review the quality of care at CLCs. In this report, GAO examined, among other objectives, VA's approach to addressing complaints about care at CLCs and VA's communications about how to file complaints. For this report, GAO reviewed VA policies and interviewed VA officials. GAO also selected six VA CLCs to obtain variation on factors such as CLC performance on quality metrics and geographic location. For each, GAO interviewed CLC officials and officials from corresponding regional offices and reviewed complaints information and policies.
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  • The Jones/Hill Joint Venture
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    A joint venture protested the solicitation cancellation of a Department of the Navy contract for base operations and support services, contending that the Navy's (1) study resulting in its decision to cancel the solicitation was biased by a conflict of interest, (2) study was unjustified, (3) in-house management plan was misevaluated, and (4) assertion that in-house performance was comparable to contracted performance was unreasonable. GAO held that the Navy's study was flawed in several areas and could not be used as a reason to cancel the solicitation. Accordingly, the protest was sustained and GAO recommended that the Navy (1) issue a new solicitation drafted by individuals who will not also be drafting the in-house management plan, (2) prepare a new management plan with supporting documentation, (3) present the new plan for private sector solicitation, and (4) reimburse the protester for all expenses associated with filing the protest.
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  • Afghan National Arrested for 2008 Abduction of American Journalist
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    The Department of Justice announced the unsealing of a federal indictment charging Haji Najibullah, a/k/a “Najibullah Naim,” a/k/a “Abu Tayeb,” a/k/a “Atiqullah” with six counts related to the 2008 kidnapping of an American journalist and two Afghan nationals. Najibullah, 44, was arrested and transferred to the United States from Ukraine to face the charges in the indictment. Najibullah will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.
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  • Justice Department Alleges That Chicopee, Massachusetts, Housing Authority and its Executive Director Discriminated Against Tenants on the Basis of Race, National Origin and Disability
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    The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced today that they have filed an amended complaint alleging that the Chicopee Housing Authority and its Executive Director, Monica Blazic, violated federal law by discriminating against residents based on race, national origin and disability.
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  • Anti-Money Laundering: Opportunities Exist to Increase Law Enforcement Use of Bank Secrecy Act Reports, and Banks’ Costs to Comply with the Act Varied
    In U.S GAO News
    Many federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies use Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reports for investigations. A GAO survey of six federal law enforcement agencies found that more than 72 percent of their personnel reported using BSA reports to investigate money laundering or other crimes, such as drug trafficking, fraud, and terrorism, from 2015 through 2018. According to the survey, investigators who used BSA reports reported they most frequently found information useful for identifying new subjects for investigation or expanding ongoing investigations (see figure). Estimated Frequency with Which Criminal Investigators Who Reported Using BSA Reports Almost Always, Frequently, or Occasionally Found Relevant Reports for Various Activities, 2015–2018 Notes: GAO conducted a generalizable survey of 5,257 personnel responsible for investigations, analysis, and prosecutions at the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, Offices of U.S. Attorneys, and U.S. Secret Service. The margin of error for all estimates is 3 percentage points or less at the 95 percent confidence interval. As of December 2018, GAO found that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) granted the majority of federal and state law enforcement agencies and some local agencies direct access to its BSA database, allowing them to conduct searches to find relevant BSA reports. FinCEN data show that these agencies searched the BSA database for about 133,000 cases in 2018—a 31 percent increase from 2014. FinCEN created procedures to allow law enforcement agencies without direct access to request BSA database searches. But, GAO estimated that relatively few local law enforcement agencies requested such searches in 2018, even though many are responsible for investigating financial crimes. GAO found that agencies without direct access may not know about BSA reports or may face other hurdles that limit their use of BSA reports. One of FinCEN's goals is for law enforcement to use BSA reports to the greatest extent possible. However, FinCEN lacks written policies and procedures for assessing which agencies without direct access could benefit from greater use of BSA reports, reaching out to such agencies, and distributing educational materials about BSA reports. By developing such policies and procedures, FinCEN would help ensure law enforcement agencies are using BSA reports to the greatest extent possible to combat money laundering and other crimes. GAO reviewed a nongeneralizable sample of 11 banks that varied in terms of their total assets and other factors, and estimated that their total direct costs for complying with the BSA ranged from about $14,000 to about $21 million in 2018. Under the BSA, banks are required to establish BSA/anti-money laundering compliance programs, file various reports, and keep certain records of transactions. GAO found that total direct BSA compliance costs generally tended to be proportionally greater for smaller banks than for larger banks. For example, such costs comprised about 2 percent of the operating expenses for each of the three smallest banks in 2018 but less than 1 percent for each of the three largest banks in GAO's review (see figure). At the same time, costs can differ between similarly sized banks (e.g., large credit union A and B), because of differences in their compliance processes, customer bases, and other factors. In addition, requirements to verify a customer's identity and report suspicious and other activity generally were the most costly areas—accounting for 29 and 28 percent, respectively, of total compliance costs, on average, for the 11 selected banks. Estimated Total Direct Costs for Complying with the Bank Secrecy Act as a Percentage of Operating Expenses and Estimated Total Direct Compliance Costs for Selected Banks in 2018 Notes: Estimated total direct compliance costs are in parentheses for each bank. Very large banks had $50 billion or more in assets. Small community banks had total of assets of $250 million or less and met the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's community bank definition. Small credit unions had total assets of $50 million or less. Federal banking agencies routinely examine banks for BSA compliance. FinCEN data indicate that the agencies collectively cited about 23 percent of