Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State
The United States condemns the sentencing of seven pro-democracy leaders on politically-motivated charges. Beijing and Hong Kong authorities are targeting Hong Kongers for doing nothing more than exercising protected rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.
Today’s sentences are yet another example of how the PRC and Hong Kong authorities undermine protected rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration in an effort to eliminate all forms of dissent. The seven pro-democracy leaders – Martin Lee, Jimmy Lai, Albert Ho, Margaret Ng, Cyd Ho, Lee Cheuk-yan, and Leung Kwok-hung – participated in a peaceful assembly attended by 1.7 million Hong Kongers. The sentences handed down are incompatible with the non-violent nature of their actions.
The Sino-British Joint Declaration, a binding international agreement, guarantees Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy, and people in Hong Kong are entitled to the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Joint Declaration and Basic Law. We will continue to stand with Hong Kongers as they respond to Beijing’s assault on these freedoms and autonomy, and we will not stop calling for the release of those detained or imprisoned for exercising their fundamental freedoms.
- Chinese Man Extradited for Financing Turtle-Trafficking RingBy Sam NewsDecember 10, 2020A Chinese citizen was extradited from Malaysia to the United States today to face charges for money laundering.[Read More…]
- Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request: U.S. Government Accountability OfficeBy Sam NewsMarch 10, 2021In fiscal year (FY) 2020, GAO’s work yielded $77.6 billion in financial benefits, a return of about $114 for every dollar invested in GAO. We also identified 1,332 other benefits that led to improved services to the American people, strengthened public safety, and spurred program and operational improvements across the government. In addition, GAO reported on 35 areas designated as high risk due to their vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement or because they face economy, efficiency, or effectiveness challenges. In FY 2020 GAO’s High Risk Series products resulted in 168 reports, 26 testimonies, $54.2 billion in financial benefits, and 606 other benefits. In this year of GAO’s centennial, GAO’s FY 2022 budget request seeks to lay the foundation for the next 100 years to help Congress improve the performance of government, ensure transparency, and save taxpayer dollars. GAO’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 budget requests $744.3 million in appropriated funds and uses $50.0 million in offsets and supplemental appropriations. These resources will support 3,400 full-time equivalents (FTEs). We will continue our hiring focus on boosting our Science and Technology and appropriations law capacity. GAO will also maintain entry-level and intern positions to address succession planning and to fill other skill gaps. These efforts will help ensure that GAO recruits and retains a talented and diverse workforce to meet the priority needs of the Congress. In FY 2022, we will continue to support Congressional oversight across the wide array of government programs and operations. In particular, our science and technology experts will continue to expand our focus on rapidly evolving issues. Hallmarks of GAO’s work include: (1) conducting technology assessments at the request of the Congress; (2) providing technical assistance to Congress on science and technology matters; (3) continuing the development and use of technical guides to assess major federal acquisitions and technology programs in areas such as technology readiness, cost estimating, and schedule planning; and (4) supporting Congressional oversight of federal science programs. With our requested funding, GAO will also bolster capacity to review the challenges of complex and growing cyber security developments. In addition, GAO will continue robust analyses of factors behind rising health care costs, including costs associated with the ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic. Internally, the funding requested will make possible priority investments in our information technology that include the ability to execute transformative plans to protect data and systems. In FY 2022 GAO will continue to implement efforts to increase our flexibility to evolve IT services as our mission needs change, strengthen information security, increase IT agility, and maintain compliance. We will increase speed and scalability to deliver capabilities and services to the agency. This request will also help address building infrastructure, security requirements, as well as tackle long deferred maintenance, including installing equipment to help protect occupants from dangerous bacteria, viruses, and mold. As reported in our FY 2020 financial statements, GAO’s backlog of deferred maintenance on its Headquarters Building had grown to over $82 million as of fiscal year-end. Background GAO’s mission is to support Congress in meeting its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and ensure the accountability of the federal government for the benefit of the American people. We provide nonpartisan, objective, and reliable information to Congress, federal agencies, and to the public, and recommend improvements across the full breadth and scope of the federal government’s responsibilities. In fiscal year 2020. GAO issued 691 products, and 1,459 new recommendations. Congress used our work extensively to inform its decisions on key fiscal year 2020 and 2021 legislation. Since fiscal year 2000, GAO’s work has resulted in over: $1.2 trillion dollars in financial benefits; and 25,328 program and operational benefits that helped to change laws, improve public services, and promote sound management throughout government. As GAO recognizes 100 years of non-partisan, fact-based service, we remain committed to providing program and technical expertise to support Congress in overseeing the executive branch; evaluating government programs, operations and spending priorities; and assessing information from outside parties.[Read More…]
- Interface Rehab to Pay $2 Million to Resolve False Claims Act AllegationsBy Sam NewsJuly 23, 2021Interface Rehab (Interface), headquartered and operating in California, has agreed to pay $2 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by causing the submission of claims to Medicare for rehabilitation therapy services that were not reasonable or necessary.[Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken’s Call with Gary Pruitt, President and CEO of the Associated PressBy Sam NewsMay 17, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica: La suspensión y reprogramación de fondos de los Estados Unidos en 2019 afectó adversamente los proyectos de asistenciaBy Sam NewsJanuary 20, 2022This is the Spanish language highlights associated with GAO-21-104366. Conclusiones de la GAO A partir de marzo de 2019, la administración del entonces presidente Trump suspendió la mayor parte de los nuevos fondos de asistencia exterior de la Agencia de los Estados Unidos para el Desarrollo Internacional (USAID, por sus siglas en inglés) y del Departamento de Estado (State, por su nombre en inglés) a El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras (el “Triángulo Norte” de Centroamérica)—por hasta 14 meses y reprogramó aproximadamente US$396 millones (85 por ciento) de los fondos del año fiscal 2018 hacia otros países. En junio de 2020, la administración puso fin a la suspensión de los fondos de asistencia. Al concluir la suspensión, la USAID ajustó su cartera de asistencia para implementar proyectos centrados en disuadir la migración y diseñó nuevos indicadores para evaluar la relación entre sus proyectos de asistencia y la migración de la región. Funcionarios de State y de la USAID indicaron que su enfoque general––promover la prosperidad, la buena gobernanza y la seguridad––seguía siendo el mismo tras la suspensión. Aunque algunos proyectos que habían recibido fondos anteriormente siguieron su curso previsto, la suspensión y reprogramación de los fondos de asistencia en 2019 afectó adversamente a 92 de los 114 proyectos de la USAID y a 65 de los 168 proyectos de State. Según informaron esas agencias, las consecuencias adversas que habitualmente se registraron en la ejecución de los proyectos fueron demoras en los plazos previstos y la disminución de la frecuencia, la calidad o los tipos de servicios prestados a los beneficiarios. (Ver la figura.) Proyectos de la USAID y de State/INL en el Triángulo Norte con una o más consecuencias adversas debido a la suspensión y reprogramación de los fondos de asistencia en 2019 La USAID y State comunicaron no haber logrado algunos de sus objetivos de rendimiento debido a la suspensión y reprogramación de los fondos de la asistencia en 2019. Por ejemplo, la USAID informó que no alcanzó a 19 por ciento (35 de 182) de sus objetivos en el año fiscal 2019, mientras que State informó que no alcanzó el 30 por ciento (tres de 10). Propósito de este estudio Los Estados Unidos han proporcio-nado asistencia al Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica durante muchos años. Esta asistencia tiene como objetivo promover la prosperidad, la buena gobernanza y la seguridad en la región; abordar las causas de la migra-ción; y combatir el crimen transnacio-nal. En marzo de 2019, la administra-ción suspendió los fondos de la asistencia exterior a los países del Triángulo Norte hasta que los gobier-nos de la región acordaran tomar medidas para reducir el número de migrantes que llegaban a la frontera de los Estados Unidos. Se le solicitó a la GAO que examinara las consecuencias de la suspensión y reprogramación de los fondos a la asistencia al Triángulo Norte en 2019. Este informe (1) identifica los fondos asignados por el Congreso al Triángulo Norte que fueron suspendidos y reprogramados hacia otros países, y cómo cambió el enfoque de la asistencia de los Estados Unidos a la región después de marzo de 2019; (2) examina los efectos de la suspensión y reprogramación de los fondos de asistencia en la ejecución de los pro-yectos; y (3) examina en qué medida la suspensión y reprogramación de los fondos de asistencia afectó la capacidad de las agencias estadou-nidenses para cumplir sus objetivos de rendimiento de la asistencia exterior para la región. La GAO analizó los datos relativos a los fondos de las agencias y los informes de rendimiento y monitoreo; encuestó a los administradores de los proyectos de las agencias; y entrevistó a los funcionarios así como los socios implementadores seleccionados en los Estados Unidos y en los países del Triángulo Norte. Para más información, contactar a Chelsa Kenney al (202) 512-2964 o firstname.lastname@example.org.[Read More…]