their supervised banks for BSA violations each year in their fiscal year 2015–2018 examinations. A small percentage of these violations involved weaknesses in a bank's BSA/anti-money laundering compliance program, which could require the agencies by statute to issue a formal enforcement action. Stakeholders had mixed views on industry proposals to increase the BSA's dollar thresholds for filing currency transaction reports (CTR) and suspicious activity reports (SAR). For example, banks must generally file a CTR when a customer deposits more than $10,000 in cash and a SAR if they identify a suspicious transaction involving $5,000 or more. If both thresholds were doubled, the changes would have resulted in banks filing 65 percent and 21 percent fewer CTRs and SARs, respectively, in 2018, according to FinCEN analysis. Law enforcement agencies told GAO that they generally are concerned that the reduction would provide them with less financial intelligence and, in turn, harm their investigations. In contrast, some industry associations told GAO that they support the changes to help reduce BSA compliance costs for banks. Money laundering and terrorist financing pose threats to national security and the U.S. financial system's integrity. The BSA requires financial institutions to file suspicious activity and other reports to help law enforcement investigate these and other crimes. FinCEN administers the BSA and maintains BSA reports in an electronic database that can be searched to identify relevant reports. Some banks cite the BSA as one of their most significant compliance costs and question whether BSA costs outweigh its benefits in light of limited public information about law enforcement's use of BSA reports. GAO was asked to review the BSA's implementation. This report examines (1) the extent to which law enforcement uses BSA reports and FinCEN facilitates their use, (2) selected banks' BSA compliance costs, (3) oversight of banks' BSA compliance, and (4) stakeholder views of proposed changes to the BSA. GAO surveyed personnel at six federal law enforcement agencies, collected data on BSA compliance costs from 11 banks, reviewed FinCEN data on banking agencies' BSA examinations, and interviewed law enforcement and industry stakeholders on the effects of proposed changes. GAO is recommending that FinCEN develop written policies and procedures to promote greater use of BSA reports by law enforcement agencies without direct database access. FinCEN concurred with GAO's recommendation. For more information, contact Michael Clements at (202) 512-8678 or clementsm@gao.gov.
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  • Innovative Technologies in Manufacturing: Commerce Has No Plans to Implement the Program
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Department of Commerce's (Commerce) Economic Development Administration (EDA) has not taken steps or made plans to implement the Innovative Technologies in Manufacturing (ITM) federal loan guarantee program since January 2020, when GAO last reported on the program. EDA therefore has not issued any loan guarantees under the program. EDA officials provided several reasons for not implementing the program: Perceived lack of demand. EDA officials told GAO that they expected limited demand by small and medium-sized manufacturers for loans under the ITM program. However, they said that it would be helpful to gauge potential demand for loans, because the United States entered an economic recession around 2020 and the recent Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has led to changing conditions in the manufacturing sector and the global supply chain. Alternative loan programs. EDA officials said that it would be difficult to execute the ITM program without duplicating alternative loan programs available to help businesses, including those in the innovative manufacturing sector, such as the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 7(a) loan program. Lender participation uncertainty. EDA officials expressed uncertainty over the level of interest and participation that potential lenders would have in the ITM program if EDA were to implement it—for example, because potential lenders are familiar with and might be more likely to continue their participation in SBA loan programs. Why GAO Did This Study Manufacturing plays a key role in the U.S. economy as a source of economic growth, high-paying jobs, and technological innovation. Small and medium-sized manufacturers represent a majority of manufacturers in the country but may lag behind large firms in Manufacturing plays a key role in the U.S. economy as a source of economic growth, high-paying jobs, and technological innovation. Small and medium-sized manufacturers represent a majority of manufacturers in the country but may lag behind large firms in innovation and adoption of new technologies. To invest in innovative manufactured goods and processes, improve U.S. competitiveness, and help address the capital needs of U.S. manufacturers, the America Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science (COMPETES) Reauthorization Act of 2010 directed the Secretary of Commerce to establish the ITM program. The ITM program was to provide loan guarantees to small and medium-sized manufacturers for the use or production of innovative technologies. Commerce's EDA is responsible for implementing the program. The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2010 also included a provision for GAO to conduct a biennial review of the Secretary of Commerce's execution of the program. GAO's January 2020 report found that EDA had not taken additional steps to implement the program after ceasing its implementation in October 2017 because of uncertainties about the demand for the program, among other reasons. This report examines any steps EDA has taken to implement the ITM program since GAO's January 2020 report. GAO analyzed applicable laws and program documents, interviewed EDA and SBA officials, and collected information from other stakeholders. For more information, contact Candice N. Wright at (202) 512-6888 or wrightc@gao.gov.
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  • Defendant Returned by Egypt to the United States to Face Charges for Alleged Scheme to Defraud the Kuwaiti Embassy
    In Crime News
    Yesterday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia unsealed the indictment of a man who was returned from Egypt to the United States on Dec. 14 to face fraud and money laundering charges.
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    A Florida man pleaded guilty today to conspiring to defraud the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by concealing information about illegal products labeled as dietary supplements.
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    In Crime News
    Today the Justice Department announced a settlement agreement with Newark Public Schools to resolve the department’s investigation into the school district’s programs for its English learner students. The agreement ends the district’s longstanding and common practice of removing students from English learner programs before they become fluent in English. The district has agreed to improve services for English learner students so they can access the same educational opportunities as other students in the Newark Public Schools.
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