- Pain doctor pays to settle allegations arising from false billingBy Sam NewsIn Justice NewsJune 11, 2021A 44-year-old physician [Read More…]
- Justice Department Sues to Block Aon’s Acquisition of Willis Towers WatsonBy Sam NewsJune 16, 2021The U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil antitrust lawsuit today to block Aon’s $30 billion proposed acquisition of Willis Towers Watson, a transaction that would bring together two of the “Big Three” global insurance brokers. As alleged in the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the merger threatens to eliminate competition, raise prices, and reduce innovation for American businesses, employers, and unions that rely on these important services.[Read More…]
- Freedom of Information Act: Selected Agencies Adapted to the COVID-19 Pandemic but Face Ongoing Challenges and BacklogsBy Sam NewsJanuary 26, 2022What GAO Found The COVID-19 pandemic affected some measures of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) administration government-wide. For example, FOIA requests received declined government-wide by 8 percent in fiscal year 2020, the first year of the pandemic, compared to fiscal year 2019. Overall, agencies processed about 12 percent fewer requests during this same period. Other measures continued longer-term trends, such as increasing FOIA request backlogs. FOIA Requests Received and Processed Government-wide, Fiscal Years 2012 through 2020 Four of the five selected agencies—the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Homeland Security (DHS), and Labor (DOL), and the Environmental Protection Agency—initially faced pandemic-related challenges such as access to information technology networks and FOIA requests received by mail. FBI's use of a classified FOIA system meant that staff could not telework. Thus, they had to ensure workforce safety in the office. All five agencies employed strategies and leading practices to maintain operations during the pandemic, including processing requests based on their complexity, increased communication with requesters, and interim releases. These agencies also continued long-term, non-pandemic related planning efforts, such as technology updates to FOIA systems and organizational changes. Some of the agencies reviewed did not have key performance information in their backlog reduction plans. For example, USDA could better document planned actions and milestones and DOL may not have reliable backlog data. Additionally, DHS components with significant backlogs could develop plans. Such information could help, for example, ensure agencies sustain backlog reduction efforts. GAO found opportunities for the Office of Information Policy (OIP) to collect and publicly report additional data, such as the causes of FOIA litigation, which could help agencies address emerging challenges. Why GAO Did This Study FOIA, enacted into law more than 50 years ago, seeks to improve the public's access to government information and promote the principles of openness and accountability in government. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to monitor and oversee the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. GAO also was asked to review how the pandemic affected FOIA processes and procedures. This report examines (1) how key measures of FOIA administration changed from fiscal years 2019 to 2020 and over time since fiscal year 2012; (2) how selected agencies adapted their FOIA operations during the pandemic; and (3) how selected agencies' backlog reduction plans aligned with standards for internal control and performance management practices. GAO selected five agencies based on a variety of factors including the number of FOIA requests received, processed, and backlogged. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from the selected agencies and the National Archives and Records Administration.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Reaches Agreement with the City of Killeen, Texas to Improve Access for Individuals with DisabilitiesBy Sam NewsJune 30, 2021The Justice Department announced a settlement with the City of Killeen, Texas, to provide equal access in its programs, services, facilities and activities to individuals with disabilities, including veterans.[Read More…]
- Operation Iraqi Freedom: Actions Needed to Facilitate the Efficient Drawdown of U.S. Forces and Equipment from IraqBy Sam NewsAugust 25, 2021The drawdown from Iraq is a complex operation of significant magnitude. Established drawdown timelines dictate a reduction in forces to 50,000 troops by August 31, 2010, and a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by December 31, 2011. While DOD has made progress toward meeting these goals, a large amount of equipment, personnel, and bases remain to be drawn down. Moreover, escalating U.S. involvement in Afghanistan may increase the pressure on DOD to efficiently execute the drawdown. Due to broad congressional interest in drawdown issues, GAO performed this work under the Comptroller General's Authority. GAO examined (1) the extent to which DOD has planned for the drawdown from Iraq in accordance with set timelines, and (2) factors that may impact the efficient execution of the drawdown. To evaluate these efforts GAO reviewed documents and interviewed officials from over 20 DOD organizations in the U.S., Kuwait, and Iraq.Several DOD organizations have issued coordinated plans for the execution of the drawdown and created new organizations to oversee, synchronize, and ensure unity of effort during the drawdown. To date, DOD reports that its drawdown efforts have exceeded its goals. For example, in January 2010, DOD reported that it had exceeded its target figure for withdrawing wheeled and tracked combat vehicles in Iraq, among other items, by over 2,600 pieces, yet a large amount of personnel, equipment, and bases remain to be drawn down. However, DOD has not (1) fully included contracted support in its operational planning for the drawdown, (2) allowed sufficient time in its guidance to ensure that all contracted services can be put on contract in a responsible manner, or (3) clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of various contract validation review boards. Several other issues may impede the efficient execution of the drawdown from Iraq. First, challenges associated with the planned simultaneous transition of several major contracts may lead to the interruption of vital services. Second, DOD has not determined whether the benefits of transitioning its major base and life support contract in Iraq outweigh the costs and risks of doing so. Third, shortages of contract oversight personnel may increase the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse. Fourth, key decisions concerning equipment that will be retrograded from Iraq have yet to be made. And finally, DOD lacks precise visibility over its inventory of equipment and shipping containers. While DOD has begun to address some of these issues, GAO has not fully assessed DOD's actions.[Read More…]
- Justice Department Resolves Housing Discrimination Lawsuit Against the Town of Wolcott, ConnecticutBy Sam NewsDecember 6, 2021The Justice Department announced today it has reached an agreement with the Town of Wolcott, Connecticut, to settle a lawsuit alleging that the Town violated the Fair Housing Act when it refused to allow the operation of a group home for adults with disabilities in a residential neighborhood.[Read More…]
- Department of Justice Awards Over $35 Million to Provide Housing to Victims of Human TraffickingBy Sam NewsAugust 4, 2020Today, Attorney General William P. Barr and Advisor to the President Ivanka Trump announced that the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP), has awarded $35,104,338 in grant funding to provide safe, stable housing and appropriate services to victims of human trafficking.[Read More…]
- Supplemental Security Income: SSA Faces Ongoing Challenges with Work Incentives and Improper PaymentsBy Sam NewsSeptember 21, 2021What GAO Found The Social Security Administration (SSA) has undertaken several efforts to encourage employment for individuals with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and who would like to work, but few benefit from these supports. Work incentives and supports for transition-age youth. SSA administers work incentives and other employment supports for transition-age youth (ages 14 to 17) on SSI. These supports encourage work by allowing these youth to keep at least some of their benefits even if they have earnings. In 2017, GAO analysis of SSA data from 2012 to 2015 found that less than 1.5 percent of SSI youth benefitted from these incentives. According to SSA and other officials, this may be because SSI youth and their families are often unaware of or do not understand the incentives, and may fear that work will negatively affect their benefits or eligibility. Work incentives for working-age adults. The Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program (Ticket) is a voluntary program that was established to assist individuals with disabilities in obtaining and retaining employment, and help reduce dependency on benefits. Preliminary GAO analysis of Ticket indicates that SSI recipients participated more often than other disability beneficiaries, and benefited modestly from the program. GAO analysis of SSA data from 2002 to 2015 found, 5 years after participating in Ticket, about 4 percent of SSI participants had left the disability rolls due to earnings from work, compared with 2 percent of nonparticipants who were similar in characteristics such as age, disability type, and education. However, earnings for SSI Ticket participants remained low. GAO's analysis of data from 2002 to 2018 shows that average earnings for SSI Ticket participants, 5 years after participating, were $3,940 per year, including 57 percent who did not report any earnings at all. GAO's preliminary work also indicates that Ticket participants face a number of challenges to returning to work, including their primary disabling condition, which may not improve sufficiently to allow for fulltime employment, and disincentives to work such as the loss of cash and medical benefits. Prior and ongoing GAO work has identified issues with SSA's efforts to reduce improper payments, including overpayments, to SSI beneficiaries in general and beneficiaries who are working in particular. Overpayments can occur when beneficiaries who work do not timely report earnings to SSA or SSA delays in adjusting their benefit amounts. SSA reported that SSI's overpayment rate in fiscal year 2019 was estimated at 8.13 percent, higher than other SSA programs. Further, SSA reported it made approximately $4.6 billion in SSI overpayments in fiscal year 2019. Overpayments may have to be repaid, which may be burdensome for recipients, especially those who were not aware that they were overpaid and already spent the money. While SSA has taken steps to reduce overpayments, SSA's Office of Inspector General found that SSA had not resolved lags in updating information on beneficiaries' earnings. In addition, SSA has not implemented a 2020 GAO priority recommendation that it develop and implement a process to measure the effectiveness of its corrective actions for improper payments, including overpayments. Why GAO Did This Study SSI is a federal assistance program administered by SSA that provides cash benefits to certain individuals who are elderly, blind, or have a disability. SSI acts as a safety net for individuals who have limited resources and little or no other income. As such, SSI is a means-tested program. As of July 2021, approximately 71 percent of SSI beneficiaries were children or working-age individuals with disabilities. SSA faces longstanding challenges related to administering SSI and its other disability programs. GAO has issued multiple reports with recommendations on how SSA might address these challenges. This testimony describes SSA's challenges with (1) incentivizing employment for SSI recipients who wish to work, and (2) preventing improper payments to SSI recipients, including overpayments. This statement is based primarily on prior GAO reports issued between 2010 and 2021, as well as preliminary observations from an ongoing GAO review of the Ticket program. To conduct the work for these reports and the ongoing review, GAO used a variety of methods including analyzing data; reviewing relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance; reviewing key agency documents, such as SSA's strategic plan and annual SSI stewardship reports; and interviewing experts and SSA officials. For more information, contact Elizabeth H. Curda at (202) 512-7215 or email@example.com.[Read More…]
- United States Designates Entities and Individuals Linked to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) Weapons ProgramsBy Sam NewsJanuary 12, 2022Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Secretary Antony J. Blinken Introductory Remarks for President BidenBy Sam NewsFebruary 4, 2021Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
- Barbados Travel AdvisoryBy Sam NewsIn TravelSeptember 26, 2020Reconsider travel [Read More…]
- Secretary Blinken to Deliver Remarks to the PressBy Sam NewsSeptember 3, 2021Office of the [Read More…]
- National Consumer Bankruptcy Law Firm Agrees to Pay More than $300,000 in Relief to Consumers and to a Six-Year Practice Ban in Settlement with U.S. Trustee ProgramBy Sam NewsMarch 10, 2021The Department of Justice’s U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) has entered into a settlement with national consumer bankruptcy law firm Deighan Law LLC, previously known as Law Solutions Chicago and doing business as UpRight Law.[Read More…]
- Pennsylvania Attorney Sentenced for Role in $2.7 Million Ponzi SchemeBy Sam NewsNovember 30, 2020An Allentown, Pennsylvania, attorney was sentenced today to 78 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for his role in a $2.7 million investment fraud scheme that victimized his law clients.[Read More…]
- Associate Deputy Attorney General Sujit Raman Delivers Remarks at the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)/Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) Facial Recognition Technology ForumBy Sam NewsSeptember 15, 2020As the Nation’s primary federal law enforcement agency, the U.S. Department of Justice enforces and defends the laws of the United States; protects public safety against foreign and domestic threats; and provides national and international leadership in preventing and investigating crime. Technological innovation has created new opportunities for our law enforcement officers to effectively and efficiently tackle these important missions. At the same time, such innovation poses new challenges for ensuring that technology is used in a manner consistent with our laws and our values—and equally important, with the support and trust of the American people.[Read More…]